BOULDER — Tailback Jarek Broussard scored three times in his first start, Colorado’s defense produced two big fourth-down stops in the final quarter and the Buffaloes opened the Karl Dorrell Era by holding off UCLA 48-42 on Saturday night.
It was far from easy even after amassing an early 28-point lead. UCLA cut the deficit to 48-42 with 1:45 remaining on a 9-yard TD catch by Mike Martinez. But the onside kick was recovered by Colorado’s Dimitri Stanley and the Buffaloes (1-0) ran out the clock.
Broussard finished with 187 yards rushing as the Buffaloes won their fifth straight season opener. The game was played in front of 554 fans made up of family and friends due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Buffaloes built a 28-point lead late in the first half on mistake-prone UCLA (0-1), which turned the ball over four times before halftime that Colorado cashed into 21 points. But the Bruins shook off the rocky start and scored 21 straight to turn what looked to be a rout into a back-and-forth encounter.
There were no punts in the second half, but there were two blocked field goals by UCLA and Colorado made a pair of fourth-down stops. The crucial one was stuffing UCLA on fourth-and-1 at the Colorado 30 with 13:13 remaining and leading 45-35.
Sam Noyer, a graduate senior all set to leave before being re-recruited by the new coaching staff, efficiently ran the offense. He threw for 257 yards and a score. He also ran for another.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson shrugged off a wobbly start to guide the Bruins back into the game. He threw for 303 yards and four scores. He also rushed for 109 yards, including a 65-yard TD scamper.
Dorrell made his Colorado head coaching debut against a Bruins team where he once was a standout receiver (1982-86) and later their head coach (2003-07). He actually made his UCLA head coaching debut in the same stadium, but in a loss.
This time, it was a win. He was congratulated by his assistant coaches.
The 56-year-old Dorrell took over in Boulder last February when Mel Tucker left for Michigan State after one season on campus. Dorrell didn’t have much time to get his team ready with no spring practice due to the pandemic.
His offense was operating on all cylinders as the Pac-12 finally kicked off an abbreviated season. The Buffaloes finished 7 of 7 in the red zone.
It was a frightful first half for the Bruins in Year 3 under coach Chip Kelly. They fumbled a punt return, had two more fumbles on offense and saw Thompson-Robinson throw an interception to Carson Wells.
The Bruins were a completely different version in the second half.
The game couldn’t have started any better for the Buffaloes as they parlayed two early turnovers into TD runs from Broussard. Colorado grabbed a 14-0 lead nearly seven minutes into the game.
Broussard was in the backfield with Alex Fontenot sidelined by an ailment. Broussard didn’t play last season due to a knee injury.
Dorrell showed off a gambler’s mentality by going for it on fourth down at the UCLA 40 in the first quarter. It backfired with the Buffaloes unable to convert. UCLA moved the ball down the field, culminating with Thompson-Robinson’s 28-yard TD pass to Demetric Felton on a screen.
One of the first things Dorrell did after taking over the team was place a call to Noyer, who returned home to Oregon and was looking at new schools. He was moved from QB to safety last season under Tucker and wanted to be a QB again.
Dorrell convinced him he had that chance at Colorado. Noyer won the job over Tyler Lytle during fall camp.
UCLA: Kelly drops to 0-3 in season openers since taking over the Bruins.
Colorado: Dorrell becomes the third straight first-year Colorado coach to win his inaugural game, joining Tucker and Mike MacIntyre.
THIS & THAT
UCLA TE Greg Dulcich caught a 52-yard TD pass from Thompson-Robinson. ... Colorado committed nine penalties for 90 yards.
UCLA: Host a Utah team on Friday that had to postpone its opening game against Arizona due to what the Pac-12 said were a number of COVID-19 cases among Utes players.
Colorado: At Stanford on Saturday.