STANFORD — Just as he wanted his teammates to move quickly past their first loss of the season last week, UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen would also prefer that the Bruins not get caught up in their nine-game losing streak to Stanford.
That might be a tougher task then getting over the 48-45 loss to Memphis, one that dropped UCLA out of the Top 25 heading into its Pac-12 opener.
The Bruins haven’t beaten the Cardinal since 2008 and a majority of the games have been blowouts. Last year, UCLA had Stanford on the ropes for most of the game but surrendered 13 points over the final 24 seconds and lost 22-13.
As much as that memory still sticks with Rosen, the nation’s leading passer said the Bruins (2-1) can’t afford to make today’s game against the Cardinal (1-2, 0-1 Pac-12) bigger than what it already is.
“It’s moreso we want to do it for coach because we all have each other’s back,” Rosen said. “Every game has to matter as much as possible. No one game can matter more than another. I mean, it means a lot to coach (Jim) Mora, so we’re going to do everything we can on the field to get a win.”
The game features two of the nation’s top offensive players in Rosen and Stanford running back Bryce Love.
Rosen leads the country in passing yards (1,283) and touchdowns (13) while completing a career-best 65 percent of his throws. Rosen has been intercepted just twice, although one was returned for a touchdown in the Bruins’ loss to Memphis.
Stanford coach David Shaw found it difficult when asked to describe Rosen.
“It’s hard to come up with new words,” Shaw said. “Since the first time I saw him throw the ball as a junior in high school … it’s how you’re supposed to throw a football. Quick release and the ball always has the perfect trajectory. He pulls out the howitzer only when he needs it. He’s a problem we have to deal with.”
While Rosen and the Bruins attack from the air, Love and the Cardinal have done their best work on the ground. Love, a junior, leads the Pac-12 and is second in the nation with 524 rushing yards while averaging nearly 175 yards per game.
Love had 184 yards and two touchdowns last week against No. 22 San Diego State but Stanford couldn’t overcome numerous self-inflicted problems and lost to fall to 1-2 for the first time since 2008 when Shaw was the team’s offensive coordinator under coach Jim Harbaugh.
“It’s different,” Stanford linebacker Bobby Okereke said. “A lot of us haven’t been on losing teams at all in our playing careers. We’re just talking about keeping our faith. We know we’re a talented team. We just have to execute. It’s a lot of mistakes that are killing us. We’re making plays but we have to make those timely plays.”
Here are a few other things to watch for when UCLA plays at Stanford tonight:
Jordan Perez and Joey Alfieri will split time at inside linebacker for Stanford in place of injured Sean Barton, who suffered a possible season-ending injury to his right leg against San Diego State. Barton was fourth on the team with 14 tackles before getting injured.