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Bruins capitalize on time despite being outplayed by Buffs in home win

By Anay Dattawadkar

Oct. 31, 2015 9:27 p.m.

The scoreline of UCLA’s 35-31 victory over Colorado was a fairly typical; one look at the stat sheet, however, will show just how misleading those numbers were.

This was a game where the Buffs ran nearly twice as many plays as the Bruins and where Colorado held the ball for over two-thirds of the game, a contest in which they at one point held UCLA’s offense off the field for 19 minutes – and ended up on the losing side.

“It was a weird kind of afternoon,” said offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone after the game. “It really was ‘famine, famine, feast’ for us today.”

UCLA gobbled up the field on big plays, racking up seven plays of 20-plus yards. In contrast, Colorado steadily made its way downfield, only to squander opportunities and execute poorly when it mattered.

Facing a ragged Bruin defense pushed to its last vestiges by injury, the Buffaloes racked up 554 yards on 114 plays, but were doomed by their failure to convert on scoring chances.

The first half was defined by three specific plays totaling less than a minute of game time but leading to 209 yards and 21 points.

The first was junior cornerback Ishmael Adams’s 96-yard interception return touchdown late in the second quarter, coming on the back of a 16-play, 59-yard Colorado drive. The second was Paul Perkins’s 82-yard rushing touchdown, where he ran essentially untouched into the end zone. The third came on Perkins’s 31-yard catch-and-run touchdown late in the first quarter.

“Colorado was stacking the box a lot, giving us one-on-ones on the outside,” said junior wide receiver Thomas Duarte. “That’s what allowed us to get so many big plays early on.”

In contrast, the Buffalo offensive drives were a parade of botched execution. Colorado racked up yards by the ton only to misfire late in drives. Time and time again, the team would string a series of plays together against the Bruin defense, gaining first downs and advancing downfield only to blunder and come up empty in the red zone. Going into halftime, Colorado had run 61 plays to UCLA’s 21, but trailed the Bruins, 21-6.

Though the scoreline changed and the Buffaloes began clawing back the second half, the general trend was no different. Through three quarters, the Colorado offense had run 90 plays and been on the field for an incredible 33 of 45 minutes, but still were down by 12 points.

Colorado would continue its surge, even taking a brief lead in the fourth quarter, setting up the game’s third act – which was effectively a microcosm of the afternoon. UCLA moved 69 yards in 27 seconds to jump ahead 35-31 and the Buffaloes were unable to score in the red zone on their ensuing possession, giving the Bruins the ball with three minutes left on the clock.

Needing only a few first downs to eat up the clock and put the game to bed, the Bruins could not stay on the field, forcing the defense back out to make one last stop.

It was a dizzying game in every regard, one which saw UCLA clamber back after being pushed to the edge. Under a baking Pasadena sun, the Bruins – spooked but unbowed – did just enough to keep this one from turning into a Halloween nightmare.

“We just kept playing,” said coach Jim Mora. “Our guys just kept playing, kept playing, kept playing, and made stops when we had to make stops. This was about as gritty a win I’ve ever been around.”

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