PASADENA—Colorado, who hasn’t won a road game against a nationally ranked team since 2002 — proved a challenge on Saturday in a game that almost got away from the Bruins.
The UCLA Bruins returned to the normal schedule of Saturday college football after two straight Thursday battles. The team visiting from Colorado brought many rabid fans, rooting their team on to possible victory. The Bruin Nation had other ideas, as they grabbed an early 7-0 lead on a 31-yard screen pass from Josh Rosen to Paul Perkins who navigated the defense with his usual savvy self.
Coach Jim Mora had a key assist on the drive when he threw the challenge flag after an apparent interception by the Frosh sensation. But after looking at the play on review the ball had hit the ground and the interception was overturned. This led to the opening TD, and the ensuing drive by the Buffaloes ended with a missed field goal from Diego Gonzalez.
The early start of noon did not hinder the fans enthusiasm under a blue sky, slight Santa Ana winds, and a day so beautiful it would usually be reserved by Mother Nature for New Year’s Day.
The Bruins came into this game after climbing back into the national rankings at number #24. More importantly they still control their own destiny if they can win out in the tough PAC-12 conference. Colorado looked like they would strike back in this encounter after converting a fourth down on the UCLA 20-yard line with a QB sneak by Sefo Liufau, but ever-present defensive back Ishmael Adams intercepted a pass and returned it 96 yards for the touchdown.
With 7:01 left to play it was on third down with Colorado threatening to score. Adams read the QB’s eyes, jumped the route, and was on his way with a host of blockers as the crowd went delirious to give the Bruins a 14-0 lead. A possible 14-point switch as the pundits say, negating a possible TD and scoring one instead on the pick six. The return of Adams has been a real shot in the arm to the decimated Bruin Defense who had started the year looking as good as any in the team’s history. Injuries to key players have forced the team to play without their best defensive stars.
Colorado would score on the next drive however, as Gonzalez would make good on a 25-yard field goal attempt to make the score 14-3 in favor of the Bruins with 3:29 to play in the first half. Paul Perkins would show why he was the leading rusher in the entire conference last year when he took a handoff from Rosen and sprinted 82 yards into the end zone untouched. The Bruin offensive line created a huge hole, and Perkins would be in the end zone 12 seconds later. A play that looked like he had shaken off a slight injury last Thursday suffered against Cal, and it would extend the lead to 21-3.
Colorado would make one more field goal as the half expired as a 23 yard field goal was successful by Gonzalez to send both teams to the locker room with a 21-6 Bruin advantage.
After a quick TD by the Buffaloes to start the second half, UCLA responded with a 11-yard touchdown run by Nate Starks to make the score 28-13 with 7:35 left in the third quarter. As the third quarter came to a close another field goal was made by Colorado to cut the lead to 28-16 to start the fourth and pivotal quarter. On the first play of the fourth quarter, QB Josh Rosen was sacked and forced to fumble which was picked up by Samson Kafovalu and returned for 33 yards and a touchdown to make the score 28-23 with over 14 minutes still left in the now very close contest.
UCLA would go down on the next possession when the resilient Buffaloes would punch it in from six yards out and after the two point conversion the Bruins found themselves down 31-28. But they would respond with a touchdown of their own after Soso Jamabo scored on a two yard run to turn this see-saw battle back in the Bruins favor 35-31.
The game would turn on a key fourth down play on the Bruins 24-yard line when the Bruins forced a turnover on downs with a great defensive stand with the game on the line. They would then get a first down and give the ball back with 1:52 on the clock, Colorado would run their 111th play of the game, a school record on this drive. After a roughing the passer gave Colorado new life, an interception by Nate Meadors ended the drive, resulting in victory for the home team.
What a game! The attendance for this thrilling game was 51,506 and on this trick or treat day, the Bruin fans were treated to a well earned victory. UCLA improved to 6-2 and travels to Oregon State next Saturday to face the Beavers.
(All photos by John Tindall)