This post was updated at 7:00 p.m.
TEMPE, Ariz. — Disappointing. Horrible. Putrid.
Coach Jim Mora didn’t mince words about his offense after UCLA (3-3, 1-2 Pac-12) fell 23-20 to ASU (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) at Sun Devil Stadium.
“We have been unable to run the ball and protect the passers,” Mora said. “It is very, very disappointing. That’s all I have to say. We will get back to work it.”
Sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen had a career-high 400 passing yards, but an anemic run game hurt him and the Bruins – physically and on the scoreboard.
Rosen took three big sacks and had to be seen by athletic trainers in between drives.
On the sidelines, the sophomore tried to tell coaches and staff that he was fine, but the damage was done.
After a fourth-quarter hit that left him lying on the field, Rosen threw a couple practice balls before grimacing and returning to the bench.
He was pulled for backup redshirt senior Mike Fafaul, who was sacked twice on the final drive of the game and capped off an atrocious outing for the offense with his second interception of the night.
“We can’t run the football at all,” Mora said after UCLA was held for negative rushing yards for the first time since facing Oregon in September 2000. “When you can’t run the football and you have to throw every down, then they can pin their ears back and come after you, which they do. Unfortunately, we couldn’t protect tonight either.”
The Bruins had several big plays – a 52-yard catch for a touchdown by redshirt sophomore receiver Jordan Lasley – but couldn’t capitalize on several red zone opportunities that cost them the game.
In the third quarter, UCLA was 2 yards away from a touchdown, but sophomore running back Soso Jamabo was stuffed and two incomplete passes later, freshman kicker JJ Molson and the Bruins settled for the field goal.
Jamabo left the game for the locker room in the first half before returning to the field in the second. The sophomore finished the night with only 9 yards on three carries.
Sophomore Bolu Olorunfunmi, another member of the “Big Three” running backs, didn’t make the trip to Tempe, making it the fifth straight week this season a UCLA player was out for undisclosed reasons, along with redshirt senior receiver Ishmael Adams, who was out with a shoulder injury he sustained against Arizona last week.
But having Olorunfunmi or Adams back likely would’ve done little to jolt a stagnant and less-than mediocre offense.
“It’s on all 11 (players), ” Mora said. “It’s on the quarterback carrying out his fakes and getting the right run read. It’s on the offensive line blocking. It’s on the backs finding the hole. It’s on the receivers blocking. It’s on the receivers catching the ball so that we can move the sticks and have more opportunities to run it. It’s just everything. It’s never one thing. It’s all-inclusive.”
Without the run game, Rosen and his receivers faced pressure to make the catches against the worst pass-defense in the conference.
Lasley, redshirt junior Darren Andrews and other wide receivers continued to drop wide open passes, only building frustration for the entire offense. After Kenneth Walker III dropped a pass on a third down throw, Rosen walked up and started ripping into and yelling at the redshirt senior.
The defense kept UCLA in the game by limiting the ASU offense – forcing two interceptions and multiple fumbles.
But the Bruins’ offensive and special teams counterparts couldn’t cash in either for touchdowns, settling for field goals or punting the ball away.
Molson made two field goals Saturday night, but also missed two in the first half that would’ve pushed the Bruins ahead 9-6.
“As an offense, we just know that we have to play better,” Lasley said. “Because if (the defense is) playing their hearts out and if they’re playing for us and if they’re playing for each other’s dreams, we have to do the same thing. We’re a team.”
But defensive coordinator Tom Bradley refused to blame anyone for the loss even though the defense held ASU to just 275 yards of total offense saying it was a team effort.
Junior linebacker Kenny Young said the loss wasn’t pinned solely on the offense and that if the Bruins wanted to reach the Pac-12 championship game, the first step was to find consistency.
“We just need to pick it up on all three phases. The defense is playing well, we played better in certain aspects. But it’s a team thing,” Young said. “It’s a team sport and we just need to play UCLA standard of football. We’re not at that standard and we just need to find it. Consistency is the key and we just need to keep moving forward and make it better for us to meet December 2nd.”
Neither Rosen nor offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu were available for interviews after the game to talk about the state of the offense.
Midway through the season, the Bruins aren’t any closer to figuring out the running game or how to get the offense clicking for four quarters.
“It starts with us as coaches,” Mora said. “Obviously, we’re doing a horrible job, and we have to get it fixed. … Guys got to assume ownership. (The) only way it happens in team sports, is people own it. They own up.”
The only thing UCLA owns right now? One of the worst rush games in the country, 123rd out of 128 major college teams, and not even a single rushing yard from Saturday’s game to show for it.