PASADENA, Calif. – It was, perhaps, Colorado’s last-ditch effort to stay in a game that was quickly getting away.
It wound up being a backbreaking play in a crushing, 44-20 loss to UCLA at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
Down 30-20 early in the quarter, the Buffs were reeling. Moments earlier, the defense had given up its third consecutive touchdown to the Bruins and CU had to try to stop the bleeding.
The offense faced fourth-and-1 at its own 34-yard line.
Punt and UCLA could have gone down to score again and put the game away. Go for it and get the first down and maybe the offense gains momentum and gets the Buffs back in the game.
“There was an opportunity to try to get a first down on the fourth down that I think the coaches and players wanted to do,” head coach Karl Dorrell said. “My first impression was not to do it. Then I called the timeout, and then we decided to do it and unfortunately, we didn’t get that executed.”
CU lined up with tight end Brady Russell as a fullback and tailback Jarek Broussard behind him. Quarterback Brendon Lewis took the snap and gave a quick handoff to Russell – whose only other career rushing attempt came in 2018. Russell was immediately hit and stuffed for no gain.
“That play made me mad,” said Russell, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound tight end. “I felt like I got out-willed. I should be able to put my head down and get a yard, but they filled up both A gaps. I think there was four dudes on guard-center-guard, and then they had two backers behind them, so they stuffed it up pretty quick. But, I should be able to put my head down and get a yard, so that was on me, for sure.
“That’s demeaning for sure. Felt like I got out-willed. That’s about all I’ve got to say about it.”
Russell got stuffed, but it wasn’t necessarily on him. While handing to Russell was a new wrinkle for CU, the basic concept – a run up the middle was not.
As Russell said, the Bruins loaded the box to stop the run. UCLA had one defender – safety Stephan Blaylock – keyed in on Broussard, while nine others crowded the box to stop the run up the middle.
Up to that point, CU had faced third- or fourth-and-1 20 times this season. The Buffs had called a run up the middle each of those 20 times, so UCLA clearly was ready for what the Buffs had done every other time it faced that situation this season.
Five plays later, UCLA scored again and put the game away, at 37-20, with 12:12 to play.
CU is now 12-for-21 in those third- or fourth-and-1 situations.