PASADENA, Calif. – A month ago, as the Colorado football team was enjoying a 3-1 start and eyeing first place in the Pac-12 South, an early November trip to Rose Bowl Stadium seemed like a likely victory.
While CU was rolling, UCLA was mired in misery.
On Saturday night, those days seemed long ago, as the two teams have completely flipped their seasons since early October.
UCLA’s convincing 31-14 victory at the Rose Bowl kept the Bruins surging and the Buffaloes reeling.
CU (3-6, 1-5 Pac-12) lost its fifth consecutive game and took another step towards locking up a remarkable eighth last-place South finish in nine years since joining the conference.
The Buffs fell into a 17-0 hole in the first quarter and never recovered.
“I was just overall very disappointed at the way we started the game,” Buffs head coach Mel Tucker said. “Give UCLA credit; they’ve gotten better and got some things on track. They outplayed us.”
Sophomore Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns and running back Joshua Kelley ran for 126 yards and two scores to lead the Bruins.
After a 1-5 start, UCLA (4-5, 4-2) has its first three-game winning streak since 2015 and sits just a game back of first-place Utah in the South. Win out and the Bruins can play for the conference title next month.
CU is officially eliminated from Pac-12 title contention and its fading bowl hopes are on life support.
It’s been a long time since CU had the look of a bowl team, however. Once again, a myriad of mistakes buried the Buffs, including:
- Five penalties, including costly miscues that wiped out big plays or stalled drives.
- More big plays allowed. UCLA had 14 plays of 10 yards or more, including touchdowns of 16, 45 and 35 yards.
- Two missed field goals by normally reliable kicker James Stefanou.
Perhaps most troubling, and certainly most impactful, was another lackluster performance from the offense. A CU passing attack that features a fifth-year, third-year starting quarterback and arguably the deepest collection of talent at receiver in school history never clicked against the Bruins, who came in ranking 127th nationally in pass efficiency defense.
Steven Montez completed just 21 of 38 passes for 195 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His night included several passes off the mark and a few drops by his receivers.
“I’ll just have to look at the tape and see exactly what it was,” Tucker said, “but we weren’t in sync, we weren’t moving the ball on a consistent basis and ultimately we weren’t able to score against these guys. I thought we’d be able to move the ball more and score some points.”
Away from Boulder, that’s been tough, as the Buffs have been outscored 117-27 in their last three road games.
“It’s been a struggle just to finish drives,” Tucker said. “We’ve got some really good skill guys; we’ve been able to run the ball, but for whatever reason, we didn’t start fast today.”
In fact, the first quarter might have been CU’s worst quarter of the season.
CU’s first two offensive possessions went three-and-out, and UCLA took advantage of both. Thompson-Robinson threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Devin Asiasi to get the scoring started, and then JJ Molson hit a 28-yard field goal to make it 10-0.
On the next CU possession, Montez was picked off by the Bruins’ Krys Barnes and on the next play, Thompson-Robinson threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Fernea.
“I was very disappointed in that,” Tucker said of the Buffs allowing 17 points in the first quarter. “There’s no excuse for that. I’m extremely disappointed in not being able to come out and get stops against these guys.”
The Buffs did stem the tide a bit. The CU defense held UCLA to just seven points on its next eight possessions, but the offense failed to fully capitalize.
Montez scored on a 2-yard run midway through the second quarter to cut the Bruins lead to 17-7. Then, he threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Tony Brown to pull the Buffs within 24-14 with 5:57 to play in the game.
Aside from those two drives, however, it was a rough night for the Buffs, who had just 283 yards, punted six times, and once again failed to produce a winning formula.
“The (loses) are piling up,” linebacker Davion Taylor said. “We’re just trying not to let it get to us, trying not to have that losing mentality. We’re still trying to stay focused and finish strong.”
UCLA 31, Colorado 14
Play of the game: Steven Montez’s 27-yard touchdown pass to Tony Brown in the fourth quarter was the top play of the night for the Buffs.
Turning point: CU had a golden opportunity to get back into the game when Carson Wells intercepted a UCLA pass on the fifth play of the third quarter with CU trailing 17-7. The Buffs failed to punch the ball in the end zone, however, and then missed a field goal attempt. UCLA responded with an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that essentially put the game away.
Top 3 Buffs of the game
1. LB Nate Landman: Active all night, he had a team-high 11 tackles, including his first two sacks of the season.
2. OLB Carson Wells: He finished with six tackles, a tackle for loss and an interception.
3. WR Tony Brown: Finished his night with six catches for 77 yards and a touchdown.
UCLA 31, Colorado 14
Colorado 0 7 0 7 — 14
UCLA 17 0 7 7 — 31
UCLA – Asiasi 16 pass from Thompson-Robinson (Molson kick), 11:46
UCLA – FG Molson 28, 5:25
UCLA – Fernea 45 pass from Thompson-Robinson (Molson kick), 3:42
COL – Montez 2 run (Stefanou kick), 8:14
UCLA – Kelley 5 run (Molson kick), 4:11
COL – Brown 27 pass from Montez (E.Price kick), 5:57
UCLA – Kelley 35 run (Molson kick), 4:14
First downs 19 24
Rushes-yards 27-88 46-200
Passing 195 226
Comp-Att-Int 21-38-1 21-28-1
Return Yards 0 0
Punts-Avg. 6-39.16 4-41.5
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 5-55 8-95
Time of Possession 25:33 34:27
RUSHING – Colorado, Mangham 17-77, L.Shenault 1-15, D.Smith 2-(minus 2), Montez 7-(minus 2). UCLA, Kelley 23-126, Thompson-Robinson 11-38, Irby 4-21, Felton 5-20, K.Allen 1-2, (Team) 2-(minus 7).
PASSING – Colorado, Montez 21-38-1-195. UCLA, Thompson-Robinson 21-28-1-226.
RECEIVING – Colorado, Brown 6-77, Nixon 6-56, Russell 3-29, L.Shenault 3-16, D.Smith 2-6, Stanley 1-11. UCLA, Asiasi 4-45, K.Allen 4-29, Erwin 4-22, Felton 3-32, Philips 2-23, Cota 2-18, Fernea 1-45, Irby 1-12.
MISSED FIELD GOALS – Colorado, Stefanou 47, Stefanou 27. UCLA, Molson 50.