WESTWOOD—The Rose Bowl was electric yesterday as freshman quarterback Josh Rosen made his much hyped debut in front of a crowd 68,615 Bruin strong; No. 13 UCLA crushed the Virginia Cavaliers 34-16.

The true freshman was, in a word, incredible. Rosen went 28 for 35,351 yards and threw three touchdowns, all freshman records for a Bruin quarterback. Rosen had pinpoint accuracy-completing 80 percent of his passes. Furthermore, his poise in the pocket and quick decision making helped him connect with 11 different receivers, netting 503 yards in total offense.

Highlights include a dazzling score in the second quarter; on the Virginia 30-yard line, Rosen took the snap, pump faked and lobbed a rainbow over the Virginia defensive dack’s arms landing in wide receiver Thomas Duarte’s hands for a TD.

Postgame, the newest star in LA remained grounded and humbled. “I have a ridiculously large supporting cast,” said Rosen. “I just have to keep this incredibly powerful train on the tracks.”

Wide receiver Thomas Duarte and QB Josh Rosen celebrate second quarter touchdown connection.
Wide receiver Thomas Duarte and QB Josh Rosen celebrate second quarter touchdown connection. Photo courtesy Michael C. Floch

The supporting cast he alluded to includes running back Paul Perkins and wide receivers Jordan Payton and Devin Fuller. The offensive line protected their QB, giving him ample time to deliver a strike.

The quarterback is going to get the spotlight; it’s a fact of life for better or worse. However, if UCLA hopes to reach the next level and win the PAC-12, the defense had to improve from the 2014 Bruins, which gave up 28 points per game last season.

Under new Defensive Coordinator Tom Bradley, the new defense was impressive. They put pressure on the quarterback, their secondary didn’t give up the big play and they kept the Cavaliers out of the end zone almost the entire game. Virginia scored a meaningless touchdown with three minutes remaining.

Next week the UCLA Bruins visit Sin City when they face the UNLV Rebels at 7:30 p.m. at Sam Boyd Stadium.