Beavers, Bruins meet on four-game skids
PASADENA, Calif. — UCLA coach Jim Mora hoped to roll into November shooting for a conference title and a playoff berth, not needing a three-game winning streak just to guarantee bowl eligibility.
While almost nothing has gone according to plan for the Bruins (3-6, 1-5 Pac-12) during his difficult fifth season, they could still salvage something out of it. But that surge would have to begin Saturday night against Oregon State (2-7, 1-5) in a meeting of two teams on four-game losing streaks.
UCLA was the preseason media favorite to win the Pac-12 South with quarterback Josh Rosen in a run-based offense. Instead, Rosen is out for the season, the running game is awful and the Bruins are on the verge of missing a bowl game for the first time since 2010.
"I think that sometimes progress is disguised in failure," Mora said. "Sometimes we learn our greatest lessons about each other in times of failure and adversity, when things aren't going the way you want them to."
Even after four straight losses, Mora made sure the Bruins are thinking about bowl eligibility as a goal: "You put it out there, but you bring it right back to Saturday."
Oregon State coach Gary Andersen has similar thoughts about his own team's struggles. The Beavers have won just once since mid-September, but the second-year coach believes the foundation of future success is underneath his 4-17 record so far in Corvallis.
"We're in a process, and it's not a real fun process right now," Andersen said. "It is a grind. But what you'll learn as you go through time is the people that deserve to have the process that's rewarded at the end, they earn their stripes right now. ... Those kids that dig in are the ones who are going to be rewarded."
Andersen notes that it's possible to make a bowl game at 5-7, but Oregon State also would need to run the table. To make the point to his players, he cites his slight variation on a classic line of modern cinema: "So you're saying there's a chance."
Here are more things to watch when Oregon State visits the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2012:
AT AN IMPASSE: Rosen underwent season-ending shoulder surgery Tuesday after missing the previous three-plus games. Capable senior backup Mike Fafaul has set single-game school records for passes attempted and completed during his brief starting tenure, but largely because UCLA's running game has been utterly inept all season long. The Bruins have cracked 80 yards rushing just once in the past seven games, leaving them next-to-last in the FBS with 78.8 yards rushing per game and 2.6 per carry.
TWICE THE ARMS: Oregon State could have depth back at quarterback. Conor Blount appears to be ready to return from the knee injury that has kept him out for three games, although Marcus McMaryion is expected to remain the starter. The walk-on Blount won the job before his injury, and the Beavers — who haven't won since — are willing to try just about anything to boost the nation's second-worst passing offense. UCLA has one of the Pac-12's best passing defenses, getting 12 interceptions and yielding just eight TD passes.
RIVALRY RIGORS: Rosen and the Bruins routed Oregon State 41-0 in rain-soaked Corvallis last season with 676 yards of total offense, the third-most in school history. The rivalry has been more even in Pasadena, where the schools have split their last six meetings. Oregon State has won two of its last three at the Rose Bowl.
WAIT 'TIL NEXT YEAR: Mora spent time with the convalescing Rosen this week, eating cheesecake and talking about plans for next season. Rosen asked to be on the sideline for Saturday's game to help Fafaul, but Mora hadn't figured out whether it would be safe.