BOULDER, Colo. — Isaiah Oliver returned a punt 68 yards for a score with 5:27 remaining and No. 21 Colorado overcame eight personal-foul penalties to beat UCLA 20-10 on Thursday night.
Oliver caught the punt on the right side of the field, cut back to the left and went untouched for the decisive score. It was the first punt return for a TD in 11 years for Colorado (7-2, 5-1 Pac-12, No. 15 CFP) and came on a night when the Buffaloes struggled to get much going.
The game featured a combined 25 penalties for 224 yards, two blocked kicks and five turnovers. UCLA (3-6, 1-5) has dropped four straight.
Third-string Colorado kicker Chris Graham connected on a 37-yarder with 13:40 left to give the Buffaloes a 13-10 lead. He also hit a 21-yard field goal that was tipped at the line but still got through. He had another blocked.
Colorado has kicker issues with Davis Price out because of mono and Diego Gonzalez done for the season after tearing his Achilles tendon.
The Bruins fared no better on field goals, missing two kicks and having another blocked .
The Buffaloes struggled to control their temper and was called for eight personal foul penalties, including a targeting call that led to the ejection of outside linebacker Jimmie Gilbert early in the first quarter.
Quarterback Mike Fafaul stepped in with Josh Rosen hampered by a shoulder injury. He finished 15 of 29 for 185 yards and one TD. He also threw an interception.
Colorado QB Sefo Liufau went a school-record 152 attempts without throwing an interception before throwing two in a span of six passes. Later, the senior fumbled on a big hit by Takkarist McKinley and freshman Steven Montez briefly took over.
UCLA: The Bruins were held to 25 yards rushing, well below their season average (85.5). They need to win out to become bowl eligible.
Colorado: They have a game lead in the Pac-12 South race over USC and Utah.
It's hard to see Colorado moving up very much given the way the team played. Better to win ugly than not at all.
There was a section of the stands lined with flip cards that spelled out "The Rise." That's the Buffaloes' mantra this season as they try to transform a once downtrodden program.
"For all Buffalo alum, it's incredible to see them back relevant on the national scene," said Jeremy Bloom, the former punt returner/receiver standout for Colorado and two-time Olympian.
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott felt the same way.
"They are a very exciting story not just in our conference but nationally, just to see the way the program has developed for them," Scott said.
UCLA: Host Oregon State, a team the Bruins beat 41-0 last season. UCLA holds a 42-16-4 advantage in the series.
Colorado: At Arizona. The Buffaloes led 24-17 going into the fourth quarter a year ago, only to see the Wildcats rally for three late scores.
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