Friday Fast Five: Keys for Buffs vs. UCLA

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PASADENA, Calif .– It’s been a while since Karl DorrellThe Colorado Buffaloes have won back-to-back games.

In fact, it’s been almost a year since the Buffs knocked out San Diego State and Arizona for two consecutive weeks in the abridged 2020 season.

Since then, the Buffs have won just three of 11, including a 3-6 record this season (2-4 Pac-12).

But after an overtime win over Oregon State last weekend, the Buffs’ bowl hopes are still alive, and they’ll aim to put together a modest two-game winning streak on Saturday when they go to the Rose Bowl. for a 7 p.m. clash with UCLA (5-4, 3-3).

The match will be televised by the Pac-12 network, with KOA broadcasting the radio.

Speaking of streaks, at least one will end on Saturday.

The Buffs haven’t won at Pasadena since 2002, with five straight losses to the Bruins at home since.

But UCLA’s home advantage hasn’t really paid off this year, as the Bruins have lost three in a row at the Rose Bowl.

What do the Buffs need to do to end their slippage in Pasadena, earn their second straight win, and extend the Bruins’ home misery in the process?

1. Contains the UCLA racing game. The Bruins are 29th nationally in rushing yards, averaging 199.4 yards per game. Tailback Zach Charbonnet is averaging 88.6 yards per game (fourth best in the Pac-12) and quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is also a threat with his legs (he ran for 109 and pitched for 303 during Colorado’s 48-42 victory last year at Boulder).

Stopping the Bruins on the ground will be a tall order for the Buffs, who, once again, will likely be without the All-American linebacker. Nate landman. Without him in the last two games, CU allowed 256 rushing yards (Oregon) and 220 (Oregon State) in the last two games.

But if the Buffs can keep the Bruins under control on the court, their chances of winning will be greatly improved, as UCLA has lived (and died) with its racing game.

The key statistic?

When the Bruins have run for at least 200 yards this season, they’re 5-0. When they’ve been limited to under 200, they’re 0-4.

2. Start fast. We made it a key to last week’s game and the Buffs pulled it off, scoring their first first-quarter touchdown since Week 2 of the season, en route to a 10-0 lead early on.

They’ll need another quick start this weekend, but again, it won’t be easy. The Bruins have outscored their opponents 79-25 in the first quarter so far this season, and the opponents have scored just two touchdowns in the first period.

But CU is familiar with quick starts against the Bruins. In last season’s win, Colorado took a 35-7 lead in the first half and then held on down the home stretch.

So how do buffs produce this initial energy? Glad you asked …

3. Get the quarterback Brendon lewis in rhythm early. There is no doubt that CU’s freshman QB is currently playing his best ball of the season. He threw six touchdown passes in the last two games and no interceptions.

Last week, he completed his first four attempts of the night to put the Buffs in position for a first basket, then completed two on CU’s next possession, including a 43-yard TD for Daniel Arias.

If Colorado can help Lewis get some early success again, the Buffs will be in good shape.

4. Win the sales battle. This is the second part of the quick start equation.

A year ago, the Buffs claimed four first-half turnovers against UCLA, a very big reason for the 35-7 lead early on.

But CU’s defense hasn’t quite been a take-away machine this year, claiming just seven in nine games. The Buffs pulled off a big interception by Isaiah Lewis last week to arrest an Oregon state drive, but they’ll likely have to force more than one this week – something they’ve only accomplished once a year (Arizona).

The flip side is that CU’s offense was exceptional in protecting the ball. Colorado has lost just six turnovers this year and has gone five times without a single turnaround (a program record).

How important are turnovers to the Bruins?

In Chip Kelly’s four years at UCLA, they are over-19 in winnings and under-27 in losses. This year, UCLA committed seven of its 10 total turnovers in its four losses.

So if the Buffs can force a few mistakes out of UCLA – especially early on – it’ll be the kind of nudge that could change the complexion of the game.

5. Throw the ball with authority. CU’s rushed offense looked the best of the entire season last week, crushing 222 yards behind a rejuvenated offensive line, with Jarek Broussard rushing for a better season 151.

Chances are, the Bruins will focus on stopping the run first and see if Lewis can continue his hot streak – and that’s why the Buffs need to be able to crush tough yards.

UCLA’s run defense is strong, dropping just 116.6 per game (19th nationally), and the Bruins have held four opponents within 100 yards (all wins).

But if the Buffs can hammer the Bruins on the inside and convert some short-range situations, they can dictate the tempo and be in the game on the home stretch.

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