For all intents and purposes, UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen should be one of the best players at his position this season.
Rosen should easily be among the top quarterbacks in the Pac-12 and if things break right, he could end up being a dark-horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy. After all, it doesn’t take much for the masses to start riding the wave of energy and excitement a young quarterback can generate.
All the above statements regarding Rosen are still true heading into the Bruins’ Week 2 matchup with UNLV. You just wouldn’t know it if you watched UCLA lose to Texas A&M this past weekend, 31-24.
Rosen was 26-of-46 against the Aggies for 343 yards (good) a touchdown (good) and three interceptions (whoa — not good).
You read that right. The Aggies picked off Rosen three times, two from senior defensive back Justin Evans alone, including a game-saving pick with the Bruins driving into Aggies territory in the fourth quarter.
For an elite quarterback in a big game to start the season, Rosen’s performance was far from ideal. In fact, that’s going easy on the 6-foot-4, 218 pound sophomore from Manhattan Beach.
When your nickname is “Chosen” — as in “Chosen Rosen” — the expectations have to be unreasonably highly. Sure, there’s such thing as a sophomore slump but when you’re expected to be elite, those are the type of things you need to avoid.
Rosen did throw three interceptions in one game last season, against BYU, but it was his freshman year — so it was somewhat excusable. UCLA also won that game despite Rosen’s struggles, so no harm no foul, right? That wasn’t the case this past weekend. Rosen struggled and UCLA lost as a result. In a game that meant a lot to start out the 2016 season, he couldn’t have picked a worse time to come up short.
When seeing what he had to say after the game, one gets a sense that Rosen understood completely that UCLA’s 0-1 mark to start the season was partially on him.
“I played a pretty abysmal first half. Coach [Jim Mora] is going to try and be Coach and console me and say, ‘It wasn’t all you.’ But I missed some incredibly key opportunities to take advantage of,” Rosen said, via Kyle Bonagura of ESPN. “I can’t try and compete to be the best quarterback in the country and throw three picks. It doesn’t work like that.”
And therein lies the solace, if any, that UCLA fans can take out of the season-opening loss. Rosen knows that he came up short, and he knows that considering the expectations on him, he can’t have games like that in the future.
He has the self-awareness and is humble enough to admit that he played poorly, and that’s something to be admired. Now all he has to do is bounce back, and he has a perfect opportunity to do that in Week 2.
UNLV heads into the matchup with a better record (1-0), but the Rebels’ win came against FCS Jackson State, so they’re really taking a big step up in competition level by playing UCLA at night, and on the road.
The Bruins will have the home crowd behind them and they’ll be anxious to bounce back from Week 1’s loss. Rosen will also likely be anxious to redeem himself and put up a big night, and frankly, he’ll have to in order to calm some anxieties that may be swirling in Los Angeles.
Every quarterback who has played the game has had a bad outing or two. It’s the great ones — the chosen ones — that find a way to bounce back and remind the world why they’re so great. Great quarterbacks rarely, if ever, have two bad games in a row.
If there was ever a time for Rosen to “have a night”, this would be it.