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UCLA vs. Colorado: Bruins' road to Pac-12 title game starts here

UCLA needs two victories to get to the conference championship game. Defeating a Colorado team that is next to last in the South division is the first step.

November 18, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • Colorado Coach Jon Embree, father of UCLA receiver Taylor Embree, shouts instructions from the sideline during a game against Arizona.
Colorado Coach Jon Embree, father of UCLA receiver Taylor Embree, shouts… (Ron Chenoy / US Presswire )

UCLA needs two victories to get to the Pac-12 Conference title game. Step one is Saturday against a Colorado team that is next to last in the South division. Staff writer Chris Foster examines the game's issues and matchups:

Grudge match?

There has been a lot of chatter considering these two universities have played football against each other only six times. The Bruins and Buffaloes have not faced each other since 2003, long before any of the current players were in college.

Still …

Tyler Hansen, Colorado's quarterback, said, "We're going to go to the Rose Bowl and get it done," referring to the team ending its 23-game losing streak outside Colorado.

Taylor Embree, a UCLA wide receiver, said, "I don't know what he'll be able to talk to me about. I mean, we're going to win," referring to seeing his dad, Colorado Coach Jon Embree, before the game.

Jon Embree said his friend, UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel, "wants to beat Jon Embree's behind in anything we do."

Kai Maiava, a Colorado transfer who starts at center for UCLA, put a friend on warning, saying, "I'm coming for you, [Buffaloes linebacker] David Goldberg."

Just think if these teams were actually rivals.

In defense

The Buffaloes held Arizona to 29 points last week, ending a five-game streak where they gave up at least 42 points.

This seems a game in which UCLA's pistol offense could have howitzer numbers.

Colorado has given up more than 200 yards rushing in four of its last five games and more than 300 yards passing in five of its last seven.

USC and Arizona State pulled off a daily double, with more than 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing in victories.

It has been a bad year all around for Colorado's not-so-Buff defense. Embree suspended five defensive players in October.

Bruins barometer

Colorado's defense could be a welcome sight for the Bruins' Jekyll-and-"Hide" offense, which disappeared in a light snow storm against Utah.

The Buffaloes are weakest against the pass, allowing 264.5 yards per game. Throwing the ball has not been UCLA's strength.

Quarterback Kevin Prince had two passes intercepted against Utah. He was also held to 10 yards rushing after running 163 yards against California and 61 against Arizona State (with a 53-yard run called back because of a penalty).

"When Kevin plays well, we're a good football team," Neuheisel said.

Run down

The Bruins have their own defensive woes. They have allowed more than 200 yards rushing six times this season. And they are trending in the wrong direction.

Utah's John White gained 167 yards last week. Arizona State's Cameron Marshall gained 168 two weeks ago.

Enter Colorado's Rodney Stewart, who has 742 yards rushing and ran for 181 and scored three touchdowns in the Buffaloes win over Arizona.

Penalty box

"False start" could be the working title for the UCLA-Utah game tape. The Bruins had 91 yards in penalties. There were six false starts, two substitution infractions and one delay of game — in all, nine penalties that involved mental errors.

Colorado's penalty problems have spanned the season. The Buffaloes rank 117th among 120 major college football teams in the number of penalties and 116th in penalty yards.

chris.foster@latimes.com

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