September 08, 2015

UCLA has lost one of its top defensive linemen ahead of a matchup with an opponent that could use two quarterbacks who employ different styles.

Fortunately for the Bruins, if there is any drop-off defensively without Eddie Vanderdoes, "Chosen Rosen" has the ability to pick up the slack.

Quarterback Josh Rosen excelled in his debut for 13th-ranked UCLA, which looks to overcome the loss of Vanderdoes in Saturday night's trip to UNLV.

The Bruins defeated Virginia 34-16 in last Saturday's opener, though Vanderdoes was likely lost for the season to a torn knee ligament. He had a team-high eight tackles for a defense that did not allow a touchdown until the closing minutes.

"It's just crazy that he won't be out there with us, but he'll be one of our best fans," nose tackle Kenny Clark said. "He's definitely a leader on our team. Everybody loves him. He just brings a lot of emotion to the game every Saturday. He keeps the young guys loose. It's definitely a big loss for us."

Junior Eli Ankou and sophomore Matt Dickerson will play much bigger roles in Vanderdoes' absence. Ankou is described as a solid run-stopper and one of the Bruins' strongest players, while the 6-foot-4 Dickerson is a speedy, promising pass-rusher.

Both could be useful Saturday if UNLV uses Blake Decker and Kurt Palandech at quarterback like it did in last Saturday's 38-30 season-opening defeat at Northern Illinois. The Rebels let an early 14-point lead slip away.

Decker is known for his passing ability, completing 21 of 39 attempts for 319 yards and two touchdowns. Palandech only completed one pass, though he's the better runner with five carries for 42 yards and a score.

"It's hard to go through an entire season with one guy and we want to keep this boy (Decker) healthy for as long as we can, but in the case we don't, we want to make sure another guy is ready and Kurt does some really good things with his legs," first-year coach Tony Sanchez said.

Neither Decker nor Palandech pose the threat at quarterback that Rosen does. Rosen electrified the Rose Bowl crowd by completing 28 of 35 passes for 351 yards and three scores to different receivers.

''That's Chosen Rosen right there,'' receiver Eldridge Massington said. ''We weren't surprised. He does that stuff in practice all the time.''

Rosen is a freshman with big shoes to fill in replacing three-year starter Brett Hundley, who is currently with the Green Bay Packers.

''I thought I did pretty well," Rosen said. "I've definitely got to improve in some areas. My adrenaline got going in a few spots and I overthrew some guys, but we're going to get that cleaned up.''

Linebacker Myles Jack scored his 11th career rushing touchdown as he continues to establish himself as possibly the best two-way player in the nation. Soso Jamabo carried nine times for 79 yards in his debut.

The loss of Vanderdoes hurts a defense that is also replacing NFL draft picks in linebacker Eric Kendricks and defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa. The unit allowed the Cavaliers to amass 336 yards, though only 98 were on the ground.

"I felt like we were more solid and more consistent against the run," coach Jim Mora said. "They broke a couple, but I felt we were more consistent against the run."

Saturday's game marks the home debut for Sanchez, who is no stranger to football fans in Las Vegas since he turned the city's Bishop Gorman High School into a national powerhouse before being named the 11th coach in Rebels history. He insists he is having no trouble adjusting to the college game.

"The managing part is no different at all," Sanchez said. "It is highly competitive and it's football."

UNLV has lost seven straight overall and 15 in a row to ranked teams. Last week's effort marked the Rebels' highest point total in an opener since 1984.

These schools have never met.

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