March 9, 2016
This is the first installment of Pick-Six, a weekly rundown of notes about UCLA football and its upcoming matchup.
1) Rosen Watch has officially begun. So far, the junior quarterback hasn’t disappointed, compiling 820 passing yards and nine touchdowns across two games.
If he continues this torrid stretch, he will easily surpass Brett Hundley’s record for most passing yards in a season. The now-Green Bay Packers quarterback accrued 3,740 yards in 2012 to set the record.
Rosen, should he average 410 yards per game like he has, would set the record Nov. 11 against Arizona State. Sure, he’s not likely to garner that many yards every game, but he doesn’t have to. All he has to do is average about 293 yards per game for the rest of the regular season to capture the record.
If he does so, it would truly be a special year for projected first-round draft pick.
2) While the aerial attack has always been dangerous with Rosen in the pocket, the running game has been nearly nonexistent for much of the past two seasons. But after the Bruins accumulated 132 yards on the ground last week against Hawai’i, they could rush for more than 100 yards in back-to-back games for the first time in more than a year.
Junior Bolu Olorunfunmi and sophomore Jordan Starks were the only players to receive carries in both games thanks the absences of Nate Starks and Soso Jamabo. But Nate Starks is back and Jamabo could return, though his status is still up in the air.
Memphis’ run defense acts as more of a sieve than a brick wall, allowing opponents to exploit holes frequently throughout games. The Tigers allowed 100 rushing yards or more in 11 of their 13 games last year.
They surrendered 200.1 rushing yards per game last season, ranking 85th in the nation. Thus, while Rosen will be slinging tons of passes, the Bruins could have a chance to make their running game respectable again.
3) Memphis coach Mike Norvell isn’t new to the Pac-12 scene. Prior to joining the Tigers, he was the offensive coordinator at Arizona State, shredding defenses apart, as we mentioned Wednesday.
In three of his four years in Arizona, his teams ranked in the top 20 in points per game – from 2012-2014 – with 38.4, 39.7 and 36.4, respectively. In his first year at the helm for Memphis, his team averaged 38.8 points, boasting yet another daunting offense.
Not only that, but each time he’s faced off against the Bruins, his offense compiled hundreds of yards.
Mike Norvell’s Offense vs. UCLA Defense
The Tigers averaged 304.4 total yards per game, ranking 15th in the country, so UCLA’s defense will probably need to step up on the road this weekend after a lackluster showing against Hawai’i.
4) Senior linebacker Kenny Young is undergoing a concussion protocol after being on the bad end of an egregious hit by Hawai’i tight end Metuisela ‘Unga, so he will likely be out against Memphis.
Young spoke out at Pac-12 Media Day about the danger of concussions. Sadly, he’s become a victim now.
Fellow linebacker Josh Woods will be on the sidelines for at least one half thanks to a targeting penalty last weekend. This leaves the linebacker position pretty shallow against an above-average running team.
Linebackers Brandon Burton, Krys Barnes, Leni Toailoa and Lokeni Toailoa should all earn more playing time due to the absences.
5) We discussed how good Memphis’ offense is, briefly mentioning wide receiver Anthony Miller. But just how good is he?
News flash, he’s really good.
The Memphis native broke essentially every one of the team’s single-season receiving records last year. And the previous record holder for catches and yards in a season has some pedigree – former NFL star receiver Isaac Bruce.
Miller’s line last season: 95 catches, 1,434 yards, 14 touchdowns. He also had 15 receptions in one game against Houston, which set another school record.
The Tigers’ offense focuses primarily on the ground, but Miller is obviously someone to keep an eye on for the Bruins’ defensive coordinator Tom Bradley.
6) UCLA owns a 7-7 record against teams currently in the American Athletic Conference dating back to 1937 – yes, you read that correctly. Most of the bouts were against Houston and SMU, although it matched up against Temple and Memphis once apiece as well.
The one time the Bruins took on the Tigers was in 2014, when Brett Hundley and Paxton Lynch squared off in an offensive shootout. UCLA claimed the victory 42-35 at the Rose Bowl thanks to a Thomas Duarte touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Bruins’ defense kept the Tigers off the board for the remaining 10-and-a-half minutes of the game.
Paul Perkins pitched in 98 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Hundley finished with 422 total yards, three passing touchdowns and an interception. Lynch amassed 332 total yards with both a rushing and passing touchdown.
7) Extra Point! – this will tend to be a quirky or random fact about either UCLA or their opponent.
Coach Jim Mora is pretty good in whatever turns out to be his team’s third game of the season. As a head coach, both in college and the NFL, he’s posted a 7-1 record in those games. And that one loss didn’t come since he’s been in Westwood.
So if you’re a believer in superstitions, then UCLA has a good chance of coming out on top against Memphis.