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UCLA seeks run game to match Rosen’s heroics

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    UCLA’s Josh Rosen threw four touchdown passes in the Bruins’ win against Texas A&M. UCLA faces Hawaii in Pasadena, Calif., on Saturday.

LOS ANGELES >> UCLA adheres to the 24-hour rule, moving past its previous game no matter the outcome after one day of reflection and corrections.

The offense would like to make one alteration to that approach after a historic comeback victory over Texas A&M on Sunday night and heading into Saturday’s meeting with Hawaii at the Rose Bowl

“Hopefully, this next game we can basically just play a fifth quarter of what we were at last week and keep going from where we left off,” quarterback Josh Rosen said.

UCLA delivered a game’s worth of production in the fourth quarter against Texas A&M, scoring 28 points and amassing 308 yards. The Bruins averaged 10.6 yards per play and ran 29 plays despite only having the ball for 6:31.

Rosen was 19-for-26 for 292 yards and four touchdown passes, including the winning score with 43 seconds remaining.

“You saw a lot from our team, but I do believe we don’t have to dig that deep very often,” said Rosen, who finished the game 35-for-59 for 491 yards.

But as tempting as it might seem to spread the field and let Rosen throw on every play, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch cautioned that the junior’s unbelievable finish was a result of circumstances that won’t manifest in the first quarter on Saturday, when the Rainbow Warriors (2-0) and Bruins meet for the first time since 1939.

Texas A&M was in a prevent defense for much of the second half, trying to protect a 34-point lead. Rosen had to take some risks that could have backfired, and nearly did.

“We got into a two-minute mode cause we had to, not necessarily because we want to,” Fisch said. “But we know what he does well and we’ll not forget about that either.”

The more immediate priority for Fisch is to get the rushing offense on track. Excluding sacks and the final kneel down to end the game, UCLA actually produced 4.42 yards per carry, a robust improvement over last season’s meager 2.93 average. However, running backs Soso Jamabo and Bolu Olorunfunmi combined for 17 carries, and just one in the fourth quarter.

The flow of the game dictated as much, trying to overcome a 44-10 deficit with 4:08 left in the third quarter. Fisch said the score is the first factor that has to be considered in evaluating the success of the run game, and holding the lead makes it easier to be productive.

“The best way to run the football is in the fourth quarter when you’ve worn them down, when you’ve run the ball for 25 carries going into the fourth quarter,” Fisch said.

Yet, it was the inability to establish the run that helped force UCLA to play from behind. After opening the game with a field goal drive, UCLA lost two fumbles and had four three-and-outs on their next six possessions. The inability to stay on the field left the defense vulnerable to a powerful one-two punch of Texas A&M tailbacks, essentially creating a repeat of last season’s most glaring issues.

As great as Rosen was in the fourth quarter, Fisch understands that making him the entire offense is not a sustainable plan.

“We got to run the ball better regardless,” Fisch said. “We have to run the ball more. We have to not put ourselves in positions where we don’t convert on third down, and if we did convert on third down then we would be able to run the ball better and then we’d really be able to see if we could get that run game going.”

The UH defense held UMass and Western Carolina to an average of 3.7 yards in 89 rushing attempts in the program’s first 2-0 start since 2009.

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