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Buffs Fall Short On Road As UCLA Rallies For Win

Nov 13, 2021
Alex Fontenot scored two touchdowns for CU in Saturday's loss to UCLA.

PASADENA, Calif. — Colorado jumped out to a 20-7 first-half lead Saturday, only to see UCLA score 37 unanswered points as the Buffaloes dropped a 44-20 decision at the Rose Bowl.

The loss dropped Karl Dorrell's Buffs to 3-7 overall and 2-5 in the Pac-12, and eliminated the Buffs from postseason contention. The Bruins improved to 6-4 and 4-3 to clinch bowl eligibility.

The Buffs were in command early as they scored a touchdown on their second possession, then added a field goal early in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead. They extended that cushion to 20-7 with less than a minute to play in the second period, but the Bruins closed the half with a field goal, then scored five consecutive touchdowns in the second half. The run included four offensive scores in four possessions and an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown, while CU's offense couldn't regain its first-half rhythm.

UCLA outgained the Buffs, 502-351, including a 274-117 edge in the second half, with 219 of those coming in the third quarter.

CU quarterback Brendon Lewis threw for 158 yards, Jarek Broussard rushed for 108 and Alex Fontenot scored two touchdowns.

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw for 257 yards and ran for 99 and a touchdown.

"We definitely have a ton of work to do to try to finish this season," Dorrell said. "Obviously there's some disappointment in the locker room. We had a chance to win that game if we would have responded in the second half and we didn't. It's on all of us and we have to try to find a way to finish this season in a positive way."

HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado jumped out to a 10-0 lead for the second week in a row, getting a first quarter touchdown — only the Buffs' third first-quarter touchdown of the year — and a field goal midway through the second quarter.

CU took its second possession and drove 70 yards for the score. Broussard had a 16-yard run on the march, Lewis converted a third-and-3 with a 4-yard run and completed three passes on the drive. Ale Fontenot wrapped up the march with a 1-yard scoring burst for a 7-0 Colorado lead.

The Buffs then got a break on UCLA's second possession when a Zach Charbonnet 51-yard run was nullified by a Bruins penalty, and another break on UCLA's next turn with the ball when a 40-yard touchdown pass was negated by another penalty.

Colorado took advantage by driving 56 yards deep into UCLA territory before settling for a 23-yard Cole Becker field goal and 10-0 lead.

"We got a run game established and we hit a few things in the passing game and it was good to churn out some points and get some drives going," Dorrell said of the early surge. "We were handling their offense fairly well in the first half. We had control of their run game."

But the Bruins finally found the end zone on their next possession. Thompson-Robinson guided a 64-yard touchdown march in just three plays, with the big gainer a 47-yard toss to Kyle Philips.

The Buffs, though, had an answer, going 75 yards to the end zone in six plays. Broussard covered the bulk of the march with a 46-yard run before Fontenot scored his second touchdown of the game, another 1-yard burst with 5:22 to play in the half for a 17-7 CU lead. The Buffaloes then pushed their margin to 20-7 with just 57 seconds left in the half on a 40-yard Becker field goal.

But that left the Bruins enough time to maneuver into position for a field goal as the half ended, sending CU into the locker room with a 20-10 lead.

"It was a big drive but I felt we still had momentum," Dorrell said. "We went into halftime feeling good, but they came out and did what they needed to do."

Indeed, UCLA's drive at the end of the half proved to be a harbinger of things to come.

The Bruins opened the second half with a bang. UCLA drove 76 yards for a touchdown on its opening possession to pull within 20-16 after the PAT try banged off the upright.

Colorado then put itself in a big hole on its next possession after an 18-yard sack and was forced to punt. UCLA then needed just 1:54 to drive 83 yards in seven plays for the go-ahead touchdown. Thompson-Robinson ran 23 yards for the score and Colorado trailed for the first time in the game, 23-20, with 6:07 still left in the third quarter.

CU had one more chance to pull back into the game. After UCLA's second touchdown of the half, the Buffs drove to the Bruins 25, but Becker was wide right on a 43-yard field goal try and CU still trailed, 23-20, with 3:24 left in the third period.

"Offensively we weren't able to capitalize on a couple things we did engineer," Dorrell said. "We missed a field goal, we shot ourselves in the foot. We didn't execute, we didn't have the right play calls. We could have been much better."

Indeed, the Bruins continued to roll. The Bruins marched 75 yards for their third touchdown of the quarter, getting a 3-yard Zach Charbonnet run for the score and a 30-20 lead with just 30 seconds left in the period. The Bruins had 219 yards of offense in the period, including 149 on the ground.

Down by 10, the Buffs then gambled early in the fourth quarter by trying to convert a fourth-and-1 in their own territory. But tight end Brady Russell, lining up as the fullback, was stopped for no gain and the Bruins then drove 34 yards for their fourth touchdown in four possessions for a 37-20 lead with 12:12 left in the game.

Colorado's offense failed to move the ball again and the Bruins put the game away for good when Philips returned a Josh Watts punt 82 yards for a touchdown. The PAT provided UCLA with its 37th unanswered point and a 44-20 lead with 10:10 to play.

"It was really unexpected, that's what's most frustrating about it," Russell said of the Buffs' second half. "I don't think they elevated their game that much; I felt like we brought our level down after playing so well. It wasn't that guys weren't fighting or anything.  It was weird."

TURNING POINT: When Colorado took a 20-7 lead with just 57 seconds left in the first half, the Buffs seemed in control. But the Bruins marched downfield for a last-second field goal to end the half, then steamrolled CU the entire second half.

KEY STATISTICS: While the Buffs held a slight edge in total yards in the first half, UCLA's third quarter made the difference: the Bruins racked up 219 yards (and 20 points) in the third quarter, including 149 on the ground … CU was 0-for-3 on fourth-down conversion attempts and 3-for-13 on third-down tries … CU gave up four sacks after giving up just one total in the last two games … UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich caught three passes for 87 yards …  

WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs won't be playing in the postseason, missing out on a chance for back-to-back bowls for the first time since the 2004 and 2005 seasons.

NEXT UP: The wrap up their home schedule next Saturday with a 1 p.m. game against Washington at Folsom Field (Pac-12 Networks).