LOS ANGELES — UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen doesn’t expect to be bothered by one of the biggest, loudest crowds in college football when the Bruins open their season at Texas A&M on Saturday.
Kyle Field can hold 102,733, the fourth-largest capacity of any American stadium. Midnight Yell Practice is a college football tradition, as tens of thousands of fans attend an event the night before games that is equal parts pep rally and instructional seminar on how to make as much noise as possible.
But Rosen isn’t worried about the No. 16 Bruins’ ears when they visit the Aggies.
“I mean, after like 50,000 it all sounds the same — or doesn’t sound the same, because you really don’t hear anything,” Rosen said. “The best example is against Utah (last season). We scored the first drive and it got a lot quieter after that. So if we can open with a statement or get up on them early, then the crowd won’t really be a factor.”
Despite an offseason’s worth of focus on his actions away from the field rather than his 3,668 yards passing and 23 touchdowns as a freshman, Rosen was his usual outspoken self on Tuesday when questioned about everything from the touted Texas A&M pass rush to star Aggies wide receiver Christian Kirk to the mustache the sophomore is currently growing.
Junior defensive end Myles Garrett is a current favorite to be the first non-quarterback selected in the 2017 NFL draft, having accounted for 24 sacks, 33.5 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles in two seasons. Senior defensive end Daeshon Hall had four sacks and two forced fumbles in last season’s opener against Arizona State, while defensive tackle Daylon Mack had 9.5 tackles for loss as a freshman.
Yet Rosen wouldn’t arbitrarily rank the Texas A&M defensive line above or below any other he faced last season. He did hint that UCLA plans to go after a run defense that allowed 213.7 yards rushing per game, 107th in the FBS and second-to-last in the SEC.
“They’re as good as a lot of teams we played,” Rosen said. “I think we’re going to have an advantage or an ability to run the football this year to be able to neutralize that. We think there are a few chinks in their armor that we are going to be able to exploit. They are never as good as they are hyped up to be or never as bad as people say they are, so you’ve always got to respect the defense, but don’t over- or under-respect them.”
Rosen did profess respect for Kirk, the Scottsdale, Arizona, standout who chose Texas A&M over multiple Pac12 schools as a recruit and justified his five-star billing as the SEC Newcomer of the Year. Rosen called Kirk a friend from their time together on the summer camp circuit, and he thought UCLA would secure his services.
Kirk had 925 yards receiving, six TD catches and two punt returns for touchdowns as a freshman. Rosen credited Kirk’s natural ability to balance running a play as designed while still exploiting coverages, comparing that to what he called the “chalkboard routes” some receivers attempt.
“There are certain guys that run very robotic routes. He really had a feel for how to move a DB off his ground, how to get certain windows, and once he had the ball in his hands he was just a running back, he was just incredibly physical and explosive,” Rosen said.
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen throws against Nebraska during on Dec. 26, 2015, in Santa Clara, Calif.