The Colorado Buffaloes had every chance to defeat Arizona State last night, but mistakes by both players and coaches saw this game slip away. Hats off to the Sun Devils for staying competitive and coming up clutch, but this game was CU’s to lose, and they did just that.
PASSING OFFENSE: B-
It was actually a really good game from Steven Montez. He missed some throws and left some points on the board, but he was dropping dimes for the most part. He finished with an impressive 345 passing yards a touchdown on 23-41 passing, plus he made some plays on his feet to extend drives.
The reason why the passing offense didn’t get an A is twofold. (1) Dropped passes killed the Buffs. Shay Fields dropped a perfect throw that would have been as easy of a 76-yard touchdown as possible. Moments later Devin Ross dropped a pass in the end zone. Later on in the game, dropsies caught up to the Buffs again as they went 3-and-out on pass-heavy playcalling. (2) The coaching staff called way too many passes. The Buffaloes had the lead for practically the entire game, but the Buffs were reluctant to feed Phillip Lindsay even though he was facing a mediocre rushing defense. Also, instead of running the ball, the Buffs called a trick play that had Jay MacIntyre throwing the ball ... on first down ... while the team was putting together a promising drive ... when the Buffs absolutely needed a touchdown ... because they were down by four points ... with less than three minutes to play.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B
Lindsay deserves an A for his incredible consistency, but he was limited to just 80 rushing yards and two touchdowns. His 3.5 yards per carry looks low because the Buffs seemingly only ran the ball in short yardage situations. Lindsay did his best on those runs, but the line was blown up and he had nowhere to go before being taken down for a loss numerous times. There’s no discernible reason why the Buffs abandoned the run in the second half, especially when you consider that Lindsay will not allow his team to lose, and that he’s one of the best running backs in the country.
PASSING DEFENSE: B+
For the second game in a row, the Buffs were without their best defender, cornerback Isaiah Oliver. The secondary still showed up to play as they held Manny Wilkins to just 53% passing and 202 yards. When Wilkins did beat them through the air on his two touchdowns, it was because he threw the perfect passes to find N’Keal Harry and Kyle Williams in the end zone. Oh, and about Harry: He’s 6’4, 220-lbs. and can break a backboard on a dunk. Dante Wigley is a large cornerback, but he looked like a little kid defending him, but no matter, Wigley fought tirelessly to contain the behemoth sophomore. Derek McCartney also gets bonus points here because he had 2 pass breakups and a sack in addition to his game-high 14 tackles.
This grade would have been higher, but ASU stopped throwing the ball in the second half for obvious reasons. It also would have really helped for the Buffs to have come up with a turnover at some point.
RUSHING DEFENSE: D
Arizona State ran for 381 yards and 3 touchdowns on 54 rushing attempts. That averages out to a back-breaking 7.1 yards per carry, and somehow that average feels too low. If you want to get really sad, ASU had 191 rushing yards in the fourth quarter. Once the CU defense got tired, the Devils’ Cerberus attack of Demario Richard, Kalen Ballage and Eno Benjamin started eating up yards and game clock. While the Colorado offense stagnated, presumably because they wouldn’t run the ball with the lead despite having one of the best running backs in the country, Arizona State was completely unstoppable. It was a slow death that we all saw coming.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
On the bright side, James Stefanou and Alex Kinney were fantastic! Stefenou went 3-3 on field goals, including a career-long of 53 yards. He’s now 16-18 on the season and is perfect on 31 PATs. Kinney, meanwhile, had four punts downed inside the 20-yard line, including two 60+ yarders that pinned the Devils inside the five. The only issue with the special teams is that Kinney had a blocked punt that ASU recovered at the CU 40-yard line, though you could argue that it didn’t matter because they were going to score a touchdown no matter where they started the drive.
You’ve been waiting this whole article to get to this finally section, I’m sure. Before I write what’s on everyone’s mind, let me say something positive about the coaches: They called a superb game in the first half and their aggressiveness on fourth down and in the red zone was great to see. It wasn’t the coaches fault the receivers were dropping passes or the offensive line was blown up by a powerful ASU line.
Having said that, Colorado is not exactly a well coached team, not right now anyway. They seem all but incapable of adjusting their game plan throughout the game even when the opposition shifts theirs. Even while shutting down the ASU passing game for the most part, the Buffs couldn’t spare a defender to spy on Manny Wilkins. Even when Colorado knew the Devils were going to run the ball up the middle, CU couldn’t stop them from busting through for a 63-yard gain. Even when the Buffs were up for pretty much the entire second half, they refused to use one of the best running backs in the country. Even when the Buffs needed a touchdown to take the late lead and they knew they couldn’t stop ASU from running out the clock, they punted.
Some of these issues can fall on the players for not executing, but aside from ShaDon Brown and maybe Darrin Chiaverini, these coaches haven’t earned the benefit of the doubt. Mike MacIntyre is a good coach, but he needs more help from his assistants in every aspect of the game.
The Buffs should have won a tough road victory, but mistakes from players and coaches cost them the game.