Folsom Field boasted an attendance of 49,532 in its inaugural Pac-12 game. This game also served as the 10th anniversary of Colorado’s 2001 Big-12 Championship team. Despite a fierce, record-breaking battle with California that extended into overtime, Colorado fell short 36-33.
The Buffs fared better than last year’s match up with Cal, where they lost 52-7. Entering today’s game, the Buffs had to prove that they could compete with the elite of their new conference. Going 0-2 certainly puts them in a position that no team wants to see at the start of the season.
For Coach Jon Embree and his team, the term “must win” means more now than it ever has before.
“Next week is a must win for us,” said senior quarterback Tyler Hansen. “We have to treat it like a playoff game.”
In the first half, CU’s offense began to show up after being absent against Hawaii last week.
Senior Tyler Hansen threw 28-of-49 passes for 474 yards, breaking the school record for most passing yards. Sophomore receiver Paul Richardson got in on the record smashing party too. He hauled in eleven catches for 284 yards.
Senior Rodney Stewart remained a valuable asset on offense. The all-around tailback gained 164 total yards, the majority of those through the air.
Colorado headed into the halftime trailing 16-6.
Coming of out the locker at the end of the break, Colorado’s offense went to work, especially via the passing game. Senior tight-end Ryan Deehan caught a 37-yard pass for a touchdown, pulling the Buffs within three of Cal at 16-13.
Cal responded with their own scoring drive, going ahead again 23-13 in the third quarter.
Richardson, who had been a favorite of Hansen’s in the first half, showed maturity near the end of the third quarter.
Hansen threw a quick pass to Richardson, and took the ball 66 yards for the touchdown. Immediately after, the tandem picked up where they left off, doing their best impression of Philadelphia Eagles’ Quarterback Michael Vick and receiver DeSean Jackson.
Stewart got back to work in the fourth quarter on a halfback screen for 26 yards. Hansen was able to convert a crucial fourth-down play by showing a bit of his speed and scrambling ability for the first down. Richardson continued to be a human highlight reel, getting Colorado closer to the end zone with a diving catch on third-down to get another first.
Colorado helped with their own demise, with two consecutive penalties in the red zone with under a minute left. After a desperate scramble in search for an open receiver, Hansen went down with an apparent leg injury, although he would later return to the game. Colorado was then forced to settle for the field goal to send the game into overtime.
Rodney Stewart, who had been quiet for the better part of the second half, pulled off two big runs to bring Colorado closer to the end zone at the start of overtime. Three big stops by Cal forced Colorado to settle for a field goal.
Cal fared no better, with two penalties that set the ball back at the 35. A spectacular catch and run put them right back within scoring range. Cal quarterback Zach Maynard completed a 2-yard pass two plays latter for the game-winning touchdown, setting the Buffs back with a 0-2 record.
It was a tough loss for the team, who hard fought hard, but came up short in the end.
“We have seniors crying in the locker room, there is no one talking,” said Hansen. “It is a real down locker room, because we were so close and we wanted this one for Coach Embree and the 2001 team.”
Even considering his record setting performance, Hansen wasn’t at all concerned about the achievement.
“I’d rather have the win, I’d be ok throwing 20 yards and getting a ‘W’,” Hansen said. “It feels good getting the passing game going, we got to get the running game going though, we got to get those guys up front to pull the ball.”
Embree expressed his disappointment towards the loss.
“I thought we would win,” Embree said. “We continually find a way not to finish. I’m not taking anything away from Cal…congratulations to them, but I’m very disappointed.”[Click here for a slideshow from the game.]
Next week is the annual Mile High Showdown against in-state rival CSU. For the team, this is a must win as going down 0-3 all but seals their fate. Saturday, September 17 at 11:30 CU will take on CSU at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Contact CU Independent Sports Writer Shay Knolle at Shay.firstname.lastname@example.org