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UCLA scores 37 points in a row and defeats Colorado, 44-20, to become bowl eligible

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UCLA's Dorian Thompson-Robinson leaps over Colorado's Curtis Appleton and the Bruins are dominating the second half.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson leaps over Colorado safety Curtis Appleton and the Bruins are dominating the second half.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The UCLA offense exploded in the second half Saturday night at the Rose Bowl, thoroughly dominating Colorado to become bowl eligible.

UCLA earns bowl eligibility with runaway victory triggered by second-half dominance

The third time was the charm for UCLA as the Bruins earned their sixth win of the season on their third try to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2017.

UCLA (6-4, 4-3 Pac-12 Conference) poured 37 unanswered points on Colorado in the second half to win 44-20 and complete a 10-point halftime comeback.

After allowing Colorado (3-7, 2-5 Pac-12) to run up 242 yards in the first half en route to a 20-10 lead, the Bruins held the Buffaloes scoreless in the second half. Meanwhile, UCLA got going behind its running game that racked up 176 rushing yards after halftime and 502 total yards for the game.

Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson led the Bruins with 99 yards with one touchdown and nine carries. Zach Charbonnet and Britain Brown rushed for 67 yards for three touchdowns and 58 yards for one touchdown, respectively.

The Bruins snapped a three-game losing streak at home and will play in their first bowl game under Chip Kelly. UCLA has not played in a postseason game since 2017, losing to Kansas State in the Cactus Bowl.

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Kyle Philips returns punt 82 yards for a UCLA touchdown

The UCLA offense isn’t the only unit finding the end zone in the second half.

Kyle Philips returned a punt for 82 yards and a touchdown to put the Bruins up 44-20 with 10:10 remaining. UCLA has scored 37 unanswered points.

The play is UCLA’s first punt returned for a touchdown since 2019 when Philips scored in a comeback victory at Washington State.

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UCLA pulling away with fourth straight touchdown

UCLA found some of Chip’s secret stuff at haltime.

After trailing by 10 at the break, UCLA has charged in front 37-20 after Zach Charbonnet’s third rushing touchdown with 12:12 remaining.

The running back converted from the two-yard line to score UCLA’s fourth straight touchdown drive. He has 67 rushing yards on 17 carries.

Along with the offensive resurgence, UCLA has locked up the Colorado offense. The Buffaloes, who missed a field goal in the third quarter, haven’t scored in the second half.

A big play came from defensive back Jay Shaw, who stuffed a fourth-and-one rush up the middle by Brady Russell to give UCLA the ball back on downs. The Bruins started at Colorado’s 34-yard line after the turnover and cashed in five plays later.

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Three third-quarter touchdowns put UCLA in the driver’s seat

UCLA has found its footing on offense with a third straight touchdown drive in the third quarter. Zach Charbonnet capped the nine-play, 75-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run that puts UCLA up 30-20 entering the fourth quarter.

Charbonnet has 61 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is closing in on a 100-yard rushing performance with 99 yards on the ground on nine carries. Brittain Brown has 58 yards on six carries.

Thompson-Robinson is 16-of-24 passing for 229 yards and one interception.

After nearly matching its average yardage for a game in the first half, Colorado gained just 71 yards in the third quarter. Colorado has 313 yards on the game compared to UCLA’s 447.

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Colorado’s game-tying field goal goes wide

UCLA is still in the lead. For now.

Colorado kicker Cole Becker pushed a 43-yard field goal wide right, leaving the Bruins ahead 23-20 with 3:24 remaining in the third quarter.

Each team has now missed a field goal.

Colorado has just 67 yards on offense in the third quarter compared to UCLA’s 159. The Bruins get the ball at their 25-yard line after the missed field goal.

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UCLA take lead with back-to-back touchdowns

Colorado flexed its running muscle in the first half and now it’s UCLA’s turn.

The Bruins scored a second straight touchdown to take a 23-20 lead with 6:07 after Dorian Thompson-Robinson ran for a 23-yard score.

UCLA ran the ball on four of the drive’s six plays, led by Brittain Brown. The former Duke transfer rushed for 37 yards on three carries and added a 13-yard reception. Brown has 53 rushing yards on five carries.

The Bruins, who had 69 rushing yards in the first half, have 119 in the third quarter and lead Colorado in total yardage 387-259.

