UCLA nursed a hangover from consecutive high-profile losses until late in the first quarter, when Brett Hundley ignored the boos and threw a beautiful 76-yard touchdown pass to Devin Fuller right through the heart of the Colorado defense.
There's nothing wrong with these Bruins that a few more wins couldn't repair, and Hundley made sure they started the healing process at home.
Hundley threw two touchdown passes and rushed for two more scores, Fuller accounted for three TDs, and No. 17 UCLA shook off those back-to-back losses with a 45-23 victory over Colorado on Saturday night.
Damien Thigpen also ran for a touchdown for the Bruins (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12), who rebounded from road defeats at Stanford and Oregon despite a sluggish start in their homecoming game.
"It's a relief, but our confidence was never lost," said Hundley, who moved into third place on UCLA's career total yardage list. "Obviously, I know and we know that we can still get the job done. I feel like this team can really respond well, no matter what we go through."
UCLA tried and failed to join the Pac-12's upper echelon over the previous two weeks. The losses followed a similar pattern: The Bruins hung with the West Coast's best until the second half, but an ineffective offense eventually left its defense on the field too long, leading to one-sided defeats in the final minutes.
Back home, UCLA's defense finally got some help from the offense in a 412-yard performance. The Bruins have outscored their opponents 199-66 in four victories at the Rose Bowl this season, and they buried Colorado early in the second half with a 28-3 surge.
"I hate to admit this, but I thought there was a little hangover," UCLA coach Jim Mora said. "We didn't have the enthusiasm that we typically have. I told them at halftime that I didn't think we were enjoying the game enough."
The Bruins won despite 11 penalties for 122 yards, steadily pulling away from Colorado with solid defense and just enough playmaking from Hundley, their sophomore quarterback. Hundley finished with 345 total yards, passing Tom Ramsey and Cory Paus on UCLA's career yardage list in just his 22nd game with the Bruins.
Hundley passed for 273 yards and scored on runs of 11 and 1 yards. Fuller caught a 6-yard TD pass after his long score, and the sophomore added a rushing TD with 3:36 to play in his most complete game since switching from quarterback to receiver last year.
"We feel good when we can stretch the field like that," Fuller said. "We also made some drives where we could give the defense some rest, so that's a complete effort for us."
Sefo Liufau passed for 247 yards for the Buffaloes (3-5, 0-5), who have lost 13 consecutive Pac-12 games. Colorado hasn't beaten a ranked team on the road in 21 tries since 2002.
Christian Powell rushed for 97 yards, Tony Jones rushed for a score, and Will Oliver kicked three field goals for the Buffs, who hung around until late in the first half.
"I think it shows we're making progress," Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said. "That gives everybody a little bit more confidence. Those kids and coaches in that locker room are all down, but there's a resilience to them."
Paul Richardson shook off an injury to catch eight passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. Richardson, a Los Angeles native whose father played for UCLA, was dismissed from UCLA three years ago after getting arrested on suspicion of theft before he ever played for the Bruins.
After opening the game with two fruitless drives, UCLA's offense drew a chorus of boos out of the Rose Bowl stands after a yardage-losing play to open its third drive.
On the next play, Hundley delivered his long strike down the middle to Fuller, who caught the ball in heavy coverage and kept his feet for a score — the longest pass in the careers of both Hundley and Fuller.
Colorado went back ahead in the second quarter with a 76-yard drive ending in Liufau's TD pass to Richardson, but the Bruins responded with another strong drive capped by Hundley's 11-yard TD run up the middle.
UCLA's Cameron Judge then forced a fumble on Colorado's ensuing kickoff return, and Hundley hit Fuller for a 6-yard TD catch capped by a pirouette at the goal line for an 11-point lead.
Colorado trailed 21-13 at halftime despite possessing the ball for more than 20 minutes and outgaining the Bruins, who committed 75 yards of penalties in the first half.
"I think we're taking a step forward every week," Liufau said. "Obviously, we want to get a faster result and win games, but it's not happening right now."
Hundley and Thigpen scored in the third quarter, and Fuller added his short TD run with 3:36 to play.
The Bruins played without injured linebacker Eric Kendricks, and tailback Jordon James returned from a three-game injury absence with just 8 yards on six rushing attempts.
Colorado began the afternoon with a promising victory, winning the opening coin toss for the first time in eight games this season.