Riley Ferguson's sixth touchdown is the difference as Tigers win high-scoring affair in Memphis, Tenn.
Josh Rosen logged his first two interceptions of the season Saturday and they both loomed large in UCLA’s 48-45 loss to Memphis at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, the Bruins’ first defeat of the season.
Rosen also had a fourth-down pass broken up with 56 seconds left to give the ball back to the Tigers (2-0), who ran out the clock.
Rosen was leading the Bruins (2-1) down the field for a potential go-ahead score in the fourth quarter when he rushed a pass to avoid an unblocked, blitzing defender. The pass was intercepted by Memphis cornerback T.J. Carter, who returned it into UCLA territory.
UCLA had a chance to complete another comeback after Octavius Spencer intercepted a pass in the end zone on a fake field goal attempt by Memphis, giving the Bruins the ball at their own 20-yard line with three minutes left.
The Bruins picked up two first downs before Rosen forced a pass into coverage while being pursued and UCLA receiver Theo Howard grabbed a defensive back who was in position to make an interception, drawing an offensive pass interference penalty.
UCLA picked up 20 yards on third and 25 when Rosen connected with Jalen Starks before his fourth-down pass intended for Darren Andrews was broken up. Andrews finished with 10 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown.
For the game, Rosen completed 34 of 56 passes for 463 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions but was upstaged by Memphis counterpart Riley Ferguson, who completed 23 of 38 passes for 398 yards and six touchdowns with one interception.
The shorthanded Bruins defense gave up 560 yards, with Memphis receiver Anthony Miller catching nine passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
It looks like it's heading for a crazy ending after Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson completed his sixth touchdown pass of the game on a six-yard connection with Phil Mayhue, which has given the Tigers a 48-45 lead over UCLA with 9:56 left in the game.
Ferguson's six touchdown passes tie his career high. Does his Bruins counterpart, Josh Rosen, have an answer?
UCLA needed to drive 99 yards for a touchdown.
It didn't take the Bruins long. Quarterback Josh Rosen completed all five passes, including a 22-yard touchdown to tight end Austin Roberts to lift UCLA to a 45-41 lead over Memphis early in the fourth quarter.
Rosen has completed 28 of 43 passes for 411 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.
Jordan Lasley made a touchdown catch that was reminiscent of his game winner against Texas A&M, twisting his body to pull in a 21-yard pass from Josh Rosen.
It was the answer UCLA needed after Rosen's first interception of the season, and it pulled the Bruins to within 41-38 in the third quarter.
Now UCLA's defense will need to make a few more stops.
Josh Rosen finally had a pass intercepted. And it was costly.
Facing a third and 19, Rosen had plenty of time. He unloaded a pass across his body that was intercepted by Memphis' Tim Hart, who returned it 60 yards for a touchdown that has extended the Tigers' lead to 41-31 with 6:58 left in the third quarter.
Rosen had 11 touchdown passes without an interception before that turnover.
First defense to get a stop wins?
Not necessarily, but it's certainly turned into a shootout here at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
Two plays after Memphis scored, UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen answered with a 65-yard touchdown pass to Darren Andrews that has pulled the Bruins to within 34-31 early in the third quarter.
Rosen has completed 19 of 29 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns.
Memphis picked up right where it left off to start the third quarter, driving down the field for a touchdown.
Quarterback Riley Ferguson completed his fifth touchdown pass of the game, this one a 12-yard connection with Anthony Miller that has given the Tigers a 34-24 lead over UCLA early in the third quarter.
UCLA hurt itself on Memphis' 75-yard drive with two penalties, one for a facemask on defensive tackle Matt Dickerson and pass interference on cornerback Nate Meadors on third down.
UCLA called a timeout after stuffing Memphis on first down, hoping to get the ball back late in the second quarter.
It didn't exactly work out that way. Tigers receiver Anthony Miller made a great catch for a 41-yard gain on the next play and then pulled in a 33-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Riley Ferguson that gave Memphis a 27-24 lead over the Bruins late in the second quarter of a back-and-forth game.
Ferguson has completed 10 of 19 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns with one interception against a usually solid UCLA secondary.
The Bruins will get linebacker Josh Woods back in the second half after he sat out the opening half as punishment for a targeting penalty last week against Hawaii. But can UCLA's secondary stiffen?
Josh Rosen has a fake handoff to go with his memorable fake spike. The UCLA quarterback acted like he was going to give the ball to Bolu Olorunfunmi before keeping it himself for a one-yard touchdown run that has given the Bruins a 24-20 lead over Memphis late in the second quarter.
Rosen has completed 17 of 27 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown without an interception. Olorunfunmi has 58 yards rushing in nine carries, putting him on pace to give UCLA its first 100-yard individual rushing game since 2015.
Memphis turned a short pass into a big play, quarterback Riley Ferguson connecting with Tony Pollard on a 42-yard touchdown that has given the Tigers a 20-17 lead over UCLA late in the second quarter.
Memphis benefited from some good downfield blocking on the play that ended a drive that went 95 yards in only six plays.
Just when it looked like the UCLA defense might be hitting its stride, a couple of big Memphis plays result in a touchdown.
Tigers quarterback Riley Ferguson connected with Patrick Taylor on a 47-yard touchdown that has pulled Memphis to within 17-13 after the extra point was missed.
UCLA had left Tigers tight end Joey Magnifico wide open in the middle of the field on a previous play that resulted in a first down.
