Zach Charbonnet helps UCLA crush Colorado to improve to 4-0

Nearly a month into the season, the UCLA Regents continue to be UCLA’s toughest opponent.

Colorado showed some early courage on Saturday before quickly folding, the winless Buffaloes in contrast to the Board of Directors poised to threaten the Bruins’ move to the Big Ten Conference.

UCLA was so comfortably up front en route to their 45-17 win that quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson went out with six minutes left … in the third quarter. Buffaloes fans had by then left Folsom Field in droves, some possibly refusing to return until a new coach paces their sidelines.

Meanwhile, UCLA fans could be forgiven for wondering about the significance of their team’s first 4-0 start since 2015. The Bruins have beaten Bowling Green, Alabama State and South Alabama in addition to what could rank as one of Colorado’s worst teams in 132 years of football.

The Buffaloes were overwhelmed, outmaneuvered and outwitted as they fell to 0-4. The Bruins raced to the blowout, gaining vast yards in what seemed like a snap of their fingers. Her first touchdown drive was 64 yards in 2 minutes 37 seconds. Her second went 95 yards in 1:46. Her third went 75 yards in 3:12.

By this point, UCLA was already up 21-3, and the only thing to be determined was the extent of the carnage during their first win here since 2014.

“Pace was a big part of our game plan,” said UCLA wide receiver Matt Sykes, whose 24-yard touchdown catch on his team’s opening drive was a career first.

UCLA's Dorian Thompson-Robinson runs with the ball and stiff arms to Colorado's Isaiah Lewis.

Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson stiff-arms a save for Buffaloes Isaiah Lewis. Thompson-Robinson rushed for 56 yards in seven carries and threw for two touchdowns.

(David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

The primary beneficiaries of the need for speed were Thompson-Robinson and running back Zach Charbonnet, who roamed as freely as Ralphie VI, the Buffaloes’ living mascot. Thompson-Robinson completed 19 of 23 passes (82.6%) for 234 yards and two touchdowns while repeatedly burning the Buffaloes on read option carries that rushed for 56 yards in seven carries.

Charbonnet looked like the vintage version of himself for the first time since the season opener as he itched defender after defender en route for 104 yards and three touchdowns. In a stunning display of efficiency, he averaged 11.6 yards on his nine carries.

“The Zach you saw today,” said UCLA coach Chip Kelly, “is the Zach we’ve seen a long time.”

Defensively it was the last stop of the Laiatu Latu Comeback Tour. The UCLA transfer linebacker, who retired in Washington in spring 2021 for medical reasons, posted a career-high three sacks and forced a fumble recovered by teammate Bo Calvert. The Bruins desperately needed the boost after edge rusher Gabriel Murphy was ejected for aiming in the first quarter.

UCLA linebacker Laiatu Latu sacking Colorado quarterback Owen McCown on September 24, 2022.

UCLA linebacker Laiatu Latu defeated Colorado quarterback Owen McCown for one of Latu’s three sacks on Saturday.

(David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

UCLA’s defense was hardly perfect. Cornerback Devin Kirkwood was burned on a 42-yard completion. Two rough-the-passer penalties extended drives, one aimed for a touchdown in Colorado. Averaging just 14 first downs per game going into Saturday, the Buffaloes had 11 at halftime.

But something predictable happened in the second half: UCLA dominated. The Bruins beat the Buffaloes 24-7 and have overwhelmed their opponents by a 78-21 lead at halftime this season.

“On four occasions we were the freshest team in the second half,” Kelly said. “…You look at our conditioning, and I think it shows in four games, and I think it’s part of our DNA right now.”

Colorado’s makeup is a different story in coach Karl Dorrell’s final days.

Before the game, there was some embarrassment when Colorado fan selfies were shown on the video board, some with smiling faces and the hashtag #firedorrell.

The always-conservative coach showed some pride in his team’s opening run as he drove to fourth and one place at UCLA’s 41-yard line. The Buffaloes converted and ran back Charlie Offerdahl, gaining two yards but ultimately being kept scoreless when they missed a 54-yard field goal attempt.

Colorado coach Karl Dorrell watches in the first half on September 24, 2022.

Colorado coach Karl Dorrell looks on during the first half. The Buffaloes fell to 0-4 this season under the former UCLA coach.

(David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

The ailing Dorrell also showed some bravery — or desperation, take your pick — when he started freshman quarterback Owen McCown, the team’s third starter at that position in four games. The son of former NFL quarterback Josh McCown, Owen showed promise and inexperience as he completed 26 of 42 passes for 258 yards and a touchdown with an interception.

Thompson-Robinson had to spend the final quarter plus recovery for his side’s first real Test of the season on Friday at the Rose Bowl against No. 18 Washington. The Bruins could be the only team in the nation struggling for respect despite seven straight wins since last season.

They’re just days away from showing if they deserve it. Zach Charbonnet helps UCLA crush Colorado to improve to 4-0

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