Josh Rosen has a career-best five touchdown passes as UCLA downs Hawaii 56-23
It was a continuance by design. Almost every pass completed. Plenty of touchdowns to go around. Enough yardage to nearly stretch from the Rose Bowl back to Westwood.
The epic display fashioned by UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen late in a crazy season-opening comeback bled into an equally productive sequel Saturday back on his home field. The only thing missing this time was the cliffhanger ending.
UCLA rolled to a 56-23 victory over Hawaii as Rosen continued his record-setting ways with a career-high five touchdown passes.
The Bruins (2-0) scored touchdowns on each of their first seven offensive drives with the exception of a one-play drive before halftime, giving them 12 touchdowns in 14 drives going back to the 35 unanswered points they unspooled at the end of their triumph over Texas A&M. The only other drive that UCLA didn’t score on during that stretch, Rosen took a knee in the final seconds against the Aggies.
“We have to expect to score every time we touch the ball and you can’t be happy with 70%, 80% success rates that normal people would consider good or whatnot,” Rosen said. “You have to set the bar unreasonably high and always strive for it.”
Rosen was nearly perfect, completing 22 of 25 passes for 329 yards, with one of the incompletions coming on a dropped pass. Over his last five quarters, Rosen has completed 41 of 51 passes for 621 yards and nine touchdowns without an interception.
It didn’t meet his standards.
“I had three incompletions today and I expect to have a perfect game every time I step on the field,” said Rosen, whose 12th game with at least 300 yards passing set a school record, edging Cade McNown’s 11 games. “It’s unreasonable, but I think that’s the standard you have to set for yourself. You have to strive for perfection and hope you fall on greatness along the way, stumble on greatness along the way.”
UCLA’s offense wasn’t great across the board. Its running game produced a middling 132 yards, including Nate Starks’ 42 yards in a starting role after Soso Jamabo was injured in practice earlier in the week.
Rosen was so prolific that it didn’t matter. He said in the days before the game that the offense’s sputtering start through 21/2 quarters last week was largely the result of learning new plays under first-year offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, explaining that he wanted to “basically play a fifth quarter of what we were at last week and keep going where we left off.”
The Bruins did so in building leads of 14-0 after the first quarter and 35-7 at halftime.
The offense also benefited from its second trick play in as many weeks, tight end Caleb Wilson completing a 39-yard pass to Starks that might have gone for a touchdown had Starks not initially bobbled the ball. UCLA capitalized on Wilson’s strong arm as a former quarterback at Gardena Serra High.
“I think he’s a little bit better as a tight end,” Rosen cracked.
Rosen found a slew of targets including Theo Howard (a career-high seven catches for 110 yards with a touchdown) and Darren Andrews (four catches for 92 yards and three touchdowns). Rosen played one drive in the fourth quarter before giving way to backup Devon Modster.
“Every snap he takes, because he’s a cerebral guy, because it’s important to him, because he works hard, he’s going to improve,” Mora said. “So that’s what we’re seeing.”
Hawaii quarterback Dru Brown completed 23 of 38 passes for 227 yards with two touchdowns and an interception that UCLA safety Darnay Holmes returned 30 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. The Rainbow Warriors (2-1) gashed UCLA’s defense for 515 yards, including 281 on the ground. Tailback Diocemy Saint Juste repeatedly darted past Bruins defenders on his way to 154 yards in 27 carries.
To be fair, the UCLA defense did have a few doctor’s notes. Defensive tackle Boss Tagaloa watched the game in street clothes, linebacker Kenny Young and safeties Adarius Pickett and Jaleel Wadood were hurt during the game, and linebacker Josh Woods was ejected in the fourth quarter for targeting. Woods’ ejection means he will have to sit out the first half of the Bruins’ game against Memphis next weekend.
“It’s disheartening for us,” defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said of all the yardage allowed.
The display put on by Rosen was generating adjectives of a different sort.
“I believe in my heart that he is the best quarterback in the country,” UCLA center Scott Quessenberry said, “and if we can give him time, he’s lethal back there.”
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen leads the Bruins on a second quarter touchdown drive against Hawaii at the Rose Bowl.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Hawaii receiver Keelan Ewaliko is hit by UCLA linebacker Kris Barnes (14) as defensive back Keyon Riley (28) brings him down during second half of a game at the Rose Bowl.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
UCLA running back Bolu Olorunfunmi leaps over Hawaiin defenders for a third quarter touchdown at the Rose Bowl.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
UCLA running back Bolu Olorunfunmi leaps over Hawaii defenders for a third quarter touchdown at the Rose Bowl.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
UCLA receiver Darren Andrews celebrates after scoring against Hawaii during a game at the Rose Bowl.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
UCLA coach Jim Mora looks on as receiver Alex Van Dyke (83) chest bumps teammate Demetric Felton after his second quarter touchdown against Hawaii at the Rose Bowl.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
UCLA running back Nate Starks hauls in a long pass from quarterback Josh Rosen as Hawaii linebacker Jahlani Tavai chases during the second quarter of a game at the Rose Bowl.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
UCLA running back Demetric Felton celebrates a second quarter touchdown run against Hawaii at the Rose Bowl.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen drops back to pass during the fourth quarter of a game against Hawaii at the Rose Bowl.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen warms up before a game against Hawaii on Sept. 9 at the Rose Bowl.(Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images)
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch
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