The Buffs turned the ball over, missed tackles and failed to convert third downs into first downs at Folsom Field against UCLA, losing 42-14.
It's a recipe they've used numerous times in recent year and it continually leads to sour scoreboards and talk of improvement around the next corner. But the Buffs never seem to be able to fully turn that corner and it doesn't seem likely with Arizona State, USC and Oregon next on the schedule.
With defensive starters Ray Polk and Doug Rippy on the sidelines for most of the first month of the season and new injuries Saturday that included freshman running back Christian Powell and senior linebacker Jon Major, the Buffs are happy to have a week off to lick their wounds from a 1-4 start.
"We're growing up," Embree said. "We don't have a lot to show for it, but we're taking strides."CU fans who prefer the bright side can look at Saturday's outcome as evidence in support of that case. After all, the 2011 Buffs -- a senior-laden team -- were trounced by 39 points at the Rose Bowl by the Bruins in November. Almost a year later, a much younger and less experienced CU team actually kept it close and had momentum in the third quarter, before falling apart.
In the span of approximately six minutes of game time, the Buffs turned the ball over twice and allowed the Bruins to score three touchdowns, morphing a 21-7 game into a 42-7 laugher.
CU had streaks of success in the first half with quarterback Jordan Webb directing a passing attack utilizing short throws. He had completed six straight passes on a first-half drive that culminated in a 17-yard touchdown pass to former walk-on wide receiver Dustin Ebner, a fifth-year senior.
In the third quarter, Webb was moving the team again with the same approach. He threw across the middle to freshman tight end Vincent Hobbs, who bobbled the ball momentarily but hauled it in only to fumble it away seconds later when it was slapped out of his grasp from behind. The Bruins recovered and CU never regained the momentum.
UCLA extended its lead to three scores on the ensuing drive with a touchdown pass from quarterback Brett Hundley to tight end Joseph Fauria, the nephew of former Buff Christian Fauria. CU was unable to mount another stirring second-half comeback as it did a week ago at Washington State.
Webb threw an interception on the Buffs' next possession and UCLA quickly turned the mistake into points when running back Jordon James slithered through the CU defense
"We had two critical turnovers that they converted into 14 points," Embree said. "We were never able to recover from that."
A week after earning the conference offensive player of the week award, Webb struggled with consistency and finding open receivers. He completed 21 of 32 passes for 184 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He was also sacked four times and was replaced in the fourth quarter by sophomore Nick Hirschman, who threw his first touchdown pass to tight end Nick Kasa late in the game.
The Buffs converted just two of 15 third downs.
"I will take the blame for that," Webb said. "Third down is a quarterback down. If you don't have good quarterback play, you won't convert a lot on third downs."
The Bruins finished with 492 yards of total offense with Hundley throwing for 281 yards and two scores. He also ran for a pair of touchdowns. UCLA tailback Johnathan Franklin came into the game as the Pac-12's leading rusher and ranked fourth nationally. He gained 111 yards on 15 carries. UCLA converted seven of 15 third downs.
"At times, we're just over-matched, but we have to find a way to create some plays or create something to help us. That is why turnovers are so critical for us. We need to move the ball. We are not at that point where we can overcome mistakes like that."
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