PASADENA, Calif. | UCLA dressed in all-white uniforms for its game against Colorado, but a white flag to waive was never part of the ensemble.
Josh Rosen threw for 372 yards and one touchdown, Soso Jamabo and Jalen Starks each ran for a touchdown, and UCLA broke a two-game losing streak with a 27-23 win over Colorado on Saturday night.
The Bruins (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) held off the Buffaloes (3-2, 0-2) with a late defensive stand. Steven Montez’s final pass sailed out of the end zone three plays after finding Jay MacIntyre on a 31-yard completion over the middle to set up the Hail Mary try.
“We were in a bit of a battle there against a really good team,” UCLA head coach Jim Mora said. “If our young men didn’t have the character that they did and the trust and the confidence and the belief in each other that they did, it would have been really easy to fold up the tents there and say, “Hey, man, it’s just not going to be our day and our year.’ And they didn’t do that.”
Rosen mixed in his usual NFL-caliber throws and head-scratching decisions in his fifth-straight 350-yard game. He found Austin Roberts all alone in the corner of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown pass and connected with Jordan Lasley for 46 yards on a flea-flicker, but also made a reckless throw into double coverage that was intercepted by safety Evan Worthington to set up the second of three 33-yard field goals by James Stefanou.
But when Colorado cut UCLA’s lead to 24-23 with 6:46 remaining, Rosen went 4 of 6 for 54 yards to drive the Bruins into the red zone. Jamabo ran for a first down on third-and-6, forcing Colorado to use its final timeout with 2:01 to go. JJ Molson kicked a 31-yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining to extend UCLA’s lead, capping a drive that took 6 minutes, 13 seconds off the clock.
“I would like to see us be able to finish the game with runs, with more productive runs there, and never have to kick a field goal and never have to kick off and never have to go back out on defense,” Mora said. “I think our running game is improving. We’ve still got a lot of room for improvement.”
Jamabo rushed for 70 yards on 21 carries. The rushing offense wasn’t as productive as it had been in recent weeks, averaging 2.7 yards per carry, but proved to be critical as UCLA was 9 of 16 on third down.
Colorado, on the other hand, was 4 of 16 with a chance to moves the chains. The Buffaloes also made a host of other mistakes, including a holding penalty that negated what would have been a go-ahead touchdown run by Montez late in the third quarter.
“You have to have things bounce your way,” Colorado running back Phillip Lindsay said. “Last year, we had a lot of things bounce our way. This year, we’ve got to go in there and you’ve got to make them bounce our way again.”
Montez passed for 243 yards and one touchdown and ran for 108 yards, as Colorado lost its fourth straight game at the Rose Bowl since joining the Pac-12 in 2011. Lindsay added 83 yards rushing and one touchdown and had four receptions for 47 yards with a touchdown.
Colorado: The Buffaloes will need to go on a run to defend their Pac-12 South division title. Each of the last five representatives from the South to play in the Pac-12 title game went at least 6-3 in conference play, which likely means Colorado can absorb at most one more loss against a schedule that still includes road games at No. 16 Washington State and No. 20 Utah and a home game against No. 5 Southern California. Shoring up pass protection for Montez and finding consistency in the secondary will be requirements for that winning streak to happen.
UCLA: It wasn’t a flawless performance, but the Bruins’ embattled defense delivered. When they weren’t committing unnecessary penalties to extend Colorado drives, UCLA actually played well. The worst run defense in the country entering the weekend was solid enough despite allowing 5.0 yards per carry, while the pass rush had Montez running around on nearly every drop back. Considering how explosive Rosen and the offense have looked, even an average defense should give UCLA a chance to win every game left on the schedule.
Colorado had a chance to pick up points at the end of the first half, but instead tried a fake field goal on fourth-and-seven at UCLA’s 11-yard line. Stefanou was the intended recipient of holder T.J. Patterson’s pass, but couldn’t make the catch as UCLA linebacker Kenny Young was barreling down on him. Even if Stefanou had, there was no chance of him getting the first down.
But Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre stood by the decision, even with knowledge that three more points would have given the Buffaloes more options later on in the game.
“Yeah, I’d do it again 100 times if I had 100 more chances,” MacIntyre said. “Everything we saw set up exactly the right way. It just didn’t work out, but we had that planned, and we knew we were going to need to score more points to beat these guys, and we thought that was a good way to do it. Just didn’t work out exactly like we hoped, but I would do it again 100 times after what we’ve watched for four games on film.”
EJECTIONS ADDING UP
UCLA cornerback Darnay Holmes was ejected for targeting in the first quarter for a hit on Lindsay as the running back tried to catch a pass in the flat on third down. No flag was thrown on the field, but a subsequent video review disqualified the freshman for using the crown of his helmet to hit a defenseless receiver above the shoulders.
Lindsay caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Montez on the next play.
Holmes became the fourth UCLA defender in as many games to be assessed a targeting penalty.
Mora has been a vocal critic of the ejection that comes with a targeting penalty in recent weeks, but did not reiterate those objections in this instance.
“The targeting penalty on Darnay I think was a good call,” Mora said. “We have to teach him to lower his point of aim and keep his head up.”
UCLA left guard Najee Toran exited the game with an injury, forcing major changes up front. Right tackle Andre James moved to guard, with Poasi Moala taking over at tackle.
Cornerback Nate Meadors also left with an injury, as UCLA finished the game without its two starting corners. Colin Samuel, Denzel Fisher and Mossi Johnson picked up the slack in the secondary.
Colorado: The Buffaloes host Arizona next Saturday.
UCLA: The Bruins have a bye week before visiting Arizona on Oct. 14.