Los Angeles Times
Drops are OK as long as it’s Rosen who’s passing
Receivers’ misplays in UCLA spring game can’t dampen vibe of QB’s return to action.
Josh Rosen scanned the defense, spotted an open receiver and flung a pass into his hands. Eldridge Massington dropped it.
“The same as last year!” a fan yelled after the first play of UCLA’s spring game Saturday at Drake Stadium.
There were some similarities, sure. Seven players dropped passes. There were only a handful of noteworthy running plays. The defense looked superior to the offense.
But the return of Rosen from the shoulder injury that sidelined him for half of last season was enough to generate plenty of feel-good vibes during the final day of spring practice for the Bruins.
“We got Josh Rosen back, our great quarterback, and things are just exciting,” linebacker Kenny Young said with a smile after his White team defeated the Blue, 17-10. “Every day, you felt the energy.”
The victory earned Young a dinner at Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles as part of a friendly wager with teammate Nate Meadors and resulted in a Gatorade bath for Valorie Kondos Field, the UCLA women’s gymnastics coach who served as honorary coach of the White team.
Playing for the Blue team, Rosen appeared only in the first half and completed 14 of 18 passes for 83 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He got off to a slow start, throwing a pass early in the second quarter that was intercepted by cornerback Adarius Pickett, before completing nine of his last 10 passes, including a 13-yard touchdown to receiver Darren Andrews shortly before halftime. Amanda Cromwell, the UCLA women’s soccer coach and honorary coach of the Blue team, kicked the ensuing PAT into the linemen but nailed a second opportunity after Bruins Coach Jim Mora called an alleged offside infraction on the defensive line.
The day was mostly about having fun in an effort to lift the dark shroud of a 4-8 record in 2016. The biggest celebration might have come at halftime, when the Bruins surprised walk-on fullback Giovanni Gentosi by announcing that he would be awarded a scholarship as his teammates mobbed him on the field.
“There are some things going on in Gio’s life that he needed a little pick-me-up,” Mora said, “so we gave it to him.”
Bolu Olorunfunmi had the best day among the tailbacks, largely as the result of his 46-yard touchdown run that gave the White team the go-ahead score with 1:33 left in the game. Olorunfunmi finished with 88 yards rushing and two touchdowns in 14 carries.
Tailback-fullback Jalen Starks showed he could be valuable in short-yardage situations, rumbling for seven yards in a fourth-and-one situation and gaining four yards on another play when his team was facing third and one. Starks finished with 22 yards in eight carries.
Drops were one concerning carryover from last season, though new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch seemed to take some solace in the fact that they were spread among so many different players.
“It wasn’t the same guy,” Fisch said. “So I always say if it’s the same guy dropping the ball, that’s when you get nervous.”
Mora cautioned against making any sweeping takeaways from a game in which both the offense and defense unveiled only base formations and the rosters contained split squads featuring players competing alongside each other for the first time.
“It’s hard to tell on a day like this who’s good and not,” Mora said, “and what’s working and what’s not.”
The Bruins won’t hold any more formal practices until the start of fall camp, but that hardly means they will take the next three months off. Their next round of conditioning is scheduled to start at 5:30 a.m. Monday and multiple players talked about the need for playerrun practices to continue the improvement they had made in recent weeks.
“We got this gap to get better before we hit camp,” said Rosen, adding that he wanted to become Fisch’s “head on the field” by the time UCLA opens its season against Texas A&M on Sept. 3 at the Rose Bowl.
Mora said he liked the progress his team had made in the spring but acknowledged there was a long way to go in the wake of a wildly disappointing season.
“I just want to save any big-time statements about improvement until we get on the field against Texas A&M and after that game maybe we can all feel good,” Mora said. “Right now I’m cautiously optimistic, but I am optimistic.”