David Zalubowski/Associated Press
David Zalubowski/Associated Press
BOULDER – The UCLA Bruins didn’t just want a win at Colorado. They wanted to put a beat-down on the Buffaloes, and that’s exactly what they delivered.
“It was vital for us to get this win, and definitely get it like this,” tailback Johnathan Franklin said after the Bruins bounced back from a tough loss and routed Colorado 42-14 on Saturday night for their best start since 2007.
Brett Hundley threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for two scores as the Bruins (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) improved to 30-10-2 in the weeks after a loss that dropped them from the rankings.
They tumbled from No. 19 last week with a loss at home to Oregon State.
Franklin set the tone early, running for 97 of his 111 yards in the first half and catching all three of his passes for 48 yards as the Bruins jumped ahead 21-7 at the break.
Hanging tough, the Buffaloes (1-4, 1-1) were driving in the third quarter when they were stuffed on fourth-and-1 at midfield, then coughed up the ball on their next two possessions and watched the Bruins capitalize with two touchdowns.
“We’re not at that point where we can overcome mistakes like that,” Buffs coach Jon Embree said.
Leading a swarming Bruins defense were linebackers Anthony Barr and Damien Holmes, who combined for four sacks, seven tackles for loss and three hurries of quarterback Jordan Webb.
The Buffaloes rallied past Washington State last week with three touchdowns in the final seven minutes, and they needed a similar comeback this time after falling behind by three touchdowns through three quarters.
It was the Bruins who poured on the points this time, however, sealing their first win in Boulder since a 33-16 victory in 1984. They returned in 2003, losing 16-14.
“It was a good win,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Mora said. “There’s still things we feel offensively we can do better. We hurt ourselves in the first half with some penalties and some drops, just not executing the way we’re capable. But it’s a conference win on the road and that’s a good thing.”
Franklin, who was limited to 45 yards a week earlier, had a big first half, when his 28-yard bob-and-weave on a screen pass set up Hundley’s 1-yard touchdown keeper that put UCLA ahead 21-7 at halftime.
UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks and free safety Tevin McDonald had a monster second half, teaming up to stuff Tony Jones on fourth-and-1 at midfield in the third quarter when the Buffs still harbored hopes of an upset, then combined for a crucial takeaway on their next series.
McDonald punched the ball free after tight end Vincent Hobbs hauled in a long pass, and Kendricks scooped it up.
“We were struggling,” McDonald said. “The offense, they were beating themselves up a little bit. But it’s a team sport, and for us to be able to put together that type of performance defensively and be able to help our offense out in a time of need like that, with two big stops like that, that sparked us. That blew it open.”
“It was great. We needed that,” Franklin said. “We watched what Colorado did last week against Washington State, and we definitely did not want that to happen (Saturday night).”
The big stops and subsequent scores showed some progress, which pleased Mora heading into next week’s game at Cal.
“Last week we had a couple of takeaways, and we weren’t able to capitalize offensively,” Mora said. “This week we got two takeaways and turned them into touchdowns. When you can do that, it’s a big deal.”
The Bruins piled on from there, scoring touchdowns on their next three possessions, starting with Hundley’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Fauria.
Safety Stan McKay picked off a pass from Webb at midfield and returned it to the Colorado 35, setting up a 25-yard touchdown run by Jordon James.
Franklin was the lead blocker on running back Damien Thigpen’s impressive 23-yard touchdown on a reverse that made it 42-7.
Webb threw a 17-yard scoring strike to Dustin Ebner, the senior’s first career touchdown, but that’s all he had to show for 14 drives. He gave way to Nick Hirschman, who threw his first career touchdown pass, a 31-yarder to Nick Kasa, in his only series.
“We’re growing up. We don’t have a lot to show for it, but we have taken strides,” Embree said. “There’s tears in the locker room. Guys still care. Guys are still competing and fighting. At times, we’re just overmatched.”