It was double jeopardy for Josh Rosen.
The UCLA quarterback returned from an injury that had knocked him out of the game against Arizona State in the first half Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium only to get hurt again in the final minutes.
Rosen was pulled down from behind and sacked by linebacker Koron Crump with 3 minutes 25 seconds left, his throwing shoulder appearing to be hurt. On came backup quarterback Mike Fafaul, whose third-down pass fell incomplete.
Fafaul had one more chance on a final drive but was sacked twice before his last pass was intercepted, a fittingly dreadful ending to UCLA’s 23-20 defeat.
“I just didn’t get the ball out quick enough,” Fafaul said after completing three of 11 passes for 44 yards with two interceptions. “I was trying to let the play develop a little too much and it’s a lot faster out there than in practice.”
Rosen had returned to rally the Bruins (3-3 overall, 1-2 in Pac-12 Conference play) from one 10-point deficit but not a second. His status was unclear after the game other than the need for lots of ice.
“He’s beat up,” UCLA Coach Jim Mora said. “He’s just in general beat up. He’s taken some horrible hits because we can’t protect for him.”
Rosen completed 24 of 43 passes for a career-high 400 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. But the Bruins turned the ball over four times, finished with minus-one yard rushing and were sacked five times. UCLA quarterbacks have now been sacked 15 times, once more than all of last season.
“We can’t run the football at all,” Mora said after the Bruins registered their lowest rushing output since they tallied minus-nine yards against Oregon in September 2000. “When you can’t run the football and you have to throw every down, then they can pin their ears back and come after you, which they do. Unfortunately, we couldn’t protect tonight either.”
It had appeared the game was in Rosen’s hands after UCLA defensive back Adarius Pickett intercepted a pass from Sun Devils third-string quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole in the corner of the end zone, giving the Bruins the ball at their own 20-yard line with 5:35 left down by three points. But then Rosen was forced to leave the game a second time, leaving it up to Fafaul, a reserve who had thrown seven passes in his career before Saturday.
“We’ve just been so putrid on offense the last four weeks and unable to run the ball, unable to protect the passer,” Mora said. “It’s very, very, very, very disappointing, so that’s really all I have to say on that.”
Actually, Mora wasn’t finished with his critique.
“It starts with us as coaches,” Mora said. “Obviously, we’re doing a horrible job and we have to get it fixed. … Guys got to assume ownership. It’s the only way it happens in team sports, is people own it. They own up.”
Rosen had helped force a 13-13 tie before UCLA found itself down by 10 for a second time after Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry pulled in a 14-yard pass in the back of the end zone on the final play of the third quarter.
Rosen hurriedly brought the Bruins back, needing only 78 seconds to engineer a 75-yard drive that ended with tight end Nate Iese lunging across the goal line on an 18-yard reception that shaved Arizona State’s lead to 23-20.
On an earlier drive, Rosen completed a short pass on third down to Jamabo, who skirted the sideline before cutting back inside on the way to a 66-yard gain that gave the Bruins first and goal at the Arizona State two-yard line.
UCLA receiver Jordan Lasley (2) runs with the football en route to scoring a 52-yard touchdown reception against Arizona State.(Christian Petersen / Getty Images)
After kicking a 46-yard field goal, Arizona State kicker Zane Gonzalez (5) is congratulated by Coach Todd Graham for breaking the all-time NCAA division 1 FBS kicking record.(Christian Petersen / Getty Images)
UCLA quarterback Mike Fafaul (12) throws a pass during the first half.(Christian Petersen / Getty Images)
UCLA wide receiver Kenneth Walker III (10) is unable to catch a pass ahead of Arizona State defensive back Maurice Chandler (16) during the first half.(Christian Petersen / Getty Images)
UCLA tight end Nate Iese (11) runs with the football after a reception while Arizona State linebacker Viliami Moeakiola (28) tries to tackle him.(Christian Petersen / Getty Images)
Arizona State quarterback Brady White (2) recovers his own fumble as UCLA defender Keisean Lucier-South (11) closes in during the first half.(Ross D. Franklin / AP)
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen (3) throws a pass during the first half.(Christian Petersen / Getty Images)
UCLA’s Austin Roberts (88) makes a catch as he beats Arizona State’s Maurice Chandler (16) during the first half.(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)
An injured UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen (3) limps off the field during the first half.(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)
But UCLA receiver Kenneth Walker III dropped a third-down pass in the end zone and the Bruins turned to kicker J.J. Molson, whose 19-yard field goal pulled them to within a touchdown. Rosen approached Walker as the receiver sat on the bench and said something to him in agitated fashion after Walker’s second drop of the game.
UCLA did get even, briefly, after receiver Jordan Lasley caught a short pass, slipped two tackles and cut across the field past another defensive back who fell down on the way to a 52-yard touchdown.
Then Arizona State (5-1, 2-1) scored the next 10 points, assisted in part by a pass Rosen forced into coverage while under heavy pressure. The ball was tipped and intercepted by Marcus Ball, leading to Zane Gonzalez’s 46-yard field goal that gave the Sun Devils a 23-13 lead.
Gonzalez’s third field goal of the game also gave him 89 for his career, a new Football Bowl Subdivision record.
“We’ve been asking our defense since [Brigham Young] just to keep going out there and eventually, in this league, against the great players that we’re playing against, you’re going to give up a play here or there,” Mora said. “It’s inevitable, so we have to find a way to work together and be better as a team.”
UCLA’s special teams were a mess. There were two missed field goals, one punt that was fumbled and another that was bobbled, and a running into the kicker penalty.
That left a Bruins defense that was stout again in the early going. Linebacker Kenny Young recovered a fumble on a botched handoff and cornerback Fabian Moreau intercepted a pass, but the offense and the kicking game couldn’t do anything with those turnovers.
Young referenced the Pac-12 title game after the game, which seemed like wishful thinking for a team that only found ways to beat itself Saturday.
“We’ve just got to keep battling forward,” Young said, “and make it easier for us to reach Dec. 2.”