NCAA Big Gain Week 2: Josh Rosen, True Freshman Sensation

College football kicked off everywhere and it’s officially the best time of year. Inside the Pylon head writer Mark Schofield spent Saturday watching Vernon Adams and Matt Pawlowski put up big days, but it was UCLA’s true freshman Josh Rosen who secured the NCAA Big Gain of the week.

The college football season kicked off in earnest this weekend with a full slate of games, and with them came a  new generation of true freshman quarterbacks making their debuts. One in particular turned in a very impressive performance, UCLA’s Josh Rosen. The debutant led the Bruins to a win over the Virginia Cavaliers, and set a number of school records in the process. His second touchdown strike of the day combined creative offensive design, a few aspects of misdirection, and a beautiful throw to boot.

With a one-point lead midway through the second quarter, the offense faced 1st and 10 at the Virginia 31-yard line. Rosen is in the shotgun with 11 personnel on the field in a 3X1 alignment, with trips formation to the right. The Cavaliers have their 4-2-5 nickel defense in the game showing Cover 1 in the secondary, with the cornerbacks using off man alignment:


UCLA employs two elements of misdirection here. The first is a fake inside zone run: The running back on this play is to Rosen’s right, and at the snap he and the QB will mesh, with the RB pointed at the right A Gap. Following this fake run, the three trips receivers set up a screen look, with the outside and inside receivers faking blocks while the middle receiver stepping back from the line to sell the screen. But after showing these simulated blocks, the two receivers take off deep on vertical routes:


This is an example of how previous plays and design can work to influence a defense. Because of the threat of run to the weak-side of the formation, the free safety cheats to that side of the field ‒ and away from the trips. In addition, the fake screen allows the two receivers to quickly eliminate the cushion between them and their defenders. When the two receivers simulate their blocks, the defensive backs break down, flow forward and start to read the action behind the “blockers,” anticipating a screen pass. As a result these two defenders are caught reacting to the potential screen, giving the two vertical routes a chance to develop. Once you add in a perfectly thrown pass from Rosen, you have a big play for the offense:

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Rosen completed 28 of 35 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions in his debut. In the process he set new school single-game highs for a true freshman in completions, attempts and passing yards, breaking records held by Cade McNown. The Bruins coasted to a 34-16 victory over Virginia, and UCLA’s campaign for their first South Division title since 2012 got off to a near-perfect start ‒ thanks in large part to their true freshman QB.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.

All video and images courtesy Pac 12 Network. 

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