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UCLA starts second half with touchdown to pull within 20-16

Here come the Bruins.

UCLA put together a strong touchdown drive to start the third quarter and trail 20-16 after Nicholas Barr-Mira missed the extra point attempt. There’s 11:20 remaining in the third quarter.

Zach Charbonnet starred on the nine-play, 76-yard drive as he carried the ball six times, including the final two-yard score. The Michigan transfer has 43 rushing yards on 11 carries.

UCLA got its first third-down conversion on the drive as Charbonnet rushed for seven on third-and-one from the UCLA 33-yard line. Charbonnet converted again on third-and-two and the Bruins are now two for six on third downs.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson completed a 31-yard pass to Greg Dulcich in the drive and now has 195 passing yards on 13-of-19 passing. The quarterback has moved into fifth on UCLA’s all-time passing yardage list, passing Cory Paus. Thompson-Robinson has 6,966 passing yards compared to Paus’ 6,877.

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Nicholas Barr-Mira’s field goal pulls UCLA to within 20-7 at halftime

UCLA tacked on a 41-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to take a 20-10 deficit into the locker room.

After giving up a touchdown drive to Colorado, the Bruins got the ball at their 25-yard line with 57 seconds remaining. Instead of kneeling out the final seconds with the opportunity to get the ball back first in the second half, UCLA aggressively drove down the field with three straight complete passes. Dorian Thompson-Robinson also ran for 17 yards on two carries during the drive.

Thompson-Robinson is 11-of-16 passing for 159 yards and one interception. His 39 rushing yards leads the Bruins, who are in need of a rushing resurgence after being held to 110 and 146 yards in their past two games.

Colorado is outgaining UCLA 155-69 on the ground, led by 102 yards from Jarek Broussard.

Colorado’s Brendon Lewis is nine-of-12 passing for 87 yards. Alex Fontenot has two one-yard rushing touchdowns for Colorado.

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Colorado adds field goal to go up 20-7

A third-down sack by Otito Ogbonnia stopped a Colorado drive in the red zone and forced the Buffaloes to settle for a 40-yard field goal. The successful attempt by Cole Becker put Colorado ahead 20-7 with 57 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

The 20 first-half points are the most for the Buffaloes in a half this season.

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UCLA field goal attempt sails wide left

Nicholas Barr-Mira missed a 47-yard field goal wide left with 3:20 remaining in the first half, giving the Buffaloes the ball back at their 29-yard line with a 10-point lead. Its the fourth straight game Barr-Mira has missed a field goal attempt.

The Bruins started their drive well with a 55-yard pass from Dorian Thompson-Robinson to Greg Dulcich, but were derailed by a false start on freshman tackle Garrett DiGiorgio. Thompson-Robinson and senior offensive lineman Jon Gaines were seen encouraging the freshman after the miscue, but the Bruins gained only one more yard before lining up for the field goal try.

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Colorado extends lead with one-yard touchdown run

Colorado is running all over the UCLA defense and leads 17-7 with 5:22 remaining in the second quarter after a one-yard touchdown run from Alex Fontenot.

The Buffaloes carried the ball on five of the scoring drive’s six plays, including a 46-yard run from Jarek Broussard. The Colorado running back went untouched down the right side until UCLA linebacker Carl Jones Jr. chased him down from behind to drop Broussard at the three-yard line.

The hustle play wasn’t enough to keep the Buffaloes out of the end zone for good though as Colorado scored two plays later.

Colorado is averaging 6.3 yards per rush.

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UCLA responds quickly with a touchdown to pull within 10-7

Finally, a big play that didn’t get called back for UCLA.

Facing a 10-point deficit, the Bruins showed signs of life with a 47-yard pass from Dorian Thompson-Robinson to Kyle Philips that set the table for a three-play, 79-yard touchdown drive.

Colorado leads 10-7 with 7:56 remaining in the second quarter after the Bruins’ Brittain Brown ran up the middle for a one-yard touchdown.

The Bruins more than doubled their offensive yardage on the drive and now trail Colorado 120-118 in total yardage. Thompson-Robinson is six-of-eight passing for 68 yards while also leading the Bruins in rushing with 22 yards. Philips has three catches for 51 yards.

