A cool and rainy night in Boulder felt like winter's coming next week. It was ever harder to brave the elements after the second half, as the Colorado Buffaloes (3-2, 0-1 Pac-12) knew the Oregon Ducks (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12) would come out swinging.
The Ducks were embarrassed at home last week at the hands of the No. 10 Utah Utes 62-20. There was no need for any extra motivation after the the 42-point thrashing and the Ducks responded. The speculation on which quarterback would be under center for the Ducks was answered with Vernon Adams sitting with a broken finger on his throwing hand. The game time decision by Oregon Coach Mark Helfrich to go with for backup Jeff Lockie was well planned.
Backup and third-stringer Taylor Alie split time at quarterback for the entire game.
"We had a plan going in, and we wanted to execute that plan," Helfrich said about the two quarterback system. "They've both done enough good things in practice last week to merit playing."
Buffs quarterback Sefo Liufau threw an early interception and Oregon drew first blood against Colorado's defense by orchestrating a quick, 2 play, 34-yard drive. It was capped off with a 29-yard run by Ducks running back Royce Freeman, who was the difference maker for Oregon, running over the Buffs defense for a total of 27 carries, 163 yards and two touchdowns. It was Freeman's ninth career 100-yard rushing effort and he's now eighth all-time in Oregon history with 25 rushing touchdowns.
The momentum would shift back in the Buffs favor with a touchdown run by running back Christian Powell and another score from Liufau to wide receiver Shay Fields. The game was a 17-17 tie going into halftime and Colorado received the second half kickoff. Considering the history between these two teams, being tied was significant progress. Previously, the Buffs were outscored by the Ducks 164-19 in the four games since CU joined the Pac-12.
A failure to execute after the start of the 3rd quarter haunted the Buffs as they went three and out on their first possession. It allowed the Ducks to take the ball down the field for a lead-changing touchdown. The Buffs defense started to dismantle with an unlikely unsportsmanlike conduct penalty triggered by secondary coach Joe Tumpkin. Buffs Head Coach Mike MacIntyre was unhappy about Tumpkin's words with the referees and shoved the assistant coach on the sideline more than once.
The Ducks would add another touchdown by Taj Griffin to increase their lead by two scores 31-17, with 2:12 left in the third quarter. The Buffs offense and quarterback Liufau would construct a touchdown drive, bringing the Ducks lead down to within 7 points, 31-24 with 10:29 left in the game. However, it was too little, too late for Colorado's defense, who gave up a 6 play, 75 yard drive on Oregon's ensuing possession. The Ducks capped the game with a 33 yard Aiden Schneider field goal, making the final score 41-24.
Colorado's defense was hammered by Oregon's offense to the tune of 537 total yards. The offensive line struggled, allowing Liufau to be pressured most of the game and sacked five times. The Buffs also allowed 14 points to the Ducks off of turnovers.
"Really it came down to us and our execution", Buffs running back Phillip Lindsay said about the game. "Every game we play , it's not about the other team; it's about us and our mindset."
MacIntyre followed that up by saying "I think we got worn down a little bit and we missed some tackles. The one big run they hit on us, I have to go back an look at it, but I think we lined up wrong and we mis-fit it and they just hit us."
Up next for Colorado is a match up in the desert of Tempe to face the Arizona State Sun Devils. The second road game of the season will be another prime time late game starting at 8 p.m. Mountain on the Pac-12 network.