This post was updated Sept. 28 at 11:15 p.m.
BOULDER, Colo. — The Bruins played their best game of the season, but it was not enough to earn them a victory.
UCLA football (0-4) ran out of steam in the second half against Colorado (4-0) on Friday night at Folsom Field, losing to the Buffaloes 38-16. The Bruins have not been winless through four games since 1971, and with a loss next week, would match their worst start since 1943.
Coach Chip Kelly said losing should not be something the team dwells on moving forward, however.
“That’s life. No one feels bad for you, so we’ve gotta get up and get ready to go play again,” Kelly said. “I don’t think our next opponent is going to say, ‘Oh, they lost, let’s take it easy on them.”
Colorado entered the second half with a 14-13 lead and was forced to punt on its first drive. UCLA took the lead on its next possession after a 40-yard field goal from junior kicker JJ Molson – his third successful field goal of the night.
The Bruins would not score again.
The Buffaloes put together back-to-back touchdown drives to close out the third quarter, giving them a 28-16 lead heading into the fourth.
Wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. scored the first touchdown on a 1-yard rush following a direct snap to give Colorado a 21-16 lead – his second touchdown of the night. Shenault was also a major factor in the passing game, hauling in 12 receptions for 126 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.
Kelly said Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre’s creative game plan made it hard for the defense to contain Shenault’s explosiveness throughout the night.
“You have to make sure you know where he is,” Kelly said. “(MacIntyre) does a really good job, they line (Shenault) up in wildcat, they move him around, he plays inside receiver, he plays outside receiver.”
Quarterback Steven Montez led the way for Colorado, finishing with one touchdown through the air and a completion percentage of 85 on 22-of-26 passing. Montez also recorded 81 rushing yards on 11 carries for two scores.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson was not as sharp. The freshman threw for 96 yards and a touchdown in the first half, but was only 5-of-16 in the second half for 42 yards.
Thompson-Robinson said that while he knows that there is plenty of room for improvement, he has not lost faith in Kelly’s offensive scheme.
“Once you clean up the little things, it’ll get there,” Thompson-Robinson said. “We all believe in the process and we all believe in coach Kelly.”
The Bruins’ only touchdown of the game came on their second drive following a 32-yard punt return from freshman wide receiver Kyle Philips to set them up at the Buffaloes’ 47-yard line. Thompson-Robinson connected with freshman wide receiver Michael Ezeike on a jump ball in the back corner of the end zone to give UCLA a 7-0 lead.
The Bruins did have success running the ball, however.
Redshirt junior running back Joshua Kelley spearheaded the UCLA ground attack, racking up 124 yards on 12 carries. As a team, the Bruins finished the night with 151 yards rushing, a season high.
Kelley did not record a single carry in UCLA’s Sept. 15 loss to Fresno State, but credited his work in practice this past week for the increased workload Friday.
The former UC Davis tailback also said that he believes in the Bruins’ ability to right the ship this season but said that it starts with each individual player on the roster doing their own part.
“There’s a lot of finger pointing – I know that’s how it goes, but you just gotta point the thumb at yourself and look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘All right, what can I do better?’” Kelley said. “And if we can get the whole team to do that top to bottom, then we’re gonna be good.”
UCLA will host No. 11 Washington at the Rose Bowl for its first Pac-12 home game of the season Oct. 6.