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UCLA penalty leads to Colorado field goal and 10-0 lead

After a 51-yard run was negated by penalty in the first quarter, UCLA lost out on another big play because of a flag.

Instead of a 40-yard touchdown catch by Kam Brown on fourth-and-seven, the Bruins turned the ball over on downs because the receiver was flagged for an illegal touch. Brown ran out of bounds and then was the first to touch the ball.

The Buffaloes took over at their own 40-yard line and drove to the UCLA six-yard line before settling for a 23-yard field goal. Colorado leads 10-0 with 8:37 remaining in the second quarter.

UCLA has been called for five penalties worth 35 yards while Colorado has just one for four yards.

The 10-point deficit could be worse for the Bruins, who were bailed out by a dropped pass on fourth down. Colorado’s La’Vontae Shenault was wide open on fourth and four, but dropped a pass over the middle that would have been enough to move the chains.

Colorado is outgaining UCLA, 120-55.

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Dorian Thompson-Robinson throws interception to end first quarter

A drive that could have ended in a UCLA touchdown instead ended with an interception thrown by Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

The quarterback missed a throw intended for tight end Greg Dulcich and the ball fell into the hands of Colorado’s Mark Perry, who returned the ball to the UCLA 46-yard line. Thompson-Robinson’s pass sailed over the out-stretched arms of Dulcich and the quarterback tapped his chest as he headed back to the sideline as if to indicate the pass was his fault.

The Bruins trail 7-0 at the end of the first quarter with the Buffaloes facing fourth-and-four from the UCLA 40-yard line.

Four plays before the interception, the Bruins nearly tied the game on a 51-yard touchdown run from Zach Charbonnet. But the play was negated by a holding penalty on Dulcich.

In the first quarter, Thompson-Robinson was five-of-seven passing for 21 yards and the interception with a team-high 15 rushing yards. Kyle Philips is UCLA’s leading receiver with two catches for four yards.

Colorado, which has the worst offense in the Pac-12, is outgaining UCLA 80-35. Quarterback Brendon Lewis is six-for-six passing for 32 yards.

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Colorado strikes first with rushing touchdown

Just when UCLA’s struggling defense thought it had a favorable matchup with Colorado’s equally ineffective offense, the Buffaloes put together the game’s first scoring drive.

Alex Fontenot scored on a one-yard touchdown run to culminate a 12-play, 70-yard drive to go up 7-0 with 4:53 remaining in the first quarter.

The Buffaloes moved the ball on the ground against the Bruins, throwing it only three times for 17 yards on the drive.

On offense, the Bruins started Garrett DiGiorgio at right tackle, giving the freshman his first collegiate start. Alec Anderson, UCLA’s usual starting right tackle, was injured three weeks ago, but is dressed for the game.

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UCLA wins coin toss, Colorado will receive

UCLA won the coin toss and deferred, kicking off to Colorado. The Buffaloes will start at their own 28-yard line after a 26-yard kickoff return.

The Buffaloes have the worst offense in the Pac-12, averaging 266.7 yards per game. That is the third-least in the entire country. It’s a beneficial matchup for a struggling UCLA defense that gave up 44 points to Utah two weeks ago.

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Dorian Thompson-Robinson fully participating in warmups

After missing the game against Utah on Oct. 30 because of a thumb injury, UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is on the field participating in warmups before Saturday’s game against Colorado at the Rose Bowl.

The senior injured the thumb on his throwing hand in a loss against Oregon on Oct. 23 and sat out of UCLA’s road loss at Utah a week later. The Bruins are coming off a bye week that afforded extra recovery time for Thompson-Robinson, who hasn’t made it through an entire season without missing a start.

Although UCLA will have its starting quarterback back, the Bruins may turn to backup Garrett DiGiorgio at right tackle in place of Alec Anderson. DiGiorgio, a freshman, is warming up alongside the No. 1 offensive line and would be making his first start. Anderson, who suffered an injury against Oregon and didn’t play against Utah, is warming up with the No. 2 offense.

Asked this week about DiGiorgio, UCLA coach Chip Kelly said he was impressed by the young player’s mindset and growth.

“He’s a young man that I think has a huge upside and we’re excited about his progress,” Kelly said. “Whenever he’s got an opportunity to go with the ones, he’s done a really nice job, so we’ll see how this whole thing plays out.”

