A Closer Look at the UCLA Victory

After watching <b>Joel Klatt</b> in his first two starts for the Colorado Buffaloes, it's a bit surprising the former minor league baseball player didn't make it as a relief pitcher. As Colorado State and UCLA can attest, Klatt is a great closer.

For the second time in as many weeks, Klatt led his troops down the field for a late game-winning touchdown, as the Buffs came from behind to beat the Bruins, 16-14. Klatt's late heroics salvaged a poorly played game for the Buffs (2-0). Colorado didn't just win this game; UCLA also lost it.

What went right: The Colorado defense, particularly the run defense, kept the Buffs in the game. While the offense struggled to find a rhythm, CU's front seven shut-down the Bruins on the ground. UCLA gained just 38 yards on 26 carries.

The defensive line was active and repeatedly made plays. Matt McChesney was all over the field, and the defense got solid contributions from Chris Hollis and Alex Ligon.

The offense was dormant for most of the game, but it came to play when the game was on the line. D.J. Hackett played a key role on the final drive and, for the second straight week, led the Buffs in receptions. Derek McCoy also had a key catch on the decisive drive.

Klatt didn't post the huge numbers he did against CSU, but he did hit 70 percent of his passes and didn't throw an interception. He also showed some toughness, returning to the game after getting his bell rung in the third quarter.

Kicker Mason Crosby hit a key 40-yard field goal, the first of his career, to give the Buffs a 10-7 lead at halftime.

Facing Karl Dorrell in his first game as head coach also worked for the Buffs. Dorrell's decision to let true freshman Maurice Drew handle a kickoff late in the game was a big mistake. Drew, who had been benched after a first-half fumble, juggled the kickoff, pinning the Bruins deep in their own territory.

It's somewhat fitting that Drew had a role in the Bruins' loss. After all, the highly touted Drew was leaning toward CU before Eric Bieniemy jumped ship and headed to LA.

What went wrong: Much of the offensive struggles can be attributed to poor play from the offensive line. UCLA was constantly in the backfield, taking down running backs and making life terrible for Klatt. The running game totaled just 88 yards, and most of those yards coming on a few spurts.

Like the running game, the pass defense struggled for the second consecutive game. The secondary made several big mistakes and were fortunate that UCLA receivers' responded with some huge mistakes of their own. The Bruins dropped two would-be touchdown passes.

UCLA's Marcedes Lewis didn't drop anything. The mammoth tight end enjoyed his coming out party at Folsom Field and the Buffs were hospitable hosts. Lewis made several huge plays and scored a third-quarter touchdown that gave the Bruins a 14-10 lead. You'll be hearing a lot about this kid in the coming years.

Let's hope you want be hearing a lot about trick plays from the Buffs. What can be deemed poor play selection from the CU staff and bad special teams play didn't help matters on Saturday. Colorado had two kicks blocked(one field goal, one punt) and failed miserably to convert a fake punt.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Klatt. He didn't play a great game by any stretch. But he was tossed around like a rag doll, repeatedly beaten on the head and yet finished the game in fine style. His play and toughness have quickly become symbols for this team.
2. Lewis. A star is born. He's like an offensive lineman running routes. And he has soft hands. Count on this kid being one of the best tight ends in the country by next season, if not sooner.
3. McChesney. This guy is a monster. He created all sorts of havoc for the Bruins. With Marques Harris out for the season with two broken bones in his leg, McChesney will have to maintain that level of play to keep the defense moving in the right direction.

Injury Report: Colorado suffered just one injury, but it was a big one. Harris, one of the senior leaders, broke two bones in his leg and will miss the remainder of the season. The gruesome injury had several CU players fighting back tears as their fallen comrade was carted off the field.

Harris, who had surgery a few hours after the game, has a redshirt option for 2004.

It remains to be seen how the Buffs will fill Harris' role, but a few players will have to step up. McChesney will be counted on much more, while youngsters Hollis, Ligon, Akarika Dawn and James Garee will see more of the field. Harris played primarily on the line, but he did drop back into a linebackers' position several times against the Bruins.

The Big Picture: Despite being perfect on the season, there's plenty to improve. CU has yet to put it all together. The offense beat CSU, while the defense held UCLA in check. Unfortunately, there's little time to work out the kinks. The Buffs have Washington State coming to town before heading off to play at Florida State. And after that, the Big 12 season awaits.

For the time being anyway, it's nice to start 2-0 – Barnett had never done such a thing at CU before – and move up in the polls to be ranked 17th in the coaches and AP.

What's next? Washington State travels to Boulder this week, fresh off a disappointing overtime loss at Notre Dame. The Cougars led 19-0 at one point, before the Irish stormed back to win 29-26 in overtime.

WSU lost a lot of talent off last year's team, but they're still capable of making plays. If Colorado gets caught looking toward FSU, they'll do so while getting whipped by the Cougars.

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