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UCLA vs. Colorado: How the two teams match up

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley (17) is congratulated by teammates after scoring on a 15-yard run against California late in the third quarter.
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley (17) is congratulated by teammates after scoring on a 15-yard run against California late in the third quarter.
(Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

UCLA faces Colorado in Boulder on Saturday having won seven consecutive games away from its home field at the Rose Bowl, dating back to last season. Staff writer Chris Foster examines the matchups and story lines:

In defense

UCLA has given up more than 300 yards passing or 200 yards rushing in each of its last four games, and has a 2-2 record to show for it.

Colorado’s strength is its passing attack. Sophomore quarterback Sefo Liufau has thrown for 2,030 yards and 21 touchdowns in seven games.

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“They do a little bit of everything, but it all starts with the quarterback,” UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said. “He’s a great decision maker and a crafty athlete. He has some receivers that understand how to convert their routes, find a soft spot.”

UCLA found a pass rush last week. The Bruins had three sacks and were in the face of California quarterback Jared Goff much of last Saturday’s game. Takkarist McKinley, who joined the team a month ago, appears to be growing into a pass rusher role.

Colorado has given up 12 sacks, the second-fewest in the Pac-12 Conference.

Spruce things up

If there is one receiver UCLA should keep close tabs on, it’s Nelson Spruce.

Spruce, who played at Westlake Village Westlake High, leads the nation with 71 receptions and 11 touchdown catches. He has 801 receiving yards.

UCLA defensive back Ishmael Adams, who played at Westlake Village Oaks Christian, knows Spruce well and reminisced about past meetings.

“It was fun,” Adams said. “We have had some battles. We saw each other twice a year, in the regular season and the playoffs. It will be fun to see how he grew as a player, from Westlake to Colorado.”

Give and take

UCLA has been creating plenty of scoring opportunities — for itself and opponents.

The Bruins had three turnovers against California, giving the Bears the ball in prime territory. Each was converted into a touchdown.

UCLA has given up 205 points, 69 directly tied to turnovers. In the last three games, the Bruins have given up 42 points after turnovers.

“We gave them three short fields last week,” said quarterback Brett Hundley, who lost a fumble and had a pass intercepted. “That hurts. We can’t do that to our defense.”

Quarterback comparison

The Heisman Trophy talk has gone away, but the Bruins’ season goes on. It has become abundantly clear that their fate rests in Hundley’s hands.

Statistically, he’s having a strong season. There’s this comparison with last season’s Heisman winner, Jameis Winston of Florida State:

Hundley has completed 73% of his passes for 1,856 yards, with 13 touchdowns and four passes intercepted. Winston has completed 71% of his passes for 1,878 yards, with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Buffs have beef?

There may be some hard feelings between these teams.

During UCLA’s 45-23 win last season, Colorado players were angered when Bruins linebacker Anthony Barr was called for roughing the passer on back-to-back plays. Colorado offensive linemen had a hands-on chat with Barr after the second penalty.

This week, the Colorado offensive line took a verbal hit. UCLA’s McKinley accused the Buffaloes of “dirty play,” saying that Colorado linemen used chop blocks on defenders with the intent to injure. Gary Bernardi, Colorado’s offensive line coach, denied teaching that tactic.


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