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UCLA Bruins Lose a Winnable Football Game to Memphis Tigers, 48-45

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UCLA Bruins give up 560 yards in what might go down as one of the worst defensive displays in recent history.

NCAA Football: UCLA at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Today in Memphis, this game was a typical UCLA Bruins game, it was the kind of game that if you had hair to start, you pulled it out by the end of the game. UCLA almost figured out a way to give up 398 passing yards, 162 rushing yards, and have 10 penalties for 99 yards and still win the game. Notice, I said “almost.” UCLA was not able to overcome the horrible defense and, just when we needed our Heisman hope to rescue us, Josh Rosen came up short as well.

My usual style is to give a pretty detailed rundown of possessions, but with today’s game that would be impossible. UCLA had 17 possessions and Memphis had 16 possessions. So, I will highlight a few key possessions.

I’m going to start in the third quarter with UCLA down 34-24. UCLA received the kickoff and started the drive with great field possession and desperately needed to answer the Tigers and answer they did. On 2nd and 11 Josh Rosen passed to the middle to Darren Andrews for a 65 yard TD pass. The throw was typical Josh Rosen and perfectly placed for Andrews to run under it and score. UCLA was within 3 points.

The next drive for the Tigers was a quick 3 and out, as they had to punt back to the Bruins, and this was the drive that bad Rosen appeared. UCLA was driving, but the Bruins were put into a difficult 3rd and 19 spot. The Tigers dropped back their defense and only rushed three, and Rosen had plenty of time. Josh Rosen passed to to the middle across his body, and the pass was intercepted by Tim Hart and returned for 60 yards for a touchdown. This put the Tigers up 41-31.

Josh Rosen came back on the next drive like I would expect him to. A penalty on the Tigers pushed back their kickoff and gave the Bruins great field position, and Rosen went to work. On the fifth play of the drive, and Rosen facing a 3rd and 6, Josh Rosen passed to the left to Jordan Lasley for a 21 yard TOUCHDOWN. UCLA was now down 41-38.

The next three drives by both teams included a Memphis fumble and a UCLA 3 and out and another Memphis punt, but the last Memphis punt hemmed the Bruins at their own 1 yard line. The first play set the tone for the drive, as Josh Rosen passed to the right to Caleb Wilson for 22 yards to the UCLA 23. Five plays later, Josh Rosen hit Austin Roberts for a 22-yard touchdown. The Bruins were now up 45-41 with 11:51 left in the 4th quarter.

The subsequent drive for the Tigers contained some controversy again for a Bruins defender. On the first play of the drive, Riley Ferguson passed to the middle to Phil Mayhue for 20 yards to the MEM 39; however, there was a personal foul on UCLA’s Osa Odighizuwa for 15 additional yards for targeting. Replays seem to show that there was not a helmet-to-helmet hit, and it was more of an upper body shove. Nonetheless, replays confirmed, and Osa was removed from the game. Three plays later, Riley Ferguson passed to the left to Phil Mayhue for 3 yards for a TD. The Tigers were now up 48-45.

UCLA and Josh Rosen received the kickoff with 9:56 to go, and Rosen proceeded to drive the Bruins right down the field. With 7:00 left at the Tigers 19 yard line, Rosen was facing a 3rd and 10. Rosen dropped back, and the Tigers brought the house. Rosen looked left and threw off his back foot looking for the receiver to have cut off his route, but the receiver kept going and Rosen was intercepted by TJ Carter and the ball was returned for 42 yards.

UCLA’s defense bent but did not break and eventually held, and what could have went down as a horrible call by Memphis’ Mike Norvell, the Tigers faked a FG attempt from the 16 yard line and Riley Patterson’s pass to to the right was intercepted by UCLA’s Octavius Spencer.

Rosen was set up for another miraculous finish. The drive started off promising with three pass plays and one run play that all provided positive results, but it was the 1st and 10 play with 1:53 that sealed UCLA’s fate. Rosen dropped back and under pressure he once again threw an ill-advised pass, that without a heroic play by Theo Howard, was almost definitely going to be intercepted. However, while Howard broke up the play, he was flagged with a pass interference. UCLA was now facing a 1st and 25. Rosen’s first play was a set up screen pass that he seemed to overthrow, and then anther incomplete pass set up the Bruins with a 3rd and 25. Josh Rosen passed to the middle to Jalen Starks and Starks made A LOT out of nothing for 20 yards to the MEM 46. Second guessers please step up, as for some reason the Bruins rushed their 4th and 5 play and Rosen threw and incomplete pass to end the game.

UCLA has played three games, and it is abundantly clear that their defense has been over-matched in each of the games. A defense that some thought would be a strength of the team is nothing close to a strength. Today the defense could not stop big plays, and many of these big plays in the first half centered around not stopping the tight-end and screen passes out of the back field. While the second half showed that the Bruins could stop the screen play, the penalty problem reared its ugly head and the Bruins could not overcome the combination of big plays and penalties.

What was not expected after the first two games was Josh Rosen reverting back to some of the things that we have seen in the past. Rosen was provided the opportunity to quite possibly head to the top of the pack in the Heisman talk. Every single Bruins fan knew that the game rested on his shoulders since the defense was struggling. And most of us though those shoulders would be able to bare the weight. However, on this warm afternoon in Memphis, Rosen wilted along with the rest of the Bruins when we needed him most.