The UCLA Bruins kicked off their 2020 football season with hope. But after dropping their opener to the Colorado Buffaloes, 48-42, hope was seemingly a far off thought. There were moments in the second half that allowed pause, however, it was early that all hope seemed to be lost and it’s hard to find much good in what was a poor defensive performance that saw the Bruins fall down as much as 35-14 at halftime.
The game didn’t start out well for the Bruins as after a defensive stop on the game’s first drive from Colorado, Kyle Phillips fumbled a punt return and relinquished possession before the offense could even get their hands on it. Colorado RB Jarek Broussard would punch it in from six yards out just four plays later as the Buffs had the ball for the first five minutes of game time and took an early 7-0 lead.
The special teams woes continued on the ensuing kickoff as Demetric Felton would take the kick from inside the end zone but manage just a nine-yard return, pinning the Bruins offense back on their first drive.
On offense, it was clear that the plan was to get Felton involved often and get Dorian Thompson-Robinson in rhythm early. Unfortunately, the behind-the-line-of-scrimmage passes didn’t work to do either of those as DTR would throw his first interception of 2020 on just his fourth pass.
Thompson-Robinson missed a dropping linebacker in flat coverage and Colorado LB Carson Wells would return the interception to the one-yard line and Broussard would punch in his second touchdown of the game to take a 14-0 lead.
Some miscues early plagued the team, not just including turnovers:
- There was the holding call that negated a big end-around run from Kazmeir Allen
- Another few procedural penalties on offense set the team back early in the downs
- And of course the mesh-point miscue that led to the second quarter fumble from DTR
- Felton’s fumble midway through the second quarter on the ensuing drive
- Ineligible downfield receivers and negative play from the OL
The ‘feed-Felton’ approach on offense did eventually pay off on the Bruins’ third possession when he took a swing pass and did the majority of the damage after the catch on an impressive 28-yard catch-and-run to cut into the lead 7-14.
For Colorado, it was truly an impressive showing from QB Sam Noyer, making his first start at quarterback and playing his first game as a quarterback after transitioning back to the position from safety a season ago. Noyer completed his first seven passes and his first incompletion was actually a drop. Through his first five drives, Noyer was 11-14 for 100 yards and a touchdown, his first touchdown pass to Brady Russell to extend their lead to 21-7.
They didn’t need Noyer to extend their lead even more after Felton fumbled the ensuing possession away and Broussard punched in his third touchdown of the game from just a yard out, 28-7.
The first half belonged to Colorado except for a missed long field goal attempt and a zero blitz by their defense that allowed Greg Dulcich to haul in a 52-yard touchdown reception nearing the end of the second quarter.
Because of that chunk play, DTR finished the first half with a halfway-decent looking box score, completing 11-of-19 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns but that hardly told the story. Noyer completed 13-19 for 118 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
The Bruins ran for just 19 yards in the first half as a team compared to the Buffs 162 yards on the ground in the first half.
The second half was a much different story, though, for UCLA at least.
A great way to start the 3rd quarter!— UCLA Football (@UCLAFootball) November 8, 2020
: @espn 2https://t.co/2E5kJhWlQv
: AM 570#GoBruins | @DoriansTweets pic.twitter.com/HwrLTY4vDy
The Bruins needed just two plays to score on their first drive of the third quarter as DTR took an RPO 65 yards for a score on the ground and the special teams unit blocked Colorado’s next drive field goal attempt. Jay Shaw made an acrobatic play to block a 40-yard field goal attempt and Kent State transfer Qwuantrezz Knight scooped it up for a 17-yard return.
Knight returned to the action after an early exit following a tackle for loss. His impact has been felt quickly.
DTR looked like a completely different QB in the second half — most notably when he stood in the face of pressure and dealt a beautiful downfield strike to Dulcich on a clutch third-down conversion.
DTR looking like a completely different QB in the 2H— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) November 8, 2020
Standing in the face of pressure to deliver this downfield strike pic.twitter.com/hHiBeGJ91N
The Bruins scored 21 total points in the third quarter and out-gained their entire offensive output from the first two quarters in the third frame. They inched as close as just seven points, two times in the third.
The Buffs increased their lead back to 10 at 45-35, and the Bruins were stuffed on a potential fourth-down conversion with 13:13 left in the fourth quarter and the Buffs continued to dominate the time of possession.
And so it continued. Broussard continued to grind out yards and first downs for the Buffs and the Bruins defense was on the field for far too long.
Despite dominating the game’s time of possession, UCLA still was able to storm back and creep within one possession after DTR developed a strong relationship with his tight ends and capped a long drive with a touchdown toss to Mike Martinez to close the game to just a 48-42 Colorado lead. But the Buffs were able to recover the ensuing onside kick and ice the game with a couple of kneel downs.
Colorado dominated the game’s time of possession, 39:31 to 20:29.
Thompson-Robinson finished the game 20-40 for 303 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. He also led all UCLA rushers with nine carries for 109 yards and his long touchdown run. Felton chipped in with 10 carries for 57 yards and a score with six more catches for 45 yards and another touchdown.
Dulcich led all pass-catchers with 126 yards on four catches.
The Bruins fall to 0-1 in the shortened season that sees the Utah Utes next up on Friday night.