UCLA Football: Battle of L.A. – Josh Rosen versus Sam Darnold


The highly anticipated meeting between Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold was put on hold for a year. With Rosen back to full health, the two are ready to make their mark on the UCLA-USC rivalry.

Last  season, USC and UCLA Football fans were robbed of the Pac-12 quarterback matchup of the year. Josh Rosen’s season ending right shoulder injury ensured that the Rosen versus Sam Darnold face-off, one that has the potential to be an exciting chapter in the storied UCLA-USC rivalry, would have to begin November 18, 2017 in the Coliseum.

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Barring any further unwanted ailments, Rosen v. Darnold is now fast approaching. So, what should be expected from these two quarterbacks when they finally take the field in competition? Well, the incredibly differing way in which they play the position is why the meeting is so anticipated.

Darnold is a tank, big and powerful, with a rocket for an arm. His passes have an incredible amount of strength behind them, good for fitting the ball into tight windows. Defensive backs are often caught off guard by the velocity, and are unable to react in time to stop the receiver from making the reception.

This power also gives USC a dangerous screen passing option. Darnold gets the ball to the receiver with speed, giving him time to move before defenders can get off their blocks. Adoree Jackson found great success in the screen game because of Darnold’s cannon arm.

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While great strength is often a positive for the Trojans, it can hurt them as well. Darnold’s ball placement suffers when he passes with full power. He has the tendency to throw too high or too wide of his target. Receivers are also not always prepared for how hard the ball is coming at them, causing occasional dropped passes.

When needed, however, Darnold has demonstrated the ability to ease back on the zip and put touch on the ball. These softer passes increase his accuracy, which helps with passes down the middle of the field. If the ball is off target, a defender can easily make a play on it, or the receiver opens himself up to big hits.

the incredibly differing way in which they play the position is why the meeting is so anticipated.

Darnold can hurt teams through the air, as well as, punish them on the ground. At 6’4″ and 225 pounds, he runs over tacklers and rarely goes down after first contact, helping to pick up extra yardage. Darnold isn’t blazingly fast, however, so defenses have multiple opportunities to bring him down.

His running also allows USC to call bootleg plays. Because Darnold can take off and run, defenders have to honor this ability, and can’t fully commit to covering receivers. Like most quarterbacks, Darnold’s accuracy dips when on the move, a sacrifice the Trojans are willing to make to add more variety to their offense.

If Darnold is a tank, then Rosen is a sports car. He is sleek and nimble with perfect handles and amazing accuracy. Rosen’s ball placement is NFL level. No matter the length of the pass, he almost always puts it in a place his receivers can catch it and get the most yards out of the play. Rosen uses this ability to fit the ball into close coverage in a way that most other quarterbacks can’t.

This can be a double edged sword, however, as Rosen can become too confident. He will sometimes try to fit the ball between too many defenders, often leading to the pass being broken up.

Along with this, Rosen’s ball placement isn’t always perfect. He has missed long yardage opportunities in the past by over or under throwing receivers down field. And, he will occasionally, and inexplicably, over throws his receivers on short and intermediate passes.

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In the pocket, Rosen is tough to bring down, not due to his strength, but because of his shiftiness. His footwork is molded by his time on the tennis court, and allows him to move about the pocket to avoid the sack.

When pressure does surround Rosen, he can keep his calm and pass with tacklers all around him. There are times, however, when he decides to make a play while being taken down, causing him to force dangerous passes.

Movement in the pocket isn’t always enough, and when forced to run, Rosen has shown this is in his wheelhouse. Unlike Darnold, Rosen won’t bowl over the opposition, but has a great sense of when to takeoff, when to slide, and when to try to get out of bounds. This makes the quarterback option a possibility for UCLA when needed.

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There is still the length of a season to play before UCLA takes on USC for LA supremacy. On that note, it’s never too late to add hype to such an anticipated game. No matter who comes out on top when Rosen and Darnold go toe to toe, the show these two foes put on will be well worth the wait.