Editor’s Note: We do not think Josh Rosen is a wuss. We don’t have all the facts about his injury and we are only half as Ludicrous as Brock Huard, on a good day.
Two of the most prolific, highly-regarded quarterbacks of the 2015 high school class finally met on the field as collegiates. A high-scoring aerial circus would most undoubtedly ensue. Let’s turn to the film for the fireworks and witness what must have been 400-yard passing days for these two riflemen... right??
2nd and 6:
The defense made life rough for Josh Rosen until he took his ball and went home early in the third quarter. It started on the Bruins’ first offensive play, when they inexplicably decided to give a free rush to Greg Gaines. This sack later in the first quarter involved a little more creativity from the Huskies, but the result was similar - Rosen sandwiched between the turf and a massive defensive lineman.
Ben Burr-Kirven is sneaking up and showing blitz at the snap. He comes through the A gap on the defense’s right side, which is the same side Vita Vea is casting his shadow. The two of them occupy the entire left side of UCLA’s offensive line, plus the center. BBK and Vea work upfield while staying to their right. Meanwhile, Ryan Bowman feints an upfield charge, and then loops back into the middle of the field on an end/tackle twist reminiscent of the play Psalm Wooching utilized to collect a handful of sacks last season against Stanford.
Rosen sees Bowman’s rush coming up the middle and responds by moving to his left. Unfortunately for Rosen, that puts him right in the path of Vea, who has rather easily split the double-team of UCLA’s left guard and tackle, and puts Rosen on the wrong side of a 350-pound body slam.
Vea gets credit to the sack, but a number of Huskies deserve credit on this play. First, the coverage was outstanding (as it was all afternoon). Vea and Burr-Kirven get credit for occupying so many offensive linemen, and (just as importantly) drawing them away from the middle of the field with the angle of their rushes. Bowman has a lot of ground to cover, and shows great quickness. He likely would’ve been thwarted by UCLA’s center, who moves to pick him up, but Bowman makes Rosen move from his spot which is the primary job of any pass rusher.
2nd and 9:
A successful screen pass should always look like a disaster about to unfold if properly executed, but this one was much closer to failing than it should have been. The running back screen to Lavon Coleman ends up “working,” but the Huskies add a few extra degrees of difficulty to it by missing some blocks, not particularly great awareness, and a route (and drop back) that make the window for this pass challenging.
Starting from the outside of the offense’s right (bottom of the screen) and working in: Brayden Lenius is supposed to work into the middle of the field and block the inside linebacker. Lenius is somewhat hidden by the score graphic, but he doesn’t make any sort of meaningful block, missing the linebacker almost entirely.
Right tackle Kaleb McGary is typically supposed to make contact with the pass rushing defensive end, slow his rush, and then go block the cornerback over Brayden Lenius to seal the outside and create the lane for the screen run on a play like this. He either gets tied up with the end or elects to stay with him, but the cornerback is unblocked and could’ve easily stopped this play.
Right guard Nick Harris is also supposed to make contact and quickly get downfield, but he’s blown backward by the defensive tackle at the snap. Harris is then late getting down the field, and that coupled with other previously missed blocks leads to some confusion as to who he should block, and Harris really ends up doing nothing of value.
Center Coleman Shelton is uncovered at the snap, so he holds a faux “pocket” before releasing. He considers blocking the inside linebacker Lenius has missed, but ends up heading to the safety and taking him out of the play.
Left guard Jesse Sosebee makes contact and then turns to seal off any pursuit from the backside of the play. While he’s in position, he doesn’t actually hit anyone.
Lavon Coleman is in position to chip on a pass rusher that never comes, and then turns for the pass. He allows himself to drift a bit too wide on this play, though, and puts the rushers between he and QB Jake Browning instead of finding the unencumbered lane that allows for a much easier pass. Browning’s late drift to his right is to try to create a throwing window, but isn’t successful; he ends up having to throw a very short pass over the top of a defender, making both the throw and the catch much more difficult than they should’ve been.
