After trailing by as many as ten points in the second quarter, Washington stormed out of the locker room, outscoring Colorado 21-3 in the second half on their way to a 38-23 victory.
"I felt like Washington won the game, but we also gave them the game," said head coach Mike MacIntyre after the loss.
Known for slow starts, especially in Pac-12 play, Colorado started strong for a change, forcing a three-and-out on the first drive of the game. A few minutes later, CU was on the board following a nine-play, 70-yard drive, capped by a perfectly thrown touchdown pass from Sefo Liufau to D.D. Goodson along the right sideline.
Colorado caught a break on the following Huskies' drive. With Washington driving inside the Colorado 20, Cyler Miles fumbled a snap from Colin Tanigawa, handing the Buffs possession, and a chance to go up by two scores early on in the first quarter.
And that's exactly what Colorado did. Michael Adkins caught a Liufau pass and broke several tackles on his way to a 43-yard gain. Adkins followed up his reception with runs of 7, and 16 yards, advancing the ball to the UW 11. But the Colorado drive stalled, and Will Oliver made a 32-yard field goal to give the Buffs a 10-0 lead.
UW's Shaq Thompson almost single-handedly kept the Huskies in the game during the first half. The linebacker-turned-running back racked up 152 yards on the ground in the first half, including a 24-yard touchdown run to pull Washington within three.
The Buffs bounced back nicely after the UW score. A nice 41-yard return by Phillip Lindsay gave Colorado excellent field position. Two plays later, Liufau found Nelson Spruce for a 39-yard gain down to the UW 5-yard line. On 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Liufau faked a handoff and rolled out right, finding George Frazier in the endzone, pushing the Colorado lead to 17-7.
But Thompson continued to be a thorn in the side of the Buffs. A 56-yard run by Thompson led to a Cameron Van Winkle field goal. Washington ended the half with a speedy seven-play, 78-yard drive, finished off by a Miles pass to Kendyl Taylor. Ahead 20-17, Colorado took their third halftime lead of Pac-12 play.
For the first time all season, Colorado deferred possession after winning the coin toss. The strategy appeared to pay off, with UW punting to begin the game, and Oliver converting his third field goal of the game, this time from 49 yards.
From that point on, the second half was an incredible comedy of errors.
Washington looked poised to take their first lead of the game, but UW receiver DiAndre Campbell fumbled at the CU 1-yard line. Derek McCartney looked like he recovered the fumble in the endzone, but the officiating crew ruled Campbell down before the fumble. MacIntyre challenged, and the call was overturned, giving CU the ball at the 20 and all the momentum.
But moments later the momentum was fumbled away again. After a nice first down completion to Spruce and a nine-yard run by Lindsay, UW's Scott Lawyer stripped Lindsay, giving the ball right back to the Huskies, who quickly exchanged the turnover for points, as Miles found Dante Pettis down the left sideline for a touchdown, and the lead.
Two plays later, Liufau - who to that point had been having a solid game, going 16-of-24 with two touchdowns and no interceptions in the first half - stared down linebacker Travis Feeney, and then threw right to Feeney, who sprinted 30 yards for the touchdown.
The nightmarish third quarter wasn't over. Lindsay fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving UW excellent field position. The Colorado defense forced a punt after the fumble, but a three-and-out gave the ball right back to Washington.
An 87-yard punt return by Pettis after a Darragh O'Neill rugby punt was the final nail in the Colorado coffin.
"That was very disheartening, we had all the momentum in the world when it was 23-17," said MacIntyre. "We had an unfortunate fumble and they got some momentum back. Then it was really kind of gave them the game."
With Colorado sitting at 2-7, a bowl game is no longer within the realm of possibility. But CU's players and coaches all stated that the team would keep fighting during their last three games, even if their goal of reaching a bowl game is no longer attainable.
"A bowl game was the goal, but our main goal is to win football games," said Adkins. "A bowl game is just extra added on to that."
Next up for the Buffs is a trip to the desert to face Arizona.