Very rarely does Washington Huskies football coach Chris Petersen effuse over an opposing player.
But he cannot help it with UCLA’s Josh Rosen.
“Probably the top guy in college football throwing the ball,” Petersen said Monday. “He’s tremendous, for sure.”
And the stout UW secondary will certainly face its toughest test of the season come Saturday when Rosen and the high-powered Bruins comes to Husky Stadium for a Pac-12 showdown.
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Rosen is not only leading the Pac-12 in passing (2,620 yards, 19 touchdowns), he is No. 2 among FBS quarterbacks behind Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph (2,650 yards).
The UCLA junior is also on pace to break the conference’s single-season passing record of 4,714 yards, set by California’s Jared Goff in 2015. Rosen is on pace for 4,865.
“We certainly haven’t seen anybody that can throw the ball like he throws it — and how they throw it,” Petersen said.
Out of St. John Bosco High School, Rosen was the nation’s top quarterback recruit in 2014, and was a USA Today All-American.
He enrolled at UCLA early, and won the job vacated by Brett Hundley, who is now the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.
In his first career game against Virginia, Rosen completed 28 of 35 passes for 351 yards in the Bruins’ 34-16 victory.He started all 13 games in 2015, and was named the Pac-12 freshman of the year.
But last season was a frustrating one for Rosen, who played six games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury against Arizona State.
Entering this season, Rosen still had plenty to prove if he wanted to be mentioned among the conference’s elite signal callers. And he was playing under his third offensive coordinator is as many seasons — Jedd Fisch.
For a half in the season opener against Texas A&M, Rosen looked indecisive and rattled as the Aggies built a big lead.
And then, the legend of Rosen fell right into place.
He led the second-largest comeback in FBS history, rallying the Bruins from 34 points down for a 45-44 victory. He finished with a career-high 491 yards and four touchdowns, putting his wide array of talents on display.
Rosen has quickly established a reputation as a fearless competitor willing to hammer an opposing secondary in every way possible.
Petersen expects Rosen to attack his defense in a way no quarterback has even thought to this season, and that is by going deep on passes.
The Huskies have only given up two pass plays or 30 or more yards — a 34-yard touchdown to Rutgers’ Kyle Bolin and a 36-yard completion to ASU’s Manny Wilkins.
“I definitely expect that to change. That is what he does, and he does it really well,” Petersen said. “He gets the ball out fast. He throws it short. He throws it intermediate. He throws it deep. They do it all ... We will see it all.”
Petersen all but indicated that senior Tristan Vizcaino has regained the starting kicker job, raving about the Sunday practice he had. “Tristan has probably never kicked better,” Petersen said. ... When asked about all the bye-week evaluation of the team’s offense, Petersen kept returning to one key point, and that is for Jake Browning and company staying on the field. ... Leading UW receiver Dante Pettis was sporting a Houston Astros T-shirt at practice Sunday after spending the final two games of the ALCS around the team where his father, Gary, is the third-base coach. ... The UW will hold its long-anticipated Don James statue dedication ceremony Friday at 5 p.m. in the northwest plaza of outside Husky Stadium. Radio play-by-play announcer Bob Rondeau will host the ceremony.
UW HUSKIES OPPONENT THIS WEEK
UCLA Bruins (4-3, 2-2 in Pac-12 South)
12:30 p.m. Saturday, Husky Stadium, Seattle, ABC/ESPN2, 1000-AM, 97.7-FM
Coach: Jim Mora (45-27 in 6th year at UCLA).
Against the Bruins: UCLA leads, 40-30-2.
Scouting report: It will be another homecoming trip for Mora, the former Huskies defensive back (1980-83) and assistant coach (1984). In fact, the last time these two programs played was Mora’s only previous return to Husky Stadium as the Bruins coach – 2014, when UCLA beat Washington, 44-30, in Chris Petersen’s first season. This will also be the first time the Huskies have faced top Pac-12 quarterback Josh Rosen (200 of 315, 2,620 yards, 19 touchdowns, eight INTs) in his career. Of course, the same goes for the Bruins’ defense facing UW junior Jake Browning. The Bruins give up a conference-worst 494.0 yards per game.
WSU COUGARS OPPONENT THIS WEEK
Arizona Wildcats (5-2, 3-1 in Pac-12 South)
6:30 p.m. Saturday, Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona, Pac-12 Network, 710-AM
Coach: Rich Rodriguez (41-31 in 6th year at Arizona; 161-115-2 overall with previous stop at Salem University, Glenville State, West Virginia and Michigan).
Against the Wildcats: Arizona leads, 26-16.
Scouting report: Take a guess at the Pac-12’s top offense? Not many would pick the team setting the pace, but it is the Wildcats, who average 514.0 yards and 43.1 points per game. Arizona is 3-0 since Khalil Tate took over as the starting quarterback. And nobody has been able to slow Tate down, especially from running all over defenses (694 rushing yards, seven touchdowns in those three starts). The other incredible thing about Tate is that he is doing just enough in the passing game to keep opponents honest. He threw the game-winning score in the second overtime Saturday in the Wildcats’ 45-44 win at Cal.