Throughout Thursday’s 20-10 win against UCLA, the Colorado offense struggled.
Except for Phillip Lindsay.
The junior running back racked up 149 yards and scored the lone offensive touchdown for the Buffaloes. In the process, he set a school record for the most receptions in a single game by a running back, with 11.
“We expected (UCLA) to run with some of those shorter passes,” quarterback Sefo Liufau said. “Since they didn’t want to go out there, I just keep feeding Phil the ball and he’s a playmaker in space.”
Lindsay accumulated 76 yards on his catches and often kept drives alive by being a reliable outlet for Liufau.
In the running game, Lindsay battled for 73 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.
After the game, though, the junior was disappointed with CU’s lack of production on offense, including a season-low 304 yards.
“It’s not how I wanted it to go,” Lindsay said. “I wanted us to be able to move the ball better and execute as a team. That’s all I care about. I’m not one to care about yards and touchdowns. I just want to help us win. We came out with a win, which is good, but our offense needs to do better.”
For the season, Lindsay has 818 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground and he’s caught 33 passes for 303 yards.
The Buffs had a tough break early in the game, when senior outside linebacker Jimmie Gilbert was ejected for targeting.
Gilbert was flagged for leading with his helmet as he tackled UCLA quarterback Mike Fafaul on a scramble. Fafaul slid at the end of the run, but Gilbert couldn’t hold up and hit the senior with his helmet.
“It was big,” senior linebacker Kenneth Olugbode said of losing Gilbert, “but as a team we always talk about next guy in has to step up. Your role could change every single game. If you’re one of those guys that has to go in, you have to play to another level and be better than what Jimmie was.”
In Gilbert’s place, Christian Shaver had two tackles for loss, including the first sack of his career.
Gilbert was the first CU player to get a targeting call this season. The Buffs had three targeting ejections last season, including Gilbert late in a Week 3 win against Colorado State.
Redemption sort of
Kicker Chris Graham, who missed two field goals in the Buffs’ 10-5 win at Stanford on Oct. 22, was called upon to handle kicking duties again.
Against the Bruins, the junior nailed his first two field goal attempts, from 21 and 37 yards. In the fourth quarter, however, he had a 36-yard attempt blocked as he kicked the ball low. Graham was also 2-for-2 on extra points.
“I thought Chris did a good job tonight,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “He kicked the one low there at the end that got blocked, but he made some others.”
Freshman kicker Davis Price missed his second straight game with mononucleosis. MacIntyre said Price was cleared to play just before the game started, but since Price hasn’t practiced in three weeks, he was only available in an emergency situation.
UCLA was the preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 South for the third time in six seasons since the league expanded to 12 teams.
With Thursday’s loss, however, the Bruins were officially eliminated from the race for the South title. At 3-6 overall, 1-5 in the Pac-12, they’ve got their highest loss total since 2011, and need to go 3-0 the rest of the way to avoid missing out on a bowl for the first time since 2010.
“This is a test for them,” coach Jim Mora said of his players. “It’s unfortunate, and it’s hard, but it’s also a great learning opportunity for them. They’re going to go through life and have moments of adversity; it’s not always going to go swimmingly and smooth, and they’re going to have to learn to deal with it. They’re emotional young men, they care very much about winning, so my concern is for our players.”
CU’s win also officially eliminated Arizona (2-6, 0-5) from contention for the South title.
Late in the second quarter, CU senior Chidobe Awuzie blocked a 26-yard field goal attempt by the UCLA’s JJ Molson.
Awuzie’s block was CU’s first since Tedric Thompson’s blocked field goal against Colorado State on Sept. 19, 2015. It was also just the second blocked kick (including punts) by the Buffs during MacIntyre’s four seasons as head coach.
UCLA converted three of its first four third downs, but went 1-for-11 after that. … Liufau made his 35th career start, tying Darian Hagan (1989-91) for the most by a quarterback in CU history. … CU has forced a turnover in 22 consecutive games. … Isaiah Oliver had 124 yards on five punt returns, the eighth-best single-game yardage total in CU history. He’s the first to have 100-plus punt return yards in a game since Josh Smith on Sept. 6, 2008, against Eastern Washington. … CU won the coin toss again, improving to 8-1 on the season. … Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was in attendance. It was his first game at Folsom Field this season. … Thursday’s attendance was 43,761, the fifth-highest total during the MacIntyre era. … A total of 32 scouts from 21 NFL teams were in attendance.