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 27-23 win against Colorado.
Junior Josh Rosen put up his lowest total yardage in a game this season – and the junior still managed 372 yards on top of leading the way to the Bruins’ first conference victory.
What really helped Rosen was the balanced attack offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch put together on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
Rosen only attempted 45 passes – the lowest total in a game this season for him with the exception of Hawai’i. He continued to show off his arm throughout the game, especially early on. In the first quarter, the junior connected on 8-of-13 for 107 yards and hit a touchdown with 1:09 remaining.
Even so, the Heisman candidate has a few things to clean up.
Rosen makes out-of-this-world throws on a consistent basis, but is still prone to mistakes like throwing off his back foot – or in this case, staring down a receiver from the snap. Watch Colorado defensive back Evan Worthington get an easy interception as he reads Rosen’s locked eyes on the play below.
Overall, Rosen didn’t do much to hurt or help himself this week. There’s no doubt that he can make throws and that he thrives in late-game situations, but he could do a better job of securing the ball and keeping defenders off guard.
Running backs: B-
This unit made some critical plays but still underperformed considering the defense they were going up against.
Junior Soso Jamabo saw the load of the work, as expected, rushing for 70 yards and one score on 21 carries. Sophomore Jalen Starks got six carries for a measly 12 yards, including a one-yard touchdown rush in the second quarter.
Nonetheless, the run game was paramount in regards to the Bruins securing their first Pac-12 win. Jamabo carried the rock 11 times for 51 yards in the first half, and was also crucial on the Bruins final offensive drive when he managed a seven-yard pickup on a 3rd and 6 – forcing Colorado to use all of its timeouts.
Check out this run of 14 yards giving the Bruins a first down.
As a team, UCLA rushed 35 times for just 95 yards. Jamabo mentioned how the offense needs to find ways to make bigger runs. The Bruins’ longest run was just for 16 yards. Despite the win, the unit will need to continue to make strides as they enter a seven-game stretch of conference play.
Wide receivers: B
As far as the UCLA offense goes, the consistency of the wide receivers may be second only to Rosen.
Redshirt junior Jordan Lasley has cemented himself as the deep-ball receiver and hauled in his third 100-yard game of the season, amassing 146 yards on just seven catches. The redshirt junior opened some eyes early on in the game, catching a 46-yard flea-flicker from Rosen. Check out the big play below.
Redshirt sophomore Caleb Wilson had a quieter day after his tremendous performance against Stanford last week. The tight end snagged six balls for 65 yards on Saturday.
Redshirt senior Darren Andrews failed to score for the first time this season but still had a commendable outing – grabbing eight balls for 96 yards. Redshirt junior tight end Austin Roberts saw his first score of the season as well.
Offensive line: B-
The offensive line has been under a lot of scrutiny for what has seemed like the last three or four years. While the grade might not reflect it, this unit showed considerable improvement against the Buffaloes on Saturday. Senior guard Najee Toran went down with an injury in the third quarter, forcing the entire line to shift.
Redshirt sophomore Andre James moved from tackle to his natural position of guard, redshirt freshman Michael Alves moved from right to left guard and redshirt senior Poasi Moala was inserted into the right tackle spot. The left side of the line excelled and overall proved to be good enough for Rosen to command the offense.
However, there’s still a lot of improvement needed. The offensive line allowed six tackles for loss and one sack. Look at Colorado defensive lineman Javier Edwards sack Rosen on a pivotal fourth quarter drive.
Defensive line: B-
While the D-line showed improvement from the embarrassing performance it displayed against Stanford, the Buffs still ran all over the Bruins.
Much of the talk coming into this matchup was how the Bruins would be able to stop all-purpose tailback Phillip Lindsay. The senior was held to 83 yards rushing but finished the day with 130 all-total yards, as well as a receiving and rushing touchdown.
Missed tackles continued to plague the defense despite a definite improvement from last week. The unit failed to record a single sack, and missed on some key opportunities to do so. Watch redshirt sophomore (No. 93) Chigozie Nnoruka miss a sure sack due to failing to wrap up properly.
Mobile quarterbacks have haunted UCLA defenses in the past, and this Saturday proved to be no different. The real trouble for this group came from Colorado quarterback Steven Montez. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound sophomore out of Texas caused all sorts of problems on the ground against the Bruins.
Montez rushed 15 times for 108 yards. The coaching staff opted to go with a three linemen formation early on in the game but were forced to put a linebacker spy on Montez soon after they realized his running capabilities.
Watch the defense fall for play action on the play below, allowing Montez for a 37-yard rush.
The injury status of freshmen defensive end Jaelan Phillips – who got hurt against Memphis – is still unclear. The defensive line could use his explosiveness off the line in the coming weeks against a high-powered Arizona offense, followed by a perennial Pac-12 power house in Oregon.
With the exception of senior Kenny Young, who once again led the game in tackles with 12, the line backing crew has some work to do.
Montez had a field day on the ground against the defense, and the linebackers were nowhere to be found. A lot of the mishaps for the front seven can be chalked up to coaching, but there’s still no excuse for letting a quarterback rush for over 100 yards.
Expect continued growing pains for this group, as sophomores Krys Barnes and Lokeni Toailoa have been increasingly involved in the mix the last two games. Both were limited to special teams last year and have had to adjust quickly to getting so many reps.
In the clip below, there are two linebackers – junior Josh Woods (No. 2) and Young (No. 42) – set up in a 4-2-5 formation. Watch the former fail to help in time and the latter get blown up by a big block to give the Buffs a first down.
On a side note, this group could see DeChaun Holiday return to action very soon. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound redshirt sophomore safety made the switch to linebacker in spring after coaches raved about his versatility. He is still recovering from shoulder surgery, but coach Mora has hinted at his possible return in the coming weeks.
Defensive backs: B-
The Bruins secondary sported an average performance for the second straight game. The unit gave up six passes of 15 yards or more, including four of 20 or more. Watch Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. haul in a 42-yard bomb.
Montez only completed 17 passes for 243 yards and one touchdown pass, but the Buffs were able to keep the score close for the entirety of the game. Redshirt junior Denzel Fisher was called for defensive holding twice, making it the second game in a row he’s caught a flag.
Montez was almost able to engineer a comeback in the fourth quarter, but the secondary held up to secure the win. With 21 seconds left, the secondary’s only job was to keep the Buffs out of the end zone, and they did so, forcing Montez to throw a Hail Mary out of the end zone as time expired.
This group did lose its two best cover corners. Freshman Darnay Holmes was ejected for a targeting penalty early in the first half and junior Nate Meadors left in the second after suffering a minor injury. The veteran duo of senior Jaleel Wadood and redshirt junior Adarius Pickett combined for 14 tackles and a pass deflection.
A noteworthy storyline is the emergence of senior Mossi Johnson in the secondary. The former wide receiver has been battling injuries for the entirety of his UCLA career, and might have found a home on the defensive side of the ball. Johnson secured three tackles in an increased role at safety coming off two weeks of very strong play on special teams.
Special teams: A-
Special teams didn’t do anything particularly amazing this game, but the unit did its job which is why it earned the highest grade of all groups. More importantly, sophomore kicker JJ Molson essentially iced the game with 31-yard field goal to give the Bruins a four-point lead with just 26 seconds left.
Molson also connected on a 33-yard field goal earlier in the fourth quarter and converted all three of his extra points to remain perfect on the season. Redshirt junior Stefan Flintoft failed to nail a punt inside the 20 but boasted an impressive average of 39 yards per punt on three attempts.
Colorado kick returners were held to an average of 20.5 yards per return, and the Bruins also prevented the Buffs from getting any punt return yards.