LOS ANGELES (AP) — UCLA’s offense is prolific in many areas, including turning the ball over.
That has to change for the Bruins to pull out of a funk where they have lost three of four games, including a 47-30 defeat at Arizona last week during which quarterback Josh Rosen threw three interceptions and running back Soso Jamabo lost a fumble.
“We can be a lot better than we are,” offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said Tuesday. “I know that because we leave too many plays out there and we turn the ball over too much. If we could avoid those things, then we’d have a chance to have a special run, one of those runs you don’t get very often.”
UCLA (3-3, 1-2 Pac-12) has turned the ball over 15 times this season, which is tied for 118th in the FBS. Coincidentally, Oregon, which visits the Rose Bowl on Saturday, has the same number of turnovers. But the Ducks have somewhat offset those issues with 15 takeaways on defense, while the Bruins have five.
That equates to a turnover margin that is tied for second-worst in the nation. Those mistakes put even more pressure on a beleaguered defense, which in turn can force the offense to adopt a mindset that the only way to win is to take more chances and score on every drive.
And UCLA might be capable of that, considering Rosen threw interceptions in the red zone and kicker J.J. Molson missed a 45-yard field goal against Arizona. Better ball security could have erased the 10 points Arizona got off turnovers, including a 42-yard pick-six, and kept UCLA from having to play from behind.
Fisch pointed to Jamabo’s fumble on the second series, which resulted in a field goal and a 10-0 lead for Arizona halfway through the first quarter.
In spite of the turnover trouble, UCLA still ranks 12th in yards per play and is averaging 39.5 points per game.
“Do we have a chance to be good? Yeah, we have a chance, but we have to really maintain improvement. This week has to be better than last week, and then for the next five weeks it has to be better,” Fisch said.
One area Fisch wants to build on is the use of the tight end in the passing game. Finding emerging star Caleb Wilson wasn’t a problem for Rosen before the one-time walk-on at rival Southern California suffered a season-ending foot injury against Colorado.
Against Arizona, UCLA tight ends caught one pass for 28 yards. The lone reception was made by redshirt junior Austin Roberts on UCLA’s first possession.
Roberts is still adjusting to what it will take to replace Wilson as the starting tight end. Though Roberts often played in two tight-end sets before Wilson was hurt, being the featured option comes with different responsibilities.
“There are some things I kind of left on the field, mainly from the effort standpoint,” Roberts said. “I would do my job but I wouldn’t kind of make the extra push to run down the field and try to get a guy off our running back or make sure that the play is secured, so I just got to do a better job with that.”
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