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Cue the UCLA punch line: It’s Chip Kelly vs. Karl Dorrell at the Rose Bowl

Then-UCLA coach Karl Dorrell claps after his running back Chris Markey scored a touchdown.
Then-UCLA coach Karl Dorrell claps after his running back Chris Markey scored a touchdown against Washington on Sept. 23, 2006, in Seattle.
(Jim Bryant / Associated Press)

If you enlisted a writer from Comedy Central at the time of Chip Kelly’s hiring to create a sidesplitting scenario for late in his fourth season at UCLA, it might resemble what’s about to unfold. Kelly’s team needs to beat one coached by Karl Dorrell, a symbol of Bruin futility, to avoid further cratering, Kelly’s 15-25 record making Dorrell’s 35-27 record with UCLA from 2003 to 2007 seem like the good old days.

If UCLA (5-4 overall, 3-3 Pac-12) can’t beat Colorado (3-6, 2-4) at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Rose Bowl in a game it’s favored to win by 17 points, many Bruins fans won’t want Kelly to make it to Monday. There doesn’t figure to be many in the stands or watching on Pac-12 Network with so little at stake besides the Bruins possibly qualifying for a lower-tier bowl for the first time since 2017.

Let’s look at the game’s matchups and storylines:

Welcome back

It’s been three weeks since Dorian Thompson-Robinson took a snap for the Bruins.

The senior quarterback hurt the thumb on his throwing hand during the team’s final drive against Oregon before sitting out UCLA’s loss to Utah. The bye week that followed gave Thompson-Robinson extra recovery time, though he acknowledged this week that he wasn’t fully healed even while throwing passes with considerable zip in practice.

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UCLA vs. Colorado: College football betting lines, odds and how to watch

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson runs against Oregon
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson carries the ball against Oregon on Oct. 23 in Pasadena, Calif.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

UCLA hosts Colorado at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

The Bruins lost 44-24 at Utah on Oct. 30 to fall further behind in the Pac-12 race. It was their second straight loss after losing to Oregon the previous week. They get to step down in class against Colorado (3-6) and should be able to get back on the winning track as they try positioning themselves for a bowl bid.

But is that the way to bet the game? VSiN’s Dave Tuley gives his breakdown.

Colorado at UCLA (-17, 57), 6 p.m. PST, Pac-12 Networks

Bill Parcells was famously quoted as saying “You are what your record says you are.” That pretty much says it all about the Bruins at 5-4 as they’ve proven to be an average team. For the most part, they’ve beaten the teams they were supposed to and lost to superior teams. They were double-digit favorites against Hawaii and Arizona and went on to win and cover those big spreads. The Bruins did win as short underdogs against Louisiana State (arguably the high-point of the season so far), but they’ve lost the last two weeks to Oregon and Utah.

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Broken wrist? Minor role? Big tuition bill? None of it can stop this Gutty Little Bruin

UCLA receiver Ethan Fernea runs the ball against Stanford
UCLA wide receiver Ethan Fernea runs the ball against Stanford during a game in December. Fernea’s perseverance allowed him to make the Bruins. Now, he’s looking to accomplish one last big feat with the Bruins.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

The last man standing never goes down easily.

Not after outlasting every other member of UCLA’s 2016 recruiting class.

Not after going from a walk-on confined to special teams to part of the running backs rotation.

Not after paying the hefty out-of-state tuition his first three seasons, getting a job parking cars to help cover rent.

Not after winning a scholarship only months after being sidelined by a broken leg.

Not after persevering through five consecutive losing seasons, sticking around to see if the sixth time’s the charm.

Nothing, it seemed, could stop Ethan Fernea from being part of a Bruins breakthrough.

That broken bone in his wrist he suffered in late September? No biggie.

Fernea had surgery, placed the wrist in a cast and was back after missing only one game.

He’ll be easy to spot Saturday at the Rose Bowl. Just look for the special teams dynamo charging down the field with a wrap on his hand and a furor in his step when the Bruins (5-4, 3-3 Pac-12) face Colorado (3-6, 2-4) in a game that could make them bowl eligible for the first time since Fernea’s arrival.

“He’s one of those guys that when you talk about savoring every moment that you get, whether it’s on the practice field or in a game,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said, “it’s reality when you see how Ethan’s gone through everything.”

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