In front of a sold-out crowd at Folsom Field, the University of Colorado Buffaloes finally won their first game of the 2022 season, taking down the California Golden Bears by a score of 20-13. This win moves Colorado to 1-5 overall and 1-2 in PAC-12 play, with Cal falling to 3-3 overall and 1-2 in PAC-12 play. Under interim head coach Mike Sanford and interim defensive coordinator Gerald Chatman, Colorado played with more energy on both sides of the ball, and the defense improved in all facets of the game.
After the game, Sanford reflected on how the defensive unit had significantly improved.
“I just believed in Gerald,” Sanford said. “I was just proud of, most importantly, how our players played, how they flew around. The belief, you saw it, it was tangible.”
Colorado defense came out fast, playing with new energy we have not seen all season. Under Chatman’s guidance, the unit looked drastically improved from the game two weeks ago, when Arizona continually overpowered them and amassed a staggering 673 total yards of offense. In addition to the new energy, the defense played aggressively, putting a lot of pressure on Cal’s quarterback and making nice tackles in the open field. Cal started the game with the ball; however, soon Colorado freshman safety Tyrin Taylor picked off a pass from California senior quarterback Jack Plummer.
While the defense dominated the first half, the offense continued to struggle. Colorado’s offense had some big plays scattered amongst the first half, as their freshman quarterback Owen McCown got his second straight start and looked confident under center. By the end of the first half, however, they only managed to scratch across three points.
After the game, sophomore wide receiver Montana Lemonious-Craig reflected on several missed opportunities during the first half.
“We knew that it was there, but it all came down to execution,” Lemonious-Craig said. “When we go out there, [we have to take] the opportunities that we get. For the plays that we have a chance to make, we have to make it.”
The second half proved to be more exciting, as the offense for both teams began to work together more confidently and effectively. Colorado started to rely on their run game, which helped to open up their passing game. With about five minutes left in the third quarter, Cal took a 7-3 lead on a 14-yard pass from Plummer to freshman wide receiver J. Michael Sturdivant.
The fourth quarter brought more scoring, with Colorado briefly retaking the lead, 10-7 on a 1-yard touchdown run from freshman tailback Anthony Hankerson. With 4:30 left in the fourth quarter, and Colorado in the lead with 13-10, Cal fought hard to score again. At the last possible moment, Cal drove down the field and managed to kick a game-tying field goal as time expired, sending the tightly-contested game into overtime.
Colorado started with the ball in overtime. After no luck with the first two downs, Colorado’s defense finally had the opportunity to score. Junior quarterback J.T. Shrout, who replaced the banged up McCown, threw a beautiful pass to Lemonious-Craig in the end zone. Though initially ruled incomplete, the call was overturned. The touchdown announcement for Colorado immediately sent the audience at Folsom Field into a frenzy.
The crowd’s energy seemed to encourage Colorado’s defense to keep pushing. After surrendering a pass interference call, which gave Cal a fresh set of downs closer to the end zone, Colorado’s strong safety Trevor Woods intervened, and Plummer’s pass fell incomplete. Thus, Colorado forced an incompletion to end the game, which landed the team with their first win of the 2022 season.
After the game, graduate student and inside linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo talked about defense’s mindset following the overtime touchdown.
“They were not getting into the end zone,” Chandler-Semedo said. “We knew the game was over by then. [With a] field goal, [we might have] possibly tied, but with a touchdown, the game would be over.”
After a tough start to the season and the recent firing of Colorado’s head coach Karl Dorrell, this win felt particularly special for the team. It gives Colorado the momentum they need going into the back half of the season.
However, the rest of the season will not be easy for this Colorado team. Looking ahead, they will face several ranked or recently ranked teams to close out their season, including the ninth-ranked Oregon Ducks, the twelfth-ranked University of Southern California Trojans and the fifteenth-ranked Utah Utes.
“We take it one game at a time,” Lemonious-Craig said. “It really doesn’t matter who we are playing. We are going to go in there with the same mindset and the same mentality, just ready to give it our all with our brothers.”
Colorado hopes to carry this momentum into their next game in Corvallis, Oregon, where they will take on the Oregon State Beavers. The game, which will be televised on the PAC-12 network, will begin at 6 p.m. MST on Saturday, Oct. 22.
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