Another year, another Colorado victory over Colorado State in the Rocky Mountain Showdown. The Buffaloes didn’t play their best all-around game in their season debut, but the defense was incredible as they worked their way to a hard-fought 17-3 victory.
Rocky Mountain Shootout is what we expected, but Rocky Mountain Shitshow is what we got. The Colorado offense is as loaded as it’s been in a long time and Colorado State looks lethal themselves, so it was only natural to expect both offenses to pick apart the opposing defenses in a high-scoring affair. But the Colorado defense, the Colorado offense and the officials all denied that emphatically.
The game started as promised as the Buffs shredded the CSU passing defense before Phillip Lindsay broke free for a 45-yard touchdown run. Following that was another incredible Colorado drive that ended with Steven Montez scrambling, improvising and finding Shay Fields for a 31-yard touchdown. The Buffs continued that scoring run with a 39-yard field goal from Australian kicker James Stefanou, but those 17 points were all the Buffs would score.
On the other side, Colorado State offense didn’t look nearly as promising, but they were moderately successful moving the ball. Quarterback Nick Stevens, fresh off dissecting the Oregon State defense in their 58-27 Week 0 win, had a connection with receiver Olabisi Johnson that fueled their offense. On one such play, Stevens found Johnson deep down the sideline for a long gain, but it was called back for a (fair) offensive interference penalty, which effectively ended a promising CSU drive. That wasn’t the only time an offensive penalty decimated the Rams’ chances. As the game progressed, the Rams had two touchdowns and another long play brought back on three different offensive penalties, some of them fair and some of them not so much.
Despite what you’ll hear from CSU media, CSU fans, and anyone who doesn’t gag when they see green, it wasn’t penalties that decided the game, it was Colorado’s defense. The Buffs lost 9 defensive starters from last year, plus their defensive coordinator, but they were immaculate tonight and they look promising for the season. The defensive line has only one guy in the rotation who played significant time last year, but they were superb at blowing up the line of scrimmage and closing every hole. The linebacking corps are young, but led by Rick Gamboa patrolling the middle and Drew Lewis causing havoc in the backfield, this group was excellent. And the secondary — oh, the secondary — deserves their own paragraph.
The #MoneyGang was unbelievable tonight. Isaiah Oliver is a bad man and he locked down Michael Gallup, one of the best receivers in the nation. He’s so good that Colorado State effectively abandoned throwing to their best player; if he plays like this every game, he might be playing Sundays instead of Saturdays next season. On the opposite side, Trey Udoffia struggled early on to contain Johnson, but he stepped up to make a number of critical plays later in the game, including two critical third down pass breakups and a game-sealing interception in the end zone. Safeties Evan Worthington, Ryan Moeller and Afolabi Laguda were incredible themselves as they made plays all over the field. Laguda in particular was a force against the run. Worthington, back from a year-long suspension and refocused on life, did his best Tedric Thompson impersonation as he was flying all over the field making play after play. Penalties may have stunted the Rams’ offense, but it’s difficult to score if you’re
pushing off at the mercy of this Colorado secondary.
PASS BREAKUP ALERT! Thank you Trey Udoffia. pic.twitter.com/AjsYOY9Tfs— Colorado Football (@RunRalphieRun) September 2, 2017
Even though the Buffs offense struggled to score, they still looked solid overall. Lindsay looked electric as he picked up 156 yards from scrimmage on only 21 touches. Montez was slinging the ball all over the field and tore up the underbelly of the CSU secondary. His ability to improvise in accordance with Fields was critical to CU’s success. Bryce Bobo was also solid, and Jay MacIntyre was one half of an incredible play.
What a catch by J-Mac on 3rd down to keep the drive alive pic.twitter.com/cPOk5OZX1c— Colorado Football (@RunRalphieRun) September 2, 2017
The Buffs moved the ball fairly well, but their inability to put points of the board was partly fueled by bad luck, and partly fueled by poor decision making. Montez will be Montez, and he will give and he will take. The possession after his touchdown to Fields, Montez threw an interception, albeit on a great defensive play. Later on in the fourth quarter, the Buffs looked like they were going to finish off the game with a score, but Montez was picked off in the end zone on an underthrow. Montez had a good game overall, but mistakes will define him for better or worse.
Montez wasn’t alone in the occasional mistake. As the offense sputtered, so too did the play calling. None more egregious than in the third quarter when the Buffs were faced with a 4th-and-2 on the CSU 32-yard-line, but instead of going for it or attempting at field goal, they decided to punt. Sure, Alex Kinney pinned the Rams at their 10-yard-line, but that was only a 22-yard difference at the expense of a scoring opportunity and CSU gained all those yards on the very next play. The call to punt was familiar to CU fans and it brought back dark memories.
Jon Embree snuck onto the sideline to call that punt. Security is currently chasing him down.— RalphieReport (@RalphieReport) September 2, 2017
But unlike the Embree era, for all the drama, all the touchdowns negated by penalties, all the turnovers, etc., we have a Colorado victory. It doesn’t matter that this game was ugly, because at the end of the day, the Buffs beat an excellent team and start the season 1-0. Let’s celebrate the Rocky Mountain Showdown while it’s still around and let’s bask in the joy of continuing to be the best of Colorado.