Mark J. Terrill / AP
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Josh Rosen is arguably the best quarterback in the Pac-12, but Colorado may not have to worry about the UCLA sophomore on Thursday night.
On Monday, the Orange County Register reported that fifth-year senior Mike Fafaul is “likely” to start against the No. 21 Buffaloes (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) when the two teams meet at Folsom Field.
Rosen was injured during a 23-20 loss to Arizona State on Oct. 8 and has reportedly been dealing with a nerve issue in his shoulder. He’s missed the last two games for the Bruins (3-5, 1-4).
In Rosen’s place, Fafaul is 0-2 as a starter, but CU head coach Mike MacIntyre believes the senior can be dangerous.
“I think he’s getting comfortable, which happens when you come off the bench and haven’t played,” MacIntyre said. “Whoever is playing quarterback for them, they have the weapons to get it to them and make plays.”
Fafaul had thrown six career passes before this season, but has completed 64 of 110 passes for 722 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions during his two starts. He had a UCLA-record 70 attempts in the Bruins’ 52-45 loss to Utah on Oct. 22.
CU linebacker Kenneth Olugbode said it won’t change much for the Buffs if Fafaul plays, as opposed to Rosen.
“It doesn’t matter who will go in there,” he said. “They all can do their job.”
UCLA has struggled to run the ball most of the season. In the last three games, the Bruins amassed a combined 88 yards on 64 rushing attempts. That contributed to the pass-heavy attack against Utah.
“I think they’ll try to run it a little bit more to try to be a little bit more balanced,” MacIntyre said. “But it wouldn’t surprise me if they did throw 60 times.
“Our coaching staff has done a good job, our kids have seen everything, so hopefully we can adjust and keep them from making as many plays.”
This game features two teams on the opposite ends of the spectrum, in terms of running the ball.
UCLA is last in the country in rushing (85.5 yards per game), while Colorado ranks 32nd (216.0 per game). The Buffs have racked up 539 yards on the ground in the past two games.
“I think it’s going to be really important (down the stretch of the season), just keeping the ball moving, getting first downs with the run game,” left guard Gerrad Kough said. “It sets up a lot of things when you can run the ball. We need to keep playing physical and keep the run game going.”
Junior Phillip Lindsay has rushed for 350 yards in the past two games, while sophomore backup Kyle Evans has added 119 yards on 25 carries.
“Most of the time I don’t really look back to see who is back there,” Kough said. “We’re just working to open up holes and get the guys opportunities of getting open space.”
Keeping the run game going should make life easier on CU senior quarterback Sefo Liufau, MacIntyre said.
“When you can hand it off and make some runs and get people on their heels and slow down the pass rush, it helps you be a better quarterback,” MacIntyre said. “I think it’s made our quarterbacks more comfortable.”
On Monday, MacIntyre was one of 18 coaches named to the midseason watch list for the Bobby Dodd Trophy, which goes to the national coach of the year. MacIntyre’s father, George, won the Dodd Trophy in 1982 while at Vanderbilt. … CU will wear its traditional home uniform — gold helmets and pants, black jerseys — against the Bruins. … The Pac-12 announced that CU’s Nov. 12 game at Arizona will kick off at 8 p.m. MST (which is also 8 p.m. locally in Tucson). The game will be broadcast nationally on Fox Sports 1. … MacIntyre said right tackle Aaron Haigler (knee) “had a good week of practice and should be able to go this week.” Haigler has missed the past two games with an injury.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.