Kevin Haskin: Josh Rosen could join decorated list of QBs to oppose K-State in bowls

Quarterbacks past two years were only bowl passers to exceed 300 yards against K-State

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen passes during the first half of an NCAA college football game against California, Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Early indications are Josh Rosen figures to play in the Cactus Bowl.

 

The UCLA quarterback remarked last month he would like to be part of the Bruins’ postseason engagement in spite of the junior quarterback’s first-round, and perhaps first-pick, potential in the NFL Draft.

“I mean, bowl games are just fun,’’ Rosen told CBSSports.com. “I like going out there with the guys and you’re in another city for a week and you have a good time.’’

Assuming Rosen is healthy, which has also presented concerns, he might look at UCLA’s bowl opponent as an opportunity to put up big numbers.

Kansas State ranks 88th nationally in pass efficiency defense, allowing a .622 completion rate and 310.2 yards per game, with 21 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.

The odds would seem to be in Rosen’s favor for a strong performance — one NFL scouts will watch with great interest. Rosen developed this season under an offensive coordinator, Jedd Fisch, who also served in that capacity in the NFL.

Fisch is UCLA’s interim head coach, taking over after the firing of Jim Mora. Fisch guided the Bruins to bowl-eligibility with a win over Cal and said he will follow the 2017 UCLA blueprint in the bowl game, which will not involve the Bruins’ new coach, Chip Kelly.

Whether Rosen, who is participating in early bowl practices, can supply enough firepower to offset a UCLA rush defense that ranks ahead of just one team in the FBS is an issue for the Bruins. They allow a whopping 282.7 rushing yards per game and a 5.6-yard average per carry.

Bad enough K-State might be able to open suitable holes for running backs and confine quarterback Skylar Thompson, who played hurt in a comeback win over Iowa State, to the pocket.

K-State rushers could milk the clock and keep Rosen off the field. UCLA ranks 122nd nationally with a 26-minute average time of possession.

Perhaps that keeps Rosen from attaining his 337.9-yard passing average, which ranks third nationally and happens to exceed the 333.8-yard average possessed by Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield.

For the record, just two opposing passers have thrown for more than 300 yards against K-State teams Bill Snyder coached in bowl games.

Both of those totals were recorded the past two years. The influence of spread attacks in college football, coupled with the Cats’ struggles with pass defense, contributed to 315 yards passing by Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen in the 2015 Liberty Bowl and 310 by Texas A&M’s Trevor Knight in the 2016 Texas Bowl.

Allen and Knight were both on NFL rosters this season with the Falcons and Rams, respectively.

Others who played against K-State in recent bowl games are also active in the NFL.

Brett Hundley, the last bowl QB (’14 Alamo) the Cats faced from UCLA, emerged in Green Bay after Aaron Rodgers was injured. Marcus Mariota, the quarterback for Oregon in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl against K-State, engineers the 8-4 Titans.

Then there’s Shane Morris, who quarterbacked Michigan in a 2013 loss to K-State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Morris transferred this past season to Central Michigan and will quarterback the 8-4 Chippewas in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Wyoming. You might also recall that Morris, in his second game this season, fired for 467 yards and five touchdowns in a win at Kansas.

Legendary names also exist among the quarterbacks K-State has faced in bowls under Snyder.

One of them, ageless Drew Brees, has New Orleans as one of the hottest teams in the NFL.

Brees, of course, won an Alamo Bowl duel against Michael Bishop in 1998. Brees passed for 230 yards and three touchdowns, going 25 of 53, with three interceptions.

The year before, Syracuse’s Donovan McNabb lost against Bishop and the Cats in the Fiesta Bowl. McNabb completed just 16 of 39 attempts for 271 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.

In addition to the 315 passing yards and .769 completion percentage by Allen and 30 completions by Knight, other bests among quarterbacks who opposed K-State in bowl games include four touchdown passes by Ohio State’s Craig Krenzel in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl and 57 attempts by Arizona State’s Andrew Walter in the 2002 Holiday Bowl. Brees matched Craig Clausen of Tennessee (2001 Cotton Bowl) for the most interceptions (three) thrown to the Cats in a bowl.

Other decorated quarterbacks have played against K-State in bowls, including Steve Sarkisian (BYU, ’97 Cotton), whose checkered career as a coach finds him in the NFL now as the Falcons’ offensive coordinator.

Where Rosen fits into this history is the next chapter the Cats have a chance to influence.

Contact Kevin Haskin at kevin.haskin@cjonline.com or @KevinHaskin on Twitter.

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