Are the Buffs better off if UCLA throws the ball 50+ times?

Scott Hood, Staff Writer
CU Sports Nation

Sometimes, too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

Take the UCLA offense, for example.

Josh Rosen is widely recognized as one of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-12, if not the country, and NFL scouts love his skill set, making him a likely first-round NFL Draft pick next April.

In UCLA’s last two games against Memphis and Stanford, Rosen has thrown 116 passes (63.8 completion pct.) for 943 yards and seven touchdowns with four interceptions. Earlier, this week, Mike MacIntyre lauded Rosen’s ability “to make all the throws” and his mobility in the pocket to escaper pressure.

But a funny thing happened on the way towards Rosen polishing his NFL resume with gaudy statistics – UCLA lost both contests to Memphis and Stanford, dropping their record to 2-2 overall, 6-10 since the start of last season. The Bruins all but abandoned the run in the second half of last week’s 58-34 loss at Stanford.

Seems UCLA experiences less success on the scoreboard the more Rosen throws the ball. That begs the question – is Colorado better off with Rosen throwing the ball as much as possible and UCLA forgoing the ground game?

“One-hundred and how many (pass attempts)? That's crazy,” Buffs defensive back Nick Fisher said. “When you hear that, you just think that you're going to get multiple chances to make plays on the ball, so that's definitely exciting. We're betting that he's going to throw that many times, so we've focused on covering a lot of pass routes. If he throws it that much, I believe in our defense.”

Only once in UCLA’s first four games this season has Rosen attempted fewer than 56 passes in a single game. Last week, at Stanford, he tied Cade McNown’s school mark of three 350-yard passing games in a season. Rosen’s 480-yard passing performance at Stanford was his seventh career 350-yard passing game, moving him past McNown (6) for most in school history.

Obviously, Rosen has proven he can throw the football for a ton of yards. Yet, MacIntyre believes the Bruins would prefer to run a more balanced attack to keep defenses guessing more on what they’re going to do. However, in three of their first four games, UCLA has fallen behind and been forced to throw to catch up, making them one-dimensional and, in a way, easier to defend.

“I'm pretty sure they want more balance,” MacIntyre said. “They would not like to have the opponent score 40 points on them. That's why they had to keep throwing. If it's a lower scoring game, they won't throw it as much. My thought process is that Jim [Mora] is a defensive guy, I'm a defensive guy. They want to do those types of things to help out their defense. You definitely don't want to be that lopsided. They're more run-oriented. They have a lot 21 and 12 personnel run-type sets.

“But when they got behind, they had to keep scoring. The Memphis game was like a pinball game, both teams just kept scoring on each other. In the Stanford game, they got up on them and Stanford came back. Then boom-boom-boom they were down 21 and they had to throw to catch up. They just threw it every down. So that skewed it a little bit. But I would imagine that they would like to be more 50-50."

Buffs wide receiver Juwann Winfree acknowledged he’s probably a little envious of UCLA’s receivers because they play in a more wide-open system and catch more passes. However, as Winfree noted, Colorado is 3-1 and UCLA is 2-2 and riding a two-game losing streak coming into Saturday night’s game.

“Of course, everybody wants to eat, everybody wants the opportunity to get the ball,” Winfree said. “It does look nice on the stat sheet, but then again they've lost their two games. At the end of the day you want to win, but stats do look nice on the sheet."

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