None of it ends up mattering, because UCLA doesn’t have a very good defense. Poor angles are taken, reactions and hustle aren’t great, and tackles are nonexistent until Coleman is well down the field.
1st and 10:
This is the (what should be very) familiar power play to the offense’s left - this one is designed to go right up the middle instead of in the guard/tackle gap. Right guard Nick Harris executes a nice kick step to get depth and then comes left, then heads up the middle.
Upon getting the snap, Myles Gaskin takes a quick peek to his right and sees that right tackle Kaleb McGary has the edge completely sealed off. Rather than continue to the designed hole, Gaskin takes advantage of the wide-open cutback, hits the edge of the line and top gear simultaneously, and it’s then a foot race to the end zone (this was the same cutback that Lavon Coleman used against Arizona with tremendous success in 2016).
If this play had gone as drawn up on the chalkboard, Dante Pettis would be attempting to block the free safety way, way down the field in a block that usually has zero effect on the play, and it’s not uncommon to see a less than full effort from some players on some teams. To Pettis’ credit, he’s fully invested in this play.
The angles eventually catch up with Gaskin, but not until he’s picked up around 35 yards. A horse-collar tackle penalty on UCLA’s #14 adds an additional 15 yards to the play.
Here you can see the defensive end over Kaleb McGary read the flow of the play to the offense’s right, and then McGary use his man’s momentum against him to seal the edge.
After that, it’s Gaskin’s tremendous vision, and a superb jump cut to turn a good play into a huge one.
3rd and 1:
The Huskies are running a power-read on this play. It’s the same read between the quarterback and running back on what’s typically a zone-read, but in this instance, the Huskies are running a power play (note Nick Harris pulling) instead of a zone.
Jake Browning is reading the defensive end on the offense’s right side to decide whether to keep the ball or hand off. Browning sees a defense that’s moving to its right (away from his keeper) and and end that appears to be blocked and pulls the ball out to run wide. He immediately realizes his mistake and tries to cut straight upfield to salvage the play. He’s eventually brought down by the defensive end from the back side of the play.
And it’s that same defensive end that likely would’ve made the play even if Browning had handed off to Lavon Coleman. He’s H-back Drew Sample’s man. Sample simply whiffs on the play, and ends up on his knees, leaving the end free to either tackle the running back (likely) or chase down the quarterback (reality).
No matter what, Lavon Coleman is a better option one-on-whatever with the defense. Hand off, Jake.
No matter what.
3rd and 13:
The design of this play is simply amazing. Even though Josh Rosen actually has a fair bit of time to read the defense, the level of confusion the Huskies create here makes it clear how difficult his job is.
Let’s jump to the end and describe what actually happens first - it’s a delayed cornerback blitz (delayed, in that Austin Joyner isn’t giving any indication he’s blitzing by cheating toward the line prior to the snap) with a 2 1⁄2 man rush (more on that part later). Joyner eventually gets home for the sack, and tosses Rosen’s hand warmer fanny pack to the turf. The fact that Josh Rosen needed a hand warmer in 70-degree sunshine may have been the first indication he wouldn’t finish this game.
Here’s what Rosen sees: Immediately prior the snap, both inside linebackers (Ben Burr-Kirven and Keishawn Bierria) make up part of a five-man front and are showing blitz. Taylor Rapp (playing nickel back this game, as the Huskies shuffled their lineup due to injuries) is near the box, making it appear he’s in position to cover the middle of the field - the weakness of a defense blitzing its inside linebackers. That’s where his eyes are at the snap.
Instead of blitzing either linebacker, or the nickel back, all three drop back into coverage, blanketing the side of the field Rosen thinks is most likely to be open.
Since the Huskies aren’t tipping off the corner blitz, that also means they aren’t rotating the secondary over to make up for the missing cornerback. The defense is exposed to a slant from the receiver over the blitzing Joyner. To address this, watch Tevis Bartlett. At the snap, he turns and looks at the receiver at the bottom of the screen. Once that receiver heads downfield (and not on a slant) and into the coverage of safety Ezekiel Turner, Bartlett is free to rush (he’s the 1⁄2 in the 2 1⁄2 above). Had the receiver run a slant (or seam), Bartlett would’ve dropped back into coverage to take that away.
