Wednesday, June 26

UCLA football suffers first loss of season to Memphis 48-45

Memphis wideout John Williams helped the Tigers’ receiving corps record 398 yards and all six of their touchdowns.
 (Michael Zshornack/Photo editor)

Memphis wideout John Williams helped the Tigers’ receiving corps record 398 yards and all six of their touchdowns. (Michael Zshornack/Photo editor)

This article was updated Sept. 16 at 5:41 p.m.

MEMPHIS, Tenn.—Four plays into UCLA’s final drive Saturday, it looked like the Bruins were on their way to another epic ending.

Then junior quarterback Josh Rosen made a mistake, flinging a would-be interception that forced sophomore receiver Theo Howard to commit pass interference just to avoid a turnover.

The resulting penalty stopped the drive in its tracks, and Rosen was incomplete on three of his next four passes as the No. 25 Bruins turned the ball over on downs to fall 48-45 to Memphis at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

Rosen racked up 463 passing yards and four touchdowns on the day, but after the game, he was most focused on his handful of bad decisions.

“I just made some stupid mistakes – I had about 10 points worth of really bad plays,” Rosen said. “Just trying to play hero ball. It’s not needed. You’ve got to play within the system.”

Rosen tossed his first two interceptions of the year, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and was flagged for intentional grounding two other times.

“He has to learn to be a little bit more careful with the ball,” said coach Jim Mora. “One of the things about a guy like Josh Rosen is, they don’t ever like to concede a play and that’s a mindset that you love but it’s a mindset that can get you in trouble at times.”

Though his mistakes might have been the most obvious, Rosen was far from the only Bruin to slip up Saturday.

UCLA committed 10 penalties for 99 yards and the defense allowed 560 total yards, including nine plays of 20 yards or more. Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson threw for 398 yards and six touchdowns.

“Big plays, untimely penalties – you know, things of that nature,” said defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. “When you get your chance to get off the field, you’ve got to get off the field and get the ball back to the offense.”

Getting the ball back to the offense usually led quickly to points Saturday. UCLA recorded 633 total yards, the team’s most since 2015, and took a 45-41 lead early in the fourth quarter on Rosen’s fourth touchdown of the game.

The Bruins quickly coughed up the lead on Memphis’ next possession, though, and the offense turned the ball over on its next two drives.

“We just didn’t execute toward the end of the game,” said redshirt senior wide receiver Darren Andrews. “We didn’t make the plays that we needed to win the game.”

Andrews led the Bruin receiving corps with 10 catches for 175 yards, though 13 different receivers hauled in passes. On the ground, junior running back Bolu Olorunfunmi ran 13 times for 77 yards.

“It’s not like as an offense we stubbed our toes, we just made single mistakes that destroy drives,” Rosen said. “We still feel as though we’re a better team but the game gets neutralized with explosive plays and turnovers. I think we lost both those today.”

UCLA gave up an 80-yard run on Memphis’ first play from scrimmage, but largely shut down the Tigers’ ground game after that. Ferguson took over the game, though, leaning heavily on Miller but also completing passes to six other targets.

Two of Ferguson’s touchdowns came on screen passes in the second quarter that the Memphis running backs took over 40 yards to the end zone.

“When you have that many big plays, it makes it tough on your offense,” Bradley said. “You’re always playing catch-up in those situations.”

For most of the game, the Bruins were able to catch up, grabbing the lead on three different occasions.

But when it mattered most, they weren’t able to do it a fourth time.

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Senior Staff

Matt Cummings is a senior staff writer covering UCLA football and men's basketball. In the past, he has covered baseball, cross country, women's volleyball and men's tennis. He served as an assistant sports editor in 2015-2016. Follow him on Twitter @MattCummingsDB.

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