It may have taken a while, but the 2020 season for the Colorado Buffaloes came without further delay on Saturday night. There was no K.D. Nixon or Alex Fontenot for the Buffs offense, but their replacements starred in CU’s 48-42 win over the UCLA Bruins.
This game seemed over before it started, even if it didn’t end up that way. The new-look Buffs under Karl Dorrell took advantage of two early Bruins turnovers to take a 14-0 lead early of the first quarter.
The first came from Derrion Rakestraw forcing UCLA returner Kyle Philips to fumble on a punt at the Bruins’ 25-yard line. Sam Noyer and the Buffs offense capitalized with a 4-play, 25-yard drive capped off by running back Jarek Broussard running it in from six yards out.
A mere six seconds later, UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson was picked off by Carson Wells, which set up Buffs with a goal-to-go situation at the Bruins’ 1-yard line. One play later, Broussard romped into the end zone for a second score to give the Buffs a two-score lead just six minutes into the game.
Thompson-Robinson and UCLA’s offense responded with a 6-play, 60 yard drive to cut CU’s lead to seven. The Bruins’ dual-threat passer completed a screen pass to Demetric Felton, who took it in for the 28-yard touchdown with 1:12 to go in the first quarter.
On the following CU drive, Noyer found Brady Russell for his first-ever career touchdown to push Colorado’s lead back to 14 by a score of 21-7. UCLA took their next possession down the field, but failed to execute as Thompson-Robinson committed another turnover, a fumble that was recovered by Rakestraw.
The Bruins suffered yet another fumble — this time by Demetric Felton at UCLA’s 7-yard line. That once again set up the Buffaloes with a short field. Broussard would pound in his third rushing touchdown of the night to increase CU’s lead to 28-7. The Buffs’ next drive saw Noyer turn around and construct a 6-play, 70-yard drive that ended in a 2-yard Jaren Mangham touchdown run. That gave CU a commanding 35-14 lead at halftime.
What promised to be easy path to victory turned into somewhat of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde affair for the Buffs in the second half. UCLA got two quick touchdowns early in the third quarter to bring CU’s lead down to 35-28.
Noyer would come back to add the first rushing touchdown of his career. A quick burst from 1-yard out at 6:41 to go in the third quarter to put CU’s lead at 42-28. Down, but not out for Thompson-Robinson and the Bruins who still had life with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Keegan Jones to bring CU’s lead back to seven points, 42-35.
CU’s defense would hold tight in the fourth quarter, forcing UCLA’s offense to turn the ball over on down twice before allowing a late touchdown. The Buffs would tack on two Evan Price field goals to seal the victory.
There was a lot of speculation as to what exactly Noyer would bring to CU’s offense after being named the starting QB last week. The fifth-year senior went 20-of-31 for 257 passing yards, along with 13 carries for 64 rushing yards and two total touchdowns. He was a one-two punch with Broussard, who himself ran for 191 yards and three touchdowns in his first ever appearance.
Colorado overwhelmed UCLA by forcing four early turnovers and holding them to two late turnover on downs. Even with all their big plays, UCLA’s year-to-year progress was shot by miscues and mistakes, adding just another reason why Chip Kelly’s seat may get hotter in the coming weeks.
Colorado wins their first home opener in Pac-12 play in two years. The last was a 38-16 victory over UCLA on Sept. 28, 2018 as part of a five-game winning streak to open the season. This also marks a fifth-straight win in season openers for CU with the previous four vs. CSU.
The Buffs head to Palo Alto next week for a meeting with Stanford on Saturday, Nov. 14 (1:30 p.m./ ESPN2 or ESPNU). Stanford lost to Oregon, 35-14, on Saturday and will be without starting QB Davis Mills due to a positive COVID-19 test.