Buffaloes Fall To 0-4 As Bruins Win At Folsom
BOULDER — Colorado freshman quarterback Owen McCown gave the Buffaloes' offense a bit of a boost Saturday, but it wasn't enough as visiting UCLA rolled to a 45-17 win at Folsom Field.
Karl Dorrell's Buffs dropped to 0-4 overall and 0-1 in Pac-12 play while the Bruins improved to 4-0, 1-0. It is CU's first 0-4 start since 2006, when the Buffs finished that year with a 2-10 record.
Colorado scored its second first-half touchdown of the year late in the second quarter and trailed just 21-10 at the half.
But the Bruins put the game away with a touchdown and field goal early in the third quarter, then another touchdown after a CU turnover to build a 38-10 lead late in the period. The Bruins then extended the margin to 45-10 early in the fourth quarter before the Buffs put up a late touchdown to complete the scoring.
McCown, making his first start at Colorado, finished 26-for-42 for 258 yards passing with one touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for a touchdown as CU finished with 309 yards total offense. Redshirt freshman running back Charlie Offerdahl got the first start of his career and the walk-on responded with a team-high 47 yards rushing on 14 carries.
Led by quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, the Bruins racked up 515 yards offense, with Thompson-Robinson throwing for 234 and two scores. Running back Zach Charnonnet rushed for 104 yards and three touchdowns as the Bruins finished with 249 yards on the ground. Defensively, the Bruins recorded five quarterback sacks.
Colorado started four freshmen on the offensive side — McCown, Offerdahl, guard Van Wells and wide receiver Chase Sowell.
"Frustrating day," Dorrell said. "But I felt like there were some positive things, even though we weren't a factor in getting a chance to win this one, It just got away from us. I was encouraged by the young freshmen that we decided to use … But we just didn't do the things we needed to do in the second half. There's a lot of areas that need a lot of work. We're a young team that needs to continue to grow and mature as we go. But we just have a tremendous amount of work to do with this team."
HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado had a chance to take the lead on the opening possession as the Buffs drove to the UCLA 35-yard line. But a penalty pushed the Buffs back and a 54-yard field goal try by Cole Becker sailed wide left.
UCLA's offense had no such issues. The Bruins drove for touchdowns on their first three possessions on drives covering 64, 95 and 75 yards, with Thompson-Robinson throwing one touchdown pass and Charbonnet running for two scores.
Colorado has now given up at least 249 yards rushing in every game this season.
"We're really working hard on trying to get those things shored up and some of it has just been that some of our players are in the wrong gap," Dorrell said. "That's the challenging part. Sometimes it was a linebacker issue or it was a D-line issue … The rushing game has been our nemesis on defense and we have to find a way to get that shored up."
Colorado did get on the board after the Bruins' second touchdown, driving 58 yards before settling for a 35-yard Becker field goal to pull within 14-3. McCown completed a 42-yard pass to Daniel Arias on the march — CU's longest play from scrimmage this season — and true freshman Anthony Hankerson delivered a terrific 10-yard run to keep the drive alive.
But the Bruins quickly answered with their third touchdown to take a 21-3 lead with nine minutes still to play in the second quarter.
Colorado's defense then finally produced a stop. After the Bruins drove into CU territory, the Buffs held the Bruins on fourth-and-2, with Jalen Sami, Quinn Perry and Jamar Montgomery teaming up to stop Keegan Jones for just 1 yard.
McCown then engineered a 74-yard scoring drive in the final minutes of the half to give the Buffs just their second first-half touchdown of the season.
Offerdahl ran for 14 yards early in the drive and the Bruins were penalized for roughing the passer to put the Buffs in UCLA territory. McCown then rolled to his left, signaled for wide receiver Jordyn Tyson to move downfield and he connected with the freshman for a 31-yard gain.
The Buffs then came close to stalling again when a holding penalty pushed CU back to the UCLA 15. But an Offerdahl 3-yard run, an 8-yard completion to Brady Russell and a UCLA penalty gave CU a fourth-and-goal from the 2. McCown ran a bootleg to his left and scooted into the end zone for the score, sending Colorado into the locker room at intermission trailing 21-10.
"I was really encouraged by his poise," Dorrell said of McCown's starting debut. "He did some positive things. He did some rookie things as well and I'm sure he'll look at the tape and say that there's a lot of stuff that he can definitely improve on … But I was encouraged with how he worked out there. Obviously we didn't win. But there's some positive moments I saw in his play."
The Bruins, however, quickly regained control after halftime. UCLA opened the third quarter with a 75-yard scoring march in just four plays to build its lead to 28-10, then added a field goal after a Colorado fake punt came up short midway through the period.
Minutes later, CU's first turnover of the game — McCown fumbled as he was sacked — led to UCLA's fifth touchdown and a 38-10 Bruins lead with 6:03 still left in the third period.
Colorado's offense, meanwhile, couldn't re-establish the rhythm it had late in the second quarter. CU's first five possessions in the third quarter ended via punt, downs, lost fumble, punt and interception.
The Bruins' second offensive unit then converted the interception into another touchdown and a 45-10 lead just seconds into the final period.
Colorado reached the end zone one more time when McCown guided a 14-play, 85-yard scoring march. He completed 11 passes on the drive, converting one fourth down, before throwing an 8-yard scoring pass to fellow freshman Jordyn Tyson to make the score 45-17.
Despite the fourth lopsided loss in a row, Dorrell said his team continues to maintain a good attitude.
"The encouraging thing in the locker room is that they're challenged about getting better," Dorrell said. "They're challenging each other about getting this thing right. It's not a, 'We're quitting' or feeling sorry for themselves. These guys have shown some resilience about moving forward and getting this thing going because they think they have that type of capability to do so."
TURNING POINT: Colorado once again came up short on its opening possession, driving into UCLA territory only to stall. The Buffs missed a long field goal try and the Bruins responded with a touchdown drive to take control and the Buffs were left trying to play catch-up the rest of the day.
KEY STATISTICS: CU's defense yielded an average of 8.2 yards per play, including 7.3 yards per rushing attempt … The Bruins rushed for 249 yards while Colorado managed 51 on the ground … CU was 5-for-17 on third-down tries (but was 3-for-4 on fourth-down conversion attempts) … Colorado gave up five sacks.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs found a glimmer of promise in their offense. But as Dorrell noted, overall the Buffs "have a tremendous amount of work to do."
UP NEXT: The Buffs hit the road next Saturday to face Arizona in a 7:30 p.m. game in Tucson (Pac-12 Network).