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Bruins take a step backward, regardless of Josh Rosen's injuries

Bruins take a step backward, regardless of Josh Rosen's injuries
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen (3) fumbles the football as he is sacked by Arizona State defensive lineman Koron Crump (4). Rosen was injured on the play and did not return. (Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

Every second that quarterback Josh Rosen remained motionless on the grass in front of the UCLA bench late in the fourth quarter Saturday, his right arm and shoulder twisted and crumpled beneath him after he was summarily sacked and hurled to the ground by an eager Arizona State defense — and not for the first time — some of UCLA's hopes of righting its uneven, angst-ridden season crumpled with him.

There's no way to sugarcoat the Bruins' 23-20 loss Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium, no way to gloss over their two missed field goals, their fumbles, dropped passes and — worst of all — their minus-one rushing yardage. In their first five games, their running game had been negligible. On Saturday, it was negative. That's not exactly the progress the Bruins (3-3, 1-2 in Pacific-12 play) were seeking as they get deeper into the conference schedule.

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At least Coach Jim Mora didn't try to make a rosy picture of Saturday's ugly splotches. He used the word "disappointed" more than once and described the offense as "putrid" because of its inability to run the ball throughout the season. Seeing Rosen go down twice — the sophomore quarterback had left the game in the second quarter with an apparent arm or shoulder injury but was able to retake the reins from backup Mike Fafaul — seemed to trigger Mora's anger and tap a well of honesty.

"Josh is beat up. He's beat up. He's just in general beat up. He's taken some horrible hits because we can't protect for him," Mora said.

"We can't run the football at all. 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. They didn't do anything that we haven't seen. It starts with us as coaches. Obviously, we're doing a horrible job, and we have to get it fixed."

A week might not be long enough to fix what ails them. It's certainly not long enough to give them a running game that would take pressure off Rosen — or Fafaul, if Rosen's injuries linger. Fafaul, a fifth-year senior, was sacked twice on UCLA's final possession, and he acknowledged he wasn't accustomed to the quickness of the game. That's understandable, given he had thrown only seven passes in his career before he went three for 11 with two interceptions Saturday.

Mora said Fafaul "did as well as he possibly could," and emphasized that Fafaul got too little help from an overwhelmed offensive line. But Fafaul demurred when asked whether it was more challenging for him to make plays because Arizona State knew the Bruins had no running game.

"You win as a team and you lose as a team, and I was just trying to do everything I could to help my team win," Fafaul said. "I'm not really too focused on that. I'm more just focused on my performance. There's a lot of things that I left on the table that I'm disappointed I couldn't do, but that's football and you've got to bounce back."

Mora said it was too early to offer a prognosis on Rosen's status, but some teammates said that they had spoken to him and that he had assured them he was OK. Linebacker Kenny Young, who said he was worried the second time Rosen went down and out, later was encouraged by Rosen's optimism.

"He'll be all right. He's a tough guy," Young said. "He's a tough battler, and we're all behind him to get things rolling for next week."

It won't be that simple. The Bruins weren't very good without Rosen on Saturday, but they've also shown they're not good enough with him right now to rank among the conference's elite. And their problems go beyond the lack of a reliable and productive running game. Mora rejected the notion that the blame belongs on the tailbacks alone.

"It's on all 11," he said. "It's on the quarterback carrying out his fakes and getting the right run read. It's on the offensive line blocking. It's on the backs finding the hole. It's on the receivers blocking. It's on the receivers catching the ball so that we can move the sticks and have more opportunities to run it. It's just everything. It's never one thing. It's all-inclusive. Everybody has to own up."

Own up is better than giving up. Next up is Washington State, which beat Stanford on Saturday. So this isn't getting any rosier.

Moving forward, Mora said, "is what you do. You don't have an option. You get ready to play Washington State. That's what we do.

"This business, if you've been in this business long enough, you've had great wins and you've had tough losses and you bounce back. That's what you do and that's what I expect our team and our staff to bounce back, but right now it's terribly disappointing."

And just plain terrible.

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Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen

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