Each week, Daily Bruin Sports takes a look at the game film for UCLA football and grades each position group on its performance.
This week, we grade UCLA’s 58-34 loss to Stanford.
Josh Rosen continued his stellar play against a Stanford defense that some thought could finally slow him down. While a good share of his 40 completions on 60 attempts came late in garbage time, the junior still threw for 480 yards and three touchdowns.
It is almost a bit unfair to grade Rosen after watching this game because he had such poor luck from the start. He threw two interceptions, but the first was redshirt sophomore tight end Caleb Wilson’s fault, and the second came late in the fourth quarter when the Bruins were already down 17 points.
But Rosen gets such a high grade because of the quality of throws he made in this game. Incomplete passes are not often highlight-worthy, but Rosen’s second-quarter toss to sophomore Theo Howard on third and goal – which the wide receiver failed to hold onto – was momentum-shifting.
Rosen showcased pinpoint accuracy threading the needle between two Stanford defenders with a perfect pass to Howard in the end zone – but to no avail. Check out what ESPN college football analyst and former Stanford defensive back Rod Gilmore called a “102-mile-per-hour fastball” and a “perfect throw.”
Immediately after this, the Bruins had a field goal blocked by Cardinal defensive tackle Harrison Phillips. UCLA never held a lead in the game after this point, allowing Stanford to obtain a 23-13 edge by halftime. Quite frankly, Rosen’s play was the only reason why the Bruins managed to stay in the game as long as they did.
Even as time was expiring in the fourth quarter, he seemed to be driving down the field seamlessly. With the game over at 58-34, he still went 6-of-7 with 62 yards in the last two minutes of the game. Call it stat padding, but all he did was continue to show his poise and accuracy in the pocket.
Rosen’s third- and fourth-quarter efficiency continues to be enamoring, although a lot of that could be due to the fact that the Bruins have trailed heading into the fourth quarter for every game this season, with the exception of Hawai’i.
Rosen seems to get better as the pressure mounts. His total yards, completion percentage, yards per attempt, total touchdowns and his quarterback rating all shoot up in the third and fourth quarters.
In essence, Rosen is putting up a Heisman-worthy campaign despite the Bruins’ 2-2 start to the season. He is leading the nation in passing yards by a healthy 230 and in passing touchdowns with 16 to Washington State quarterback Luke Falk’s 14. He only misses out on an A for not being able to come out with the victory.
Running backs: A-
Soso Jamabo was the only player who carried the ball for UCLA in the backfield this game – and it almost seemed as if he should have gotten the rock more. In what has been a long time coming for UCLA’s rushing attack in the past two years, Jamabo rushed for 100 yards on 12 carries and one touchdown.
Unfortunately for the junior back, UCLA was playing catch up for the majority of the game and focused its offensive attack around a pass-oriented game – as seen during the majority of the season so far. Jamabo looked like a receiving threat as well, catching three balls for 41 yards with a long of 32. Watch him bust out a 49-yard run in the first quarter.
After this game, it would not be surprising to see Jamabo take over as the lead back in what has been a running back-by-committee situation for the past two seasons. Fellow junior back Bolu Olorunfunmi did not see the field in Palo Alto and neither did sophomore back Brandon Stephens.
Wide receivers: C+
As mentioned earlier, Caleb Wilson was the cause of Rosen’s first interception with 2:40 left in the first quarter. He had the ball in his hands, coming up with a spectacular diving catch, but managed to let it slip through to Stanford’s strong safety Justin Reid who was in coverage. Watch the miscue below.
The minimum he has to do is bat the ball down, rather than keep it live in the air. Wilson still had a big day and continued to fill the role of Josh Rosen’s go-to guy, grabbing 11 balls for 145 yards.
Theo Howard had a really tough outing against the Cardinal. On top of dropping a perfect pass that would have put the Bruins up 20-7, the sophomore receiver later fumbled the ball on a catch with 35 seconds left in the second quarter. This led to a Stanford field goal before the half, extending its lead to 23-13 and stripping Rosen of the chance to tie the game or at least cut the deficit to four.
Redshirt senior Darren Andrews put up a solid performance with six catches for 48 yards and a touchdown, but he also slipped on a route right before his touchdown catch. Redshirt junior Jordan Lasley had a huge game, hauling in 11 receptions for 158 yards and a score as well.
However, a huge mishap by this unit was at the hands of Christian Pabico. On a third and long, Rosen found the walk-on receiver for a 27-yard connection. The redshirt junior tried to fight for extra yards and somehow lost the ball without his knee touching the ground. Stanford’s cornerback Alameen Murphy recovered and the Cardinal scored on the next drive.
Overall, the receiving corps played well but made several costly mistakes that continually shifted the momentum toward the Cardinal.
Offensive line: C
The offensive line clearly lacks depth, despite only allowing one sack against Stanford on Saturday. Rosen was hurried seven times and looked uncomfortable in his attempts to evade Stanford’s 3-4 blitz schemes.
While the grade might seem harsh for a unit that let Rosen throw for 480 yards on 40 completions, it comes down to adjustments. Yes, Rosen was able to stand in the pocket and deliver strikes for a majority of the drives, but this is the expectation for a pass-first offense which struggles to run the ball.
