After a frustrating first half where Arizona pressured Josh Rosen into completing only 9 of 24 passes, Kennedy Polamalu’s offense turned on in the second half and lit up the scoreboard to beat the Arizona Wildcats 45-24 on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.
Talent shined in all phases of the game for Jim Mora’s Bruins, with Kenny Walker and Darren Andrews both receiving for over 100 yards. Nate Starks carried the ball 17 times for 80 yards and one touchdown. Not the back I was expecting to see get a majority of reps in the game.
Ishmael Adams and Randall Goforth both returned kickoffs for over 50 yards to aid the thriving second-half offense. Rosen completed 11 of 13 passes in the second half, and totaled 350 yards passing and 3 touchdowns in the game. Theo Howard, who had been serving a sentence for not being able to block, was released from prison and caught a short pass from Rosen, then burst around two Wildcat defenders for an easy touchdown that had Bruin fans wondering where that had been all year.
While the first half provided more fodder for carping from Bruin fans frustrated by two September losses, the second half looked like the UCLA team we had all been hoping, expecting to see this season.
If the Bruins had a tale of two halves, the Wildcats had a tale of three quarterbacks. Four, if you include Anu Solomon, the three-year starter who has been sidelined with a knee injury. Brandon Dawkins started the game, Zach Erlinger spelled him for a drive, then came in again after Dawkins gave it one more try. Rodriguez finally found success on offense with true freshman Khalil Tate, who lead the Wildcats in rushing and threw for two touchdowns.
Dropped passes again plagued the UCLA receiver corps, though Kenny Walker and Darren Andrews, who received a bulk of the passes, were both excellent, and both got in the endzone; Walker, on two pass receptions—including a fourth-quarter pass from Rosen that proved why NFL scouts are so high on his arm talent; Andrews, on a 26-yard carry.
Jim Mora himself was called for a 15-yard penalty on a fourth down in the first half; the Bruins were flagged four more times in the second half. Still, five penalties is not all bad considering the history that Mora’s teams have had with laundry on the field.
UCLA advances to 3-2 on the year, and an even 1-1 record in the Pac-12.
The Bruins travel to Tempe next week to take on Pac-12 South foe Arizona State.