Way back when before UCLA faced Colorado on their schedule, to them this was just another game. Since joining the Pac-12, UCLA has had their number 9 of 12 times.
What could have been all the buzz was created by all the hype Deion Sanders brought to this Buffaloes team. A 2-0 start was thwarted by Oregon’s beatdown. Since that game, their season went from all the hype to just another team on the schedule.
Fans of college football think otherwise, however. The game was a sellout just weeks before kickoff. Third party markets had cheap seats marked at well over $150. The press room, which normally is less than half full, used every seat just like they would in every Rose Bowl game. All this for a game that featured a UCLA team that needs to win out to clinch a spot in a Pac-12 title game, and a Colorado team that is squeaking by teams in the bottom of the conference and losing hope before the first drive against ranked teams.
This was the kind of game that the Bruins have been looking for: a packed house and a crowd sold on this team. They saw, however, a Bruins team that somehow ran into a heavily motivated Buffaloes team knowing their schedule doesn’t get easier after this week. The game didn’t turn out pretty, but a 29-17 win at the very least gives the Bruins a nice path to a lot of possibilities.
“The combination of a large crowd and Terry Donahue’s statue the night before was fitting for all of us,” head coach Chip Kelly said. “This was much needed. Our defense was big while our offense had a lot of holes. Give credit to the all around effort that put us in a great position.”
Ethan Garbers revived his UCLA career with a second chance at quarterback after performing well against Stanford last week. He was met by just about every Colorado defensive lineman, being sacked three times. However, he was rarely put under pressure without being hurried, and his 20-for-27, 269 yard night with two touchdowns made his first half blunder with his lone interception made it seem like he earned back his starting role.
“After the first interception, in my head I kept telling myself one play at a time and I needed to just let the game flow,” Garbers said. “Those turnovers were just mistakes and they can be fixed. We knew our defense was doing their job and we had to pick it up. Our offense has a lot of resiliency.”
“Ethan is a resilient kid, and you can’t dwell on the pass that got Colorado a turnover early,” Kelly said. “He is still learning but he has grown quickly.”
Pass interferences and turnovers were the storyline of the UCLA defense. A number of UCLA corners tangled up with Colorado receivers. In each instance the Buffaloes were not able to take advantage, where their only scoring drives led to field goals that at one point just kept the game close. Shilo Sanders’s stats were padded at the end with his lone touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. He ended the night going 27 for 42 with just over 215 yards.
“Our offense had a lot of holes, but credit to the defense that gave us all the momentum we needed,” head coach Chip Kelly said. “We have a lot to review and improve upon. This game gave us a lot of momentum when we needed it most.”
UCLA has a very favorable schedule moving forward. The matchup against USC could be the turning factor to see where the season could end up. As they are now bowl eligible, their remaining opponents are should-wins that could put them as a Pac-12 title contender.
“We analyze everything during the week and everything can change,” Kelly said. “We always play our strategy on game day and from there we get ourselves ready to go knowing we have big games ahead.”