LOS ANGELES | Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre might have found a way to stop UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, who leads the FBS in yards passing and touchdown passes.
“Twist his ankle in warmups,” MacIntyre joked.
The Buffaloes will have to contain Rosen and the Bruins’ prolific offense at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, something they didn’t have to worry about in last season’s 20-10 win. Rosen didn’t play because of a season-ending shoulder injury, and UCLA finished with 210 yards of offense in a dour Thursday night game.
With Rosen back, UCLA (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) is averaging 45 points per game this season. He is throwing for 440.8 yards per game, with at least three touchdown passes in every game to give Rosen a total of 16.
“He’s just throwing it so well, and he’s on target,” MacIntyre said. “The receivers are catching it, the offensive line is protecting really well. We’re going to have to play excellent football. If he sits back there all day, he’ll pick you apart, so you got to try to make him uncomfortable.”
Pressuring Rosen will be all the more critical after Colorado (3-1, 0-1) failed to record a sack in its 37-10 loss to Washington last week. The Huskies didn’t have to throw the ball very often, but Jake Browning had a 43-yard touchdown pass against a secondary still trying to replace two starting cornerbacks who are now with NFL teams.
Rosen threw for 480 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions against Stanford last week, but offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch would like better balance between the run and pass. Rosen threw the ball 60 times and UCLA called pass plays on its final 17 offensive snaps while trying to stage another dramatic comeback before losing 58-34.
MacIntyre wouldn’t have any issues if UCLA dialed back Rosen’s work load. If that doesn’t work, MacIntyre joked there is always a chance the NFL could hold an early supplemental draft.
“Maybe he could leave Saturday and go play for somebody Sunday,” MacIntyre said.
Here are some things to watch when the Buffaloes and Bruins meet for the seventh time as conference opponents:
BALL INSECURITY: UCLA has turned the ball over five times in losses at Memphis and Stanford, and that carelessness has Bruins head coach Jim Mora worried.
“Defensively, I think you have to recognize the fact that they are really taking the ball away at a high rate, and that’s something that we have struggled with the last few games is just taking care of the ball,” Mora said.
Colorado has eight takeaways, including five interceptions. But the Buffaloes have given it back eight times, with quarterback Steven Montez throwing six interceptions.
Since Colorado joined the Pac-12 in 2011, the team with the better turnover margin is 4-1 in the series.
DRILL INSTRUCTOR: UCLA added tackling drills to practice this week in hopes of addressing its putrid run defense. The Bruins are allowing 307.5 yards rushing per game, the worst total in the FBS, while their average of 6.58 yards per carry allowed is second-worst in the country.
BIRTHDAY BOY: Colorado cornerback Isaiah Oliver will turn 21 on Saturday, and he would like to celebrate with another touchdown against UCLA after returning a punt 68 yards for a score last season. Oliver is tied for the Pac-12 lead with nine passes defended this year, including two interceptions.
SOSO SO GOOD: UCLA running back Soso Jamabo rushed for 100 yards on 12 carries against Stanford, becoming the first Bruin to reach the century mark since Paul Perkins did so against Washington State on Nov. 14, 2015.
FRIENDS AND FOES: UCLA wide receiver Jordan Lasley has known Colorado’s top receiver, Shay Fields, since the fourth grade, but is more excited to face linebacker Rick Gamboa and settle a score from his final game in high school.
“He ended my senior year back at Serra so I’m definitely stoked to play against him again,” Lasley said.