"Those are all the things that wake me up every night," Colorado Head Coach Mike MacIntyre said back in July when asked about being so close in several games last season. Saturday, as the final seconds ticked off the clock, MacIntyre was wiping away tears. The Buffs had found a way to win a close game.
Stephen Nelson (@Stephen__Nelson) September 25, 2016
After being outscored 114-24 in their last two trips to Autzen Stadium, Colorado held off Oregon 41-38 Saturday to open conference play with a win for just the second time since joining the Pac-12.
Hope you got a good night's sleep coach. You certainly deserved it!
MOST VALUABLE BUFF: STEVEN MONTEZ, QUARTERBACK
No surprise here. For the third consecutive week a Colorado signal caller earns Most Valuable Buff honors, except this time it was number 12 rather than number 13. With senior Sefo Liufau out with an ankle injury, redshirt freshman Steven Montez made his first career start and did not disappoint. Montez accounted for 468 (333 passing, 135 rushing) of Colorado's 593 total yards Saturday, including 4 touchdowns. According to Colorado Football's twitter page, Montez's performance was the first 300-plus passing, 100-plus rushing in the program's history.
NEED FOR IMPROVEMENT: SHORE UP THE RUSH DEFENSE
Despite Oregon's leading rusher, Royce Freeman, watching from the sideline, the Ducks managed 215 yards on the ground against Colorado. This isn't that big of a surprise. Entering Saturday, Oregon was averaging 296 rush yards per game. However, it was the first time this season the Buffs defense allowed an opposing tailback, Oregon's Tony Brooks-James, to rush for over 100 yards in a game. This is concerning because Colorado will face some of the Pac-12's scariest running backs in October - USC's Justin Davis, Arizona State's Demario Richard and Stanford's Christian McCaffrey. Let's hope Jim Leavitt has the Buffs defense prepared.
MOMENT OF THE GAME: WITHERSPOON FOR THE WIN!
With all due respect to Bryce Bobo (see below), Ahkello Witherspoon's interception was the moment of the game. Leading 41-38 with under a minute to go, the senior defensive back intercepted a Dakota Prukop pass to Darren Carrington in the end zone to seal the victory for the Buffaloes.
In case you missed it...Here's Witherspoon's interception that gave the Buffs the ball back to close out the 41-38 win over the Ducks pic.twitter.com/g8QSFMHnLs— Colorado Football (@RunRalphieRun) September 25, 2016
Honorable mention: Trailing 38-33 early in the 4th quarter and facing a 3rd and 10 from the Oregon 31-yard line, Montez heaved one up for Bryce Bobo who made an UNBELIEVABLE one-handed grab for a touchdown. The play was originally ruled an incomplete pass, however an officials replay showed Bobo got a foot down while maintaining possession with one-hand.
NEXT UP: OCTOBER 1 vs OREGON STATE (1-2), 2:30PM ET, PAC-12 NETWORK
The 3-1 Buffs begin October with a home contest against an Oregon State team coming off a 38-24 loss to Boise State. According to ESPN's Football Power Index, there is an 87.2 percent chance Colorado wins this game, and that was before the Buffs 41-38 win over Oregon. To put it simply, this is a MUST WIN for the Buffs.
One thing to keep an eye on is who will start at quarterback for Colorado? I'm guessing Montez gets another start, allowing Liufau to rest up for a tough 3-game stretch to close out the month (at USC, vs Arizona State, at Stanford).