Instant Analysis: Buffs squander opportunities in frustrating loss to UCLA

Scott Hood, Staff Writer
CU Sports Nation

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Final Score: UCLA 27, Colorado 23.

KEY MOMENT

Is there any question? Trailing 14-10 late in the second quarter, the Buffs lined up at the UCLA 11 for a very makeable 28-yard field goal. But CU ran a fake and flipped the ball sideways to placekicker James Stefanou. The ball fell to the ground incomplete. It is unlikely he would have made the first down anyway since a Bruins player was in his face when he tried to catch the ball. As a result, the Buffs trailed by 4 points at halftime instead of a single point. The play loomed larger and larger as the second half proceeded. When the game ended, it haunted Colorado.

TURNING POINT

When Stefanou booted a 33-yard field goal with 6:46 left to narrow UCLA’s lead to 24-23, the burden shifted to the CU defense to come up with a stop and get the ball back for an opportunity to possibly win the game with a field goal. When a penalty on the kickoff pushed the ball back to the 8-yard line, the stakes became higher because a 3-and-out would have given the Buffs good field position. Instead, QB Josh Rosen got into a rhythm, completing passes for 18, 19 and 11 yards. The Bruins got as far as the CU 13 – forcing the Buffs to exhaust their supply of timeouts - before booting a 31-yard field goal with 26 seconds left. The score forced CU to score a TD to win the game. They had one Hail Mary opportunity, but Steven Montez threw the ball beyond the end zone.

NUMBERS DON’T LIE:

The key for the Colorado defense was how the Buffs would defend the pass since UCLA’s Josh Rosen is one of the best quarterbacks in the country with over 1,700 passing yards . Rosen was 12-of-22 for 169 yards and 1 TD in the first half. He finished 28-of-45 for 372 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.

Another important key was how well the Buffs would run the football against a UCLA defense that has struggled to stop the run all season. The Bruins had by far the worst run defense in the Pac-12 coming into the weekend. But the Buffs ran for just 59 yards on 17 carries in the first half, averaging 3.47 yards per carry, with Lindsay leading the way with 31 yards on 6 carries.

UCLA actually ran for more yards (67) than CU in the first half. In the second half, the Buffs rushed for 132 yards, finishing with 191 yards on 38 carries for an average of 5.03 yards per attempt. The run game was better in the second half, but overall the Buffs leave Pasadena slightly disappointed they couldn’t run the ball better against a team allowing more than 300 yards per game on the ground.

UCLA was outgained in the rushing department by a 2-to-1 margin (191-95), which usually spells bad news in major college football. However, the Bruins nullified the Buffs advantage in that category by decisively winning the third down battle. UCLA converted 9-of-16 third downs, while Colorado was just 4-of-16. Most of the other stats were fairly even.

UCLA decisively won the statistical better in the fourth quarter. They held the ball for almost 10-1/2 minutes and had a 13-play, 57 yard drive and a 15-play, 79-yard drive in the quarter. Both possessions ended with field goals. Rosen was 11-of-17 passing for 114 yards in the final period. UCLA ran 26 plays in the fourth quarter, Colorado 14. Clearly, the Bruins dominated the fourth quarter and it was just enough to pull out the win.

Steven Montez completed less than 50 percent of his pass attempts (17-of-36), the first time in eight career starts (5‐3 record) that he failed to complete at least one-half of his throws.

Buffs RB Phillip Lindsay had 83 rushing yards and 1 TD on 19 carries, averaging 4.37 yards per rush. He also caught 4 passes for 47 yards and 1 TD on a well thrown ball by Montez, becoming the 17th player in school history, and the first running back, to amass 100 career receptions. He now has 100 catches for 830 yards. He becomes the fourth player on the current roster with 100‐plus career receptions, joining Shay Fields (169), Devin Ross (120) and Bryce Bobo (113).

THREE TAKEAWAYS:

Did The Pac-12 Refs Screw Up Again?: After CU took a 10-7 lead on a 33-yard FG, the Bruins ran a flea flicker that was caught at the 1-yard line. It appeared the UCLA receiver may not have had possession of the ball when he hit the ground, but for some mysterious reason the officials did not review the play. The Bruins quickly scored on a 1-yard run on the next snap for a 14-10 lead.

You Must Score TDS In the Red Zone: Colorado scored on 4-of-5 opportunities in the red zone with one turnover. However, those five trips produced just 1 touchdown and 3 field goals. Conversely, UCLA was 5-of-5 in the red zone with 3 touchdowns and 2 field goals. Thus, even though the teams had the same number of red zone trips, UCLA scored 27 points in the red zone compared to 16 for the Buffs. Difference in the game? You betcha.

Steven Montez Can Make Plays With His Feet Too: Montez completed 17-of-36 passes for 243 yards and faced pressure all night from the UCLA defense. However, he was also the leading rusher in the game with 108 yards on 15 carries. His 37-yard scamper to the UCLA 14 in the fourth quarter gave the Buffs a first down at the UCLA 14 and put them in position to take the lead with a touchdown. However, two incompletions and a loss of two yards on a run forced them to settle for a field goal and a 24-23 deficit. That sequence following Montez’s big run summed up the night perfectly for the Buffs offense in terms of squandered opportunities.

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