No. 9 Bruins rout No. 16 Wildcats 56-30 to open Pac-12
TUCSON, Ariz. — The grumbling started when UCLA struggled to get past Brigham Young. It grew louder after star linebacker Myles Jack went out for the season with a knee injury.
These Bruins sure found a way to shut everyone up.
Crisp on offense and opportunistic on defense, No. 9 UCLA staked its claim as the best team in the Pac-12 South Division by crushing No. 16 Arizona 56-30 on Saturday night.
"I'm impressed with some of the losses we've had personnel-wise with injuries and playing in what was supposedly a hostile environment and we immediately responded," UCLA coach Jim Mora said.
UCLA (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) turned this showdown into a laugher by halftime, building a 28-point lead behind Josh Rosen's on-the-mark passing, Paul Perkins' crafty running and its turnover-creating defense.
Rosen showed signs of his youth the past two games, but was sharp in his first Pac-12 game. The true freshman threw for 284 yards and two touchdowns on 19-of-28 passing and added a put-it-out-of-reach score on the ground.
Perkins did not put up gaudy numbers like he did last week against BYU (219 yards), but made his 85 yards count, scoring three touchdowns.
The defense had its problems against the run without Jack, who suffered a season-ending injury in practice this week, allowing Arizona to rush for 353 yards. The Bruins made it up for it by creating three turnovers that led directly to touchdowns.
"They hung in there and played tough," UCLA defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said. "We gave up too much in the run game, but we will get better."
Arizona (3-1, 0-1) rolled through a soft nonconference schedule, only to follow it up with a desert dud.
The Wildcats had trouble stopping Rosen and the Bruins even with All-America linebacker Scooby Wright back, plagued by a slew of missed tackles.
Arizona had plenty of success on the ground, with Nick Wilson running for 136 yards and Jerrard Randall adding 128 after replacing Anu Solomon at quarterback in the second quarter. The Wildcats missed on too many opportunities, though, and dug too big of a hole with the first-half turnovers.
"You cannot beat a good team with some of the unforced errors we had today," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. "They are going to force some errors, which they did, and then we had some unforced errors. You combine those things, you're not going to win.
UCLA has won all three games against Arizona under Mora and had done it, in large part, by bogging down the Wildcats' up-tempo offense. A year ago, the Bruins held Arizona to one of its worst offensive performances under Rodriguez in a 17-7 victory.
Arizona got off to a great start against UCLA's depleted defense, quick-hitting its way to a 34-yard touchdown pass from Solomon to Nate Phillips.
The Wildcats couldn't get out of their own way after that.
Arizona's second series ended quickly when a snap sailed over Solomon's hand and the Bruins recovered. Perkins scored on a 16-yard run the next play.
The Wildcats lost another fumble when Wilson accidently bumped Solomon with his elbow as he was preparing to throw. UCLA recovered that one, too, and Rosen found Jordan Payton for a 5-yard touchdown pass that put UCLA up 28-7 early in the second quarter.
The Wildcats showed a glimpse of life midway through the second quarter after Solomon went out with an apparent head injury and Randall burst off a 39-yard touchdown run. Randall followed that by throwing an interception and Perkins scored on a 1-yard run on the ensuing drive to put UCLA up 41-14.
UCLA complemented its opportunistic defense with an efficient offense that ran right through the Wildcats and Wright, who was back after missing two games with a knee injury.
Rosen showed his poise last week against BYU, overcoming three first-half interceptions to lead UCLA to a 24-23 win. He was crisp against the Wildcats, picking them apart for 212 yards and two touchdowns on 13-of-17 passing by halftime.
"You can't let a good thrower get comfortable because he'll make plays and they did," Rodriguez said.
When Rosen wasn't pinpointing passes, UCLA's running backs were busting tackles, sometimes three and four at a time.
Arizona gained a little momentum to open the second half after Randall scrambled and found David Richards for a 16-yard touchdown. The Wildcats reached UCLA's 3 on the next drive, but went backward and settled for Casey Skowron's 44-field goal.
The Bruins gained it right back, moving quickly to set up Rosen's 8-yard touchdown run that made it 49-23.
"That's what you're supposed to do on offense, drive down the field and score," Mora said.
The Bruins certainly did that to start their Pac-12 season with a big exclamation point.