UCLA vs. Colorado Week 4: Postgame Takeaways

Breaking down the most notable storylines that came out of the Bruins’ win over the Buffaloes on Saturday.

The Bruins were favored to win in blowout fashion in their Pac-12 opener, and that’s exactly what they did.

UCLA football (4-0) beat Colorado (0-4) 45-17 at Folsom Field on Saturday. The Buffaloes looked like they were putting up their best battle of the year, but the Bruins scored 24 in a row to open the second half, burying the struggling home team and their former coach.

These are three of the biggest takeaways, narratives and questions to come out of Saturday’s game.

Bruins continue second-half dominance

For the entirety of their seven-game winning streak dating back to November of last season, UCLA has done most of its damage after halftime.

It all started when the Bruins outscored the Buffaloes 34-0 in the second half at the Rose Bowl last year, and it continued when they outscored USC 34-16 after the break. From there, UCLA outscored Cal 25-0 in the second half, Bowling Green 21-0 in the second half and Alabama State 14-0 in the second half.

Even when the Bruins only beat South Alabama 19-14 in the second half in Week 3, they did own a 9-0 advantage in the fourth quarter.

UCLA scored 24 in a row to open the second half Saturday in Boulder, and the only thing that robbed them of a post-halftime shutout was a garbage time touchdown.

During their seven-game winning streak, the Bruins are outscoring opponents 171-37 in second halves, which is a 24.4-5.3 per game. If UCLA performed like that across an entire game, they would be winning games 49-10.

Saturday against Colorado, the defense was actually the driving force in the late dominance. Sacks, tackles for loss, interceptions and forced fumbles helped hold the Buffaloes to just one first down in the third quarter, and they made a bad offense look like a bad offense for most of the day. 

There are certainly questions about how sustainable this is when higher quality opponents start to show up on the schedule, since the Bruins could be playing from behind or going against better-conditioned teams.

For the time being, though, UCLA has really had a leg up on its opposition in the final two quarters.

Defensive line concerns are real

Martin Andrus Jr. going down with a season-ending injury was always going to hurt. It hurt even more when Gary Smith III got injured as well.

With both of them out Saturday, the Bruins were already thin at defensive line. Then, Jay Toia left the game in the first quarter. Defensive end Gabriel Murphy – who has the ability to be a pass rusher from the inside in certain formations – was ejected in the first half.

UCLA should thank its lucky stars that Murphy’s targeting call didn’t come in the second half, which would have cost him the first half against Washington on Friday night. Even with both of the Murphy twins good to go, the Bruins are incredibly thin up front and the Huskies are poised to take advantage.

Otito Ogbonnia went to the NFL Draft. Datona Jackson ran out of eligibility. Odua Isibor transferred to Cal. Tyler Manoa moved to left tackle. That’s the top four interior defensive linemen from 2021 gone. Top class of 2021 recruit Tia Savea transferred to Arizona, John Ward transferred to Utah State, AJ Campbell transferred to Kent State and Tyler Kiehne transferred to New Mexico, robbing UCLA of its depth as well.

Andrus, Smith and Toia being out makes the group even thinner. Harvard transfer Jacob Sykes is going to have to be an every down player, while former fullback Sitiveni Havili-Kaufusi and former walk-on Dovid Magna will have to emerge as contributors as well.

That’s a lot to ask of essentially a rag tag group of spare parts versus Power Five offensive lines. Colorado’s offensive line genuinely might not be at that level, and that’s part of the reason why UCLA was able to create a pass rush and hold the two opposing leading rushers to 72 yards on 21 carries.

With a thinner group set to take over in the upcoming gauntlet of a schedule, that might not be the case moving forward.

The easy part is officially over

When the Bruins’ schedule first came out, it was widely accepted that anything worse than a 4-0 start would be seen as an absolute failure.

Well, here they are after Week 4, still undefeated.

Of course the level of competition was admittedly poor, given that Bowling Green and Colorado are bottom-tier FBS teams and Alabama State is an FCS program. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to extrapolate the Bruins’ performance to their upcoming slate.

Home games against ranked Washington and ranked Utah are followed by a trip to ranked Oregon. That would be a tough stretch for anyone, let alone a team that hasn’t really played high-level competition so far this season.

A lack of failure is a pretty decent start to the year, but the next month will help determine whether or not 2022 is a success for UCLA.

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