LOS ANGELES -- The UCLA Bruins will be looking to atone for their first loss of the season when they face the Colorado Buffaloes on Saturday at 3 p.m. PT in Boulder, Colo. But they'll be going up against a re-energized Colorado squad coming off of a dramatic victory at Washington State.
The Buffaloes had been pegged to finish last in the Pac-12 this season and had done little to dispel the notion that they would through the first three weeks, but they came alive with three touchdowns in the final seven minutes Saturday for a 35-34 victory against the Cougars.
The game-winning score came on a quarterback draw with nine seconds remaining, giving Colorado its first victory after losses to Colorado State to Sacramento State, along with a 69-14 drubbing at Fresno State. It was the kind of victory that could jump start a season … and that has UCLA coach Jim Mora concerned.
"It’s a great come-from-behind win on the road against a Pac-12 opponent," Mora said. "I think that boosts your spirits. They had a couple of tough losses and now they get to come home off of a win. I think that’ll help them emotionally."
While Colorado will be playing at home for the first time in three weeks, UCLA will be on the road for the first time in nearly a month. The Bruins opened with a victory at Rice, but have since played Nebraska, Houston and Oregon State at the Rose Bowl.
Mora said it will be important to understand that UCLA could be in the same boat as Washington State, which was surprised by Colorado. The Buffaloes looked bad in their first three games. Consider: Colorado State ended last season on an eight-game losing streak, but defeated Colorado, 22-17, in the season opener. The Buffaloes then lost to FBS Sacramento State, 30-28, before getting blasted at Fresno State.
It would have been easy to overlook Colorado, a team UCLA defeated 45-6 last season, but their victory at Washington State should get UCLA's attention.
"We really try to stay away from looking at a team’s record," Mora said. "We try to stay away from looking at a team’s emotional state of being. That takes the focus off of what we need to do, which is to prepare the best we can. I’m sure there is always a little bit of that, but we do the best job we can of keeping our guys focused on what we need to do to win the football game each week."
Colorado quarterback Jordan Webb, a Kansas transfer, seemed to find his rhythm in Pullman, Wash., where he passed for 345 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more scores. Webb, named Pac-12 offensive player of the week, had only 432 yards passing in the first three games combined.
Christian Powell, a 6-foot, 235-pound freshman running back, provides the running threat. He has 265 yards and three touchdowns and, a converted fullback, is a much bigger back than UCLA has faced so far this season.
"He’s hard to bring down," Mora said. "This is not a guy that you are going to block down. You’re going to have to bring your arms; you’re going to have to grab cloth, drive your feet, roll your hips and do all those things. And you’re going to have to gang tackle, because this guy will break tackles."
Defensively, Colorado has proven vulnerable. The Buffaloes are giving up 38.75 points per game and rank No. 114 in the nation in scoring defense. They are No. 102 in total defense, having allowed an average of 472.5 yards per game to date.
Still, Mora is more concerned about the way Colorado fought till the end at Washington State, where the Buffaloes scored on a 70-yard pass and an 84-yard run in the fourth quarter.
"It’s exponentially more difficult to fight back on the road when you are down the way they were and get a win," Mora said. "That was really impressive to me. Really impressive. It says a lot about the character of their kids and about their coaching staff."