Today we’ll look at UCLA’s offense in anticipation of Saturday afternoon’s game. The UCLA offense has struggled this year as the team has bumbled their way to a 3-4 overall record and 1-3 Pac-12 start. Once the favorites to win the Pac-12 south, the Bruins find themselves on the brink of elimination from conference title contention when they host Utah. If UCLA is to change the course of their season, the offense will need to find a way to produce.
The Bruins average 26 points a game, ranking them 10th in the Pac-12 ahead of only Oregon State and Stanford. They average 409.7 yards of offense per game, the vast majority of it through the air. Their passing offense is not bad (if Josh Rosen is healthy) averaging 318.6 yards, 3rd in the Pac-12. Where the offense really suffers is in the running game, where UCLA ranks last in the conference with 91.14 yards per game and an anemic 2.18 yards per carry.
The UCLA offense lives and dies by the arm of Josh Rosen. The sophomore quarterback averages 319 yards passing a game, ranking him third in the Pac-12 and is completing 59.3% of his passes with 10 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Rosen is on of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12 and can carry this team to victory, when healthy.
The problem is, Rosen is not healthy right now. Against Arizona State, Rosen hurt his shoulder and left the game. He took part in warm ups last week against Washington State, but was ultimately not able to play. His backup, fifth year senior Mike Fafaul filled in and the drop off was noticeable. Had Coach Jim Mora has stated he is hopeful Rosen will play against Utah. Considering Rosen was almost ready to play last week, and the Bruins season is hanging in the balance, I fully expect to see Rosen playing on Saturday. How healthy he will be, is another question.
The Bruins running game has been awful this year. However, talent is not the issue for the Bruins. Soso Jamabo (6-3, 216 lbs.) is one of the most physically gifted backs in the Pac-12, with the ability to run with both speed and power. He has 3 touchdowns this season and averages 3.98 yards per rushing attempt.
Nate Starks (5-11, 212 lbs.) leads the team in carries with 66 but averages only 2.74 yards per carry and has a touchdown. Ben Olorunfunmi (5-10, 225lbs.) also sees quite a few carries and averages 3.59 yards per carry and has 2 touchdowns.
Much of the blame for the Bruins poor rushing attack lies with the offensive line that has struggled to block for UCLA’s talented running backs. In the past five games, UCLA has only rushed for 294 yards, including last week’s 43 yard performance in Pullman, and the -1 yard performance the week prior in Tempe. Getting their running game back on track will be a tough task against a very good Utah defensive front.
On the receiving end of Rosen’s passes, the Bruins have a couple good receivers. Junior Darren Andrews (5-10, 190 lbs.) leads the team with 33 receptions, 439 yards and 3 touchdowns this season. Andrews is an explosive player and more importantly, has been consistent for UCLA this season. Andrews has had at least 2 receptions in every game this season and averages 13.30 yards per reception.
UCLA has rotated quite a few other receivers this year with drops being somewhat of a problem for the group. Kenneth Walker III (5-10, 190 lbs.), Eldridge Massington (6-2, 212 lbs.) and Jordan Lasley (6-1, 201) should all see snaps. Walker III is the second leading receiver with 344 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns and averages 17.20 yards per catch.
Both these teams have great defenses, which ultimately will be what decides the game. Against UCLA’s offense, Utah’s defensive line needs to win the battle at the line of scrimmage and get into the backfield early and often. UCLA’s offensive line has been the weak link this season and will be relying on Rosen to win the game with his arm. Utah’s ability to exploit the weakness of UCLA’s offensive line and make a physically compromised Josh Rosen uncomfortable, will be key to leaving Pasadena with a win.