PASADENA (AP) — Colorado is heading to the Rose Bowl with a commodity that’s been rarer than ocean breezes around Boulder over the past 10 years: Momentum.
One week after ending its 14-game losing streak in conference play, Colorado (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12) will try for its first same-season Pac-12 winning streak when the Buffaloes visit No. 24 UCLA (5-2, 2-2) on Saturday.
A four-point win at lowly Oregon State wouldn’t be a cause to celebrate for any other team in the Pac-12, but the Buffaloes finally have something on which they can build. Coach Mike MacIntyre compared Colorado’s conference skid to similar droughts for salesmen, stockbrokers and anybody else in professions requiring long hours for uncertain results.
“Getting that (win) kind of validated all their hard work and time and effort,” MacIntyre said. “Then it puts you at 4-4. We’re 4-4 late in October. I don’t know how long it’s been since Colorado has been 4-4 late in October.”
That would be 2008, when coach Dan Hawkins and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich got the Buffs off to a 4-3 start before losing four of their last five. Almost nothing has worked well since for Colorado, which went 10-39 in its first four seasons after joining the Pac-12.
The Buffs are still three-touchdown underdogs against the Bruins, who fixed their own two-game losing streak last week with a convincing win over California. UCLA is still in the thick of the Pac-12 South race despite losing several key defensive players to season-ending injuries and relying on freshman quarterback Josh Rosen, who has passed for at least 325 yards in each of the last two games.
MacIntyre knows the Buffs’ chances rest on forcing a freshman-like game out of the poised Rosen.
“We’re going to try to put 13 guys out there and really confuse him on the coverages,” MacIntyre said with a smile. “I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen. We definitely have to confuse him. We definitely have to make him uncomfortable. If he’s comfortable and he knows right where he’s going, he’ll make a lot of plays.”
Here are some more things to watch when Colorado attempts to improve to 11-6-1 in games played on Halloween:
DANGEROUS COMBO: Rosen has connected with receivers Jordan Payton and Thomas Duarte on a combined 50 catches for 744 yards and eight touchdowns in the past four games. UCLA’s passing game is among the few areas in which the Bruins haven’t been crumpled by injuries, and that continuity is showing. “I have just been consistent for him,” Duarte said. “Coming in as a young quarterback, I knew he was going to have some nerves. He was going to test everyone out, and the one that was consistent for him he would build that relationship with, and I think we’ve built a great relationship.”
CALIFORNIA CLUNKERS: The Buffaloes are 2-18-1 in California in school history, losing eight straight since a 2002 win at the Rose Bowl over UCLA. That’s bad news for Colorado’s recruiting prospects in the Golden State, traditionally a fertile ground for the program even now. “The (California-born Buffs) really don’t need any more motivation, but I think that’s a good deal,” MacIntyre said. “They’ll have their high school coaches and Pop Warner coaches come to the game.”
PERKING UP: UCLA star tailback Paul Perkins seems likely to play after injuring his knee last week against Cal, but it’s unclear how much he can do. If last season’s Pac-12 rushing champion is limited, freshman Soso Jamabo is likely to get extensive playing time since Perkins’ backup, Nate Starks, incurred a concussion earlier in the season at Stanford. Starks also is expected to suit up, according to coach Jim Mora.
CLOSE CALL: UCLA escaped Boulder last season with a double-overtime victory, but the Buffaloes drew strength from that close call. “There are a lot of great things we did last year,” Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau said. “It’s going to be a great game, and I think we’re setting ourselves up to have a really good shot at winning it.”
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