By: Travis Halopoff
Well, it looks like Colorado won’t be going winless, after a one-point victory in a battle between the PAC-12’s proverbial doormats.
The most immediate thing one can take from the Buff’s 35-34 win is that our defense still leaves a lot to be desired. However, on the other side of the ball, the Buff’s offense finally showed some life. It remains to be seen if we can gain any consistency.
I have been trying to refrain from getting too excited over beating WSU—a team that hasn’t been relevant since the early 2000’s—but the heart and determination that the Buff’s showed in the 4th quarter was intoxicating. They scored three touchdowns over the final seven minutes—two 70+ yarders—and proved to themselves that miracles can happen. This close win almost made me forget that Colorado never came to play the week before against Fresno State. It also almost made me forget that CU was thoroughly beaten for the majority of the game.
The Cougars opened the scoring on their first possession with a 32-yard pass from Connor Halliday to Gabe Marks. CU came right back, though, with a 75-yard scoring drive that saw Jordan Webb hit all five of his passes, including a crisp 16-yarder to Nelson Spruce for the score. (Spruce has been a pleasant surprise; he appears to be emerging as Webb’s go-to guy.)
CU had a chance to take the lead on their second series (after a Cougar red zone INT). The Buffs couldn’t get the ball in the end zone, however, and settled for a 30-yard field goal—which Will Oliver promptly missed. Washington State then began to go to work, as CU’s secondary was surgically picked apart.
A Carl Winston fumble deep in Washington State territory allowed the Buffs to score and close the gap on their first possession of the second half.
When WSU kicked a field goal early in the 4th for a 31-14 lead, it appeared over. Fresno had already showed us that the Buffs have no heart. This would require a miracle, and some sort of offensive explosion. CU had shown it could occasionally move the ball on offense, but not consistently. And then… all of a sudden…
-A quick, 70-yard touchdown to the lumbering TE Nick Kasa at the midway point of the fourth quarter.
-A defensive stop.
-An 84-yard touchdown run by Tony Jones with 4:23 left.
-A WSU field goal (which was a victory considering they just had a 56 yard kickoff return).
-A final drive culminating in Webb’s 4-yard QB draw with 9 seconds left.
It all seemed so impossible, especially after watching Halliday and Mike Leach’s high-powered spread offense tear up CU’s much maligned secondary. Halliday threw for 401 yards and 4 TDs, with 2 INTs. Webb was outdueled for the majority of the game, but a big fourth quarter gave him 345 yards, 4 total TD’s, and a 69% completion percentage. Nelson Spruce emerged as his new favorite target—as was evidenced by both his stat line (8 receptions, 103 yards, one TD), as well as Webb’s propensity to go to him on big third downs or when under pressure.
Next Week: UCLA at CU
UCLA is coming off of a brutal loss to Oregon State—however, that means next to nothing for the Buffaloes. The Beavers have established themselves as a legit team with a dominant defense; UCLA is still explosive, athletic, and well coached. Anthony Barr is one of the scariest pass-rushers I’ve watched, and let’s face it – CU is not exactly full of studs on the O-line. Furthermore, UCLA’s offense is potent and equally capable of moving the ball through the air or on the ground.
I don’t think I’ll be touching this game unless CU is given favorable underdog odds (+30 would warrant consideration). UCLA’s up-tempo, “17 seconds or less” pistol offense should be slowed by the altitude. However, Oregon brought their up-tempo spread to Folsom Stadium last year and put up 28 points in a forgettable first quarter.
But, since it’s the truth (for however short)… BUFFS TIED FOR NUMBER ONE IN THE PAC 12 SOUTH!