The offensive duo of University of Colorado (1-0) quarterback Sam Noyer and sophomore tailback Jarek Broussard burst onto the scene Saturday night at Folsom Field as the Buffs downed the UCLA Bruins (0-1), 48-42.
“It felt great,” Noyer said. “Getting the first star under my belt with the win, it was a fun game for sure and there’s some things we need to clean up, but overall it was a great experience.”
Setting the stage for Noyer and Broussard’s heroics was a fearless Buffs’ defense and special teams unit that forced 4 UCLA turnovers in the first half. Increased physicality was a major goal for this Buffs’ defense and the young group showed it against UCLA.
At 5-foot-9 and 185 lbs, Broussard prompts comparison to former CU RB and Denver Broncos’ undrafted signee Phillip Lindsay. Broussard has an inspiring story himself, overcoming multiple ACL surgeries to become the Buffs’ week one starter when junior tailback Alex Fontenot hit the injury list. Slipping past UCLA defenders and exploding in the open field, Broussard racked up 187 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries.
With only 554 scattered fans in the stands, it was unknown how the Buffs would generate energy early. CU received the opening kickoff and after an unsuccessful first drive, senior safety Derrion Rakestraw leaped on the UCLA punt returner and punched the ball loose to get CU the ball back. That was all the juice Colorado needed. Offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini used the special team’s gas to rev up Broussard”s engine.
It was both Broussard and Noyer’s first start at CU and their chemistry was key to leading the Buffs’ offense.
“Early in the game we told each other that we were going to depend on each other and he (Noyer) just got comfortable with it,” Broussard said.
Broussard punched home a 6-yard touchdown to open the scoring and after an acrobatic interception courtesy of junior outside linebacker Carson Wells, CU regained possession at UCLA’s one-yard line. Once again, Broussard found the end zone and it was 14-0 halfway through the first quarter.
After not having started a competitive game since his senior year of high school in 2015 and playing four games at safety last year, Noyer proved himself to be a viable option at QB. Noyer’s throwing accuracy excelled throughout the night as he completed 6 of his first 7 passes and finished the night 20-of-31 with 257 yards. Noyer’s lone touchdown pass came early in the second quarter when he found senior tight end Brady Russell for a 12-yard score to give the Buffs a 21-7 lead.
“This is definitely (a) vindication for him,” head coach Karl Dorrell said. “He believed he was a quarterback but he did a team (focused) unselfish thing a year ago and moved to safety and then finally he’s back playing a position he wants to play and wanted to play at the very beginning. For him to play the type of game he played today in his first start, (I’m) very proud of him too.”
Colorado’s offense wasn’t afraid to let Noyer run the rock either. Noyer ran for 64 yards on 13 plays while UCLA’s starting running back Demetric Felton had just 57 yards on the ground. Noyer said that Chiaverini had urged Noyer to run the ball more often and it worked well.
Sophomore tailback Jaren Mangham struggled to find open space all night, rushing for 6 yards on 9 attempts, but he found the end zone late in the first half to give the Buffs their biggest lead of the game, 35-7. UCLA answered with a touchdown to close the first-half scoring.
Entering the second half, CU’s energy on defense faded. On the second play of the third quarter, UCLA junior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson broke free for a 65-yard touchdown to give the Bruins life and cut the score to 35-21. Rakestraw said CU’s defensive blunders will be used as learning experiences moving forward. “(We had) A couple missed assignments but it was nothing major we couldn’t get fixed,” he said.
Rakestraw and senior linebacker Nate Landman led the Buffs with six tackles each and another Buff who was making his college debut, freshman cornerback Christian Gonzalez, had five. Senior defensive tackle Mustafa Johnson had the Buffs only sack but it was a key one midway through the fourth quarter.
An area the Buffs will look to improve on is their field goal unit. Both senior placekicker James Stefanou’s 40-yard attempt in the third quarter and sophomore Evan Price’s 44-yard attempt in the fourth quarter were blocked. Stefanou’s blocked kick would lead to a Felton rushing touchdown that cut CU’s lead to 35-28.
Noyer’s quick tempo offense drove 75 yards in three and a half minutes on the ensuing drive and the Buffs took a 42-28 lead on a QB sneak. A pair of Price field goals were enough to make a late UCLA touchdown meaningless and the Buffs exited Folsom Field with their first victory of 2020.
For Dorrell, the win had an extra layer as he led the Bruins from 2003-2007. He said his emotional reaction was minimal following the game and his focus has shifted to week two.
Colorado will embark on its first road trip of the season to challenge Stanford on Nov. 14 at 1:30 pm MST.
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