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Buffaloes blow out Rams in Rocky Mountain Showdown

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Mel Tucker gets his first CU win.

Colorado State v Colorado Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

It was sketchy at first, but the final Rocky Mountain Showdown (for the time being) turned into a good ole fashioned Buffs beatdown. In the highest scoring RMS ever, Colorado came away with a 52-31 win over Colorado State.

The Buffs began the game with a physical drive that had fans confident. Besides a pass interference on a third down — because grabbing Laviska Shenault Jr. is better than letting him ruin your day — the Buffs only threw one pass, and it was a 1-yard touchdown to graduate transfer Jalen Harris. Every other play until that score was a run down the middle with the offensive line opening the gates for Alex Fontenot.

As soon as CSU got the ball back, reality set in for Colorado. We’ve been warned the CU secondary will be an adventure and somehow it was still a surprise how bad the coverage was. Linebackers were defending skill players one-on-one, the inexperienced defensive backs struggled in zone, and there was no sign of a pass rush. Thanks to a pair of 30+ yard passes, CSU scored very quickly to even the game.

Once CU realized there would be an actual contest on their hands, they involved Viska. Everything revolves around his gravity. Once he got the ball in space, the defense shifted to him and opened up the entire offense. It helped too that Montez dropped a dime to Tony Brown, which led to Jaren Mangham’s first career touchdown run. And just before the half, Montez threw another dime to find Shenault in the end zone.

Colorado’s offense looked plenty good, but they led only 24-21 at halftime because of that defense. Besides Mikial Onu’s flying interception in the end zone, the Buffs’ defense did nothing good in the first half. Aside from the dreadful coverage, they were repeatedly gashed on outside runs, including a 4th down run that turned into a 41-yard touchdown for Dante Wright. Wright, a true freshman, had 6 touches for 110 yards and 2 scores in the half. He was simply too fast for the Buffs to stay in front of — in case you were wondering if CU will have answers for Arizona’s Khalil Tate.

Quite fortunately, the second half began with a CSU fumble. Not only did that mean the Buffs had the ball with a short field, but it also meant they didn’t have to play defense. Once Alex Fontenot scored his first career touchdown, it was basically a 14-point swing to make it 31-21. Colorado had a chance to extend that lead after another turnover — the second spectacular interception by Onu, the transfer from SMU — but CU did nothing with it.

After the punt, Colorado State were set to answer the Buffs. They looked like their first half offense as they found open spaces underneath and in the flats. However, sloppy play doomed them again as a botched snap turned a promising drive into a field goal. They were still down just 31-24, but they spent the third quarter shooting themselves in the foot.

Colorado was surprisingly bereft of offensive mistakes. Besides a couple bad drives that just stalled out, they were mostly clean and efficient. After CSU’s field goal, the Buffs moved quickly down the field. They needed Shenault to rush for a 4th down conversion, but otherwise they had the Rams on their heels. Tony Brown had another superb catch, this time a contested catch over the middle. That set up an impressive 14-yard touchdown by the slippery Fontenot to make the game 38-24.

After another CSU touchdown — it doesn’t matter what happened; it wasn’t pretty — the Buffaloes had to take back control. Leading by one touchdown, Colorado decided to move the ball via contested catches and broken tackles. That’s not really sustainable but it works when you’re more physical than the other team. Credit is due to K.D. Nixon, Dimitri Stanley and Shenault for all making impressive plays, as well as to Montez for some impressive passes. That all led to yet another touchdown for Fontenot, his third of the day on an even slipperier 22-yard run.

After CU took the 45-31 lead, things kind of fizzled out in those last 10 minutes. The fans left, the teams stopped trying and everything wound down to a quiet halt. Well, until Jonathan van Diest blew up Collin Hill and Mustafa Johnson took the fumble in for a touchdown. But other than that brief moment of violence it was a calm finish.

Overall, Colorado put in a weird effort of poor defense, a bevvy of forced turnovers and efficient run-first offense. The defense is cause for concern, especially considering that 4 turnovers won’t be the norm. It is nice though that CU scored 52 points without revealing too much on tape. Their simple gameplan of “run the ball and only use Viska when we need to” worked out quite nicely.

Also, congrats to Mel Tucker on his first ever win.