Wednesday, April 8

UCLA allows big plays, falls behind Memphis 27-24 at halftime

No. 25 UCLA fell behind Memphis 27-24 in the first half Saturday thanks partially to a pair of screen passes that the Tigers' backs took for touchdowns. (Michael Zshornack/Photo editor)

MEMPHIS, Tenn.—UCLA football was a long way from Hollywood on Saturday, but the screen play knows no bounds.

The No. 25 Bruins entered halftime down 27-24 to the Memphis Tigers after being torched by screen passes for touchdowns of 42 and 47 yards.

After UCLA jumped out to a 17-7 lead early in the second period, Memphis rebounded with the pair of screens for scores. Those were two of quarterback Riley Ferguson’s four touchdowns. Ferguson was far from perfect, connecting on just 10 of his 19 passes, but he produced several big plays, including passes of 41 and 33 yards on the Tigers’ final drive before halftime.

For the Bruins, junior quarterback Josh Rosen was 18-of-28 for 189 yards and a touchdown. Rosen spread the ball around, completing passes to 10 different receivers in the opening half.

Redshirt senior wideout Darren Andrews led the receiving corps with four catches, and sophomore Theo Howard added three of his own.

On the ground, junior running back Bolu Olorunfunmi received the majority of the work, toting the ball nine times for 58 yards.

The game started poorly for UCLA, with the defense giving up an 80-yard run on Memphis’ first play from scrimmage and allowing a touchdown two plays later.

But the Bruins bounced back, tying up the score with a five-play, 50-yard touchdown drive that included their longest run since 2015 – a 36-yarder from sophomore running back Brandon Stephens – and an on-the-money throw from Rosen to Andrews to convert on 3rd-and-17 inside the red zone. Sophomore back Jalen Starks picked up the score on a powerful seven-yard run.

UCLA tacked on a field goal early in the second quarter after a 13-play, 56-yard drive that included an unusual sequence in which Rosen was flagged for intentional grounding only for the call to be offset by a 12-men-on-the-field penalty against Memphis.

On the next drive, Rosen quickly led the Bruins to a second touchdown, connecting with Starks on a 50-yard pass down the right sideline before finding redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Wilson for a five-yard score.

The Tigers quickly responded, with running back Patrick Taylor Jr., taking a screen pass 47 yards for a touchdown.

Two drives later, Memphis struck again with the screen pass when Ferguson found running back Tony Pollard for a 42-yard score.

The Bruins would regain the lead on a 10-play, 80-yard drive capped by a Rosen rushing touchdown and looked poised to enter halftime in good position. But after coach Jim Mora called a timeout in hopes of getting the ball back and scoring again, Ferguson found star wide receiver Anthony Miller for a 41-yard highlight-reel catch before hitting Miller again for a touchdown to take the lead back.

Redshirt Junior punter Stefan Flintoft was excellent for UCLA in the opening half, pinning Memphis inside its own 20-yard line on all four of his kicks and inside the 10-yard line three times.


Cummings joined the Bruin as a freshman in 2014 and contributed until he graduated in 2018. He was an assistant Sports editor for the 2015-2016 academic year and spent time on the football, men's basketball, baseball, cross country, women's volleyball and men's tennis beats.

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