UCLA quarterback Mike Fafaul takes it one pass at a time

UCLA quarterback Mike Fafaul throws a pass against Utah in the fourth quarter on Oct. 22.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA is on a three-game losing streak, hoping its star quarterback will soon return to health and still trying to fix a ground attack that ranks last among 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in rushing yards per game.

It is safe to say the Bruins (3-5, 1-4 in Pac-12 play) welcomed a bye week after falling to then-No. 19 Utah on Oct. 22. It is also probably safe to say UCLA quarterback Mike Fafaul was among the happiest players to start a 13-day break.

Fafaul, who has twice started in place of the injured Josh Rosen, threw a program-record 70 passes in the loss to the Utes. After the game he iced his arm, stretched it out and received a massage.

“It was sore,” Fafaul said of his arm, which accounted for 464 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions in the game. “It was a lot of throws. It’s getting better, though. The bye week definitely helped, but it feels good out there right now.”


The Bruins will travel to face No. 21 Colorado (6-2, 4-1) on Thursday, and it seems likely Fafaul will be under center once again. Rosen, who is dealing with a nerve issue in his throwing shoulder, was not working with the quarterbacks in the first 20 minutes of Monday’s practice. UCLA Coach Jim Mora did not specify whether Rosen practiced Monday, but he still spoke as if there was a possibility Rosen could play against the Buffaloes.

Fafaul, who was a career backup before Rosen was injured against Arizona State on Oct. 8, is preparing as if he will be the starter. “I try not to look at the big picture as much,” Fafaul said after practice Monday. “I tell you guys all the time, I just try to take it one step at a time.”

The fifth-year senior had attempted six career passes before coming in against Arizona State. He improved in the Bruins’ Week 7 loss to Washington State, and then constantly moved the offense against a solid Utah defense.

He did throw four interceptions, but the offense scored 45 points and gave UCLA a chance to win.


“We’re always comfortable with [Fafaul],” tight end Nate Iese said Monday. “We love [Rosen]. I don’t know how things are going with him. But it’s a day-to-day process with him coming back, so we’re going to deal with what we have right now. We all trust [Fafaul] ... I have no problem with him being in the huddle.”

Fafaul’s favorite quarterback is Tom Brady, who knows a thing or two about stepping in as a backup. Fafaul, like Brady, wears No. 12. He has a poster of Brady at home in Cockeysville, Md., and another in his room at UCLA. He even has a Tom Brady-themed calendar.

But Fafaul does not daydream about his relief of Rosen resembling Brady’s rapid ascension from backup quarterback to one of the best in football history.

After Monday’s practice, Fafaul was thinking about his daily arm treatment and watching film. He figures the future — with Rosen’s status floating in the air and UCLA at risk of missing a bowl game for the first since 2010 — will take care of itself.


“I’m not looking forward to next week or the week after that,” Fafaul said. “And that helps me manage everything.”

Quick hits

Iese, who finished with career highs in receptions (eight), yards (146) and touchdowns (two) against Utah, credited his performance to the tight end’s chemistry with the quarterbacks. … UCLA and Oregon State will kick off at 6 p.m. at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 12.


Twitter: @dougherty_jesse