The Bruins are bowl eligible as they head to Arizona to play the Wildcats
November 2, 2023
The Colorado Buffaloes arrived at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena Saturday Night with a lot of fanfare, but it was the UCLA Bruins and their stout defense that made the headlines in a convincing 28-16 win over the Buffaloes in a Pac-12 conference game. The Buffs had nonconference wins over TCU and Nebraska to open the season and have generated a lot of interest among fans of college football.
The Bruins improved to 6-2 on the season, which means they will be going to a bowl game for the third consecutive season. A crowd of 71,343 fans showed up at the Rose Bowl for the game, the largest crowd for a regular season game at the Rose Bowl since 2015, and the largest crowd for any Pac-12 conference football game this season.
The Bruins have the best defensive team in the Pac-12 conference and one of the best in the country. The Bruins lead the nation in rushing yardage allowed per game at 63.1 yards per game and lead the nation in rushing yardage allowed at 2.1 yards per carry.
The Bruins have allowed one rushing touchdown this season, tied with Iowa for best in the nation. They are third in the nation in sacks with 31 and lead the nation in sack yardage at 213 yards. They are tied for third in the nation in takeaways and 10th in total defensive yardage allowed per game.
The Bruins and their front seven on defense shut down the Buffs high-powered offense. The Bruins held the Buffs to 25 yards rushing on 24 rushing attempts. They sacked Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders seven times and hit him on 17 other occasions. Defensive end Laiatu Latu led the Bruins with two sacks.
Latu, a transfer from Washington, is in his second season with the Bruins. In 2022, Latu was selected first-team All-Pac-12, leading the Bruins in sacks with 10.5 sacks. This season through eight games, Latu has 9.5 sacks. Latu missed two seasons with a neck injury at UW, before he transferred to UCLA. Head coach Chip Kelly is grateful to have Latu, who is considered a first-round pick in the 2024 NFL draft.
"Latu is special," Kelly said after the Colorado game. "We knew that when we first got him and how hard he works. And a credit to him for the rehab that he had to do to come back from the injury that he had. And he seems like he just continues to get better and better. He's a great teammate and we are very fortunate to have him."
The Buffs actually led after one quarter 6-0 on a pair of field goals and only trailed 7-6 at halftime, The Bruins took the lead early in the second quarter on three-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ethan Garbers to running back Carson Steele. The Bruins dominated in the first half, but committed four first-half turnovers and missed a 24-yard field goal attempt.
Garbers started slowly in the game and only had two yards passing in the first quarter. He got better as the game went on and finished with 269 yards passing, completing 20 of 27 passes. Garbers connected with tight end Moliki Matavao for a 26-yard touchdown and added 37 yards rushing, for 306 yards in total offense.
Garbers favorite target on Saturday Night was wide receiver Logan Loya, who hauled in 7 passes for 111 yards. Loya leads the Bruins in receiving and receiving yardage with 34 catches for 421 yards. The former St. John's Bosco star has become the most reliable receiver on the Bruins squad, a fact that does not go unnoticed by Kelly.
"I thought Logan came up big today," Kelly said. "He had some huge plays. I don't have his final numbers, but he's been kind of a security blanket, I think, for all the quarterbacks. They know where he is. He's smart. He's intelligent. He does a great job of running routes. He understands coverage, and they did a really good job of mixing up coverages and mixing up looks. I thought that Logan adjusted really well today."
The Buffs fell to 4-4 on the season with the loss. Colorado's head coach Deion Sanders, the former Hall-of-fame NFL cornerback, has brought energy and excitement to the Colorado campus and college football in his first year as head coach. Sanders, also known as "Coach Prime," was gracious and classy after the loss.
"Great game by the UCLA Bruins," Sanders said. "I adore their head coach, tremendously. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He's a great coach. I'm glad we finally got our contest over so I can call him and get advice from time to time. We discussed that before the game and after the game. He's one of the real ones. He's one of the good ones and he knows what he's doing. Today, we played our butts off. I'm proud of the kids. They hung in there as long as they could."
The Bruins will try to build off the momentum of their victory over the Buffs when they take on the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson on Saturday Night, November 4th. The game will start at 7:30 pm PST and will be televised on FS1. The Wildcats are 5-3 on the season and need a win to become bowl eligible for the first time since the 2017 season. The Wildcats are coming off a 27-24 win at home over the 16th ranked Oregon State Beavers. The Bruins lost at home last season to the Wildcats.
The Bruins are ranked 8th in the nation in rushing yardage per game at 215.9 yards per game. The Wildcats are ranked 17th in the nation in run defense. That will be an interesting matchup. The Bruins have 17 turnovers for the season, and they need to play a clean game on the road if they expect to defeat the Wildcats.