Simply a phenomenal design.
2nd and 7:
Up until the point the ball was actually thrown, this was a well-designed play.
UCLA is showing zone defense. The Huskies run shallow crossing routes in front of the linbackers (Dante Pettis in the slot at the bottom of the screen, and tight end Will Dissly from the top). H-back Drew Sample (next to Dissly) is then running a crossing route behind the linebackers. The theory is the shallow cross will occupy the attention of the linebackers (and hopefully the safety), and the deep cross will settle in behind them.
None of that is the primary read on this play, it’s Myles Gaskin running a wheel route up the sideline.
The pass itself is horrible. It’s way underthrown, and it’s thrown into a window that’s just never going to be open on this play short of a blown coverage. Browning has two windows to make this throw. The first “right away,” about when Gaskin is crossing the 40-yard line. It pretty much turns the wheel route into a swing pass, and it’s a “hard” throw instead of really leading the receiver. It’s an easy pass, and the upside requires Gaskin making a great move to beat a man one-on-one. The second window is the lob as Gaskin is running past the coverage. A much tougher pass (and catch), but if it’s completed, it’s a big play regardless of what happens after.
Browning threw a bad pass into no man’s land in this week’s edition of “Husky offensive execution WTF moments.”
2nd and 12:
The Huskies are running an outside zone here, and there’s some exceptional communication to note on this play between right guard Nick Harris and center Coleman Shelton.
The difference between this play going for three or four yards and a much bigger play (like we see here) is the block on the play side inside linebacker. That’s Harris’ man, which means Shelton has to get to the man over Harris, which is almost impossible due to his alignment. To make it happen, Harris has to slow his man down, then pass him off to Shelton, and all quickly enough that Harris has time to get to the inside linebacker, but also while making sure the first block on the defensive tackle is secured.
And that’s what happens here. Harris makes contact, sees Shelton getting into position, and then takes out of the playside inside linebacker. Textbook right there.
Even with all of that, this play is almost stopped before it starts due to pretty good effort by UCLA’s backside inside linebacker. He reads the play immediately and attacks. He just isn’t quite fast enough to take the right angle to make the play. That linebacker (#42 Kenny Young) is left tackle Luke Wattenberg’s man. When you watch Wattenberg, you can see that he just isn’t prepared for the attack angle of the defender, and can’t adjust. He’ll learn.
1st and 10:
A shoulder in the rib cage from runaway Tevis Bartlett probably doesn’t feel good.
This play was dead to rights the second the ball is snapped. The Bruins are trying to play smashmouth football with a tight end and fullback to their left, and running a lead play. Unfortunately for them, and good for us good guys, the Huskies’ entire defensive front is slanting right into the play - every single Husky is coming hard left. Vita Vea pushes the left guard back like he’s on roller skates, and as the running back sees the congestion, he looks to cut back and only manages a slight flinch before Bartlett unloads.
On first viewing, the defense looks like it’s taking a huge gamble and would be very susceptible to a bootleg or quarterback run back against the action of the play. But at the top of the screen, cornerback Austin Joyner, who looks like he’s in man coverage, is actually in position to play containment against the back side of the play, and the safety on that side is coming over to help in coverage - the defense, at least on that side of the field, stays sound by rolling the coverage the to the opposite side of the slant of the front seven.
UCLA has a genuinely good offense (21st by FEI, 11th by S&P). Even though Josh Rosen didn’t play the entire game, the Huskies once again made it look like only the opponent’s JV squad made it off the bus. Offensively, the Huskies came out running, then mixed in some running plays, and topped it off with a run or two to keep fans guessing (17 of the first 20 plays were runs, and 29 of the 34 first half snaps were on the ground). It was physical domination in every way imaginable.
Sounds like a game fit for the man freshly immortalized in front of the stadium.