The Colorado Buffaloes and Colorado State Rams met at Sports Authority Field in Denver, CO for the 84th Rocky Mountain Showdown.
It did not end well.
In a very sloppy game, the Buffaloes were plagued by turnovers and a very ineffective running game en route to a heartbreaking 22-17 loss to the rivals from Fort Collins. Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain won his debut for the Rams, and Jon Embree heads back to Boulder with plenty of questions.
The less that could be said about the first quarter, the better. Colorado QB Jordan Webb looked inconsistent in his first start as a Buff, throwing behind his receivers and unable to make throws to sustain any drive. A porous offensive line and ineffective running game did nothing to help Webb, as the Buffs offense could simply get nothing going until the final minute of the quarter.
The Buffs defense, on the other hand, was spectacular. Despite the Rams enjoying excellent field position for most of the quarter, the Buffs held CSU to 18 plays, 55 yards, and just three points on a Jared Roberts 47-yard field goal midway through the quarter. Linebackers Derrick Webb and Jon Major led the team with three unassisted tackles apiece in the first quarter.
Colorado took over immediately to start the second quarter. A sustained 9 play, 81 yard drive capped by a TD pass from Webb to WR Nelson Spruce gave CU their first lead in the game less than three minutes into the second quarter. A critical conversion on 4th and 7 made that TD possible.
The CU defense continued to frustrate CSU QB Garrett Grayson and the Rams running game, stuffing them on a 4th and 1 at midfield. The Buffs offense moved down the field - converting on yet another 4th down to continue the drive -- and a critical pass interference call gave the Buffs another shot to increase their lead. Webb threw a 9 yard TD pass to WR Tyler McCulloch with 4:25 remaining in the half to give CU a 14-3 lead. This capped a 10 play, 47 yard drive.
The Rams hit the jackpot in the last minute of the half, as D.D. Goodson fumbled a punt deep in the Colorado zone. CSU recovered at the 20 yard line, and scored a TD on the very next play. QB Grayson hit Dominique Vinson wide open in the end zone for a TD. The extra point was blocked, giving CU a five point lead heading into halftime.
Colorado received the ball to start the second half, and immediately went three and out, punting the ball. The Rams offense took over, moving 81 yards on 8 plays, capped by a TD pass to Joe Hansley. SS Parker Orms was called for a brutal personal foul penalty that gave CSU a fresh set of downs deep in Colorado territory. CSU leads 16-14, and Buffs fans start sweating.
Fast forward to six minutes left in the third quarter. After an incredible defensive series (capped by a sack by Chidera Uzo-Diribe, who had an incredible game), Mullen H.S. product Brady Daigh forced a fumble at the CSU 15 yard line. The Buffaloes pushed the ball to the one yard line before it appeared that CSU recovered a Malcolm Creer fumble at the goal line, running it back 99 yards for a backbreaking touchdown That ruling was overturned, CU went for the score on 4th and goal, and Webb ended up throwing the ball out the back of the endzone. End of the the third quarter: CSU 16, CU 14.
The Buffs received a spark at the start of the fourth quarter, as Kenneth Crawley returned the punt at midfield deep into CSU territory. The drive stalled at the CSU 13, and Will Oliver kicked a 30 yard field goal to restore the Buffs' lead, 17-16. The Rams retook the lead on a 48 yard field goal by Roberts with just under seven minutes remaining in the game to give CSU a late 19-17 lead. The Rams drive started off very promising, but a defensive stop held the CSU rushing attack at bay when it counted, halting a drive that lasted almost six minutes.
After another quick series, the Buffs punted the ball once again. A long run by Alexander Grayson , along with a personal foul on Terrel Smith, brought the ball to within the CU 20 yard line with four minutes remaining. Another defensive stop led to yet another field goal by Roberts, the 32 yard attempt giving CSU a 22-17 lead with 2:46 remaining in the game.
On the ensuing drive, CU QB Webb was rushed from the pocket on 3rd and 15, threw a pass behind the receiver that was tipped and intercepted by CSU. Yet again, the play was called back on a personal foul on CSU -- this time a roughing the passer penalty -- and CU's dim hopes remained. On 4th and 2, with 0:54 seconds to play, a swing pass to Creer lost a yard, turning the ball over to CSU on downs.
Game over. CSU 22, CU 17.