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Josh Rosen keeps improving and UCLA keeps winning, 41-0 over Oregon State

The evolution of Josh Rosen continues.

Saturday, everyone learned UCLA’s freshman quarterback can play in the rain.

“Things like that just don’t bother him,” Coach Jim Mora said.

Nor did Oregon State on Saturday.

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This was a game the Bruins had to win to maintain control of the Pac-12 South race, and it was one they were expected to win. Oregon State (2-7 overall, 0-6 in Pac-12 play) has lost 16 of its last 18 conference games.

Rosen made certain that the Beavers didn’t get off the floor in a 41-0 victory at Reser Stadium.

He threw for 333 yards in three quarters of work, the third time in four games he has topped 300 yards. He tossed two touchdown passes to Thomas Duarte, turning a 3-0 lead into 17-0 in the second quarter

Safety Jaleel Wadood, who played with Rosen at Bellflower St. John Bosco High, shrugs at all this.

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“He’s doing what I’ve been seeing him do since my sophomore year [in high school],” Wadood said. “His job is to lead us and he is taking us to places where we need to go.”

Where the Bruins (7-2, 4-2) would dearly love to go is to the Pac-12 championship game. They can get there with three more victories in games against Washington State, Utah and USC.

“It’s win or go home,” defensive end Takkarist McKinley said.

Well, win or go to a lower-tier bowl game, anyway.

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“The Pac-12 South is in our hands,” McKinley said.

Their chances seem to get better the more times Rosen has the ball in his hands.

About all that seems to befuddle Rosen are questions about how he will handle situations. His approach, he said, has not changed.

Before games, Rosen said, “Everyone is getting hyped up, listening to some bumping rap music. I’m in the corner of the locker room just chilling out, keeping my heart rate down so I can go out and play calm, cool and collected. If I feel nervous or fluttered, I don’t play my game.”

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That carries on during the game.

“If you ever see me with a straight face on the sideline, you know I’m maybe not on top of my game,” Rosen said. “I’m good when I’m playing loose and having fun.”

The Bruins’ fun Saturday started in the second quarter.

UCLA was treading water in the rain, leading only 3-0. Rosen’s eight-yard touchdown pass to Duarte upped it to 10-0, but on their next possession the Bruins appeared to be pinned deep in their own territory. They fumbled twice — recovering both — and were faced with a second-and-21 play at their own nine-yard line.

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Rosen scrambled to his right, sidestepped a defender and found Nate Iese for a 10-yard gain. On the next play, Rosen connected with Kenneth Walker III for a 63-yard gain.

He closed the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Duarte for a 17-0 lead.

“Everyone took a deep breath and it kept rolling from there,” Rosen said. “That was where the tide changed.”

The Bruins finished with 674 yards, 284 of it rushing. The defense limited Oregon State to 246 yards and came up with three turnovers, which to UCLA’s first 17 points. It ended with UCLA’s first shutout since beating Oregon, 16-0, in 2007.

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It was another step forward for Rosen.

“It’s been fun to watch him grow up,” Mora said. “It’s been a good ride so far for him. We’ve got to get a lot more out of him.”

There probably is more to get, but Mora shies away from placing expectations on the freshman quarterback.

“I don’t want to set a bar, because ultimately it’s too high or too low,” Mora said.

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Rosen sets one.

“My expectations are to win the national championship,” he said.

That remains a longshot. But a division title is still on the table because of Rosen’s development.

“Early in the season, I had a tendency to be very conservative with him to protect him,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “I don’t feel that way anymore. If we’re on our own five-yard line coming out or their five going in, he can run the offense and do the things we want to do.”

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Rosen completed 22 of 33 passes against Oregon State. But it is what he does off the field that has impressed Mazzone

“He does a real good job coming off the field and communicating what he is seeing,” Mazzone said. “That makes it a lot easier for me.”

It has made it easier for all, UCLA players say.

Said Wadood: “I can’t wait to see what he becomes in the future.”

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Follow Chris Foster on Twitter @cfosterlatimes


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