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Buffaloes lose in overtime to Air Force

Maybe CU should start playing before halftime.

Air Force v Colorado Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

After struggling early on against both Colorado State and Nebraska, the focus against Air Force was to get off to a fast start. The Buffs needed to take control of the game before the Falcons could with their option offense. That didn’t happen and the Buffs ended up having to dig themselves out of another hole.

From the very beginning, the Buffs looked out of sync. It worked out alright on the first drive, but the Buffs were only able to overcome negative plays because Laviska Shenault Jr. was superb. He had a 17-yard to move the chains on 3rd-and-long, then he took a quick slant, broke a tackle and sprinted to the end zone for the 42-yard touchdown.

Soon after Viska’s touchdown, the Buffs extended their early lead to 10-0. On Air Force’s third play of the game, Davion Taylor chased down Taven Birdow and ripped the ball out of his arms. Colorado couldn’t take full advantage and settled for a field goal.

After that early lead, everything started falling apart. There is no stopping the triple option without focused and disciplined defense; although Colorado had prepared for Air Force, they did not execute well. The Falcons continually gashed them up the middle with Birdow and on the outside with Kadin Remsberg. Just about every rushing play was successful, either for 15-yard gashers or repeated 4-yard dives.

When it looked like CU had forced them into a tricky spot, their passing was on point. Air Force completed three passes in the first half: the first was a 32-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-9 (AFA missed the PAT), the second was a 3rd-and-10 completion that led to a DJ Hammond rushing touchdown, and the third was an 82-yard touchdown on a blown coverage. Air Force should have had another touchdown pass in the final seconds of the first half — which would have given them a 27-10 lead — but the receiver dropped it and Mikial Onu intercepted it in the end zone.

Just as they did against CSU and Nebraska, Colorado did adjust defensively. Finally the Buffs were capable of getting stops and they actually did force a punt (!). The issue, however, was that there was nothing happening for the CU offense. Steven Montez was clearly off and missed some easy throws. The offensive line was woeful and struggled to get any push. Penalties doomed them as well, as holding calls took away big plays and false starts made it tough to get into a rhythm.

Just when it looked completely hopeless, the Buffs did find that rhythm. They got the ball to Shenault in space and let him move the chains. Montez found Jalen Harris on two tough throws in tight coverage. Then with the Buffs at the 13-yard-line, Montez threw a beautiful fade to Dimitri Stanley, who made the scoring touch. James Stefanou’s extra point was blocked, however, so the Buffs only cut the lead to 23-16. That missed PAT was obviously critical, as it meant another touchdown would tie the game, not take the lead.

Air Force got the ball back with 6 minutes left. If they converted a first down, it would be difficult to keep them from running down the clock. On first down, Delrick Abrams flew in for a diving tackle, then two false starts moved the Falcons to 2nd-and-22. After an incomplete pass, they ran a dive play and punted to CU’s 40. Just like that, the Buffaloes had a chance to pull off another comeback.

The Buffs got the ball with 4:21 to play and began moving down the field methodically. They ran Jaren Mangham for a few bursts up the middle, Tony Brown had a nice catch, and even Shenault kept it moving. The Buffs may have gotten too cute when there was a minute left and they called consecutive dives, which resulted in using two timeouts and facing 3rd-and-8. Thankfully, Viska remains a cheat code for when things get tough. On that third down, he found a pocket of space, adjusted to a low Montez throw and made the catch at the 5-yard-line. Two plays later, Viska took a direct snap and powered through for the game-tying score.

After that comeback, it was almost funny to see Air Force score a touchdown on their very first play in overtime. This tragicomedy ended with Montez underthrowing Shenault on a fourth down fade, the difference being that Stefanou blocked kick, and also CU not trying until the fourth quarter.

Notes

  • The Buffs move to 2-1 on the season. Next week they play Arizona State in Tempe, which could be a win but you never know. For the Buffs to go bowling, they need to knock off four teams in conference.
  • This was the second year CU has played multiple overtime games. Hopefully this was the last one because I cannot take this stress.
  • Colorado has now forced 10 turnovers against 8 punts. It’s almost like they know they’re not going to get a stop, so they’re super aggressive to the ball.
  • Aaron Maddox, CU’s starting safety who is second on the team in tackles, left the game in the third quarter with a serious leg injury. It appeared that Maddox ran into the Air Force sideline and accidentally crashed into a misting machine. He has a redshirt left and will presumably use that in his recovery. Derrion Rakestraw is expected to start in his place.
  • Carson Wells missed his second consecutive game with a concussion. That may be why Colorado’s defensive edge was so soft, because Wells was missing and had to be replaced by committee. Jonathan van Diest was mostly moved to OLB and Akil Jones filled in for him at ILB.