PASADENA, Calif. (AP) – Colorado hung with UCLA in the first half before the Bruins began their roll to a one-sided victory. The Buffaloes lost their 13th straight Pac-12 game and their 21st consecutive road game against a ranked team.
Yet coach Mike MacIntyre is seeing undeniable progress in his rebuilding project.
Brett Hundley threw two touchdown passes and rushed for two more scores, Devin Fuller accounted for three TDs, and No. 17 UCLA shook off back-to-back losses with a 45-23 victory over Colorado on Saturday night.
Sefo Liufau passed for 247 yards for the Buffaloes (3-5, 0-5), who haven’t beaten a ranked team on the road since 2002. Christian Powell rushed for 97 yards, Tony Jones rushed for a score, and Will Oliver kicked three field goals for the Buffs, who took solace in the fact they stuck with a Pac-12 power for most of the evening
“I think it shows we’re making progress,” MacIntyre said. “That gives everybody a little bit more confidence. Those kids and coaches in that locker room are all down, but there’s a resilience to them. … I saw great fight and great effort. I did see a lot of improvement, especially in our quarterback.”
Colorado began the afternoon with a promising victory, winning the opening coin toss for the first time in eight games this season. The Buffs trailed 21-13 at halftime despite possessing the ball for more than 20 minutes and outgaining the Bruins, who committed 75 yards of penalties in the first half.
UCLA scored on its first possession after halftime, and the Buffs’ night got no better. But nearly everybody heading back to Boulder chose to see the bright side of another dark day.
“I think we’re taking a step forward every week,” said Liufau, who went 25 for 36. “Obviously, we want to get a faster result and win games, but it’s not happening right now. We’ve been in a lot of games recently. It’s just a play here, a play there.”
Paul Richardson shook off an injury to catch eight passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. Richardson, a Los Angeles native whose father played for UCLA, was dismissed from UCLA three years ago after getting arrested on suspicion of theft before he ever played for the Bruins.
Damien Thigpen ran for a touchdown for the Bruins (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12), who rebounded from road defeats at Stanford and Oregon despite a sluggish start in their homecoming game.
“It’s a relief, but our confidence was never lost,” said Hundley, who moved into third place on UCLA’s career total yardage list. “Obviously, I know and we know that we can still get the job done. I feel like this team can really respond well, no matter what we go through.”
UCLA tried and failed to join the Pac-12’s upper echelon over the previous two weeks. The losses followed a similar pattern: The Bruins hung with the West Coast’s best until the second half, but an ineffective offense eventually left its defense on the field too long, leading to one-sided defeats in the final minutes.
Back home, UCLA’s defense finally got some help from the offense in a 412-yard performance. The Bruins have outscored their opponents 199-66 in four victories at the Rose Bowl this season, and they buried Colorado early in the second half with a 28-3 surge.
“I hate to admit this, but I thought there was a little hangover,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said. “We didn’t have the enthusiasm that we typically have. I told them at halftime that I didn’t think we were enjoying the game enough.”
The Bruins won despite 11 penalties for 122 yards, steadily pulling away from Colorado with solid defense and just enough playmaking from Hundley, their sophomore quarterback. Hundley finished with 345 total yards, passing Tom Ramsey and Cory Paus on UCLA’s career yardage list in just his 22nd game with the Bruins.
Hundley passed for 273 yards and scored on runs of 11 and 1 yards. Fuller caught a 6-yard TD pass after his long score, and the sophomore added a rushing TD with 3:36 to play in his most complete game since switching from quarterback to receiver last year.
After opening the game with two fruitless drives, UCLA’s offense drew a chorus of boos out of the Rose Bowl stands after a yardage-losing play to open its third drive.
On the next play, Hundley delivered a 76-yard TD strike down the middle to Fuller, who caught the ball in heavy coverage and kept his feet for a score – the longest pass in the careers of both Hundley and Fuller.
Colorado went back ahead in the second quarter with a 76-yard drive ending in Liufau’s TD pass to Richardson, but the Bruins responded with another strong drive capped by Hundley’s 11-yard TD run up the middle.
UCLA’s Cameron Judge then forced a fumble on Colorado’s ensuing kickoff return, and Hundley hit Fuller for a 6-yard TD catch capped by a pirouette at the goal line for an 11-point lead.
– By GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer
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