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Colorado falls to Oregon State despite great defensive performance

Despite their best efforts, Colorado’s defense couldn't bailout the struggling offense.

Oregon State v Colorado Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

This week’s game was certainly one to forget for the Colorado football team. The Buffaloes dropped their third straight game, falling by a score of 26-19 to the Oregon State Beavers. The 16th ranked Beavs proved to be too much for the Buffs to handle. Despite having numerous opportunities to win this game, CU squandered them all.

The first half of football was riddled with mistakes. Omarion Cooper forced a fumble that the Buffs recovered at the OSU 36-yard-line, but Shedeur Sanders fumbled it right back to the Beavs. After Aidan Chiles took a QB draw to the house to get OSU on the board, the Buffs had the chance to answer. Shilo Sanders forced a fumble that the Buffs recovered at the OSU 17, yet the offense stalled again and settled for a field goal.

Still, the Buffs had played tremendous defensively and could have gone into halftime with a 7-3 deficit, but disaster struck. With only 44 seconds left in the first half, the Buffs got the ball at their own 5-yard line. Instead of just kneeling it out and heading to the locker room, Colorado decided to take a chance at a score. Both pass attempts by Shedeur Sanders fell incomplete, Jonathan Smith called another timeout, and Anthony Gould returned the punt to the CU 20-yard-line. OSU scored on the next play when DJ Uiagalelei found Deshaun Fenwick on a wheel route.

The second half was more exciting than the first at least. Oregon State would strike first on a long, methodical touchdown drive that burned over seven minutes off the clock. It looked like the Beavs had taken a 21-3 lead, but things got weird. Despite the extra point try being good, Oregon State accepted a penalty on the Buffs and decide to go for two instead. On the two point conversion attempt, quarterback DJ Uiagalelei fumbled the handoff and Colorado’s Kyndrich Breedlove housed the recovery for a two-point score. This was the first time since 1993 that the Buffs scored on an opposing two-point conversion. What should have been a 21-3 lead turned into 20-5 due to some Pac-12 After Dark black magic.

To close the game out, the Buffs and Beavs exchanged scores. After the defense made a huge red zone stop to hold OSU to a field goal, the offense finally decided to wake up. A long reception from Xavier Weaver set the Buffs up in the red zone and running back Anthony Hankerson punched it in on a 12-yard catch, making the score 23-12. The Beavs scored another field goal, followed by a quick Travis Hunter touchdown by Colorado. That touchdown would prove to be too little too late however, as the Buffs never saw the ball again and fell 26-19. Without that completely avoidable touchdown to end the second half, this would have been a tie game at the final whistle.

This game of football was a tale of two sides of the ball. On offense, the Buffaloes looked like they had lost all of their identity. Offensive analyst and former NFL head coach Pat Shurmur was given play calling duties over offensive coordinator Sean Lewis this week, which caused Colorado’s offense to look vastly different. Instead of utilizing an air attack that prioritized big and explosive plays, the Buffs tried to play something akin to small ball. Quarterback Shedeur Sanders was checking the ball down far more than usual, as his longest completion during the first half was only eleven yards.

This new Shurmur system trades in a lot the Colorado’s explosiveness in order to take a lot of pressure off the offensive line. Instead on trying to hold a pocket for four to five seconds under the Lewis system, they only have to hold a pocket for a second to two under Shurmur. The problem is that this team isn’t constructed to play Shurmur’s style of football. Colorado’s offense is undersized but very fast, allowing them to break off big and explosive plays. Shurmur’s dink and dunk system just doesn’t translate well to the Buffs due to their lack of size and physicality.

Shurmur or no Shurmur, the Buffs had their worst offensive game of the season last Saturday. Shedeur finished the game with 245 yards passing, but the run game was even worse than it had previously been. The Buffs finished the game with -7 rushing yards after justifying the Lewis demotion by emphasized the lack of run game. Colorado’s 238 yards of total offense is the lowest amount they’ve put up all season. Without Shedeur’s efforts, this unit would have been unwatchable.

Speaking of Shedeur, he played his absolute heart out. The Colorado quarterback has taken a beating this year, being the most sacked QB in all off college football. It got to the point where Shedeur was having visible trouble walking against Oregon State. Despite that, Shedeur never left the game. The Colorado quarterback did everything he possibly could to stay on the field to help his teammates, including getting an injection at the beginning of the fourth quarter just to finish the game. Postgame, Shedeur said he never even considered leaving the game.

“No. What type of guy would I look like to leave 80 guys hanging out there?” Shedeur asked. “It’s gotta be a life or death situation to leave the guys hanging.”

Colorado’s defense was the saving grace last week. The unit held their own against what is likely the best run blocking team in the entire country. Colorado’s big men held the Beavs to only 195 yards on 46 rushing attempts. This is a very promising sign for a Buffs defensive line that struggled stopped the run just a few months ago. Holding Oregon State to 26 points is quite an achievement too. The Buffs’ defensive is moving in the right direction, which is a very encouraging sign going into next season.

Colorado’s defense managed to force three fumbles this week. In their last two games, the Buffaloes’ turnover margin has been +6. Tonight’s highlight would have been Shilo Sanders laying out the boom to force the ball out of Damien Martinez’s hands, making that his second forced fumble in two weeks. If the Buffs can continue to win the turnover battle, there could perhaps be an upset win in their future.

The Buffs now fall to a record of 4-5. This will the first time this season that the Buffs’ record has been below .500. Next week, the Arizona Wildcats will make their way to Folsom Field for the final home game of the season. The white-hot ‘Cats should be a huge challenge for Colorado. Fans can watch that game on Pac-12 Networks when it kicks off at noon MT. (FINALLY a normal home kickoff time!!!)