BOULDER – Seven days after rallying for three late touchdowns to win their Pac-12 Conference opener, the Colorado Buffaloes found themselves trailing UCLA by four touchdowns barely half a minute into the fourth quarter.
This week, the hole was cavernous – and the Buffs had no miracles and no way out.
The Bruins turned a pair of third-quarter CU turnovers into touchdowns, broke open what had been a competitive game and buried the Buffs 42-14 on Saturday at Folsom Field.
CU lost for the fourth time in September and dropped to 1-4 overall and 1-1 in the Pac-12. UCLA, coming off a 27-20 home loss to Oregon State that dropped the Bruins from the national rankings, improved to 4-1, 1-1.
The Buffs have an open date next Saturday, then return to Folsom Field on Thursday night, Oct. 11 to face Arizona State.
As costly as CU’s second-half turnovers were, poor tackling by the Buffs contributed to UCLA’s offensive show. Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley completed 25-of-38 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a pair of 12-yard scores. Tailback Jonathan Franklin carried 15 times for 111 yards. The conference’s leading rusher had been held to 45 yards by Oregon State.
UCLA entered the game ranked first in the Pac-12 in total offense, gaining 421.5 yards a game. Of that total, 251.5 had been gained on the ground, putting UCLA behind only Oregon in Pac-12 rushing. The Bruins gained 492 yards in total offense against the Buffs, with 211 rushing.
A week after accounting for four touchdowns in the 35-34 win at Washington State, CU quarterback Jordan Webb completed 21-of-32 passes for 184 yards and one TD. He was intercepted once and sacked four times.
Nick Hirschman replaced Webb in the fourth quarter and completed two of three attempts for 42 yards and a touchdown.
CU finished with 309 yards in total offense. At WSU, the Buffs rushed for a season-best 186 yards. The Bruins held them to 83 on 30 attempts.
The Bruins dominated the first half, rolling up 285 yards in total offense to the Buffs’ 122 and taking a 21-7 lead to their locker room.
CU missed an early opportunity to possibly take the lead when defensive end Kirk Poston sacked Hundley and fellow end Samson Kafovalu recovered at the CU 41-yard line.
But after the drive advanced as far as the Bruins’ 22, the Buffs were shoved into reverse. A Gerald Thomas fumble after a flat pass was recovered by tight end Nick Kasa but lost seven yards. Webb was sacked for a five-yard loss on the next play and successive five-yard penalties for an illegal formation and a false start pushed the Buffs back to Bruins’ 48.
Darragh O’Neill finally got to punt, backing UCLA to its 13-yard line. But needing only nine plays and never facing third down, Hundley drove his offense 87 yards and scored on a 12-yard run. Ka’imi Fairbairn’s PAT put UCLA ahead 7-0 with 4:53 left in the first quarter.
The Buffs didn’t get a first down for the rest of the quarter, but neithter could the Bruins score any more points. But that ended on their first drive of the second quarter, with Hundley directing a 10-play, 76-yard march capped by his 17-yard scoring pass to receiver Darius Bell. Fairbairn’s extra point put CU behind 14-0, and the Folsom Field crowd of 46,893 might have sensed this one slipping away.
But CU answered with its only sustained drive of the first half, going 75 yards, mostly on Webb’s passing. He completed six-of-six for 72 yards, with a 17-yard throw to senior Dustin Ebner and Will Oliver’s PAT bringing the Buffs to within a touchdown at 14-7. It was Ebner’s first career TD.
Two series later, UCLA pushed its lead to 21-7, taking advantage of a short field (CU’s 43) and scoring in five snaps. The big play was a 28-yard screen to Franklin that initially was ruled a touchdown. Upon review, UCLA was given the ball at the CU 1-yard line and scored a play later on Hundley’s crafty keeper with 2:14 before intermission.
The Buffs were more effective defensively to open the second half, forcing the Bruins to punt on their first two series. But CU wasn’t any more effective offensively in the third quarter, having what appeared to be a promising drive stopped on fourth-and-one at the UCLA 48.
The Bruins couldn’t capitalize, calling on Fairbairn to attempt a 44-yard goal that was wide right. The Buffs still trailed 21-7, but courtesy of the two third-quarter turnovers, that was about to change.
The first occurred on a third-down reception by freshman tight end Vincent Hobbs. He had gained first-down yardage but didn’t protect the ball, allowing safety Tevin McDonald to poke the ball out from behind. Linebacker Eric Kendricks recovered at the UCLA 38, and seven plays later Hundley hit disturbingly open receiver Joseph Fauria in the end zone with an 8-yard TD pass.
On CU’s next series, Webb was intercepted by free safety Stan McKay, and 59 seconds later tailback Jordon James ran 25 yards to give UCLA its fifth TD. Fairbairn’s PAT opened a 35-7 Bruins lead, and with 14:28 to play any thoughts of the Buffs duplicating their comeback win at Washington State began fading with the day’s last light.
With 10:54 remaining, the Bruins pushed the count to 42-7 on a 23-yard TD run by Damien Thigpen and Fairbairn’s extra point.
CU got its second touchdown on a 31-yard pass from Hirschman to Kasa, giving the senior tight end his second scoring reception in as many games. Oliver kicked the extra point, making the score 42-14 with 2:43 to play.
It ended that way, leaving the Buffs winless this season (0-2) on their home field.