The Colorado Buffaloes needed a win over Arizona State to secure bowl eligibility, but they were doomed once again by missed opportunities and a weak rushing defense. They should have come away with the road victory, but they fall, 41-30.
Colorado’s offense looked fantastic early on, but as you would imagine, they were limited by a slew of mistakes. The Buffs opened the game with an impressive drive as Steven Montez hooked up with wide receivers Devin Ross and Bryce Bobo all over the field. Unfortunately, they had to settle for a James Stefanou field goal after Montez missed multiple throws on would-be touchdowns.
On Colorado’s next drive, the Buffs executed a perfect flea flicker and Montez threw the perfect pass to Shay Fields, but Fields, who was 10 yards ahead of the closest defender and had nothing but green in front of him, dropped what would have been a 76-yard touchdown. Those points sure would have helped in the fourth quarter.
As if it wasn’t enough, CU blew another touchdown opportunity when Devin Ross dropped a 44-yard pass in the end zone on the opening play of the drive. Luckily for the Buffs, Lindsay was there to save the drive. He made up for that mistake by carrying them down the field and eventually scoring a 6-yard touchdown.
After stopping the Sun Devils on 4th-and-1 at midfield, the Buffs were up 10-0 and looking to bust it open. The offense moved down the field alright, but Ross came up just short of the sticks on 3rd-and-long. Instead of letting Stefanou add to his Lou Groza Award campaign, the Buffs opted to go for it. Unfortunately, the Sun Devils stopped Lindsay short.
After taking over at their own 28-yard line, Arizona State was aided by a weak pass interference call as they moved quickly down the field. After Wilkins scrambled for 21 yards to get deep into CU territory, Wilkins found K’Neal Harry for a 20-yard touchdown on the back-shoulder fade. Cornerbacks Dante Wigley and Trey Udoffia have been great, but against a 6’4, 225-lbs. receiver like Harry, the absence of Isaiah Oliver was difficult to overcome.
Colorado’s offense got back on track when Montez and Lindsay cut through the defense and moved the Buffs deep downfield. Bryce Bobo added to his highlight reel when he skied for a ridiculous catch on the goal line. The play appeared to be a touchdown, but he was ruled just short of the end zone. Lindsay then punched it for his second score of the game.
Just before halftime, the Sun Devils looked to answer back. They were hurt on an incomplete ruling on what looked like a superb sideline catch by Harry, but it didn’t matter because CU is apparently incapable of containing mobile quarterbacks. Wilkins showed off his dual-threat ability soon thereafter as he found Kyle Williams in the end zone on a 25-yard dime.
The half didn’t end quietly, however. ASU surprised the Buffs with an onside kick that they recovered with four seconds left in the half. Colorado was bailed out when Brandon Ruiz missed the 55-yard attempt. The Buffs entered the half up 17-14.
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Colorado started the second half with a three-and-out that took all of 20 seconds. Alex Kinney had a 67-yard punt to pin the Sun Devils at their own 1-yard line. Thanks to a sack by Derek McCartney and an awful punt by ASU, the Buffs started their next drive at the ASU 40-yard line. CU looked to be in great position to build a strong lead, but on 3rd-and-1, Tashon Smallwood busted through the line of scrimmage and blew up Lindsay for a loss. Colorado did manage points when Stefanou drilled a 53-yard field goal.
On ASU’s next drive, Dante Wigley got grown ass man’d by Harry, but he showed fight as he courageously battled the Goliath receiver. He had a clutch pass breakup in the end zone, which combined with a quarterback hurry on the next play, held Arizona State to a field goal. The Buffs still had the lead, 20-17.
Shay Fields redeemed himself when the Buffs took over after a long K.D. Nixon kickoff return. Montez dropped back and found him wide open deep down the sideline with a perfect pass. Fields caught it this time and ran in for the 54-yard touchdown.
Led by McCartney, Colorado’s defense came up strong on the following drive and forced a quick three-and-out, but the Buffs couldn’t capitalize because the were affected once again by the dropsies.
After a gorgeous punt by Alex Kinney, Harry had an incredible return, but it was called back to the 5-yard line. But no matter, Arizona State began to flex. Kalen Ballage powered through the tired Buffs defense as he led the Sun Devils into the red zone. Colorado stiffened up, however, and forced ASU to settle for another field goal.
Colorado had a chance to answer back, but they looked dreadful on a quick three-and-out. Where they should have leaned on Lindsay, they went to the air but to no avail. To make matters worse, Kinney’s punt was blocked and recovered at the ASU 40-yard line. Once again, the Sun Devils were unstoppable on the ground and it was only a matter of time before Demario Richard scored to tie the game at 27-27.
The Buffs got the ball back with 8 minutes left and had the chance to take the lead. We were given hope when Lindsay turned a simple check down pass into a 60-yard gain, but they couldn’t move the past the 15-yard line and had to settle for another field goal. Considering how well ASU was running, the Buffs absolutely needed a touchdown.
Predictably, Arizona State took over and promptly dropped the hammer. In 96 seconds, they ran 5 times for 75 yards. The last of which was a humiliating touchdown run by Eno Benjamin where he emasculated half of the defense in his tireless pursuit of the end zone.
Now down 34-30 and in desperate need of a touchdown, the Buffs’ play calling collapsed. It turns that when you’re down by 4 with three minutes to play, it’s probably not smart to have your receiver throw a pass on a trick play on 1st-and-10. Then on 3rd-and-14, they called four verticals, more or less. Then on 4th-and-14 with two minutes left, the Buffs punted despite having no hope of stopping the Sun Devils from running out of the clock. It felt karmic when Arizona State busted a 63-yard run two plays later and later a touchdown to finish the game.
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Colorado did everything they needed to do to win, but mistakes and a porous rushing defense cost them. The Buffs needed a win to clinch bowl eligibility, but we’re left asking the same questions as before.
Now Colorado has to beat USC at home or Utah on the road to reach the postseason. If you believe the Buffs can put together a complete game, you can be optimistic. But if you see these mistakes as integral to this 2017 team, these are going to be some stressful games to conclude the season.