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Colorado Buffaloes vs. UCLA Bruins: Report card

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More thoughts from the Buffs tough loss

NCAA Football: Colorado at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Dropped passes, untimely penalties and some rather unusual play calling was the difference in the Colorado Buffaloes 27-23 loss to UCLA Saturday night. The loss puts the Buffs at 3-2 overall, 0-2 in Pac-12 play.

OFFENSE: C+

After throwing three interceptions in last week’s 37-10 loss to Washington, Steven Montez looked sharp against UCLA, despite not getting much help from his offensive line and wide receivers. Consistently under pressure from UCLA’s front seven, the El Paso, Texas native competed 17-of-36 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown in the loss. He also led the Buffs with 108-yards rushing on 15 attempts, including a pair of beautiful option runs in the second half.

It comes as no surprise that Montez and Phillip Lindsay (19 carries, 83 yards, TD) were able to run the ball against UCLA; I just wish they had gone to the ground game more. The Bruins entered the game ranked dead last in the FBS in rush defense, allowing over 300 yards per game. The play of the offensive line the last two weeks has been surprising. Unless the Buffs can provide Montez more protection, it’ll be a long season for the sophomore signal caller. Despite Montez’s composed play, the Buffs finished with one touchdown and three field goals in five trips inside UCLA’s red zone. "That's on me — it's my team," Montez said following the loss. “When we get down that close, we have to score touchdowns."

DEFENSE: B

Prior to Saturday’s contest, the Bruins were averaging 45 points per game. For the Buffs defense to hold Josh Rosen and the Bruins to their lowest point total of the season, I’m giving D.J. Eliot’s unit a respectable grade. A week after allowing Myles Gaskin to rush for over 200 yards, CU’s rush defense held UCLA to 95 yards on the ground, 2.7 yards per rush. Linebackers Drew Lewis and Rick Gamboa played exceptional, especially considering they had the added task of covering one of top receiving tight ends in the country, UCLA’s Caleb Wilson. Despite injuries to Trey Udoffia and Afolabi Laguda, the Buffs secondary held Rosen to 372 yards passing. And while that number may seem high, the UCLA junior was averaging 440 passing yards per game prior to Saturday’s contest.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C+

30-year old freshman kicker James Stefanou continues to impress with his right leg, connecting on all three of his field goal attempts against UCLA. Stefanou is now 10-of-11 on the season, which according to CUBuffs.com is the third-best beginning in field goal makes in school history. So why the C+ grade? Near the end of the first half, the Buffs had an opportunity to put three points on the board and cut the UCLA lead to 14-13 at the break. Facing a fourth-and-seven from the Bruins 11-yard line, the Buffs tried a fake field goal instead. Holder T.J. Patterson threw to Stefanou who dropped the pass with UCLA linebacker Kenny Young breathing down his neck.

"Yeah, I'd do it again 100 times if I had 100 more chances," MacIntyre said. "Everything we saw set up exactly the right way.” I’m all for trick plays assuming the timing is right. And in my opinion, the timing was fine. Down four. Closing minutes of the first half. Why not give this a chance and possibly take the leading heading into the locker room, especially when your team is receiving the ball to start the second half?

As for the execution, that’s another story.

OVERALL: C+

Several missed opportunities cost the Buffaloes a conference win Saturday night. Montez’s decision making was much better this week, but dropped passes and poor offensive line play has the Buffs now 0-2 in conference play. The play calling was certainly more creative against UCLA, but Phillip Lindsay needed more than 19 carries against the worst rush defense in the nation.

NEXT UP: Saturday, October 7 vs. Arizona (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) – 6 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks

This is a must-win if the Buffaloes expect to get back in the Pac-12 South race. Arizona (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) is coming off a 30-24 loss to division leader Utah. Behind the play of dual-threat quarterback Brandon Dawkins, the Wildcats are a much different team than the one which finished 3-9 last season.