The vultures were hovering above the Colorado Buffaloes football team, but thanks to a late scoring drive and a defensive stand, the Buffs shooed the death birds away – at least for now.
CU kept its postseason hopes alive with a dramatic 35-34 victory over the Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday at Folsom Field before a crowd of 47,227.
The Buffs still need to win their last three contests – two of which are on the road – to be bowl-eligible.
“It could have been easy to throw in the towel,” senior tight end Patrick Devenny said. “That’s probably what the whole state of Colorado expected us to do, but that’s not who we are.”
Facing a third-and-16 on its own 33-yard line and trailing by six points late in the game, CU (3-6, 2-3 Big 12 Conference) sophomore quarterback Tyler Hansen found sophomore wide receiver Markques Simas wide open for a 45-yard gain to TAMU’s 22.
“Markques was my second read on that play,” Hansen said. “He was wide open, so I just had to get him the ball.”
Devenny’s one-handed grab from Hansen in the end zone on the next play sent Folsom Field into an uproar. Junior kicker Aric Goodman’s extra-point pushed the Buffs ahead 35-34 with two minutes and four seconds remaining in the game.
Four plays later, TAMU (5-4, 2-3) junior quarterback Jerrod Johnson was intercepted by sophomore safety Anthony Perkins.
“We’re all fighters,” Perkins said. “No matter what anyone says, we’re going to keep working, and it paid off today.”
The Aggies forced CU into a punting situation with 34 ticks on the clock, but Buffs senior Marcus Burton pounced on sophomore Terrence Frederick’s muffed punt to ice the win.
“They have tremendous resolve,” Buffs head coach Dan Hawkins said of his players. “They really do. They continue to believe.”
One player who might have believed the season wasn’t over was Simas. He caught seven passes for 135 yards – both career-highs.
“We know that Markques is a really good player,” Hawkins said. “I think that he needed a few games to really find his groove.”
Buffs sophomore running back Rodney Stewart carried the ball 20 times for a game-high 118 yards rushing with two touchdowns. Stewart, if he hasn’t already, will carry more of the load as the team will be without sophomore running back Darrell Scott for the rest of the season after Scott decided on Tuesday to quit the team. Scott said he plans to transfer to UCLA at the end of the semester.
Hansen said Scott’s departure provided additional motivation.
“If a guy is a brother on your team and he leaves, it motivates you more and makes you want to win more,” Hansen said.
Hansen was 21-of-32 passing for 271 yards. He netted 45 yards on the ground but like last weekend against the Missouri Tigers, he was sacked eight times.
CU’s win was certainly a game of momentum. Every time the Buffs appeared to have seized the momentum, TAMU stole it right back.
Stewart bounced outside and scored from 11 yards out, and Hansen fired a bullet to Simas for the two-point conversion to knot the score at 21-21 with 1:19 remaining in the third quarter.
Aggies freshman running back Christine Michael hushed the crowd with a 6-yard scoring run to cap an 85-yard march and give Texas A&M the seven-point lead. Hansen was picked off by senior safety Jordan Pugh on the Buffs’ ensuing drive, and sophomore kicker Randy Bullock booted a 47-yarder to grant TAMU a 31-21 lead with 11:01 to go.
“We just said, ‘Your backs are against the wall. You have to win,’” Hawkins said.
On third-and-13 of the next drive, Hansen hooked up with Simas, who managed to lean forward just past the first-down marker.
Two plays later, Sumler plowed up the middle and found the end zone to slash the Aggies’ lead to 31-28 with 7:14 to go.
TAMU could’ve put the Buffs away for good, but its next drive stalled at CU’s 3 and the Aggies settled for Bullock’s 20-yard field goal.
“We needed a win to get the confidence back up,” Hansen said. “It was good coming back in the fourth quarter against a good football team. Texas A&M is no slouch. To get a win is huge right now.”
The Buffs dodged an early bullet as TAMU, on its first possession of the game, opted to go for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from CU’s 1 instead of attempting the field goal.
Johnson tucked behind his offensive line, but seniors Ben Burney and Marcus Burton combined to stand-up Johnson and keep him out of the end zone. Later in the first quarter, Johnson hit sophomore wide receiver Jeff Fuller for a 1-yard score to give the Aggies a 7-0 lead.
Trailing 7-3, Stewart polished off a 69-yard drive with a hard-earned 13-yard touchdown run around the right side to give CU a 10-7 lead with 9:11 to play in the second.
The Buffs’ momentum was sucked away in 14 seconds as sophomore Cyrus Gray returned Goodman’s kickoff 99 yards to the house.
Texas A&M grinded out a 10-play, 56-yard scoring drive in 2:41 to nab a 21-10 lead before the half. Johnson, on a quarterback keeper, weaved through CU’s defense and squirted across the plane of the goal line from 3-yards out.
Goodman tacked on a 37-yard field goal to pull the Buffs’ within eight midway through the third.
CU travels to Ames, Iowa to take on the Iowa State Cyclones (5-5, 2-4) at noon next Saturday.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Alex K.W. Schultz at Alexander.email@example.com.