Mike MacIntyre knew going into the season opener it would be tough for the Colorado Buffaloes to play Hawaii on 'The Rock'.
And it turns out, he was right.
The Buffs started the game playing catch up after Hawaii's Keelan Ewaliko blocked Alex Kinney's punt on their first possession and couldn't recover following that. The contest was riddled with sloppy plays from both teams, who traded turnovers throughout the course of the game. Neither the Buffs or Warriors looked prepared to be out on the field in a game that lasted a little over 4 hours. Sefo Liufau and the offense didn't appear to be on the same page multiple times and it showed. Out of all of the concerns going into this season, the Buffaloes offense was expected to excel and not regress, especially on the offensive line.
The first 6 possessions for CU equaled five punts and a turnover. It appeared the Buffs would be digging out of a hole quickly, but the defense held together and kept the Warriors from running up the score. The immediate impact of new Defensive Coordinator Jim Leavitt was noticeable with the Buffs holding Hawaii to 100 yards rushing and 318 yards total.
They forced Hawaii quarterback Max Wittek to throw two interceptions in the first half and remained close, only down 18-14 at halftime. The Buffs then found new life in a strong running game behind Michael Adkins II, who rushed for 90 yards to go with two touchdowns. It still couldn't match Wittek, who threw for three touchdown passes, including a 79-yard catch and run connection with wide receiver Markus Kemp with an awful missed tackle by Kenneth Crawley. Liufau finished the game with a total of 229 yards without throwing a touchdown and one interception. CU pulled within an 8-point margin with less than two minutes in the 4th quarter and made things interesting at the end of the game .
A pass from Liufau to Phillip Lindsay took the Buffs down to Hawaii's 8-yard line and :11 seconds remaining on the clock with no timeouts. The referees struggled to spot the ball correctly and it got worse with the ball being mishandled as time expired. Liufau screamed at the officials as he tried to plead his case. No time was put back on the clock. Considering the refs fumbled the placement of the ball, time should have remained on the clock for one last play. It was very bizarre to say the least and left the game with a final score for 28-20.
The start of the season was not expected to start off this way. It's very difficult to find seven wins on the season with the loss to Hawaii. Not saying that it's not possible, but it's going to be an extremely tough road ahead. It could ultimately put a damper on any hopes of a season with a bowl game. Especially among the steep competition in the Pac-12 South. But you have to get one win first, so UMASS is already going to be a make or break game, already.
With all the talk of improvements this season, this loss was a severe blow to that rhetoric. The defense has definitely stepped up in a huge way after being ranked 112th in the nation last year. If this game is any indication of what's to come for the Buffs, then it's safe to say Jim Leavitt's group could have a record turnaround this season. Next weekend, CU comes home to play the oldest team in college football-- Massachusetts. Hopefully the jitters with Liufau and the offense can be worked out before conference play.