With Josh Rosen unable to throw without discomfort Saturday, Mike Fafaul made his first career start against the Cougars with true freshman Matt Lynch filling in as UCLA’s backup.
PULLMAN — For the first time in his UCLA career, quarterback Josh Rosen missed the start of a game and was forced to watched from the sideline as the Bruins took the field against Washington State at Martin Stadium on Saturday night.
Rosen is believed to be nursing leg and throwing shoulder injuries sustained in UCLA’s defeat against Arizona State last week.
UCLA coach Jim Mora was vague every time he was asked about Rosen’s status for the game, saying he would let his quarterback decide based on how he felt.
Backup quarterback Mike Fafaul took all the reps in practice this week. Fafaul, a former walk-on, finished the game against the Sun Devils last weekend after Rosen was knocked out with a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter. The redshirt senior went 3 of 11 for 44 yards with two interceptions.
Most Read Sports Stories
- What UW's College Football Playoff rankings snub means for Rose Bowl hopes
- Pac-12 bowl projections: UW football left to wonder a giant 'what if'
- Florida QB Kitna arrested on child pornography charges
- Is Russell Wilson playing his way out of the Hall of Fame? Voters weigh in
- In record-setting game, Kraken win 6th straight, 9-8, in OT
But with Rosen unable to throw without discomfort Saturday, Fafaul made his first career start against the Cougars with true freshman Matt Lynch filling in as UCLA’s backup.
Both Rosen and Fafaul took the field for warmups at Martin Stadium, but Fafaul made all the warmup throws while Rosen wandered around the field wearing a towel on his head to provide some protection against the steady rain but did not throw.
Rosen ultimately dressed for the game and stretched with the team. Then, he attempted one pass and winced immediately, holding his throwing shoulder after the throw. He attempted a couple more throws to receiver Jordan Lashley, but looked pained each time.
Rosen, the 2015 Pac-12 freshman of the year, has started 19 games in his UCLA career and has averaged 319.2 passing yards a game, with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Mata’afa making a difference
Washington State defensive end Hercules Mata’afa has been a force on the defensive line lately, tallying two sacks and five tackles for loss in the Cougars’ past two games.
After Mata’afa finished his freshman season with 11 tackles for loss and earned freshman all-American honors from USA Today, expectations were high for the Hawaiian pass-rusher going into this year.
This season was Mata’afa’s first as a starter on the defensive line and he began the year a little slow but is now hitting his stride.
“The biggest thing with Herc is competing with himself,” said WSU defensive line coach Joe Salave’a. “He’s gotta learn to be the self-motivator and be the leader for himself.
“I think he’s learning to sustain that motivation and the urgency of working because now he’s not a spot guy, he’s in a full-time role. That’s one of the biggest things Hercules had to adjust to.”
The defensive line has struggled to fill a leadership void left by the departure of nose tackle Destiny Vaeao — who’s now with the Philadelphia Eagles — and Darryl Paulo.
The current linemen are more reserved by nature, Salave’a said, and the leadership role doesn’t come as naturally for them. So this season, the coaches have preached personal accountability over all else.
“These guys all have to be sustaining leaders for themselves. Our defensive staff has to provide some of that as we work through the season,” Salave’a said. “I think it’s coming along, but we’re not quite there yet in that department.
“But the leadership, you don’t want to fabricate that. Players know when it’s fake and when it’s not. You fabricate it, you lose the heart of the team. We’ve gotta lead as a staff.”
Mike Utley honored
Former all-American offensive lineman Mike Utley returned to Pullman to be honored by the Cougars for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Utley, who played at WSU from 1985-88, was introduced at the end of the first quarter, and he got a rousing welcome from the crowd at Martin Stadium.
Two officials from the National Football Foundation presented Utley with a plaque that will remain on display at WSU.