UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen has missed the team’s last two games dealing with a host of injuries but it turns out that one might be more serious than was initially indicated.
Rosen was hurt in two separate incidents in the Bruins’ loss at Arizona State three weeks ago. While he appears to have recovered from a minor lower leg injury, he has yet to play for the team in losses to Washington State and Utah as the result of his shoulder injury.
Backup Mike Fafaul has taken over and thrown for nearly 800 yards in Rosen’s absence but it’s clear that the team needs their star quarterback back if they want to end their current three-game losing streak and get a chance to make a bowl game.
If there’s one bit of good news it’s that the signal-caller is getting some extra time to rest up as UCLA is on their bye this week before traveling to Colorado next Thursday.
Apparently the grass can indeed be greener on the other side of retirement.
Two games into the 2016 season, Joe Williams announced his retirement from the sport because of unspecified health issues. Less than four weeks later, the senior running back returned to a Utah squad just last week because of a backfield decimated by injury.
In his first game post-retirement, Williams ran for 179 yards in a win over Oregon State last Saturday. A week later, Williams trumped that effort.
In the Week 8 win over UCLA, Williams ran for a career-high 332 yards and four touchdowns as Utah kept pace with Colorado in the Pac-12 South. Williams had entered his brief retirement with 549 career rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns; the past two games, the senior has totaled 511 yards and five touchdowns.
Not surprisingly, Williams’ Week 8 performance set a couple of school records.
The win allowed Utah to keep pace with Colorado, with both the Utes and Buffaloes, thanks to a 10-5 win over Stanford, sitting at 4-1 in Pac-12 South play. Those two teams will meet in the regular-season finale in a game that could very well determine which team represents the division in the conference championship game.
USC, which handed Colorado its lone league loss, could also be factor in the divisional race as they sit at 3-2 on a bye this weekend.
Washington State (4-2, 3-0 Pac-12) remained in control of its own fate in the Pac-12 with a 27-21 victory over visiting UCLA (3-4, 1-3 Pac-12) Saturday night in Pullman. Luke Falk was held without a touchdown pass for the Cougars, and UCLA was without Josh Rosen at quarterback due to an injury from last weekend.
Falk passed for 261 yards and was picked off one time by the Bruins defense. The interception came in the end zone in the first half, when UCLA’s defense did all it could to keep the game within reach for an offense with little to give without Rosen. Senior Mike Fafaul gave it his best effort, however, with 258 passing yards and the first three touchdown passes of his career. UCLA had a chance to steal a win on the road after being down 24-7, but a fumble by receiver Jordan Lasley was recovered by Washington State (after a video review had to overturn the original call on the field). From there, Washington State was able to work the clock, force the Bruins to call their final timeout, and then run the clock down to 49 seconds when a punt was downed at the UCLA two-yard line. Fafaul lobbed on deep down the middle of the field but it was picked off to seal the win for the Cougars.
UCLA had three turnover sin the game. Maybe the inclement weather made for some slippery footballs. Washington State had two turnovers as well.
Washington State travels to Arizona State next week for another late night contest. Arizona State will have a chance to clinch bowl eligibility with a win and will look to shrug off a blowout loss on the road against Colorado. UCLA will be home next week to take on Utah. After a victory on the road against Oregon State, the Utes remain in a tie for first place in the Pac-12 South (with Colorado).
UCLA is playing without quarterback Josh Rosen, who hurt his shoulder in a game last week against Arizona State. With Rosen out of action, the Bruins have been running the offense with Mike Fafaul. With Rosen out of the game, it has been up to the Bruins defense to keep this one within reach. Through one half, they have done that despite trailing Washington State by a score of 10-0 at the halftime break.
Washington State has been riding high the past few weeks with big wins against Stanford and Oregon, but the offense has been off the mark at times against the Bruins tonight. Luke Falk has passed for 125 yards but has struggled to get in a rhythm and has been picked off once. That interception came in the end zone (UCLA’s Jayon Brown came up with it). The only touchdown of the first half was scored by Gerard Wicks from the goal line for the Cougars.
UCLA’s offense has been locked down by Washington State as well. The Bruins have rushed for just 16 yards as a team, with Bolu Olorunfunmi leading the team with nine rushing yards on seven carries. UCLA is just one for six on third downs too.
The first half has been far from pretty, but fortunately, most people were probably too invested in a few other games going on at the same time (Ohio State and Wisconsin in overtime, for example). But we are now entering Pac-12 After dark territory, where anything can happen in the second half.
Arizona State’s quarterback situation may not be in as dire straights as the team first thought as they prepare to take on Colorado in a big Pac-12 South battle.
Head coach Todd Graham told reporters on Thursday that starting quarterback Manny Wilkins appears to be good to go after he was injured against USC and missed all of last week’s win against UCLA.
“I anticipate him to play,” Graham said. “I don’t know how much. Obviously that could change, but I anticipate him to play.”
The coach noted that if the Sun Devils had to play on Thursday, it would likely be some sort of combination of Wilkins and true freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole under center against the Buffs. However, the starter is progressing nicely with his recovery to the point where he could be the guy on Saturday full-time after throwing well in practice.
ASU was put in a bit of a pickle at quarterback on Saturday against UCLA as backup signal-caller Brady White suffered a season-ending foot injury in the second half after starting in place of Wilkins. Sterling-Cole’s redshirt was burned in the fourth quarter and he threw an interception on his first pass but the Sun Devils eventually held on to move to into a first place tie in the division.
Colorado is not without their own quarterback issues this week as well. Starter Sefo Liufau still does not appear to be 100 percent yet despite playing a few snaps last week and the Buffs might be starting redshirt freshman Steven Montez for the fourth straight game.
As a result, it’s safe to say the key to the game for both teams is keeping their quarterbacks upright and healthy for a full 60 minutes on Saturday.