Therefore, the offensive line has to do an even better job at giving Rosen time, since opposing defenses know the Bruins are likely to opt for the air. For many plays, the Cardinal went with just two defensive linemen.
This is a group that has suffered from various injuries.
Redshirt senior Kenny Lacy was ruled out for the season just weeks before the season opener, and graduate student Sunny Odogwu has yet to play – fighting an injury all season long despite being brought in to fight for a starting tackle spot.
This unit could have a difficult time seeing improvements with such little depth. However, promising storylines include burgeoning redshirt freshman Paco Perez and freshman Stephan Zabie becoming more involved in the mix.
On a bright spot, the line did allow Jamabo to rush for 100 yards. This is a great sign for a unit that was second-worst in the nation last season. It is a continued improvement from Sept. 16 against Memphis. Expect to see a more balanced attack against Colorado on Saturday.
Defensive line: D
This unit got bullied all game – plain and simple.
Heading into the matchup, both coach Jim Mora and defensive coordinator Tom Bradley emphasized how the Bruins needed to stop explosive and chunk-yardage plays.
The Cardinal’s Bryce Love rushed for 263 yards on 30 carries, busting open four runs of 25 yards or more, with a long of 69.
One particular drive that seemed to stifle the defensive line occurred in the second quarter when the Bruins were up 13-6. With 6:25 left in the second, Stanford went seven plays for 80 yards. Love was responsible for 64 yards on just three carries on this drive.
The Bruins also gave up 86 yards rushing to Cameron Scarlett – Love’s backup – on just eight carries. The junior exposed UCLA’s front seven even in the fourth quarter, busting a 62-yard run and capping it off two plays later with the last of his three touchdowns.
All in all, it is tough to chalk up the defensive line’s performance to just one thing. Mora emphasized how the defense needs to do a better job of tackling, and this was evident all throughout the second half.
The game was still close with six minutes left in the fourth quarter and UCLA down 34-44. Watch Love run around the entire UCLA defense on second and 9 to put the game out of reach with a 69-yard touchdown.
The defensive line has to be better if this team wants to contend for a Pac-12 South title. The absence of freshman defensive end Jaelan Phillips was highly evident as the Bruins failed to record a sack, and only hurried the Cardinal’s quarterback three times.
The majority of the game was played in a 4-2-5 formation, featuring two linebackers to stop the outside run. UCLA gave up a total of 405 rushing yards to Stanford, with an average of nine yards a carry.
While a lot of this can be attributed to the defensive line, the linebackers did not fare well against Stanford either. The Cardinal only attempted 24 passes, compared to their 45 rushing attempts.
It simply came down to being able to tackle and make reads. Senior Kenny Young notched 11 tackles but many of these came from busted plays. Sophomore Josh Woods finished with seven but was not able to use his heralded athleticism to stop Stanford’s outside counters.
Whether or not it was the scheme or the players themselves, the linebacker play must step up in the following weeks and do a better job stopping the run.
Defensive backs: B-
The defensive backs were average in this game, mostly because they were not really tested. The Cardinal featured three quarterbacks in the game before settling on third-stringer K.J. Costello. He and the other two quarterbacks who played – starter Keller Chryst and backup Ryan Burns – only accounted for 24 pass attempts and 148 yards.
Redshirt junior cornerback Denzel Fisher did get pegged with a pass interference with one minute left in the second quarter. This led to a 9-yard touchdown run by Costello, giving Stanford a 20-13 lead.
The most blatant mishap by the defensive backs was arguably by junior Octavius Spencer and Fisher. Fisher had Stanford receiver Trenton Irwin with man coverage and Spencer on the weak side to help as the safety. Still, Irwin somehow beat both of them and scored on a 15-yard catch.
Watch the play below, which gave Stanford a 30-20 lead with 8:26 left in the fourth.
Yet, this is not a group to be worried about. Despite a subpar performance, this is a veteran unit that has fared well four games into the season. Senior Jaleel Wadood returned to action and led the game in tackles with 11.
Redshirt junior Adarius Pickett was ejected for a questionable targeting penalty in the first quarter. Still, the group only gave up three passes of 15 yards or more.
Special Teams: C+
Stefan Flintoft had been a bright spot for the Bruins on special teams all season long until this game. The redshirt junior had two punts for a modest average of 31 yards with none going inside the 20.
UCLA sophomore kicker JJ Molson’s first miss of the season came in this game with a blocked field goal and 6:14 left in the second quarter. Not only was it momentum-shifting, but it also prevented the Bruins from taking a 16-6 lead immediately after failing to execute on a play that should have resulted in a touchdown.
He remained perfect on extra points for the season, hitting all four of his attempts and hit two other field goals besides the block. The Bruins did a poor job in the return game as well, averaging 18 yards a return on five kickoffs and giving up an average of 24.1 yards to Stanford back Cameron Scarlett on kick returns as well – with a long of 45.
It is the little plays, such as a blocked a field goal or dropped pass on third and goal, that make the difference against a team that has had the upper hand for the better part of a decade.