PASADENA, Calif. -- Colorado football fans looking for signs of progress from the beleaguered Buffs can count Saturday's performance at the Rose Bowl against No. 17 UCLA as at least a step in the right direction.
The Buffs managed to keep the Bruins within reach into the fourth quarter behind steady decision making from quarterback Sefo Liufau and a defense that limited the number of big plays it allowed.
CU players still suffered the pain of leaving this historic venue with the scoreboard singing the praises of their opponents. This time it read 45-23, but the Buffs' determined effort clearly bothered the Bruins as tempers flared in the fourth quarter.
The Bruins, who were forced to keep their starters on the field for most of the game, were flagged twice on consecutive plays at one point for roughing Liufau as the remnants of a crowd of 80,337 booed and hissed.
"Our goal was to get to the second half with it being a football game," MacIntyre said. "This was really the first time we've done that."
The Buffs lost for the 13th consecutive time in Pac-12 Conference action and the 21st straight time against a ranked team on the road. They are now 3-5 overall and 0-5 in the Pac-12 Conference with four games remaining in the season.
The Buffs must win three of the remaining four to reach their goal of bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007.
While Liufau and his teammates turned in a gritty effort, they were forced to settle too often for field goal attempts instead of touchdowns.
"We've got to look at that and find a way to get those first downs down there," MacIntyre said.
Liufau completed 25 of 36 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown. It was Liufau's first start on the road and his fourth career game. Since replacing Connor Wood in the lineup at Arizona State and committing three turnovers, Liufau has thrown just one interception in the past three games.
"I think our quarterback, the way he competes, the way he keeps fighting, the way he keeps standing in there, I think has given our whole team a lot of hope," MacIntyre said. "I really do."
Running back Christian Powell rushed 22 times for 97 yards. True freshman running back Michael Adkins did not play because of a concussion he suffered last week.
The Buffs were able to move the ball from the start against a UCLA defense that had faced Stanford and Oregon the previous two weeks. Quarterback Sefo Liufau led an opening drive that stalled at the UCLA 28-yard line, but Will Oliver missed a 45-yard field goal attempt.
The Buffs put together another long drive on their third possession of the game and this time Oliver was able to give his team a 3-0 lead by making a 23-yard field goal.
The boo birds came out at the Rose Bowl when UCLA started the game with two punts and a loss of one yard on the first play of its third possession. But quarterback Brett Hundley dropped back and lofted a long pass to Devin Fuller on the next play and Fuller turned the boos into cheers with a 76-yard touchdown. He beat safety Jered Bell on the play.
CU responded with a third sustained drive and managed to finally punch the ball into the end zone. After running back Tony Jones moved the ball inside the UCLA 10-yard line on a 38-yard catch, wide receiver Paul Richardson made an impressive grab along the sideline in the end zone with a defender draped on his back.
It was the eighth touchdown of the season for Richardson and his first score against the school he originally signed to play for out of high school. Richardson was able to play after nursing a sore ankle all week, but at times he didn't look like himself.
Colorado was trailing 14-10 in the second quarter when the game began to get away.
Kickoff return man Ryan Severson, who might have been still reeling from a hard hit on a previous return, fumbled and UCLA recovered at the CU 15.
Two plays later, Hundley hit Fuller for their second touchdown connection of the day. It covered six yards and the Bruins led 21-10. Fuller later scored a third touchdown on a lateral.
"It hurt," MacIntyre said. "You can't be perfect, but we've got to be close to perfect right now. But you don't put pressure on the kids to be perfect."
For the second week in a row, the quarterback killed the Buffs by making plays when the original play broke down. Hundley completed 19 of 24 passes for 272 yards and the two touchdowns. He also led UCLA in rushing with 11 carries for 72 yards and two scores.
"I've got to do a better job of trying to get some way of getting a little bit more pressure on the quarterback without having to bring everybody," MacIntyre said. "...We did get there a few times but he got away from us."
UCLA 45, Colorado 23
Colorado 3 10 0 10--23
UCLA 7 14 14 10--45
Col -- FG Oliver 23, :56.
UCLA -- Fuller 76 pass from Hundley (Fairbairn kick), :19.
Col -- Richardson 7 pass from Liufau (Oliver kick), 11:04.
UCLA -- Hundley 11 run (Fairbairn kick), 7:49.
UCLA -- Fuller 6 pass from Hundley (Fairbairn kick), 6:25.
Col -- FG Oliver 47, 1:16.
UCLA -- Hundley 1 run (Fairbairn kick), 10:53.
UCLA -- Thigpen 5 run (Fairbairn kick), 1:24.
Col -- T.Jones 2 run (Oliver kick), 12:20.
UCLA -- FG Fairbairn 45, 9:12.
Col -- FG Oliver 37, 6:17.
UCLA -- Fuller 8 run (Fairbairn kick), 3:36.
A -- 80,377.
First downs 26 18
Rushes-yards 40-134 33-139
Passing 247 273
Comp-Att-Int 25-36-0 19-24-0
Return Yards 0 (-2)
Punts-Avg. 2-35.0 3-43.7
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 6-40 11-122
Time of Possession 35:59 24:01
RUSHING -- Colorado, Powell 22-97, T.Jones 7-15, Liufau 8-14, Abron 3-8. UCLA, Hundley 11-72, Thigpen 4-38, Jones 4-13, Fuller 1-8, James 6-8, Perkins 4-3, Team 3-(minus 3).
PASSING -- Colorado, Liufau 25-36-0-247. UCLA, Hundley 19-24-0-273.
RECEIVING -- Colorado, Richardson 7-70, Spruce 6-49, Goodson 3-42, T.Jones 3-42, Slavin 3-23, Ross 2-11, Powell 1-10. UCLA, Payton 4-31, Fuller 3-99, Evans 3-66, Perkins 2-28, Duarte 2-16, Ortiz 2-11, James 2-2, Mazzone 1-20.