UCLA's Rosen hoping to hit reset in home opener vs UNLV
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen says he plays better with ''a little bit of adversity.''
Rosen has certainly faced and created plenty of adversity during the Bruins' three-game losing streak dating back to the end of last season.
After throwing seven interceptions in his first 11 collegiate games, Rosen has thrown seven in his last three games, including three in the Bruins' 31-24 overtime loss at Texas A&M to open this season. With difficult games against BYU and Stanford ahead, UCLA's home opener against UNLV on Saturday offers Rosen the chance to clean up his play in a low-risk environment.
''I've seen an increased sense of urgency in just the way he has approached everything, which is what we were hoping to see, seen it really throughout the whole team,'' coach Jim Mora said.
An increased sense of composure could benefit Rosen as well.
He threw a ball up for grabs while in the grasp of an Aggies defender, resulting in one interception, and an unexpected early snap resulted in another late in the fourth quarter.
The Rebels (1-0) won't have the benefit of crowd noise or the Texas A&M pass rush, so UCLA (0-1) should get to refine its new offense intended to highlight Rosen's arm strength and football intelligence.
Rosen actually took more snaps in shotgun than from under center last week as UCLA rallied from a 15-point deficit to tie the game. That wasn't the plan for the physical pro-style offense new coordinator Kennedy Polamalu is implementing.
Tight end Caleb Wilson, a transfer from Southern California, will see more playing time after impressing in training camp. A former high school quarterback, Wilson had one reception for 17 yards.
Pairing him with Austin Roberts should allow Rosen to throw down the seams of the defense and reduce the pressure on a young group of wide receivers who dropped several passes against Texas A&M.
Here are more things to know before the Bruins host the Rebels:
INJURY ISSUES: UCLA could be without its top two edge rushers against UNLV. Defensive end Takkarist McKinley aggravated a groin injury against Texas A&M, and Mora said the senior is unlikely to play this week. Converted outside linebacker Deon Hollins did not play in the opener because of a concussion and is questionable. McKinley and Hollins combined for 18 1/2 sacks the last two seasons.
FUN RUN: Led by Charles Williams' 96 yards rushing and one touchdown, UNLV ran for 280 yards in its 63-13 win over Jackson State. But defensive lineman Nick Dehdashtian stole the show by returning a fumble 28 yards for a touchdown. The 290-pound Dehdashtian attended the same high school as UNLV starting quarterback Johnny Stanton.
ALL OR NOTHING: UNLV is 4-15 against Pac-12 members, having never defeated Arizona, Oregon, USC, UCLA or Washington State. However, UNLV has a 3-2 mark against Oregon State and upset a ranked Arizona State team in 2008. UNLV's next game against a Pac-12 opponent will be in 2019 against the Trojans.
FAMILIAR FOES: This will be the third straight season Rosen and UNLV coach Tony Sanchez face off. In 2014, Sanchez's Bishop Gorman High School defeated Rosen and St. John Bosco 34-31 in a nationally televised game between the top two prep school teams in the country, with Rosen throwing for 244 yards and three touchdowns. UCLA also defeated UNLV 37-3 last season in Rosen's first road start. Rosen was 22 of 42 for 223 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
BOYD GAMING: UNLV receiver Devonte Boyd had four catches for 135 yards and three touchdowns last week against Jackson State, his ninth career game with more than 100 yards receiving. Boyd had three catches for 55 yards last season against UCLA, an impressive total as UNLV quarterbacks combined to complete only six passes for 56 yards.