Friday night presented a rare combination: A play-in game for what is likely to be the Independence Bowl, and Pac-12 After Dark. Both Cal and UCLA entered with 5-6 records, meaning one more win would push the victor into bowl eligibility. Prior to the game, information sheets for the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. were being handed out, making the contest essentially a battle for the December 27 bowl.
And after J.J. Molson’s 37-yard field goal went through the uprights with four seconds on the clock, putting UCLA up 30-27, it was the Bruins who punched their tickets to Shreveport.
Three things we learned:
UCLA may have had its last game with Josh Rosen
Late in the first half, Josh Rosen took a hard hit, taking both an intentional grounding penalty and enough contact to knock him out of the rest of the game. At the time, Rosen was picking apart the Cal defense at his will, completing 13 of 18 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns. He was essentially just a standard Rosen to Jordan Lasley completion away from breaking Brett Hundley’s school record for passing yards in a single season.
It wasn’t to be. Rosen, whose injury has not yet been specified, came out of the locker room in street clothes, replaced at quarterback by Devon Modster, the freshman who started his first game in a Nov. 3 loss to Utah.
While the extent of the injury is unknown, it’s possible that Rosen skips the Independence Bowl, which is UCLA’s likely landing spot on December 27 in Shreveport, La. It has become common practice for projected top draft picks to sit out of their respective bowl games, and Rosen, whose career has been marred by injury, certainly fits that mold.
Jordan Lasley will catch the ball no matter who’s throwing
There may be no receiver hotter than Jordan Lasley right now. In a 28-23 loss to USC last week, Lasley hauled in 10 catches for 204 yards and three touchdowns, earning the respect from former Trojan cornerback Adoree’ Jackson.
If any were wondering if Lasley was simply the product of a brilliant quarterback, Friday night put that to rest. Rosen found Lasley in the end zone before the first half, marking the receiver’s third straight game with a touchdown and his fifth in the past three games.
Even when it wasn’t Rosen throwing to him, but Modster, Lasley delivered. He finished with 12 catches for 227 yards and a touchdown. In doing so, he became the first Bruin in history to record three 10-catch games in a season.
UCLA’s defense continues to mature
The Bruin defense is far from perfect, but the defense that took the field on Friday night was markedly better than the one that let up 45 in the first half of the season to Texas A&M.
Yes, Cal was able to move the ball. On eight straight possessions, it drove into Bruin territory, and UCLA once again allowed more than 200 yards on the ground, struggling to contain Cal running back Patrick Laird, who ran for 178 yards on 32 carries.
But what UCLA did was limit Cal’s touchdowns. Even if the Bears were perpetually in UCLA territory, they weren’t finishing there.