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— Jon Christon (@JonChristonDB) September 24, 2022
UCLA football beats Buffaloes in blowout, secures 4-0 record
Senior running back Zach Charbonnet attempts to escape the grasp of a defender. Charbonnet posted three touchdowns through three quarters as UCLA football cruised to a win over Colorado. (Anya Yakimenko/Daily Bruin staff)
By Jon Christon
Sept. 24, 2022 2:41 p.m.
This post was updated Sept. 25 at 11:53 p.m.
BOULDER — As her predecessors have done for generations, Ralphie VI the Buffalo stormed the field ahead of kickoff.
The majestic animal thundered through the east corner of the north endzone, galloping down the gridiron with ease. With a team of handlers flanking her, Ralphie appeared ready to stampede through any obstacle that lay in front of her.
Ironically enough, it was the Bruins – not the Buffaloes – who emulated Ralphie on Saturday afternoon, utilizing an up-tempo offensive scheme to trample the opponent’s defense.
UCLA football (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) blew out Colorado (0-4, 0-1) to the tune of a 45-17 final at Folsom Field in Boulder. The Bruins used a 249 to 51 rushing yard advantage to run past, around and right through the Buffaloes, leading to the blue and gold’s seventh straight victory and its first 4-0 start in seven years.
Despite losing the time of possession battle by nearly 10 minutes, UCLA outgained Colorado 515 to 309 in terms of total yards. And while the Bruins punted just twice – both in the fourth quarter – they recorded no drives of four minutes or more, scoring six touchdowns and one field goal on the backs of short, tempo-based possessions.
Redshirt senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson said speed was the key focus for the Bruins entering Saturday.
“Scoring fast, that’s what we wanted to do,” Thompson-Robinson said. “I talked to all the boys this morning, letting them know that this is the type of game where we need to come out with the wheels rolling.”
After the Buffaloes failed to convert on the game’s opening drive, Thompson-Robinson led UCLA 64 yards down the field nearly by his lonesome. A 28-yard run from the fifth-year signal-caller followed by a 24-yard touchdown strike to junior wide receiver Matt Sykes resulted in the first points of the game.
Pinned at their own five-yard line to start the ensuing drive, the Bruins and their tempo still prevailed. Thompson-Robinson made quick work of the 95 yards, completing five straight passes for 60 yards and setting up a 35-yard touchdown scamper from Charbonnet to cap off the one-minute, 46-second scoring drive.
“I feel like we started off the game strong, something that we’ve been struggling to do the last few games,” Sykes said. “We showed that we can come out strong and really set our pace and not try and play from behind.”
Another Charbonnet touchdown run on the next possession gave UCLA 21 first-half points, helping the Bruins to their 11-point halftime advantage.
“We didn’t punt in the first half,” Kelly said. “They were clicking.”
As she did to begin the game, Ralphie again thundered across the Folsom Field turf to kick off the second half. Once more, the Bruins did their best to match her.
In just four plays, UCLA drove 75 yards to score its fourth touchdown of the game on the opening drive of the second half. Thompson-Robinson completed three straight passes to get to midfield, again setting up Charbonnet for another rushing score – this one from 46 yards out.
The touchdown run put Charbonnet over the century mark for the second time this season – on only nine attempts – and his three touchdowns were tied for a career-high.
“We got Zach back,” Kelly said. “I know he played last week, but I mean, the Zach that you saw today is the Zach that we’ve seen for a long time.”
The next two Colorado possessions ended with sacks by redshirt junior linebacker Laiatu Latu – who finished with a career-high three sacks in the win – the latter of which forced a fumble that set up UCLA’s fifth touchdown of the game, a two-yard reception for redshirt junior wide receiver Colson Yankoff.
Another forced turnover – an interception from senior linebacker Carl Jones Jr. – set up Yankoff’s second touchdown reception a few possessions later, this one from redshirt sophomore quarterback Ethan Garbers, who entered the game to relieve Thompson-Robinson late in the third.
In what could be the last Pac-12 conference game for UCLA in Boulder, the final margin finished at 28 points. The total marks the Bruins’ largest margin of victory over the Buffaloes since their first Pac-12 game in Boulder in 2012, another 28-point UCLA victory. The win also marked UCLA’s first at Folsom Field since 2014.
“It’s telling us that we’re turning the edge,” Sykes said. “This is a hard environment to play in, but I feel like today, we came out, we gave everything … and really got the job done.”