I’ll be honest…
I don’t think I have ever had such mixed feelings about a win as a member of the UCLA community and as a longtime Bruin fan as I had after Jim Mora’s team faced Colorado on Saturday evening.
Sure, there were plenty of positives besides the Bruins getting the 45-23 win over the Buffaloes before a large and enthusiastic Homecoming crowd of 80,337 that even saw a marriage proposal on the sidelines during the second half, when a former cheerleader’s now-fiance got down on his knees and presented a ring in front of the UCLA student section.
Sure, Brett Hundley did much to right his ship as the quarterback completed 19 of his 24 pass attempts for 274 yards after his poor performance the week before at Oregon, accounting for four touchdowns – two rushing, two throwing – including a 76-yard bomb to Devin Fuller in the first quarter.
Which showed Bruin Nation that he is still able to successfully throw downfield.
And sure, UCLA got its sixth win to earn bowl eligibility and to keep pace in the Pac-12 South, their 3-2 conference record (6-2 overall) good for a second place tie with Arizona and USC, with Arizona State sitting in first place at 4-1.
I’ll gladly take the victory as it is not my intention to be a Debbie Downer or to rain on anyone’s parade.
It was crystal clear from the onset that Colorado (3-5, 0-5 in the Pac-12) was a team with a mindset of having nothing to lose at the Rose Bowl, and played like such as the Bruins’ epic failure to put pressure on Buffaloes quarterback Sefo Liufau, who for much of the game had all day to throw, cost the team.
Liufau took advantage of UCLA’s weak pass rush as he nearly matched Hundley’s yardage total with his 247, plus a touchdown pass to Paul Richardson that incredibly gave the Buffs, a 28-point underdog, a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter.
UCLA restored order in taking the lead back for good on an 11-yard Hundley scoring run a few minutes later, but Mora had to be at least a little upset as quite frankly, the Bruins played down to Colorado’s level, leading only by a 24-13 score entering the half when the score should have been 31-7 or something like that.
I’m sure that the Buffaloes, a Pac-12 bottom feeder since they entered the conference in 2011, thought they could actually win the game at that point, which – for me, anyway – was cause for deep concern.
Touchdown runs by Hundley and Damien Thigpen in the third quarter extended the Bruins’ lead and gave the homecoming crowd a good sense of relief, but like a pesky dog, Colorado never backed down – which they actually should be given credit for as largely thanks to Liufau’s passing and eluding ability, the Buffaloes finished with 381 yards on the night.
The penalty bug reared its ugly head with a vengeance as UCLA had 11 flags thrown on them for 122 yards.
In fairness, at least two of the penalties were bogus, one in particular when replays showed that defensive lineman Ellis McCarthy, who was called for roughing the passer, wasn’t even close to Liufau on that particular play.
Meanwhile the referees were absolutely blind to Richardson delivering a dirty cheap shot on defensive back Anthony Jefferson, forcing him out of the game; for a moment it was almost as if the Bruins were playing 11-on-18: eleven Colorado players and seven refs.
The fact that the guys with the whistles failed to award UCLA the ball after a fumble, when the replay showed that the Buffalo player had clearly lost the ball, didn’t help their cause for impartiality among the Bruin fans, either.
But it ultimately didn’t affect the outcome as a final eight-yard scoring run by Fuller with three and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter ended any doubt.
As was said, I – and the rest of Bruin Nation – will gladly take this win.
Mora expressed this sentiment well when he said, “The day I can’t enjoy a win, then it’s time to get out of this thing. I want to enjoy every day of this.”
It was a bit disappointing, at least to me, that UCLA didn’t dominate over a team that they should have as – with all due respect – there was no way that those Buffs from Boulder should have gotten 23 points and no way on this planet that CU should have stayed with the Bruins for as long as they did.
I was looking for now-19th ranked (in the BCS) UCLA to put a whipping on Colorado by something along the lines of 52-7 or 56-10, and was let down when that didn’t happen.
Most of all, the game left me with this strong conviction:
If these Bruins play their next opponent – Arizona in Tucson – the way they played against Colorado, they may well lose as the Wildcats are a much better team than the Buffaloes, are playing at home, and DEARLY want revenge for the beatdown they took last year.
In other words, the Bruins need to perform ten times better next Saturday.
In fact, they need to perform at least ten times better for the next four Saturdays, as they need to win out over four tough teams – Arizona, Washington, Arizona State, and USC – if they want to reach the Pac-12 championship game.
They can win those four remaining games, but they could also lose them as well.
We will see whether it’s one or the other starting in Tucson this coming Saturday night.
Arizona Wildcats (6-2, 3-2 in the Pac-12 Conference)
PLACE: Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 9, 7:00 p.m.
LAST MEETING: UCLA won, 66-10
ALL-TIME SERIES: UCLA leads, 20-15-2
A full preview of the Arizona game will appear on the site later this week.