It looked like we were going to have a duel in the desert among two College Football Playoff worthy teams… for about half a quarter. No. 9 UCLA blew past an overmatched No. 16 Arizona team 56-30 in Tucson on Saturday night. The win, coupled with what’s happened in Eugene Saturday night, establishes UCLA as a clear top-echelon team in the always hyper-competitive Pac-12 South race.
The Bruins put this one out of reach in the first half. After Arizona opened the scoring with a 34-yard pass from Anu Solomon to Nate Phillips, UCLA ripped off four unanswered touchdowns and scored on six of its first seven possessions to grab a 42-14 halftime lead. Solomon left the game with a head injury in the second quarter and Scooby Wright played through obvious rust and lack of conditioning after missing three weeks with a knee injury, leaving Arizona simply unable to compete with a supremely talented Bruins squad.
UCLA defensive coordinator Tom Bradley mercilessly sat on Arizona’s passing game, holding Solomon to just 3-of-9 for 21 yards aside from his touchdown strike and his replacement Jerrard Randall to 4-of-16 for 45 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The Wildcats ran, uh, wild on the Bruins’ front, pounding out 353 yards and two scores on 59 carries, but it wasn’t enough to play catch-up with a UCLA offense clicking on every one of its cylinders.
Josh Rosen successfully bounced back from his first rough start by nailing 19-of-29 throws for 284 yards and two touchdowns (plus one on the ground), and running backs Paul Perkins, Soso Jamabo and Nate Starks combined to carry 38 times for 209 yards and five touchdowns. Jordan Payton added seven grabs for 136 yards and a touchdown, and Thomas Duarte hauled in four catches for 65 yards and a score.
The win pushes UCLA to 4-0 (1-0 Pac-12) with Arizona State heading to the Rose Bowl next week. Arizona (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) must regroup quickly, as a trip to No. 21 Stanford waits next Saturday.