Colorado just could not handle the physicality of No. 23 UCLA.
Deion Sanders’ Buffaloes hung tough in the first half at the Rose Bowl, forcing four turnovers as they went into the halftime locker room trailing just 7-6. But the second half was a different story.
The Bruins attacked Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders with constant and ferocious pressure and beat up the CU front with a balanced offensive attack. The end result was a 28-16 victory for the Bruins that delivered another blow to Colorado’s chances of reaching a bowl game in Deion Sanders’ first season as head coach.
It was a dominant effort from UCLA, but the four first-half turnovers caused by the Colorado defense kept the game close. The Buffs actually had a 6-0 lead thanks to two field goals, one of which was set up by the first of two interceptions by two-way star Travis Hunter.
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UCLA took a 7-6 lead on a Carson Steele touchdown grab from Ethan Garbers in the first minute of the second quarter. From there, the Bruins had multiple chances to add to that lead, but two fumbles by Steele, another impressive Hunter interception and a missed 24-yard field goal kept the Bruins off the scoreboard.
On the other side, Shedeur Sanders had no time to operate. UCLA has one of the best front sevens in the country, and Colorado’s offensive line was completely outclassed. Sanders was bruised and limping by the time halftime rolled around, and that only continued into the second half.
UCLA needed just two plays to score on its first drive of the second half as Garbers found Logan Loya for a 49-yard gain and then hit tight end Moliki Matavao for a 26-yard score. The Buffs would tack on another field goal to make it 14-9, but the Bruins put a stranglehold on the game with their next two scoring drives.
The first was a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by TJ Harden. After forcing a Colorado punt, the Bruins then went 75 yards in 11 plays to score again, this time on a 7-yard run from backup QB Collin Schlee. Those two drives took more than 11 minutes off the clock and extended UCLA’s lead to 28-9 with 6:34 to play.
Colorado would finally get in the end zone with a Sanders touchdown pass to Jimmy Horn in the final minutes. But it was too late.
By the time the final whistle sounded, Colorado had just 255 yards and finished the game averaging only 3.7 yards per play. Sanders, who was sacked seven times and hit six other times, finished the day with 217 yards, his second-lowest output of the season.
With the win, UCLA improved to 6-2 overall and 3-2 in Pac-12 play. The Bruins are trying to keep pace in a crowded Pac-12, but have no room for error as they are behind undefeated Washington and three one-loss teams.
Colorado, meanwhile, is now 4-4 overall with a 1-4 conference record. The Buffs started the season 3-0, but the path to a bowl game will be a difficult one. The Buffs will host No. 11 Oregon State and Arizona in the next two weeks before closing out the year on the road versus Washington State and Utah.
Colorado won just one game a year ago, so Sanders has already significantly elevated the program. But games like this one show how far he has to go.