No. 17 UCLA looks for bounce-back win over Buffs

GREG BEACHAM (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- After consecutive losses to the West Coast's two best teams, No. 17 UCLA is hurting.

A visit from Colorado is usually a good way for Pac-12 teams to get better.

The Bruins (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) won't assume they're in for an easy Saturday evening when they begin their home-heavy November schedule with a visit from the Buffaloes (3-4, 0-4), who have lost 12 straight conference games.

But UCLA's homecoming game is a chance to regain confidence after flopping in the second half at Stanford and Oregon. The Bruins must make a run in the South Division to earn a third trip to the conference championship game next month.

''Sometimes when you're as young, like we are, you can bounce back a little bit easier,'' UCLA coach Jim Mora said. ''The losses don't stay with you as long. That's a good thing, as long as you're learning the lessons along the way that you need to learn.''

UCLA was in both games in the second half, but the Bruins faded and lost to both of the league powers to drop to 5-5 in their last 10 games overall - with four of those losses to Stanford and Oregon.

Mora is fairly confident the Bruins are focused on Colorado, which is hoping for its breakthrough win under new coach Mike MacIntyre - and its first road win over a ranked team since 2002.

The Buffaloes have lost four of their last five, all in blowout fashion against Pac-12 teams. Opponents have run the ball fairly easily against Colorado, and only a handful of FBS teams have yielded more than the Buffs' 37.1 points per game.

Colorado likely is the least daunting opponent on UCLA's crowded November slate, but the Bruins can't afford to look past any opponent while they work on making up their deficit in the South.

Here are five reasons to watch the Bruins' first of four games in the Los Angeles area in the final five weeks of the season:

HUNDLEY'S COMEBACK: UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley had a chance to get the nation's attention over the last two weeks, but he passed for just 256 yards with four interceptions. While some fans are blaming offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone's play-calling, the Bruins realize it's not so simple - and Hundley feels he should have done more at Stanford and Oregon. Hundley frequently thrives against defenses with Colorado's apparent shortcomings, passing and running the ball with similar skill. With a big game, he could move up to third in school history in career total yardage - with at least four games left in his sophomore season.

CONFERENCE DROUGHT: The Buffaloes have improved in some aspects during MacIntyre's debut season, but the results aren't yet obvious in Pac-12 play. Colorado has lost 12 straight conference games and is just 3-19 since joining the Pac-12 two seasons ago. With back-to-back road games against nationally ranked UCLA and Washington, the Buffaloes have a chance to herald their progress with an upset victory - or to take a few more lumps before an eminently winnable visit from California in two weeks.

FRESHMEN FUN: UCLA started seven true freshmen last week at Oregon, setting a school record. Three were on the offensive line: right tackle Caleb Benenoch and guards Alex Redmond and Scott Quessenberry. The Bruins played 11 more freshmen during the game. While some of the freshmen are playing due to injuries, others have earned their time - including rising star linebacker Myles Jack and tailback Paul Perkins. The Bruins hope they'll reap the benefits of all these youngsters' energy and experience down the stretch.

HAMPERED BRUINS: UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks, left tackle Simon Goines and tailback Jordon James all could play through injuries Saturday, or all three might miss the game. James has sat out the last three games with an injured ankle, going down at the start of what had been a promising season. Goines hurt his knee at Oregon last week while filling in for injured Torian White. Kendricks has made 24 consecutive starts, but he's nursing a variety of injuries. UCLA is deep at linebacker, however.

HURTING STAR: Colorado also has major injury question marks, none bigger than receiver Paul Richardson's injured ankle. The Buffs' leading pass-catcher got hurt in the second half against Arizona last week. The Los Angeles native is on pace to set a slew of single-season school records, but the injury could slow that quest while hindering Colorado's passing game with up-and-down freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau.

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