Playing in just their second bowl game since 2007, the Colorado Buffaloes were happy to be here in the Alamo Bowl. They were faced against a Texas Longhorns team loaded with talent, even with a number of opt-outs, and didn’t quite have enough to keep up. It was 55-23 loss for the Buffs, but that shouldn’t discount the success they had this season.
The Buffs got off to a dreadful start. Not just slow and sluggish, or even overmatched — it was 70-3 kind of bad. With an injured Sam Noyer scuffling, the Buffs had two three-and-outs in the first three minutes of the game, all while giving up a 4-play, 75-yard scoring drive in between. Then the moment they had a chance to get even, Noyer underthrew a potential touchdown and was intercepted by DeMarvion Overshown (!). Of course Texas followed up with a 6-play, 89-yard touchdown drive.
Things looked even worse when Noyer was intercepted on a screen pass, but on the brighter side, it was a phenomenal play by Alfred Collins, and Texas ended up missing their field goal.
As the Colorado offense sputtered, the defense stood strong and had three straight stops to keep the game in reach. Big plays notwithstanding, the run game held true when they needed a stop even as they were missing Nate Landman, Terrance Lang and Jalen Sami. The secondary was even better, as Mekhi Blackmon and Christian Gonzalez made some outstanding plays to force stops.
Early in the second quarter, Karl Dorrell made the change at quarterback, going with freshman Brendon Lewis. The freshman from Texas found Dimitri Stanley on a gorgeous throw, then Jarek Broussard spun in for the score on 4th-and-goal. It looked like Lewis energized the team and gave them a puncher’s chance in the ballgame.
Right after the Buffs got on the board, Texas gashed them for 72 yards on two plays. But just at it looked like they would score another touchdown, the Buffs stopped Robinson in the backfield, then Carson Wells and Mustafa Johnson sacked Sam Ehlinger on consecutive plays. It was a terrific defensive stop, even if Cameron Dicker made the 53-yard field goal.
Trailing 17-7 with 2:07 left in the half, Noyer trotted back out on the field to lead the two-minute offense. He found Daniel Arias for a 16-yard pass, scrambled for a 15-yard gain, then connected with Dimitri Stanley for a 28-yard gain. The Buffs ended up settling for an Evan Price field goal to cap an encouraging drive. To trail just 17-10 at halftime was a huge win considering how poorly the Buffs started this game.
Just like clockwork, right when CU scored, the Longhorns gashed them again. Just two plays and 36 seconds into the second half, Texas scored another touchdown. This time it was Bijan Robinson getting loose again — putting him 156 yards on just 7 carries — and backup QB Casey Thompson finding Joshua Moore in the end zone.
Colorado’s ensuing drive was marked by head-scratching decisions. After overthrowing Maurice Bell on a would-be touchdown, Noyer scrambled, slid to the ground, and was hit by a diving Overshown. The refs called a targeting call — instead of a late hit and a targeting, as they should have — but the targeting was overturned, meaning the Buffs didn’t gain the 15 yards and a first down. The Buffs converted the first down, but stalled out and settled for a 37-yard field goal on 4th-and-2. Evan Price missed, but Colorado should have gone for it.
5 plays and 80 yards later, the Longhorns were in the end zone again. The Buffs were called for two 15-yard penalties on the drive, gave up a wide open chunk play to a crossing Cade Brewer, and Thompson found Moore in the end zone on a gorgeous pitch and catch. Whatever defensive strength they had in the first half went out the door when Ehlinger left the game with a shoulder injury.
After a Texas field goal following a CU three-and-out, Dorrell made the final move to go with Lewis full-time. Naturally, Lewis found Stanley over the middle for 25 yards, then scrambled for a 44-yard gain to the 3-yard line. Broussard punched in the touchdown on the very next play, cutting the deficit to 34-16.
Texas’s following drive featured yet another missed opportunity for the Buffs. The Longhorns were moving the ball yet, but just as they reached the red zone, Thompson threw it right to Christian Gonzalez, only for the interception to be dropped. Unfortunate for Gonzalez — the freshman played a fantastic game — Texas scored on the following play, thereby putting the game out of reach.
After that it was moral victories in a blowout loss. Lewis led the Buffs down the field on a bevy of sharp throws, then rushed in for a one-yard touchdown. He showed off that ‘it’ factor that we were so excited about when he committed to CU. He has such a high feel for the game and made the right play every time. Lewis looks like the QB of the future, perhaps as soon as 2021.
It’s tempting to wonder what could have been if Lewis had started, but the Buffs gave up 55 points and didn’t have the depth to keep up with so many players inactive. It was a tough game all around and we’re looking for silver linings here.