PROVO, Utah — UCLA will take any win it can get after a season-opening loss to unranked Texas A&M, but Saturday night sure wasn’t pretty.
Josh Rosen threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns as UCLA suffocated BYU 17-14 on Saturday night.
Neither offense shined as the two defenses controlled most of the night, but UCLA (2-1) was able to hold BYU (1-2) to 273 yards, including 23 on the ground. The Cougars were limited to negative rushing yards until late in the third quarter and 91 of those offensive yards came on their final possession.
UCLA fans hoped to see the Rosen that’s expected to be a high first-round NFL draft pick after a mediocre start to the season, but BYU never allowed him to feel completely comfortable. Rosen, however, completed a handful of big passing plays, including a 33-yard touchdown to Darren Andrews.
“Josh has such high expectations for himself that, sometimes, he lets it get the best of him,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said. “He has to realize he’s not going to play a perfect game. He just has to play up to his ability level and his capabilities.”
BYU quarterback Taysom Hill finished with 250 passing yards, one touchdown one interception and was sacked four times.
“We’ve got to start clicking offensively,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “We were able to do it some drives … but we have to start doing that throughout the game. We need to be able to sustain that and be more consistent. Obviously, that’s what our focus is going to be on going into this next week.”
BYU: A second consecutive loss puts BYU in an awkward position. Such is life as an independent. Without a conference championship to play for, a berth in the College Football Playoffs is basically eliminated. The Cougars are already contracted for the Poinsettia Bowl if they aren’t selected to a New Year’s Six bowl. With two losses and nine games to go, including Michigan State and Mississippi State, that’s unlikely. The BYU defense continued to play better than expected this season, but the offense regressed for a third consecutive game.
“Yeah, it’s gut check time,” Sitake said. “You can either let adversity divide you or unite you. I think our team is united. We are all on the same page and nobody is pointing fingers or blaming anybody else we just have to be better in some phases than others.
“We just have to get to work. You can’t blame it all on one phase – special teams wise, defensively and offensively we just need to play our game plan.”
UCLA: The Bruins defense solidified after a pair of shaky performances to start the season. UCLA gave up 378 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns in the first two games, but held running back Jamaal Williams to 28 yards and shut down the mobile Hill. The Bruins also blanketed the Cougar receivers, giving Hill few options in the pass game. Jayon Brown had a team-high nine tackles.
“We played a ton of man coverage,” Mora said. “Those young men did a tremendous job under a lot of stress and that allowed our rush to get there.”
BYU: The Cougars play their fourth consecutive team from a Power 5 conference with a neutral site game against West Virginia at FedEx Field — home of the Washington Redskins — in Greater Landover, Maryland on Saturday.
UCLA: The Bruins begin Pac-12 play, hosting No. 7 Stanford on Saturday.
UCLA is now 34-1 under Jim Mora when leading at halftime. The Bruins have also won 47 straight regular season games when holding an opponent under 20 points.
NUMBERS SOMETIMES LIE
The Cougars first scoring drive came with the help of three defensive holding calls that totaled 24 yards. One came on a pass in the end zone to give BYU first-and-goal from the two-yard line. That’s seven points and a 75-yard drive that may not have happened without the penalties — plus the final 91-yard drive — making the game look closer than it actually was.
Hill struggled mightily for the second consecutive game despite a decent stat sheet. He missed open receivers and was repeatedly run down from behind trying to scramble. Sophomore Tanner Mangum is considered a better pure passer, if Mangum isn’t creating with his legs. Sitake said they considered making the change at halftime, but decided against it.
BYU has held all three Power 5 opponents to 20 points or less this season. Sitake is a former defensive coordinator at Oregon State and Utah, but the defensive unit has exceeded expectations. Butch Pau’u had a career-high 19 tackles Saturday.
“I just wasn’t connecting,” Rosen said. “I wasn’t executing. It gets frustrating when balls just kind of sail and get away from you.
“It gets real frustrating. Sometimes you got to go back to basics and kind of look at yourself in the mirror and hit the reset button.”