Fresh off their bye week, Coach Prime and the Colorado Buffaloes went into the Rose Bowl to take on 23rd ranked UCLA. The Buffs were heavy underdogs, with UCLA being favored by around 15 points right before kickoff. Despite the defense absolutely showing out on Saturday, Colorado fell to the Bruins by a score of 28-16.
The Buffs looked good right out of the gate. After getting the ball first, quarterback Shedeur Sanders led the Buffaloes on a drive that resulted in a short field goal. Only three plays later, Buffs cornerback Travis Hunter perfectly read UCLA quarterback Ethan Garbers’ eyes to undercut his pass to intercept it. Hunter’s pick set the Buffs up with great field position, but they once again couldn’t find the end zone and settled for a field goal. The Buffs took a quick 6-0 with just seven minutes played, but that’s where things started to fall apart for Colorado.
The wheels began to fall for Colorado’s offense immediately after their first two drives. Shedeur was getting no time in the pocket to make his reads which caused the entire offense to stall out. UCLA scored one touchdown in the second quarter and the Buffaloes went into halftime down 6-7.
Only two plays after halftime, the Bruins rattled off a quick touchdown to make the score 14-6. Colorado’s offense would continue to falter, except for a 44 yard reception from Xavier Weaver which set the Buffs up at the UCLA 9-yard line. Despite having four tries to get only nine yards, the Buffs couldn’t manage to punch it in and settled for yet another field goal to make the score 14-9. The Bruins then proceeded to go on two methodical drive which each around five minutes off the game clock, both of which resulted in touchdowns. The Buffs finally found the end zone off a Jimmy Horn Jr. touchdown catch with 2:37 left to play, but it was already too late. The Buffs ended up losing to UCLA 28-16.
First things first, let’s address the elephant in the room: the offensive line. Colorado’s big men had their worst showing so far this year by a country mile on Saturday. UCLA’s defensive front absolute feasted on them. The unit couldn’t stop anything and let the Bruins tee off on Shedeur. Pretty much every single time Shedeur dropped back to pass, he was running for his life or getting hit. Colorado’s offensive line allowed 24 pressures, seventeen quarterback hits, thirteen knock downs and seven sacks.
This week’s game made something very clear, that the offensive line as it is currently constructed just isn’t viable for success. The unit is undersized and gets overpowered way too easily, which was very evident tonight. Even Deion made it very clear that the offensive line needs to be torn apart and completely rebuilt from scratch during his post game presser.
“The big picture is you get new linemen,” said Sanders. “That’s the picture and I’m going to paint it perfectly.”
Despite taking an absolute beating tonight, Shedeur played very well. The Colorado quarterback made the most of what little time he got in the pocket, passing for 217 yards and a touchdown. After the game, Shedeur took responsibility for the Buffs’ offensive woes.
“I’m a little banged up right now. That’s what happens when you go against a good defense,” said Shedeur postgame.
“A little beat up” is the understatement of the century by Shedeur, as he was limping and hobbling around all night after taking numerous big hits. Deion even admitted that Shedeur needed to get an injection at halftime because he was in so much pain.
“The quarterback took an injection at halftime. I probably shouldn’t tell [the public] that, but I’ll keep it 100% and just block some of the pain,” said Coach Prime. “So I’m gonna give [Shedeur] the next few days off.”
Colorado’s play calling tonight didn't do them any favors either. Despite Shedeur not getting any time in the pocket to pass, offensive coordinator Sean Lewis decided to barely run the ball at all. The Buffs only ran the nine times the entire game. Colorado’s inability to establish a run game has bogged down the offense significantly. Coach Prime said the Buffs clearly pass reliant offense is becoming too one dimensional postgame.
“It’s a struggle to run the ball. We’ve got to figure that out because we are one dimensional,” said Deion. “Its easy to stop a team when they are one dimensional and that is who we are at this point in time.”
Alright, that’s enough of groveling about the Buffs offensive problems. Let’s talk about the positives from the game, namely the defense. Colorado’s defense had perhaps their best game of the season against UCLA. Not only did the Buffs hold UCLA to only 28 points, they came away with an impressive four turnovers. Travis Hunter came away with two incredible interceptions and safeties Shilo Sanders and Rodrick Ward both laid out massive hits which forced UCLA fumbles. Without the defense’s heroics, this game likely would have been a blowout. The unit seems to have fixed their issues from that dreaded Stanford loss, as they looked very sharp against the Bruins.
The Buffs also look like they’ve finally resolved some of their penalties issues, which is great news. Going into the game, the Buffs were dead last in the country in penalties called against them. Against UCLA, they were only flagged seven times for sixty yards. That’s a giant improvement from being flagged seventeen times in their previous game against Stanford. Some of the penalties against CU from this week’s game were pretty weak, especially Shedeur getting called for intentional grounding on a pass deflected by a UCLA defender. Shilo ended up getting ejected from the game on a questionable targeting call just to add insult to injury too.
The Buffs now fall to a record of 4-4 on the season. The Buffs have a really tough test next week when Oregon State comes to Folsom on Saturday night. Hopefully the defense can keep their momentum going and the offensive line can iron out from of their issues. If the Buffs can stop Oregon State’s relentless rushing attack, they could come away with a win.