The UCLA defense rebounded from its weird blip against Utah to provide perhaps its greatest performance of the season, dominating the pretty solid Colorado offense on the road. The Bruin defense was fast, strong, fierce, and mean, and completely frustrated the Buffaloes to the point we were probably moments from a personal foul on the Colorado quarterback. There were no real weak links, with the defensive line both stopping the run and providing a huge pass rush, the linebackers eliminated Colorado’s lateral passing game, hit ball carriers hard, and did a good job of filling gaps. The defensive secondary prevented the Buffaloes from having any success down the field—their longest pass play of the game was 18 yards and they only had one more pass play of over 15 yards—and did a good job of tackling the few runners who were able to squirm their way beyond the Bruin front seven.
As always, we look at the following stats:
- Yards Per Stop to measure efficiency.
- Yards Per Play to measure explosiveness.
- Points Per Drive and Points Per Trip Inside the 40 to measure scoring efficiency and taking advantage of scoring opportunities.
- Field Position Margin to measure the hidden yards of field position.
- Turnover Margin to measure the impact turnovers have had on the game and season.
The Colorado offense had eleven drives (not including the half-ending drives) on Thursday night, and the Bruin defense stopped ten of those drives before they reached the end zone. The one offensive touchdown the Buffaloes scored on offense came on a very short field, and even on that drive the Buffaloes took eight plays to travel the 38 yards they needed for the touchdown. The Buffalo offense found their way to the Bruin half of the field six more times and only came away with six total points. Two interceptions, a fumble, and a blocked field goal stopped four drives without any points, and the Bruin defense held firm with two forced field goals after Colorado had driven inside the UCLA 5. We don’t track tiers on Points Allowed Per Trip Inside the 40, but 2.17 Points Allowed Per Trip Inside the 40 is an absolutely lights-out fantastic number and far and away the best of the season.
The 1.18 Points Per Drive for the Buffaloes was their lowest number for the season. To give some context, Colorado was able to manage 1.4 Points Per Drive on the road in the Big House with an injured quarterback against the Michigan defense that is considered by many to be the best in the country right now. Despite an almost 11 minute deficit in time of possession in the mile high air of Boulder, the Bruin defense held strong, allowing only six points allowed in the second half and zero in the fourth quarter. Even on the two epic drives late in the game, when Colorado attempted to grind out game-ending drives, the Bruin defense did not let the Buffaloes into the end zone and only allowed 3.9 and 4.1 yards per play on those two drives. Interestingly, Colorado only punted three times in this game—so when the Bruin defense wanted the ball, they had to physically take it away from the Buffs. The one thing the four turnover game was missing was a return for a touchdown. On third down in Colorado’s final field goal drive, Randall Goforth jumped a route but was unable to make the catch, or he might be still running.
The Bruin defense had nine tackles for loss from six different players, led by future first round pick Takkarist McKinley’s two sacks and a forced fumble. McKinley’s senior season rise reminds us a lot of former Bruin Datone Jones, with McKinley finally putting everything together in his senior year to be a dominant force. Eddie Vanderdoes was effective early, though he seemed to paly fewer downs due to his injury. No matter—Eli Ankou, Boss Tagaloa, Nick Terry, and some very creative line looks kept the Bruin interior firm. Even removing sacks from the run totals, Colorado was only able to manage 3.5 yards per carry.
The 30.40 Yards Per Stop was Colorado’s second-lowest efficiency number of the season behind the Michigan game. While the UCLA defense still tilts towards preventing explosiveness over preventing efficiency, this was still a very good performance against a team that over the last few years has been able to maddeningly work its way down the field against the Bruins. This year, the Buffaloes only managed three drives of ten or more plays against the Bruins, and scored a grand total of three points off of those drives. Even with another ridiculous Average Field Position Deficit, the UCLA defense rarely bent and only broke once.
Does anybody remember the last time somebody threw at Fabian Moreau? It sure doesn’t seem to happen very often. Anyway, the Bruin defense allowed only 3.6 Yards Per Play, their best performance against a Power 5 opponent this year and over 1.2 Yards Per Play fewer than Colorado’s previous lowest number this year. This was a wonderful performance by the Bruin defense that was only missing some points scored by the defense themselves.
The UCLA offense also played.