Rosen still has something to learn about quick decisions

on Sep21

Some of the game footage that UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen studies is about acceptable failure.

A quarterback taking a sack. A scramble that goes for only a few yards. A pass completed short of the first-down marker.

They’re all outcomes that are preferable to forcing passes that lead to interceptions. They allow an offense to either keep the ball for another play or punt it away while managing field position.

Rosen knows they’re the kinds of plays he needs to make even if they might seem like momentary setbacks.

“A lot of it is just playing within the system,” Rosen said Wednesday. “A lot of the guys that play for so many years in the NFL do it because they make really quick, fast, deliberate decisions that all work within the system and have very few incredible insane scramble highlights because that’s not what the system was built for.

“That’s why you see a lot of these guys, particularly the pocket passers that last so long in the NFL, because they’re very smart, very efficient, very quick, and that’s what I’m trying to get closer and closer to every single day in perfecting the system.”

Most of Rosen’s decisions this season have been sound. He leads the nation with 13 passing touchdowns and ranks second with 427.7 passing yards per game. But a handful of plays in the second half of the Bruins’ 48-45 loss to Memphis illustrated that there’s still significant room for growth.

“He’s a junior in college and not a 40-year-old starter in New England,” UCLA offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said, referring to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. “So we’ll just try to get him to that point here, and hopefully 19 years from now somebody calls and says that he’s now not making those same mistakes.”

Rosen threw across his body on one play that resulted in an interception returned 60 yards for a touchdown. Facing a blitzing, unblocked linebacker, Rosen threw another pass that was intercepted after the Bruins had reached Memphis’ 19-yard line. Rosen also threw a pass into tight coverage on the Bruins’ final drive that forced receiver Theo Howard to grab a defensive back who was in position to make an interception, leading to an offensive pass interference call.

UCLA receiver Jordan Lasley prevented another possible interception earlier in the game when he quickly changed course on an underthrown pass and nearly made an improbable catch.

Rosen acknowledged afterward that he was trying to play “hero ball” while never giving up on a play.

“He’s just the ultimate competitor,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said. “I’ve seen it before with guys, just learning when to say, OK, the play is over, we didn’t get what we wanted, let’s go on to the next play. That’s a hard thing to teach a guy like Josh that’s so ultra competitive and has such great confidence in himself, but I don’t think there’s anyone that didn’t think we’d win that game and we didn’t.”

Fisch said he was pleased with Rosen’s performance considering he’s among the most prolific quarterbacks in the country. The two interceptions against Memphis were Rosen’s first of the season.

“Those are gonna come,” Fisch said. “I haven’t seen a perfect season yet. But, you know, we continue to just coach him and we continue to talk to him. … He knew he wasn’t supposed to throw across his body.

“He’s been really awesome to coach, someone that I’m hoping we have the opportunity to coach for another 19 games or so, and continue to help his evolution to become that elite player which I think he’s able to be.”

The job’s all his

After wavering over the final half of last season, UCLA has found its punter.

Stefan Flintoft appears intent on making it a permanent arrangement after averaging 43.2 yards per punt against Memphis, including two that went for more than 50 yards. The junior walk-on has sent six of his 11 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line and his net average of 42.4 yards per punt ranks No. 25 nationally.

“Incredible,” Mora said of a player vying to win the team’s last available scholarship.

Coaches ribbed Flintoft earlier this month after he lost the battle of net punting average against Hawaii by two yards. There was one disclaimer: Flintoft punted only once because the Bruins scored touchdowns on nearly every drive.

“We teased him,” Mora said, “because he’s been killing it.”

Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch

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