Pasadena, Calif. The Bruins got fancy and broke out the light blue retro uniforms Saturday, a tribute to its only national championship team in 1954. UCLA lived up to that championship moment.
No. 23 UCLA withstood a terrible afternoon on offense to beat Colorado 28-16 before 71,343 at the Rose Bowl, the largest home crowd of the Chip Kelly regime.
The Bruins (6-2 overall, 3-2 Pac-12) limited the Buffaloes (4-4, 1-4) to 38 yards rushing and 244 yards of offense while giving up just three field goals and one time touchdown.
“Our defense is the best I’ve ever seen, quarterback Ethan Garbers said on a night when he was pinpoint accurate, “and the best I’ve ever gone against in practice.”
After committing four first-half turnovers, the Bruins was settled down in the second half while outscoring the Buffaloes, 21-10, satisfying a shock crowd.
UCLA racked up seven sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Edge rusher Gabriel Murphy had 2½ sacks and Laiatu Latu had two, giving him 8½ sacks on the season — two short of his total for all of last season.
The Bruins led 7-6 at the break but scored touchdowns on three of its first four drives in the second half to take control of the game. That helped turn the tide from a first half where they turned it over on four of their seven possessions, including two in the red zone.
Shedeur Sanders finished 27 of 43 for 217 yards and a touchdown. Alejandro Mata had three field goals and Travis Hunter had a pair of interceptions. Sanders was on immense pressure all game long couldn’t find any real feel of the game.
Sanders was sacked seven times in this game. The Buffaloes have allowed 42 this season, the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
It appeared as if a Sanders-coached team would not find the end zone for the first time in his four seasons as a collegiate coach until wide-out Jimmy Horn Jr. caught an 18-yard TD with 2:37 remaining left on the clock.
“We just weren’t on the same page tonight, overall, but we just got to watch the film and get better,” Shedeur Sanders said.
UCLA’s sputtering offense suddenly got on track on its first drive of the third quarter. Garbers followed a 49-yard pass to an open Loya with a 26-yard touchdown pass over the middle to an open Moliki Matavao.
In just two plays, the Bruins had gone 75 yards while doubling their point total in taking a 14-6 lead. After that it was all UCLA dominating on both ends of the line of scrimmage.
There was also a special-teams miscue when UCLA kicker R.J. Lopez bounced a 24-yard field-goal attempt off the left upright, his third consecutive miss and fifth in his last eight tries since the team switched holders this month.
UCLA coach Chip Kelly had a simple message for his team at the break — get in the holiday spirit.
“I had to remind our kids that this was Halloween, not Christmas. We need to stop giving away gifts. And let’s just make sure that it’s Halloween, so let’s put your scary masks on and go play,” Kelly said.
The Buffaloes scored on its first two drives and took a 6-0 lead as Mata connected on field goals from 31 and 39 yards. Colorado had a short field on their second possession after Hunter’s first interception at the UCLA 36-yard line. But all of their drives they couldn’t punch it in the end-zone, they had to settle for field goals that was difference in the game.
Colorado safety Shilo Sanders was ejected for targeting in the second quarter when his shoulder hit on UCLA tight end Caresen Ryan in the face mask area.
Sanders celebrated and flexed after the hit while penalty flags hit the turf.
Earlier in the quarter, Sanders’ shoulder forced Steele to fumble for UCLA’s second turnover of the half. The normally sure handed Steele had two fumbles in the first half.
“He’s got to keep it low. If you keep it low, there’s no question. I believe he was not in fault, because he turned his shoulder,” Deion Sanders said. “He was having a heck of a game. He was dominant on the defensive side of the ball. I was proud of him. I’m sorry this transpired, but I was proud of his effort.”
Colorado: The Buffaloes have lost four of their last five games and will have a tough road finding two wins the rest of the way if they want to get bowl eligible.
Colorado: Hosts No. 11 Oregon State next Saturday.
UCLA: Travels to Arizona next Saturday.