Forc­ing is the is­sue for Rosen, Bru­ins

Quar­ter­back tries to do a lit­tle too much at key moments and pays price in stun­ning loss.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Ben Bolch

MEM­PHIS, Tenn. — In the fi­nal moments, when he needed to rally his team once more, Josh Rosen found him­self con­fronted by some­thing even more threat­en­ing than a de­fender on the verge of a sack.

His own re­luc­tance to give up on a play.

It had be­come a mad­den­ing trend for the UCLA quar­ter­back through­out the sec­ond half of the No. 25 Bru­ins’ 48-45 loss to Mem­phis on Satur­day at Lib­erty Bowl Me­mo­rial Sta­dium.

Rosen had brought his team back from a 10-point deficit mid­way through the third quar­ter with two touch­down passes. He couldn’t com­plete an­other come­back in the fi­nal minute with the Bru­ins trail­ing by three points. He forced a pass into coverage that led to an of­fen­sive pass in­ter­fer­ence penalty on team­mate Theo Howard, and a

sub­se­quent fourth-down pass was bro­ken up with 56 sec­onds left, end­ing the Bru­ins’ hopes.

“Just try­ing to play hero ball,” Rosen said. “It’s not needed. You gotta play within the sys­tem.”

Rosen’s de­ci­sion-mak­ing was hardly the only cul­prit on a day when UCLA (2-1) com­mit­ted a rash of penal­ties, in­clud­ing an­other tar­get­ing call that led to an ejec­tion, and its short-handed de­fense al­lowed six touch­down passes — as many as it had sur­ren­dered in its pre­vi­ous four games com­bined go­ing back to last sea­son.

But Rosen’s re­grets were the pri­mary topic af­ter he also suf­fered his first two in­ter­cep­tions of the sea­son.

“One of the rea­sons that at times he tends to do some of the things with the ball that he does is be­cause he re­fuses to con­cede a play,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said. “I think the next step for him in be­com­ing a great quar­ter­back is get­ting us to the next down, and for some rea­son that’s dif­fi­cult for him to do right now.”

Rosen had a chance to make up for his mis­takes on his team’s fi­nal drive af­ter UCLA de­fen­sive back Oc­tavius Spencer in­ter­cepted a pass in the end zone on a fake field-goal at­tempt by Mem­phis. The play gave the Bru­ins the ball at their own 20-yard line with 3:01 left in the game.

“We’re go­ing down to win the game,” UCLA re­ceiver Dar­ren An­drews said. “That’s what the thought process was.”

The Bru­ins picked up two first downs be­fore Rosen, un­der pres­sure, forced the pass that prompted Howard to grab a de­fen­sive back who was in po­si­tion to make an in­ter­cep­tion. It led to a 15yard penalty on the Bru­ins.

“He saved me,” Rosen said of Howard. “That was a ter­ri­ble play by me.”

UCLA even­tu­ally picked up 20 yards on third and 25 when Rosen com­pleted a short pass to tail­back Jalen Starks, who bulled ahead while be­ing pushed for­ward by a scrum of team­mates. That brought up a fourth and five. Rosen’s pass in­tended for An­drews was bro­ken up, giv­ing Mem­phis (2-0) the ball back with less than a minute to play. Game over.

“He kind of came in be­tween me, he un­der­cut it,” An­drews said of Tigers de­fen­sive back Ja­cobi Fran­cis. “Went through his hands and hit me in my chest, so I mean that’s a dis­trac­tion drill, I’ve just got to be able to come up with that.”

Rosen was al­ter­nately bril­liant and ex­as­per­at­ing on a day he threw for 463 yards and four touch­downs, com­plet­ing passes into tight coverage while also throw­ing a cou­ple that un­nec­es­sar­ily ended up in the hands of de­fend­ers.

Rosen threw a pass across his body af­ter be­ing chased out of the pocket mid­way through the third quar­ter that Mem­phis line­backer Tim Hart in­ter­cepted and ran back 60 yards for a touch­down that gave the Tigers a 41-31 lead.

“We can’t throw it across the body for a pick,” UCLA of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jedd Fisch said.

Rosen ral­lied the Bru­ins, find­ing re­ceiver Jor­dan Lasley, who made a twist­ing 21-yard touch­down catch, and then tight end Austin Roberts over the mid­dle for a 22-yard touch­down that gave UCLA a 45-41 lead early in the fourth quar­ter.

Mem­phis re­took the lead when quar­ter­back Ri­ley Fer­gu­son con­nected with Phil May­hue for a three-yard touch­down that gave the Tigers a 48-45 ad­van­tage with 9:56 left. Fer­gu­son com­pleted 23 of 38 passes for 398 yards and six touch­downs with one in­ter­cep­tion.

Rosen quickly drove UCLA back down­field, the Bru­ins reach­ing the Mem­phis 19-yard line. But with a blitz­ing, un­blocked de­fender rush­ing to­ward him, Rosen un­loaded a pass that was in­ter­cepted by Tigers cor­ner­back T.J. Carter, who re­turned the ball 42 yards to the UCLA 48.

The Bru­ins even­tu­ally got the stop they needed when Mem­phis’ fake field goal failed. The Tigers’ holder flipped the ball over his head to kicker Ri­ley Pat­ter­son, whose un­der­thrown pass was in­ter­cepted by Spencer.

UCLA and Rosen had one more chance. They couldn’t con­vert.

“I got caught up be­cause I’m try­ing to play hero ball,” Rosen said. “There are cer­tain play calls where it’s not built to be done. That’s where I’m get­ting in trou­ble and I just gotta play smarter foot­ball.”

Mark Humphrey Associated Press

MEM­PHIS re­ceiver An­thony Miller gives the slip to UCLA de­fen­sive back Den­zel Fisher (25).

Pho­to­graphs by Mark Humphrey Associated Press

UCLA QUAR­TER­BACK Josh Rosen leaves the field af­ter one of Mem­phis’ two sec­ond-half in­ter­cep­tions.

A FAKE field goal by Mem­phis failed when UCLA’s Oc­tavius Spencer (18) in­ter­cepted a pass in end zone.

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