Theo Howard had to think for a moment.
Asked to identify the best part of Josh Rosen’s game, the sophomore wideout paused, struggling to pick just one.
“Wow, there’s a lot of things,” Howard said.
Howard’s answer could have doubled as a response regarding which of Rosen’s achievements was most impressive Saturday.
In leading UCLA’s 56-23 beatdown of Hawai’i, the junior quarterback connected on 22 of his 25 passes for 329 yards and five touchdowns.
Dating back to last week against Texas A&M, Rosen has now led the Bruins to touchdowns on 13 of his last 15 drives – the only two scoreless sequences coming on end-of-half possessions on which UCLA let the clock run out.
With Saturday’s performance, Rosen became the first Bruin passer since Cade McNown in 1998 to open the season with back-to-back 300-yard outing and now boasts more career 300-yard games than any UCLA quarterback ever.
He also eclipsed Troy Aikman in career passing touchdowns, moving into a tie for fifth place in Bruin history, by putting up UCLA’s first five-touchdown, zero-interception game in the past 10 years.
“He’s worked really hard to be locked in,” said offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. “I’m pretty happy with where he is in terms of leading the first offense.”
Since 2000, only one other Pac-12 quarterback has registered as high a completion percentage – 88 percent – in a game on as many attempts as Rosen.
“My expectation is to be perfect,” Rosen said. “I had three incompletions today, but I expect to have a perfect game every time I step on the field. It’s unreasonable, but that’s a necessary bar you have to set for yourself. You have to strive for perfection and hope you stumble upon greatness along the way.”
Rosen has done anything but stumble thus far this fall, inserting himself into the early-season Heisman Trophy conversation with last week’s comeback against A&M and polishing his resume by picking apart Hawai’i’s defense.
He opened Saturday by going 5-for-5 on a 99-yard scoring drive, UCLA’s longest since 2010, and never slowed up until giving way to backup Devon Modster midway through the fourth quarter.
“There’s a reason he’s a future NFL draft pick,” said Hawai’i coach Nick Rolovich. “I’m impressed. He’s a quarterback, not just a pretty arm.”
Part of Rosen’s maturation from a so-called “pretty arm” into a dominant quarterback has been his increased ability to stay turnover-free. He did lose two fumbles in the opener, but he has still yet to throw an interception this season.
“It’s a constant point of emphasis for us, securing the ball,” said UCLA coach Jim Mora. “There’s always going to be an element of luck, as we saw last week with a couple of those throws, but it’s something that we constantly preach and Josh has owned.”
Add it to the long list of Rosen’s talents. When Howard, pressed to pick Rosen’s best trait, did finally give an answer, he didn’t really choose one thing.
“His god-given gifts,” Howard said. “His ability to put the ball where it needs to be, make the deep passes, make the short passes, read the defense. Definitely just his abilities. His god-given abilities.”