This post was updated Sept. 9th at 7:19 p.m.
Six days later, it was more of the same for UCLA football’s offense.
Junior quarterback Josh Rosen completed 22 of 25 passes for 329 yards and five touchdowns, and the Bruins’ starters found the end zone in all but one of their drives – the outlier coming as the first half ended – before they exited after their first series in the fourth quarter.
Behind that near-perfect performance, UCLA (2-0) routed Hawai’i (2-1) 56-23 on Saturday afternoon.
“Josh was seeing the field real well,” said coach Jim Mora. “Our receivers did a good job of getting open and making plays with the ball after the catch. I thought we protected better.”
The offense started the game backed up at its one-yard line, but moved the length of the field in only seven plays and 3:21 of game time. The rest of the day followed a similar plotline – Rosen sitting back in a mostly clean pocket and picking apart the Rainbow Warrior defense.
Seven Bruins recorded receptions Saturday. Rosen’s top target was sophomore receiver Theo Howard, who recorded career highs with seven catches and 110 yards plus a touchdown. Redshirt senior wideout Darren Andrews also put in an efficient outing, with four catches for 92 yards and three touchdowns.
“When you’re a defense looking at us, you have to account for every one of our playmakers,” Rosen said. “You’re always gonna have some steady guys who are always gonna get their catches, their carries and production. Then when you have five or six guys that can light up at any given time, that’s really dangerous.”
UCLA’s running attack improved Saturday, as the offense rushed for 132 yards on 26 carries. Junior running back Soso Jamabo did not dress, so senior running back Nate Starks received most of the reps with the first team. Starks ran for 42 yards on six carries and recorded 68 receiving yards on three catches as well.
“I think we ran the ball well,” said offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. “We were pretty balanced. … A couple of guys went the wrong way at times, (there were) a couple things we could clean up. But for the most part, I think that we were a little better.”
The scoreline also allowed Fisch to exhibit some freedom in his playcalling. Following Hawai’i’s failed fake punt on 4th-and-22 in the second quarter, Fisch called for a double pass, and redshirt sophomore tight end Caleb Wilson delivered a lob that landed in Starks’ arms for a 39-yard gain.
“We practiced that,” Fisch said. “I would have liked to see us get in (for a touchdown) on that, but Nate kind of bobbled it a little bit. (Hawa’ii) reacted to it pretty good there to make a play to stop us short of the end zone.”
Defensively, UCLA allowed Hawaii to rush for 278 yards on 41 carries, but 157 yards came in the fourth quarter. Freshman cornerback Darnay Holmes recorded his first career interception at the end of the first half, and he returned it for the Bruins’ first defensive score of the season.
But now the defense’s concerns extend past stopping the run.
By the end of the game, UCLA was down five starters – four due to possible injuries, and one due to disqualification. Sophomore nose tackle Boss Tagaloa didn’t dress for the game but Mora said he anticipates Tagaloa to push for a return next weekend against Memphis.
Junior linebacker Josh Woods was the recipient of a targeting penalty in the fourth quarter, so he will have to sit the first half of UCLA’s game next Saturday.
The other injuries have less clear timelines.
Seniors linebacker Kenny Young and safety Jaleel Wadood were knocked out in the first and second quarters respectively with possible concussions. Safety Adarius Pickett injured his right knee when Holmes rolled into his leg at the end of an early second quarter play, and the redshirt junior sat on the trainer’s bench with an ice pack wrapped around his knee for the rest of the half.
With UCLA’s defense potentially losing veterans for the upcoming games, Rosen said the offense has to continue attacking and putting pressure on the opposing defense.
“On offense we have to expect to score every time we touch the ball,” Rosen said. “We can’t be happy with 70, 80 percent success rates that normal people would consider good or whatnot. You have to set the bar unreasonably high and always strive for it.”