On a rainy Saturday night in Pullman, Washington, the Colorado Buffaloes played their worst performance of 2017. In front of an ESPN audience, the Buffs got shutout for the first time since 2012.
At least the game started positively as the Buffs looked solid defensively and forced a punt after a Derek McCartney sack. But as we’ve seen all too often this season, the Colorado Buffaloes wasted no time going three-and-out. These back-to-back punts were the spirit of the quarter.
Washington State moved the ball through the air and on the ground, but CU’s defense held strong and held them to punt after punt. CU got what Phillip Lindsay could get them — he passed 1,000 yards on the season on his second carry and he had 98 yards on the night — but the Buffs couldn’t move the ball without a single completed pass in the quarter. Steven Montez couldn’t get settled behind a shaky offensive line and his accuracy was probably the worst we’ve ever seen from him. Maybe it was the rain and wind? Hopefully.
The punt battle ended when CU decided to go for it on 4th-and-10 from the Cougars 28-yard-line. That play was the epitome of the 2017 Buffs: Montez dropped back, scrambled right to avoid the rush, circled back when he didn’t find any open receivers, rolled left and threw the ball out of bounds. To make everything even more fitting, on Montez’s rollout left, Jeromy Irwin targeted a Wazzu defensive lineman and was ejected from a game. I’ve never seen an offensive lineman ejected on targeting, but of course the first would be on the CU offensive line.
Two plays after that, Falk hit Tay Martin over the middle of the field and he ran 30 yards after the catch for a 50-yard touchdown. Isaiah Oliver had Martin, but he allowed him inside because he thought he had safeties helping him over the top, but they weren’t. After another CU punt, the Cougars marched down the field again and scored on another pass over the middle. This time, the fault was on the Buffs for not being able to tackle Brandon Arcanado.
The first half didn’t even end quietly. The Buffs got the ball with 43 seconds left, threw an incompletion, then a 5-yard pass, then let the clock run down to 2 seconds, then curiously called a timeout, then curiously called an 8-yard hitch route to end the half. That was one of the weirdest time management and end-of-half strategy we’ve seen from Mike MacIntyre, especially considering the Buffs were in Hail Mary range and Montez has a cannon. There was no egregious mistake by MacIntyre, it was just weird.
Just as the first half ended curiously, the second half started with everyone wondering what was going on. It wasn’t Montez under center for the Buffs, but Sam Noyer, the redshirt freshman from Beaverton, Oregon. Lindsay led the Buffs down the field on Noyer’s first drive, but a change at quarterback couldn’t spark any change in the offense as this too ended in a punt. Noyer finished with only 53 yards on 7-18 passing, but it was somehow an improvement over Montez’s 21 yards on 4-13 passing.
On the ensuing possession, the Cougars easily moved the ball deep into CU territory. Falk then dropped back and threw to his first option, but Ryan Moeller read the play perfectly and was perfect position to make the play, except he dropped what would’ve been a pick-6. Washington State scored two plays later. Had Moeller made that play, CU would’ve been down just 14-7 instead of 21-0. Colorado probably still would’ve lost — one play wasn’t going to make the Buffs not play like ass — but there’s a chance it could’ve changed the game.
Washington State spent the rest of the game gashing Colorado’s anemic rushing defense. The Cougars aren’t known for their ability to run, but against Colorado, it seems anyone can. They had 194 yards on the night after averaging just 74 yards per game prior to tonight.
Before the game ended, the Buffs did well to complete a couple passes here and there, make the occasional defensive stop, etc., but it was all just sad to see. It’s getting more and more difficult to believe in this team, but hopefully this team can pull it together and get to a bowl game.
Okay but do you know what’s really crazy? This team was only two plays away from beating UCLA and Arizona. They’re weirdly close to being 6-2 right now. That’s wild.