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.
UCLA head coach Jim Mora faced plenty of questions about his quarterback situation at UCLA during Pac-12 media days, but he is far from prepared to settle on a starting quarterback for the start of the 2015 season. He must have been prepared for that given Brett Hundley left the Bruins a year early to enter the NFL Draft and Asiantii Woulard is hoping to be ruled eligible to play elsewhere this fall. The spring game yielded far too little confidence in any candidate to grab the starting nod months ahead of the season, so Mora is going to hold off on making any concrete decisions until he can get a better sense of who is ready to lead UCLA’s offense. One thing Mora does not plan to do is use multiple quarterbacks.
“I’d rather use one. I think that is the most beneficial way to build your team and consistency is to use one,” Mora said Friday during Pac-12 media day. “But we’ll see. My gut instinct is to name a guy and support the hell out of him. That’s what I’ve tried to do.”
So, who will that be? The three quarterback race is down to Jerry Neuheisel, Mike Fafaul and freshman Josh Rosen. Despite the high expectations for Rosen, Mora is not getting caught up in the hype just yet.
“He hasn’t taken a snap at this level. So I don’t want to put too many expectations,” Mora suggested. “I’ll let others put expectations on them. I think if Josh reaches his potential every day at the end of his time at UCLA we’ll look back and say he was a success.”
The UCLA spring drew to a close Saturday afternoon on the west coast. As far as head coach Jim Mora is concerned, there is no need to name a starting quarterback just yet, and he may be letting the competition brew right up until the season’s opening kickoff against Virginia.
Earlier this week Mora said “I will not say who’s the guy until our first series against Virginia,” and after the spring game that plan has not changed.
The options for UCLA are Jerry Neuheisel, Asiantii Woulard, Mike Fafaul and early enrollee Josh Rosen. If the spring game was any indication, it might be a wide open race to replace Brett Hundley. There were some nice plays at times, but the final spring practice also saw a decent amount of overthrowing targets, and it would be fair to suggest none of the candidates for the starting job jumped out and grabbed a hold of the position out of the spring.
Woulard did serve up one of the nicer highlights from UCLA’s scrimmage…
UCLA opens the 2015 season at home against Virginia on September 5.
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley was sharp on the first offensive possession of the spring game Saturday, and that was apparently enough for the returning starter. After completing four of five attempts for 30 yards, Hundley’s spring came to a close as head coach Jim Mora chose to rest his starter and allow more snaps for back-up options.
Jerry Neuheisel, son of former Bruins coach and current Pac-12 Network analyst Rick Neuheisel, was the game’s leading passer with 180 yards but was intercepted twice. Mike Fafaul completed seven of 16 attempts for 116 yards, Asiantii Woulard completed four of 13 attempts for 42 yards, and Mike Hall accounted for eight yards on his lone completion on two attempts. Saturday’s game showed UCLA has a legitimate concern if Hundley has to miss any playing time in the fall, but the Bruins may be able to survive a short absence if needed. Hundley is a key ingredient for the Bruins in 2014, and he could work his way into the Heisman Trophy conversation with a successful Pac-12 championship run.
The good news is UCLA will have receivers no matter who the quarterback is. Jordan Payton was the game’s leading receiver with 96 yards and Devin Lucien added 76 yards on five receptions. Two key receivers for UCLA did not play Saturday due to injury, but Devin Fuller and Thomas Duarte are expected back for the fall.
The Bruins should be fine on defense as well despite losing Anthony Barr. UCLA’s defense racked up eight sacks in the spring scrimmage, and last year’s young breakout star, Myles Jack, is focusing on defense.
UCLA has played in two of the three Pac-12 championship games since the conference expanded. After missing out on the championship game last season, the Bruins look to have a team capable of getting back there in 2014 in what could be a wide-open Pac-12 South. UCLA opens the 2014 season August 30 at Virginia.