It would be wise to expect some crooked numbers on the board in Saturday’s football game between UCLA and Arizona.
The Bruins (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) will head to Tucson seeking their sixth straight win over the Wildcats, (3-2, 1-1) this time in a meeting of two teams averaging over 40 points a game.
“We’ve got an amazing challenge this week, especially defensively,” said coach Jim Mora. “As always, (Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez) does an amazing job of recognizing what type of personnel he has and utilizing those guys and maximizing their strengths.”
This year, Rodriguez has opted to let his quarterbacks run loose, taking advantage of the speed and size of redshirt junior Brandon Dawkins and sophomore Khalil Tate to create a dynamic, dual-threat attack.
Tate ran for 327 yards last week against Colorado, a Football Bowl Subdivision record for a quarterback, but is still listed on Arizona’s depth chart as a co-starter with the more experienced and similarly dangerous Dawkins.
“Either of those quarterbacks, Tate or Dawkins, it’s like playing a Wildcat offense with a quarterback that can throw,” Mora said. “So we have to be incredibly disciplined. … We have to play hard but play with patience, play with speed but play with patience, and that’s sometimes a difficult combination.”
If UCLA’s most recent outing against Colorado is any indication, though, the Bruins’ defense stands a better chance of slowing Tate or Dawkins now that speedy senior linebacker Kenny Young is back at middle linebacker.
Young played the Mike position last season but moved over to the weak-side spot this fall before suffering a head injury against Hawai’i. Against Colorado, Young was back to patrolling the middle of the field, making the defensive play calls and leading the unit as UCLA allowed a season-low 23 points.
“Having (Young) back there, where he’s been playing for the last three and a half years, has really helped stabilize things,” said linebackers coach Scott White. “That’s what he does. You put him right in the middle and you see his range will start to show up.”
Even if the defense doesn’t slow down the high-powered Wildcats, the Bruins are capable of winning a shootout thanks to their own offensive firepower.
Junior quarterback Josh Rosen has a nation-leading seven straight 300-yard passing games and is on pace to set a Pac-12 record with over 5,000 passing yards this season.
The fact that Rosen is not a central figure in the Heisman Memorial Trophy conversation reflects mostly on the Bruins’ two losses, Mora said.
“He’s certainly a guy that’s worthy of being in the discussion,” Mora said. “(But when) we don’t win, no matter how well he plays, the looming thing is, ‘Their defense didn’t play well and can’t stop the run and they lost.’ That just overshadows what we’re doing offensively and what (Rosen) is accomplishing.”
Rosen, for his part, said he didn’t care about the Heisman talk.
“I would give up all the hype to be 5-0,” Rosen said.
Of course, the winning and the hype go hand in hand.
“If we win and Josh keeps playing like he’s playing, then he’s going to vault right into the discussion,” Mora said.