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CU Buffs’ Mel Tucker: ‘I believe in this football team’

Colorado takes four-game losing streak into visit to UCLA

University of Colorado's Jamar Montgomery pressures ...
Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
University of Colorado’s Jamar Montgomery pressures Southern California’s Kedon Slovis during the second half of the game on Oct. 25, 2019.

His team riding a four-game losing streak, Colorado head football coach Mel Tucker has found himself in a position of clinging to positives far too often lately.

At least the Buffaloes have a longer list of those positives this week.

CU’s 35-31 loss to Southern California on Friday night at Folsom Field was a devastating defeat, considering the Buffs played well for much of the night, had a 10-point lead going into the fourth quarter and could have turned their season around with a first-ever victory against the Trojans.

After getting blown out in the previous two games, the loss to USC proved that Tucker’s Buffs (3-5, 1-4 Pac-12) don’t intend on mailing in the rest of the season.

“There’s not a team on our schedule that we can’t beat,” Tucker said. “There’s not a team on the schedule that can’t beat us. We’re going to ride with the guys we’ve got and we’re going to get them better and we’re going to get ready to take the show on the road. I’m not sure how many people are lining up to play us right now.”

The same could be said for CU’s opponent this week, the UCLA Bruins (3-5, 3-2), who are suddenly surging. The Buffs and Bruins square off Saturday at 7 p.m. MT at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. (TV: Pac-12 Networks).

UCLA has won two in a row in dominating fashion. It crushed Stanford, 34-16, on the road on Oct. 17 and then pounded No. 24 Arizona State, 42-32, on Saturday in a game that wasn’t that close. UCLA, which features 87 freshmen and sophomores, led the Sun Devils 42-10 going into the fourth quarter.

“The best thing that I can say is that the baby Bruins are growing up and it is fun to see,” UCLA head coach Chip Kelly said after the game. “It’s fun to watch.

“If you look where this team was when we opened on Aug. 31 to where we are now, I think that we’ve grown as a group. We are pleased with where we are, but we aren’t satisfied with where we are. We have to continue to grow as a group.”

It’s been a quick turnaround for UCLA, which started the season 1-5, its only victory being a miraculous comeback at Washington State rallying from 32 points down to stun the Cougars, 67-63. The Bruins looked inept in many of their first six games.

Now they’ve dominated their last two opponents and look as dangerous as anyone in the Pac-12. Kelly, however, is not a believer in momentum.

“I think that there are positives you can build on from a win,” he said after the victory against ASU. “But I don’t think that you can say, ‘Hey, we won last week so we’re going to win this week.’ We need to look at what we did well and continue to build on that and then understand that we did that well because of how we practiced earlier in the week. There is a correlation from a momentum standpoint that these guys are starting to stack good days upon good days when we’re on the field training, and understanding that that is how we play when we get to Saturday night.”

From that standpoint, CU and UCLA are in a similar situation coming into this week. The Buffs lost to USC, but played significantly better than previous weeks because of how they prepared, Tucker said.

“Our coaches have done a really good job of being very steady and consistent with our players, never making excuses, keep putting pressure on our guys to get better,” Tucker said. “I felt really good going into (the USC) game because our week of preparation might have been the best we’ve had all season and that’s a credit to the character of our coaching staff and to our players.”

While UCLA has been hotter of late, both teams have proven to be just as capable of playing well as they are of playing poorly.

Despite a four-game losing streak, Tucker is still confident the Buffs can figure out how to win again.

“We talked about that in a locker room after the game,” Tucker said of building on a solid performance against USC. “I said, ‘Hey look, you can look at this two different ways. You can sit there and feel sorry for yourself and kind of a woe-is-me type of deal, or you can look at it and say, look at the type of team that we can have.’ You take care of the ball, you’re able to take it away, you run the ball, you finish in the red zone, defensively you stop the run and get off the field on third down, you’ve got a really good chance to beat anybody.

“I told them I believe in them. I believe in this football team that we can we can get the job done.”

CU opponent glance

Opponent: UCLA Bruins

Game time: Saturday, 7 p.m. MT at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Coach: Chip Kelly, 2nd year (6-14; 52-21 career)

Record: 3-5, 3-2 Pac-12

Last week: Defeated Arizona State, 42-32, at home

Notable: The Bruins have won two in a row after a 1-5 start. Last year, they had a 0-5 start and then won two in a row, but followed that with a three-game losing streak. … UCLA sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw for 176 yards and two touchdowns against ASU, but left the game in the fourth quarter with a leg injury. He missed one game earlier this season – a 48-31 home loss to Oregon State – with an injury. … Running back Joshua Kelley ran for 164 yards and four touchdowns on four carries against ASU. He leads the Pac-12 with 105.0 rushing yards per game. … The Bruins have held leads of 34-10 and 42-10 in their last two games. … UCLA ranks 127th nationally in pass efficiency defense, allowing an opponent QB rating of 168.87. No team in the country has allowed more passing touchdowns (24).

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