UCLA tight end Jordan Wilson made his first career touchdown catch, a five-yard connection with quarterback Josh Rosen that has given the Bruins a 17-7 lead over Memphis early in the second quarter.
Rosen is finding his form again, having completed a 50-yard pass to Jalen Starks on the previous play. Rosen has completed nine of 15 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. UCLA's defense has been solid the last few drives.
UCLA put together another solid drive but had to settle for J.J. Molson's 33-yard field goal after Josh Rosen's third-down pass fell incomplete. UCLA now holds a 10-7 lead over Memphis early in the second quarter.
There were some oddities on the drive, including offsetting penalties after Rosen was called for intentional grounding and UCLA challenged that Memphis had 12 men on the field on the play. Officials reviewed the play and concurred, negating the intentional grounding call.
UCLA is showing some variety on offense, with spread and heavy packages early in this game. The Bruins seem to be finding their groove a bit, especially on defense.
Who says UCLA doesn't have a running game?
The Bruins got big runs from Brandon Stephens and Jalen Starks on a 50-yard scoring drive ending with Starks' seven-yard touchdown run that pulled UCLA into a 7-7 tie with Memphis midway through the first quarter.
Stephens set up the touchdown with a 36-yard run, UCLA's longest since 2015. The Bruins also caught a break when Memphis was called for running into the punt returner, allowing UCLA to start its drive at midfield.
Maybe now we know why UCLA wanted the ball first.
Its shorthanded defense is susceptible to ... everything?
Memphis needed only two plays to drive 91 yards for a game-opening score on quarterback Riley Ferguson's two-yard pass to tight end Joey Magnifico that gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.
Tailback Darrell Henderson sprinted 80 yards on the Tigers' first offensive play before UCLA cornerback Nate Meadors was called for pass interference, giving Memphis the ball at the Bruins' two-yard line.
A rarity: UCLA won the toss and elected to receive the ball in its game against Memphis.
A possible nod to missing so many players on defense?
We're about to get underway here at Liberty Memorial Stadium in a battle of unbeaten teams.
The last time UCLA ventured to Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium during the regular season, the outcome produced widespread angst among the Bruins and one of the more colorful quotes in the program’s history.
UCLA was one of the first teams to play in the stadium located in Memphis, Tenn., during its inaugural season in 1965 when the Bruins faced Tennessee in November. UCLA coach Tommy Prothro, a Memphis native, contended after the Volunteers’ 37-34 victory that the home team had benefited from three questionable stoppages of play on its winning touchdown drive.
UCLA quarterback Gary Beban said this week that Tennessee was also awarded an extra timeout and referees placed the ball in the middle of the field for the Volunteers on offensive plays in the fourth quarter, providing an advantage for Tennessee quarterback Dewey Warren. The normally composed Prothro became quite agitated after the game.
“I’m a born and bred Southerner, and I’ve always been proud of it,” Prothro said, “but I’m sorry to say it today.”
UCLA also played in the 1976 Liberty Bowl game, losing to Alabama 36-6.
Beban, who would win the Heisman Trophy in 1967, had one fond memory of the team’s 1965 trip to Memphis: ducks who emerged from an elevator at the team hotel before waddling toward a fountain. Coaches had delayed a team meeting to ensure that players would get to see the twice-daily ritual performed at the Peabody hotel that endures to this day.
“They come out of the elevator, they go into a pond and swim around a while, back up the elevator and they’re gone; they’re back upstairs on the roof,” Beban said of the ducks. “All you can do is laugh.”
UCLA checked into a different hotel in Memphis this week, and the No. 25 Bruins (2-0) are hoping for different results against the hometown Tigers (1-0).
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen will look to extend his streak of zero pass interceptions this season and the Bruins will try to find a running game to complement him. Receiver Jordan Lasley and defensive tackle Boss Tagaloa were warming up before the game after having missed UCLA’s 56-23 victory over Hawaii last week for undisclosed reasons.
Adarius Pickett also was warming up after injuring his right knee against the Rainbow Warriors.
There was no sign of tailback Soso Jamabo, linebacker Kenny Young or safety Jaleel Wadood. Young and Wadood were hurt against Hawaii and Jamabo sat out that game with an undisclosed injury.
UCLA linebacker Josh Woods has to sit out the first half as punishment for a targeting penalty in the second half against Hawaii.
A reminder comes every time he’s asked for his personal email address.
Fans flooding the field. The goalposts coming down. His father wrapping him in a warm embrace on national television.
Would Rip Scherer be willing to give you his email address? Sure he would. It’s Ripper2117.
Scherer presided over a 21-17 victory over Peyton Manning and then-No. 6 Tennessee in November 1996 that might represent the biggest upset in Memphis football history. He’ll return to Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on Saturday as the tight ends coach for UCLA, 17 years after he was fired for failing to sustain the promise of that electric evening against the Volunteers.
“Nervous isn’t the right word,” Scherer said when asked to describe the anticipation of walking onto the field. “It’s just a little different feeling.”
No. 25 UCLA (2-0) at Memphis (1-0)
Saturday, 9 a.m. PDT, Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tenn., TV: Channel 7. Radio: 570.
Memphis tailbacks Darrell Henderson and Patrick Taylor Jr. versus the UCLA run defense. The Bruins have allowed three tailbacks to exceed 100 yards rushing in two games, with Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams logging 203 in the season opener. It’s been a winning formula for UCLA only because a strong secondary and a prolific offense have offset the avalanche of yardage. Henderson (169 yards) and Taylor (131) each hit triple digits in rushing yards against Louisiana-Monroe and hope to keep churning against the Bruins.