Josh Rosen rebounded from the BYU disaster to have an impressive showing in Tucson against Arizona. What can we glean from that performance about his confidence?
Note: The Josh Rosen Ego-Watch is continuing under the new moniker of ‘Coaching Josh Rosen,’ as it’s very easy to misconstrue the purpose of this project by just looking at the title. And even if the ultimate purpose is to refute the argument that Rosen is arrogant and uncoachable, having a weekly item titled ‘Ego-Watch’ still perpetuates that narrative. So we forge ahead, looking at the non-Xs & Os aspect of coaching a rising superstar – confidence levels, focus, managing disappointment, etc.
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Rosen’s legendary confidence served him well against Arizona, as he did not look hung up in the least on his previous struggles. His first pass of the game capped off UCLA’s first possession and hit Thomas Duarte in stride over the middle for a 35-yard touchdown. So while it seemed that Noel Mazzone‘s play-calling leaned a little conservative this week (run-run-pass, repeat), Rosen was not afraid to air it out and throw downfield when given the opportunity.
The obvious note to make here is the one that has been touched on multiple times in the media and in interviews with the coaches and with Rosen himself. Rosen channeled his inner Randall Cunningham and decided to run with the ball, once for a touchdown. But as everyone who has said anything about this game has noted, Rosen needs to slide and avoid taking hits. I doubt this is a symptom of him wanting to be the hero and more just getting lost in the moment, but he’s too important to risk his head/shoulder/back/knee/ankle by taking open field hits.
The other note I wanted to make is one I haven’t really seen elsewhere. Late in the second quarter, facing 3rd-and-8 from UCLA’s 36 yard-line, Rosen is flushed out of the pocket right, buys time, and hits a wide open Jordan Payton roughly 30 yards downfield, and Payton gets about another 30 yards after the catch to give the Bruins a 1st-and-goal from Arizona’s 3 yard-line.
Josh Rosen hits Jordan Payton for 59 yards against Arizona in Tucson, Sept. 26, 2015. GIF Credit: Sam Monson, ProFootballFocus.com via ESPN.
Obviously this was a great play, and Sam Monson of ProFootballFocus credits Rosen for using his eyes in conjunction with his feet to draw the coverage off of Payton and create space for his receiver to catch the pass. But what struck me was how similar this play looked to Rosen’s two red zone interceptions against BYU. He scrambles/bootlegs right and throws across his body to a downfield receiver.
There are a few key differences, of course: Payton is open, the defensive backfield is not compressed by being down in the red zone, and Payton is only a couple of yards in from the sideline as opposed to over in the center of the field. Maybe these variations make this play different enough from the two interceptions the week before that no one is concerned.
Jim Mora made himself very clear after the BYU game that Rosen thinks he can make some passes that he just can’t at this level. I would hate for this pass to Payton (successful though it was) to indicate that Rosen didn’t get that message or that he thinks he knows better than his coaches which passes are advisable and which aren’t.