After the Georgia win, Colorado was sitting at 3 - 1 heading into a very manageable three game stretch. If the Buffs could win two which wasn't a stretch with a couple of winnable home games, a 5-2 start would have led to some optimism. With three games remaining against Kansas State, Kansas and Iowa State, who knows, maybe an eight win season wasn't out of the question. The schedule set up unbelievably favorable with Texas Tech, Baylor, Iowa State and Kansas State at home.
Could have. Would have.
What a difference three weeks makes from that Georgia game.
Saturday against Texas Tech, the Buffs could have won, should have won. They took a 10 point lead on the visiting Red Raiders heading into the fourth quarter at home. That is when they fell apart. Execution on the road or at crucial points in the game continues to rear it's ugly head.
Colorado went 1-7 on third down in the fourth quarter, 0-1 on fourth down.
After dominating the time of possession in the first half, Colorado only had the ball for 10:51 in the second half compared to 19:09 for Texas Tech.
The Buffs were able to recover a fortunate Texas Tech fumble in the fourth quarter on the Texas Tech 35 yard line but the offense failed to push the ball into the end zone to close the game out. Jalil Brown was able to pick off a horrible Taylor Potts pass in the end zone with 5:56 left. Colorado went three and out on the next drive.
Back to closing the game out. Colorado has depended on the running game the entire year. Against Texas Tech, the Red Raiders completely shut down the ground game. Buffs RB Rodney Stewart came into the game hot with four consecutive games over 90 yards rushing, three over 100. Against Texas Tech, Stewart was only able to get 34 yards on 20 carries. Overall the Buffs ran 28 times for 32 yards.
Yes, it is great when you can throw the ball with success but not having a running game to rely on with a 10 point lead is a recipe for disaster. Colorado, depending on how you look at it, gave up on running the ball or was forced to pass. That decision to throw the ball almost exclusively caused the Buffs to hand the game to Texas Tech. CU threw the ball 19 times in the fourth quarter, most of which came with the lead. They only ran the ball three times.
Again, fine recipe when you can complete with success and you don't need to run clock but that was not the situation the Buffs were in Saturday. Did the Buffs give up on the run too early? Tough to say with the lack of success running in the prior three quarters but the problem is someone on that sideline should demand better play from the offensive line, point to the scoreboard and say we have a ten point lead and we are going to run it right down the throats of the Texas Tech Red Raiders to seal the game. I am afraid that doesn't happen, that sort of smash mouth football attitude to get the job done to win a football game.
Texas Tech has given up 225 yards on the ground against Oklahoma State this year, 251 to Iowa State, it's not like the Red Raiders were setting a record for rush defense this year. Coming into the game, Texas Tech allowed 142 yards per game and ranked 53rd in total rushing defense.
The Buffs went 6 of 19 throwing the ball in the fourth quarter. Had four drives that consisted of 17 total plays and 27 total yards. Unable to run the clock, keep the ball away from Texas Tech and capitalize on turnovers doomed the home team. Once again, the offense didn't do the defense any favors.
Texas Tech QB Taylor Potts had way too much time to operate in the fourth quarter and the little bubble screens continued to kill the Buffs' defense just like it did against Baylor.
When it counted, the Buffs' special teams was not able to make the play...again. Colorado needed to flip the field after Texas Tech had tied the game 24-24 late in the fourth. A 29 yard punt later, Texas Tech started close to mid field. Texas Tech was able to run six plays from there and take a 24-27 lead on a 36 yard field goal.
Earlier in the fourth quarter with a chance to give the Buffs a 10 point lead, 27-17 over the Red Raiders, PK Aric Goodman missed a 35 yard field goal. The miss drops him to 4 of 8 on the season, 19 of 40 on his career as a Buff.
Don't get me wrong, I thought, at times, the Buffs offense was solid behind Cody Hawkins throwing the ball to Paul Richardson and Toney Clemons. I had been calling for the Buffs to extend the field and they did that with success. Toney Clemons had his best game as a Buff, with 8 catches for 98 yards. True freshman Paul Richardson emerged onto the scene, grabbing four passes for 79 yards and two scores. Cody Hawkins looked great at times, completing a beautiful pass to Richardson. But as soon as Cody came in, the Buffs offensive balance went by the wayside.
The defense played well for most of the game, the offense moved the ball well through the air for most of the game but we get back to execution, especially when it is needed most. Late in the game, you need to run the ball to preserve a win. Late in the game, you have to make a field goal to extend the lead. Late in the game, you have to adjust and stop the bubble screen. Late in the game, you need to get pressure on the quarterback.
Props to two true freshmen: WR Paul Richardson and S Terrel Smith. Terrel Smith in his first collegiate action only led the team in tackles with 14, had one sack and one tackle for loss.Not a bad start! He was all over the field.
Colorado now has to win on the road to become bowl eligible, something that hasn't been done under Dan Hawkins since 2007 against Texas Tech oddly enough. With Oklahoma and Nebraska still on the schedule, the maximum wins for the 2010 Buffs looks to be six in Dan Hawkins fifth year as head coach.