Nebraska coach Mike Riley praises UCLA QB Josh Rosen

Nebraska coach Mike Riley hasn’t had a chance to scout UCLA in depth yet, but knew the reputation of at least one player: Josh Rosen.

Riley will be coaching against the Bruins and their “outstanding freshman quarterback” — as he said of Rosen on Monday — on Dec. 26 in the Foster Farms Bowl in Santa Clara. The former Oregon State coach recently talked to Washington’s Chris Petersen, who said of Rosen: “That guy is for real.”

Riley’s Nebraska tenure started off with a loss thanks to another freshman quarterback in BYU’s Tanner Mangum. Relieving injured starter Taysom Hill, Mangum ended his debut appearance with a 42-yard Hail Mary, giving the Cougars a 33-28 win in Lincoln, Neb.

Mangum finished the regular season with 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions, completing 62.1 percent of his passes for 3,062 yards. Rosen heads into his first bowl game with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions to go with 3,350 yards on 59.5 percent passing.

What to watch: No. 10 UCLA vs. No. 19 BYU

UCLA is hosting BYU at the Rose Bowl for the first time since Sept. 8, 2007. The Bruins won that game 27-17, with Kahlil Bell (36) running for 79 yards and a touchdown. (Steve McCrank/Staff)

UCLA is hosting BYU at the Rose Bowl for the first time since Sept. 8, 2007. The Bruins won that game 27-17, with Kahlil Bell (36) running for 79 yards and a touchdown. (Steve McCrank/Staff)

A ranked opponent is coming to the Rose Bowl. And if the national pecking order stays the same, No. 19 BYU might be the only one to visit UCLA in 2015.

None of the four conference teams the No. 10 Bruins will host this fall are currently ranked in the Associated Press poll, making the Cougars one of the more intriguing draws for fans not willing to leave the Southland for college football. Here’s how the two teams stack up.

When UCLA has the ball

For all the ability freshman quarterabck Josh Rosen has shown through his first two college games, UCLA has an offense that needs to establish itself on the ground. With reigning Pac-12 rushing champion Paul Perkins, that usually isn’t a problem.

BYU’s defense should give the Bruins’ backfield some resistance. The Cougars have a physical front seven that includes linebacker Harvey Langi and defensive lineman Bronson Kaufusi. Through two games, the unit has held opposing teams to just 2.79 yards per carry, a top-25 figure. However, the loss of nose tackle Travis Tuiloma may eventually cost the defense a good chunk of yards. The junior, whom head coach Bronco Mendenhall called his best defensive player, injured his knee in BYU’s season opener and will be out for at least another month.

If the Cougars still try to stack against the run, look for Rosen to find a nice groove again. Continue reading “What to watch: No. 10 UCLA vs. No. 19 BYU” »

Five questions: Salt Lake Tribune’s Jay Drew on BYU

After easily dispatching Virginia and UNLV to start the season, UCLA suddenly finds itself in one of just four of the top-25 matchups in Week 3. BYU has outperformed expectations through the first half of September, vaulting to No. 19 in the latest AP poll following dramatic wins over Nebraska and Boise State. Are the Cougars playing above their heads, or do they have the makings of a surprise contender? The Salt Lake Tribune’s Jay Drew answered five questions about the team, which kicks off at the Rose Bowl at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

(Also, here are five questions I answered about UCLA for the Deseret News.)

1. Now in his 11th season, Bronco Mendenhall is one of the longest-tenured coaches in the FBS. How is he viewed by BYU fans, and is there any thought that he peaked when the Cougars were in the Mountain West?

I think most BYU fans view Mendenhall favorably, but there is certainly a vocal contingent out there that would like to see him resign or be replaced. Since Mendenhall took over in 2005, BYU ranks 12th in total wins among FBS teams, so it is hard to ignore his record. He’s won games, albeit against some lackluster schedules since BYU went independent in 2011.

By comparison, legendary BYU coach LaVell Edwards posted 94 wins in his first 131 games in Provo; Mendenhall has 92 wins in 131 games.

The argument that Mendenhall peaked when BYU was in the Mountain West has legs, especially since he saw early success using former coach Gary Crowton’s recruits. Not many guys that Mendenhall recruited himself have reached the NFL.

Perhaps the biggest knock on Mendenhall is that he hasn’t won a lot of “big” games against the tougher opponents on the schedule; Also, he has lost four straight games to rival Utah, an unforgivable sin in Provo. Three have been razor-close, but that doesn’t cut it for BYU fans.

Still, the coach has guided the Cougars to bowl appearances all 10 years at the helm, and BYU is 6-4 in those postseason games.

Personally, I think he has one of the most difficult jobs in the country, seeing how his hands are somewhat tied by the BYU honor code and now non-Power 5 affiliation. He once said there are about 40-50 players across the country each year with Division I ability who are in BYU’s recruiting pool, due to the school’s fairly tough academic standards and the honor code.

If he’s done anything wrong, in my opinion, it is that he has fueled some lofty and unrealistic expectations among the BYU fanbase with talk about competing for national championships and the like. From my view, he just doesn’t have the horses, or the resources, to get that done.

2. BYU has a bit of a reputation for being a dirty team, with Ului Lapuaho’s punch and last year’s Miami Bowl brawl both attracting widespread coverage. Is that reputation being overblown due to a few isolated events, or is there some truth behind it?

Not sure how to answer this one. It’s probably more about perception than anything else, because the Lapuaho punch got so much play on television and the internet, to be sure. Like you said, mostly just an isolated event. Continue reading “Five questions: Salt Lake Tribune’s Jay Drew on BYU” »

First look: No. 10 UCLA vs. No. 19 BYU

No. 10 UCLA Bruins (2-0) vs. No. 19 BYU Cougars (2-0)
Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m., Rose Bowl
TV: Fox Sports 1 (Joe Davis, Brady Quinn, Kris Budden)
Radio: AM 570 (Bill Roth, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)

Scouting report: BYU quarterback Taysom Hill (fractured foot) and running back Jamaal Williams (withdrew from school) accounted for 12 of the team’s 28 rushing touchdowns in 2014, and 978 of its 2,363 yards. Both are out this season. … Those absences have forced what was a ground-based, veer-option scheme to shift into the air. The Cougars passed on 46 percent of plays last season, but have done so on nearly 54 percent of plays through two games. … BYU had a top-25 scoring defense from 2011-13, ranking in the top three in 2012, but has since fallen just outside the top 70. … It was one of college football’s 10 most penalized teams in each of the last two years, averaging at least 7.8 flags per game. That number is down to 4.5 this fall.

Series history: UCLA is 7-3 all-time against BYU, but the Cougars won the last two decisions: 17-16 in the Las Vegas Bowl in 2007, and 59-0 in Provo in 2008. The Bruins last won on Sept. 8, 2007, pulling away 27-17 at the Rose Bowl.

Key players:

QB Tanner Mangum, Fr., 6-3, 210 — 24/39, 420 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT
— The 22-year-old freshman has exceeded expectations replacing Taysom Hill, throwing a Hail Mary against Nebraska and following up with a last-minute touchdown against Boise State. Continue reading “First look: No. 10 UCLA vs. No. 19 BYU” »