Josh Rosen was meant to play quarterback. He was a fit for the position since he started firing bottles out of his crib as a baby. His pure throwing motion has NFL scouts salivating.
Khalil Tate’s athletic gifts were harder to define. Many schools saw Tate’s nearly unstoppable running ability that racked up more than 2,000 rushing yards as a senior at Gardena Serra High and forgot that he also passed for more than 2,000. Coaches coveted him as an athlete, not always as a quarterback.
Rosen and Tate’s paths crossed frequently in high school at seven-on-seven tournaments and recruiting camps. Their high school teams never played against each other, but the two signal-callers from polar opposite schools of quarterbacking will be pivotal figures in Saturday’s critical Pac-12 South matchup at 6 p.m. at Arizona Stadium.
The Bruins have not lost to Arizona under head coach Jim Mora. Both teams have identical overall and conference records (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12). There’s a log-jam in the South with five of the six teams carrying one conference loss. UCLA hopes it can break free Saturday night.
When UCLA has the ball
Rosen is rising to the top of nearly every UCLA passing records list. He’s fourth on the school’s all-time list for passing touchdowns, passing yards and completions. He leads the country in passing yards per game, competitions per game and total offense.
The only list he’s seemingly not on is the one reserved for Heisman Trophy favorites.
The junior quarterback opened the season with 25/1 odds to win the Heisman, according to Las Vegas oddsmaker Bovada. Despite leading the nation’s best passing offense, his Heisman odds have fallen to 75/1, as of Thursday.
Mora tries not to entertain thoughts pertaining to things outside the walls of the Wasserman Football Center. But in moments of weakness, his mind wanders to Heisman lists that have Stanford running back Bryce Love surging behind Penn State’s Saquon Barkley and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. Rosen belongs in the discussion, Mora thinks. It’s just up to the Bruins to help him get there.
“What he has to do is continue to play well and with consistency and continue to make those plays like he has been making at key moments and then what we have to do as a team is we have to win,” Mora said. “If we win and Josh keeps playing like he’s playing, then he’s going to vault right into the discussion.”
Rosen couldn’t be less concerned with any discussion that may or may not include his name.
“I would give up all the hype to be 5-0,” Rosen said.
When Arizona has the ball
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez played it coy when asked if Tate would retain the starting spot after setting the FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback last week.
“It’s hard to justify not starting him after this, right?” Rodriguez told reporters in Boulder.
Despite rushing for 327 yards and throwing for 154 more on 12-of-13 passing, Tate was still listed as the co-starter on the official depth chart Monday alongside Brandon Dawkins. Don’t be swayed by the gamesmanship, though. Most signs out of Tucson point to Tate making his second career start.
He was unable to secure the starting job in August and suffered a shoulder injury in the season opener. Now Tate is at the center of the college football discussion. Outside of the Pac-12’s Offensive Player of the Week award, the 18-year-old sophomore was named Walter Camp Player of the Week, the National Player of the Week by CNS Sports and Athlon Sports’ National Offensive Player of the Week. LeBron James recognized Tate’s record-setting performance against Colorado with a comment on an Instagram post.
Tate’s dynamic running ability makes for a nightmarish matchup for the UCLA defense ranked 128th out of 129 FBS teams in rushing defense.
The Bruins moved out of the cellar with an improved performance against Colorado two weeks ago, limiting star running back Phillip Lindsay to 86 yards on 19 carries. They did however, allow 108 rushing yards to quarterback Steven Montez. They survived on lockdown defense in the red zone that allowed only one touchdown in five trips.
“We’re finally getting things figured out and we’re all coming together as a unit,” linebacker Krys Barnes said. “We all love each other and we’re out their battling, having fun with each other, so it’s a big step forward. We just have to build on it each and every practice and when it comes Saturday, just go out and execute.”
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