The No. 21 University of Colorado Buffaloes (4-2) lost at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at the hands of the USC Trojans (3-3) 21-17. In its first week as a ranked team since 2005, the loss comes as a hurdle to CU’s recent build-up of momentum.
It was a tough four quarters for the Buffs on Saturday. After a streak of scoring on their first possessions at the start of the season, the team has failed to convert early-on in back-to-back games. Their struggles lasted longer than against Oregon State last week, as Colorado failed to score in the first half.
Freshman quarterback Steven Montez was not his usual self on Saturday. After making a variety of big plays in previous weeks, Montez averaged 4.9 yards per throw. USC’s defense made Colorado work for every yard. Once the running game failed to generate much positive momentum, the team relied on throwing it more. The team ended up throwing 44 times.
That’s in contrast to the Trojans, who were able to find a balance on offense for most of the day. Running back Justin Davis was able to bulldoze through the Buffs’ defense.
With the defense expecting more runs, USC was able to open up the passing game. Quarterback Sam Darnold went off, throwing three touchdowns and picking up 358 yards on the day. Darnold found tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe wide open in the seam for the long ball.
Darnold made another incredible play in the second quarter. He botched the handoff to the running back and the play quickly looked dead. With defenders all around him, Darnold was able to weave around long enough to find tight end Tyler Petite open. Petite was able to find the end zone.
The Trojans were up 14-0 at the half, and plays continued to go their way with the opening kickoff. Cornerback Adoree Jackson found an opening and took the ball far downfield for good starting field position.
Colorado retaliated and came out of the gates quickly. A flurry of USC turnovers set up Colorado to come back into the game, if the defense had anything to say about it.
But the defensive unit could not play offense. The offense, for the most part, could not convert on these golden opportunities. Their only conversion out of the turnovers was a trick play, where Montez threw what looked like a screen to junior wide receiver Bryce Bobo. Bobo, instead of running downfield, threw a pass to junior running back Phillip Lindsay, who took it 67 yards for the score.
Montez was able to lead a scoring drive later on, in the fourth quarter, throwing a touchdown pass to Bobo on third down. But USC was able to counter on another score by Petite.
Down 21-14, Montez started another drive. Colorado made it into Trojan territory, but the quarterback lost yards on a bad carry on third down. The field goal unit came out and sent the ball to the uprights for a successful 3 points. They were hoping the defense could get the ball back.
But USC was effectively able to gain first downs and stay in-bounds. On third down, with under two minutes to go, Darnold connected with wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster, who was able to turn up field. The clock ticked down and the home team came out on top.
This offensive performance is going to draw criticism from the Colorado fan base. There was already drama during the game against the Trojans, when senior quarterback Sefo Liufau came in after Montez took a hit late in the second quarter.
Montez, who was ineffective most of the day, was not getting too much support on social media. The freshmen was cleared to play at the start of the second half, and played the rest of the game. How the team responds is yet to be seen.
Colorado will look to rebound next week. The team will return to Boulder to face the Arizona State Sun Devils. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. (MST) next Saturday.
Contact CU Independent Copy Editor Jake Mauff at firstname.lastname@example.org.