Rosen lives up to hype, answers major question for UCLA
One week ago, UCLA veteran OC Noel Mazzone sounded downright giddy as he talked about his new starting QB, true freshman Josh Rosen. Mazzone loved the kid's arm, his field vision and how easily he grasped the Bruins offense, but the one thing he still needed to see was how Rosen would respond to real game action.
Mazzone was pretty confident Rosen would shine, and he struggled to think of a young QB he'd been around who was so impressive at such a young age. Still, Mazzone cautioned, you never know until they get in an actual game.
On Saturday, Rosen more than lived up to expectations and his lofty hype. He exceeded it. Rosen was 28 of 35 for 351 yards and three TDs.
And he was actually even more impressive than that stat line indicated. On the Bruins' first play of the game, Mazzone orchestrated a deep throw. Rosen delivered it to the receiver right in stride, but his wideout dropped the ball. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder just shook it off and ended up 7 for 8 in the first quarter.
Oftentimes, UCLA receivers weren't wide open and Rosen threaded the ball into tight windows. On a dismal day for the Pac-12, Rosen was, by far, the brightest light.
It was only one game, and it was against a mediocre ACC opponent, but Rosen's showing bodes very well for the Bruins' playoff prospects. Coming into the season, quarterback was the biggest question mark with UCLA. The Bruins have a stud RB in Paul Perkins, a deep group of wideouts and a very nasty front seven led by dominant DT Kenny Clark. UCLA's O-line has been another issue, but the Bruins do have experience, and against UVA, they allowed only one sack.
It's a stretch to expect Rosen to always be as sharp as he was in his debut. But anyone who watched him deal on Saturday got a good perspective on why so many who recruited him and have been around him thought he was one of the most gifted prospects to come along in a few years.
Looking forward, the schedule for the Bruins suddenly looks a bit more manageable. Their two toughest road games in the first half of the season are at Arizona (which is likely to be without its best player, Scooby Wright, who probably will be sidelined for a month or so with an injury) and at Stanford (which looked horrible in its loss at Northwestern). Sandwiched in between those is a tricky game against ASU.
They also face BYU in two weeks, and the Cougars lost star QB Taysom Hill for the season in Saturday's game at Nebraska (though BYU backup QB Tanner Mangum was able to lead the team to a dramatic Hail Mary win over the 'Huskers).
Also, there is no Oregon on the schedule for UCLA, although there are road trips to Utah and archrival USC at the end of the regular season.
Bruce Feldman is a senior college football reporter and columnist for FOXSports.com and FOX Sports 1. He is also a New York Times Bestselling author. His new book, The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks, came out in October, 2014. Follow him on Twitter @BruceFeldmanCFB and Facebook.