About last night: A review of UCLA’s 56-23 win over Hawaii

UCLA defensive back Darnay Holmes (1) reacts after intercepting a Hawaii pass for touchdown in the first half of a NCAA college football game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

UCLA moved to 2-0 with a 56-23 win over Hawaii on Saturday at the Rose Bowl. The game was mostly without drama as the UCLA offense scored five straight drives in the first half to take a 35-7 lead at the break, then continued that dominance in the second half with three more touchdown drives before Josh Rosen retired to the sideline.

The junior quarterback turned in another strong performance with 329 passing yards on 22 for 25 passing with a career-high five touchdown passes.

The already struggling defense, however, picked up three significant injuries, losing Kenny Young, Jaleel Wadood and Adarius Pickett in the first half. Without three of their defensive leaders, the Bruins gave up 515 total yards to Hawaii.

Links to recap the action:

A more in-depth review of the game:

GOODS (That aren’t Josh Rosen, who was the most “good” thing for UCLA again)

  • Darnay Holmes: The freshman had a slow first half against Texas A&M but has lived up to his five-star billing since. He had his first career interception Saturday and turned it into a 30-yard pick six. After the game, he talked about Hawaii was throwing short hitch routes that made him look bad, so he just “wanted to stop that little trickeration” and jumped the route. I think you have to appreciate that swagger from a big-time freshman. He also had 101 combined yards on three kick returns, including one 54-yarder that he nearly broke for a touchdown if not for a shoe-string tackle by a Hawaii player.
  • Theo Howard: Howard is truly free now under first-year receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty. He had his long-awaited breakout game with career-highs in catches (seven) and receiving yards (110), displaying the talents that made him a four-star prospect out of high school. On his 26-yard touchdown Saturday, he found the soft spot in the zone, caught the ball, put a vicious cut back move on the defender and walked into the end zone untouched. UCLA has four receivers with 100-yard games this season (Caleb Wilson, Jordan Lasley, Darren Andrews and Howard), which makes the offense very dangerous even without a powerful running game.
  • Offensive creativity: Jedd Fisch is well into the swing of things as a play caller. He showed his creativity with another trick play (Wilson’s deep pass to Nate Starks) and packages with Demetric Felton at running back. I didn’t think we would be seeing much of Felton this year because of a tighter receiver rotation, but the offensive coordinator did well to harness Felton’s athleticism and effectively use him in a few situations. Felton, who rushed for 1,347 yards on 166 carries and 14 touchdowns as a senior in high school, had three carries for 37 yards and a touchdown on Saturday. It took UCLA almost the entire season to unleash even one trick play last year, but the Bruins already showed two in the first two games. The creativity in the offense so far is a refreshing change from last year’s scheme.


  • Defensive injuries: Picking up injuries in a game that was never going to be particularly competitive is a team’s worst nightmare. The Bruins didn’t just pick up one injury, they had three, all to significant players. Kenny Young and Jaleel Wadood‘s injuries looked like concussions. The linebacker was able to watch the rest of the first half on the sidelines after taking his hit in the first quarter, but Wadood went almost immediately to the locker room after taking a knee to the side of the head in the second quarter. Jim Mora understandably takes head injuries very seriously, so I could easily see either Wadood or Young (or both) missing next week’s game against Memphis. Adarius Pickett looked to injure his right knee. He was seen walking on the sideline after the play and riding the stationary bike, but his time table for return is unknown at this point.
  • Rushing defense: Part of the defense’s struggles could be attributed to the injuries and the garbage time fourth quarter, but the unit is still a concern two games into the season. Hawaii averaged 6.7 yards per rush and had 281 rushing yards total. Mora said the defense made some adjustments that worked well at first (only 84 rushing yards allowed in the first half) but were overshadowed by a bad fourth quarter in which the Rainbow Warriors had 147 rushing yards. The strong start did little to please defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, who didn’t look like his typically jovial self when he took the podium after the game. He said the performance against the run was “disheartening” and said the injuries were no excuse for the defense’s struggles in the second half.
  • Penalties: The Bruins have 17 penalties for 139 yards through two games, including 10 for 83 yards on Saturday.
    • There were five false starts on Saturday. Mora tends to forgive “aggressive” penalties that happen within the run of play, but he will not be happy about those false starts.
    • Three of Saturday’s penalties came from backup defensive backs (Keyon Riley and Will Lockett). UCLA likes its depth but the reserves likely need a little more in-game seasoning to hone their technique on the big stage.
    • Although it didn’t have much affect on Saturday’s game, Josh Woods‘ targeting call in the fourth quarter will have ramifications against Memphis as he could be suspended for the first half. If Young is still sidelined due to injury, Woods’ suspension would leave the Bruins with three underclassman starting linebackers: Lokeni Toailoa in the middle, and Krys Barnes and Breland Brandt at the Will and Sam, respectively. UCLA could theoretically appeal to the Pac-12 on the targeting call, so we will be following that possibility this week.
      • Barnes did well Saturday after coming in for Young. The redshirt freshman led the team in tackles with 12.


“Personally I believe in my heart that he is the best quarterback in the country and if we can give him time, he’s lethal back there.”

~ Scott Quessenberry, center, on Rosen


  • 12 tackles for Barnes, who entered the game after Young’s first-quarter injury. Barnes led the team in tackles and added a solo tackle for loss.
  • 12 straight touchdown drives by the No. 1 offense between the Texas A&M game and Saturday’s game against Hawaii, excluding drives that were ended by either halftime or the final whistle.
  • 12 career 300-yard passing games for Rosen, the most in school history
  • 0 interceptions to 9 touchdown passes in two games this season for Rosen
  • 50,444 was the lowest announced attendance for a UCLA home game since 2011
  • 84 rushing yards allowed in the first half
    • 197 rushing yards allowed in the second half, including 147 in the fourth quarter


  • Notable inactives for the game: Soso Jamabo, Jordan Lasley, Boss Tagaloa. None came with an official explanation, per usual during the season.
  • Martin Andrus burned his redshirt opportunity as the true freshman made his UCLA debut in the first half. He finished with two tackles.