Saturday’s nationally televised matchup between the Colorado Buffaloes and the No. 7 Washington Huskies, a rematch of last year’s Pac-12 Conference Championship, was a highly anticipated event.
Both teams boasted experienced offenses as well as defenses that lost at least half of its starting personnel from the 2016 season.
The Buffs hoped to avenge last year’s 41-10 loss to Washington but three interceptions, a blocked punt and a smorgasbord of missed opportunities turned a close game into a blowout win as the Huskies defeated CU, 37-10.
“We just didn’t handle business,” senior defensive back Afolabi Laguda said after the loss. “It’s as simple as that.”
With the score just 10-7 in favor of the Huskies heading into halftime, the end result seems almost inconceivable. But upon closer investigation, the laundry list of in-game woes begins to stick out like a sore thumb.
Rain was forecasted all night at Folsom Field, but for the most of the game, only a light mist persisted.
Colorado got off to a great start, scoring on its opening possession after Washington won the coin toss and deferred.
Sophomore quarterback Steven Montez looked sharp. He was 4-of-4 for 52 yards on the Buffs’ 11-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a short touchdown run by senior tailback Phillip Lindsay.
The Buffaloes threatened to put a good distance between them and the Huskies after Laguda picked off UW’s Jake Browning at Colorado’s 17-yard line on Washington’s first drive.
Colorado failed to capitalize on Browning’s error and punted the ball back to the Huskies after its drive stalled out at Washington’s 40-yard line.
The Buffs got another break early in the second quarter, as the defense held firm in the red zone, forcing a field goal attempt, which the Huskies’ Tristan Vizcaino shanked.
On its ensuing drive, Colorado went three-and-out and had a punt blocked deep inside its own territory, a blunder which Washington quickly turned into a touchdown, courtesy of a 1-yard run by tailback Myles Gaskin.
Gaskin was contained well by the Buffaloes early on, but by the end of the game, he was finding big holes and gaining big chunks of yardage. He finished the game with 207 yards on 27 carries.
Montez was victim to an unfortunate interception after the Huskies tied the game. He attempted to hit Lindsay in the flats but the ball bounced right off his hands and landed inconveniently in the hands of Washington’s Jordan Miller.
It would be the first of three interceptions for Montez.
“You can’t throw three picks and expect to win a game,” he said. “You just can’t do it.”
By the start of the third quarter, the Buffs were down, but certainly not out. However, as was the case in last year’s painful Pac-12 title game loss, Colorado failed to do much of anything in the second half, as Washington’s explosive offense began to wear down CU’s defensive 11.
In the final half hour of play, the Buffs were outscored 27-3.
“We played tough [and] we played really physical,” said junior wideout Juwann Winfree. “It was just the mistakes that got us. They capitalized on all of our mistakes.”
Winfree stepped up and played in place of junior wideout Jay MacIntyre, who sat out Saturday with a foot injury, recorded five catches for 33 yards, three yards short of senior wide receiver Shay Fields, Jr., who led the team with 36 yards receiving.
On Washington’s first possession of the third quarter, Browning and the offense faced a 3rd down from the Huskies’ 42-yard line.
Buffs junior linebacker Drew Lewis blitzed and nearly sacked Browning, but inadvertently grabbed his facemask during the tackle attempt. The resulting penalty preceded a 43-yard bomb by Browning to Quinten Pounds, and at the snap of a finger, the Huskies went up 17-7.
“Late in the game we fell apart,” Lewis said. “We play physical, we play smart and it kind of just got away from us.”
Lewis and fellow junior linebacker Rick Gamboa tied for the team lead in tackles with 10 apiece.
After the touchdown, freshman placekicker James Stefanou drilled a career-long 48-yard field goal, which turned out to be the Buffaloes’ final points of the contest.
Washington attempted to give CU another break on its next possession, as Vizcaino missed another field goal with just over three minutes left in the third quarter.
The real turning point of the game happened on Colorado’s ensuing drive. Montez was picked off for the third time, this time by Myles Bryant, who promptly returned the ball 35 yards for a pick six.
“Right when I released the ball, I saw [Bryant] buzz right under it,” Montez said. “Right when he caught it I tried to catch him but he just outran me. [It was] a bad decision.”
The Buffs managed just 112 yards of total offense in the second half. Even though the Buffs possessed the ball for a nearly identical amount of time as the Huskies, nothing seemed to go right for Colorado after halftime.
Montez finished with 171 yards through the air, going 21-of-27. He failed to throw a touchdown pass in the loss.
“They made good plays and we made bad plays,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said after the game. “The second half was pitiful . . . we screwed some things up.”
After an explosive first quarter, Lindsay’s effectiveness in the game decreased steadily. On the night, the Huskies held him to just a 3.6 yards per carry average. He finished the night with 68 yards on 19 carries.
The Buffaloes managed 311 yards of total offense to Washington’s 414.
Up next for CU is a trip to Los Angeles, Calif. where the Buffs will take on the UCLA Bruins on Saturday, Sept. 30. Kickoff is at 8:30 p.m. MST.
Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo