UCLA got more out of the bye week than extra rest time.
It got a chance to reset and prepare for the rest of the season.
“Our team, if you’ve been around it, they come out here with a lot of energy and they’re resilient. But yes, there has been a little spike,” coach Jim Mora said after Monday’s practice. “They want to get better. They are able to put the past behind and get to the next challenge.”
The biggest challenge? Becoming bowl-eligible.
The Bruins have dropped three straight and with only four games left in conference play, the team needs three wins to have the six necessary to qualify for a bowl game in December.
Three wins hinge on finding consistency in an offense that’s missing its starting quarterback, and a run-game ranked last and nationally averaging 85.5 yards per game.
Sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen, who hasn’t played since leaving the field in the fourth quarter against Arizona State, threw limited passes during this weekend’s practices and it will likely be a game-day decision whether to put him in on Thursday night against Colorado.
Rosen, according to Mora, is still nursing a shoulder injury and is waiting for a distal nerve to start firing before returning to the field.
Backup Mike Fafaul has stepped up for Rosen, setting school-records in both attempted and completed passes, but fell short in getting the wins after committing seven turnovers in two games.
The redshirt senior said after Monday’s practice that the key to limiting those interceptions and fumbles was execution and that after increased repetition, the offense had no turn overs in practice.
“I think it’s a lot easier from the standpoint of seeing the coverages,” Fafaul said. “The more times you see it, the easier it is.”
Unlike UCLA, Colorado, the leader in the Pac-12 South division, consistently challenges opponents with both the run and passing game, respectively ranking 32nd and 30th nationally.
“They’re third in the conference and they have balance and do a great job of mixing it up. We’re going to have to fight our tails off,” defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said.
For Fafaul, upsetting Colorado will take more than consistency or fight.
It will require him to take things step-by-step and not let expectations overwhelm him if he earns his third start, manning the offense.
“I try to take it one step at a time,” Fafaul said. “That’s how I do it. It’s how I manage everything.”