No. 9 UCLA still working on consistency with Rosen, offense
LOS ANGELES (AP) UCLA receiver Devin Fuller isn't exerting much effort to find out whether Arizona All-American linebacker Scooby Wright will return from a knee injury to play in the Pac-12 Conference opener for both teams on Saturday.
''I haven't really looked into it too much,'' Fuller said.
The ninth-ranked Bruins (3-0) have plenty of respect for Wright, but can't waste time trying to decipher his status while their passing offense struggles.
After his spectacular debut against Virginia, freshman quarterback Josh Rosen has completed just 33 of 65 passes for 329 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions in wins over UNLV and BYU. Rosen now leads the Pac-12 with those four picks - no other quarterback in the conference has thrown more than two - and ranks eighth in completion percentage and passer rating.
With Rosen throwing three interceptions in the first half against the Cougars, UCLA was forced to rely on a heavy dose of running backs Paul Perkins and Nate Starks and some timely defensive stops to secure the 24-23 comeback win. Perkins and Starks combined for 300 yards rushing, two touchdowns and a healthy dose of confidence that UCLA can overcome adversity.
''We're never out of the fight,'' Fuller said. ''That's basically what I took from the game.''
Perkins rushed for a career-high 219 yards and was especially impressive in keeping the chains moving, as half of his 26 carries gained at least five yards. Fuller offered up the gushing praise that the soft-spoken redshirt junior usually goes out of his way to deflect to teammates, saluting Perkins as an unsung leader of the offense.
''You know what you're going to get from Paul every game,'' Fuller said. ''You're getting consistent runs, hard-fought earned runs. He is going to get the offense in position to score. He does what he needs to do every game to put us in the right position to win.''
Until Rosen gets back on track, Perkins and Starks will be carrying the offense. That will be difficult if Rosen can't improve on his meager 4.6 yards per pass attempt average against BYU.
The Cougars primarily used five-man pressures to get after Rosen, forcing him to recognize where linebackers were in coverage. He wasn't able to do that at the goal line in the first quarter, throwing the ball right to linebacker Harvey Langi.
Yet Rosen responded with a perfect 19-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Payton in the fourth quarter. It was the kind of throw that has already secured the trust of Rosen's teammates.
''He's not scared to go out there and lead us,'' Starks said.
Fuller said Rosen has not lost any confidence despite his recent struggles, and continues to display the even temperament that coach Jim Mora pointed to when he chose a starting quarterback. And with a powerful rushing offense led by Perkins and a veteran defense, Rosen only needs to manage the game for UCLA to keep winning and to challenge for the Pac-12 South crown.
''He's not worried about the mistakes,'' Starks said. ''It's all about moving on to the next game. We're getting ready for Arizona, and that's the main goal.''
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