The Colorado Buffaloes have avoided disaster. The Buffs needed heroic performances from Phillip Lindsay and Bryce Bobo to scrape past the Oregon State Beavers, 36-33, to keep their bowl game hopes alive.
Colorado has struggled all year with discipline and inconsistency, and that was once again the case in the first half. Even against the worst team in the Pac-12, the Buffs were dominated in the trenches. CU was thoroughly outplayed in the first half and had to rely on big plays on both sides of the ball to go into half down only 19-14.
The Beavers rushing attack ran up and down the field as they continually gashed the CU defense on runs both inside and out. Led by human wrecking ball Ryan Nall, they had 147 rushing yards in the first half. Oregon State also passed effortlessly as backup QB Darell Garretson had all the time in the world to go through his progressions. Fortunately for the Buffs, even as the Beavers got deep into CU territory on every possession, Evan Worthington and others continually made solid plays to hold the Beavers to field goals the rest of the half. It was bend but don’t break for the Buffs defense, and as frustrating as it was to see CU give up over 300 total yards in the first half, it was their third down defense that made the difference in the final score.
On the other side of the ball, Colorado’s offensive line has been miserable this season and we saw more of that against Oregon State’s lackluster defensive line. Just as we’ve seen all season, Steven Montez was running for his life and pressured into difficult plays. Montez was mercurial in the first half so that didn’t help much. Aside from a 38-yard connection with Bryce Bobo, most of his value came on rushing plays and a trick pass touchdown reception on a Bobo throw.
What offense the Buffs did get in the first half was courtesy of Phillip M.F. Lindsay. He continued his incredible run with an untouched 74-yard touchdown to highlight his 94-yard first half. Fortunately, Lindsay didn’t go the entire game without support as Colorado looked much improved after halftime.
With both teams clicking on offense, and neither team playing inspiring defense, this game turned into a back-and-forth affair reminiscent of last year’s game at Oregon — except this was something closer to a Kroger-brand version of that classic game.
The Buffs started the third quarter by giving the ball to Lindsay and he carried the Buffs down the field (as always) and eventually punched in his 10th rushing touchdown of the season to take the 21-19 lead. Lindsay would finish the game with 185 rushing yards to give him 995 in just 7 games. He’s been incredible this season and his legend continues to grow.
On the ensuing possession, the Beavers moved the ball fairly well, but CU’s pass rush finally came through. The Colorado blitz got to Garretson mid-throw and the ball sailed high and into the middle of the field where Worthington was in perfect position to make the interception. Even after returning the interception to the OSU 46-yard-line, the Buffs offensive line broke down again and their drive stalled out without any points. It was fitting enough that Nall carried the Beavers to the 26-21 lead soon thereafter.
After Nall’s second touchdown of the day, the Colorado offense finally found it’s rhythm. Montez looked fantastic through the air and on the ground, plus Lindsay continued his terrific play. With 8:53 left in the fourth quarter, Bobo faked a fade route before cutting inside and Montez found him in the end zone with a perfect pass. Up 27-26, the Buffs made the wise choice to go for the two-point conversion, which they converted on a ridiculous catch by Bobo.
Oregon State answered back with a methodical drive of their own. They continued to pass efficiently, but it didn’t really matter because Nall and the rushing attack were so dominant. He scored his third touchdown of the day with 4:22 left to put the Beavers up 33-29. But that wasn’t the Nall in the coffin for the Buffs. (hahaha, get it?)
Montez continued his sharp play as he once again diced up the OSU secondary. The Buffs moved effortlessly and it appeared almost too easy, almost suspiciously easy. But Montez eased our concerns when he found Bobo over the middle for the go-ahead score with 1:34 remaining. Magnificent he was, Bobo finished the day with 9 catches for 126 yards and those two crucial fourth quarter touchdowns.
In their final possession, the Beavers seemed to make every big play as they marched into field goal range. On a curious 2nd-down call from the OSU 30-yard line, they tried to run it up the middle but Leo Jackson and the Colorado defensive line finally broke through and made the critical stop. An incompletion later, the Beavers were faced with a 52-yard field goal with 17 seconds left. After going 4-for-4 on attempts in the game, Jordan Choukair’s game-winning try was just barely beneath the crossbar. Colorado took over and kneeled the ball to escape what would have been a devastating loss.
The lesson here, if there is one at all, is that a win is a win is a win, and even though Colorado nearly lost to the worst team in the Pac-12, they finally have their first conference win and move to 4-3 (1-3) on the season. Their bowl hopes are still alive. They just have to learn from their mistakes and play with more intensity the rest of the season.
Next week, Colorado will visit the 6-1 Washington State Cougars. CU will be heavy underdogs and the Cougars are pissed after losing 37-3 to California on Friday night, but there’s a chance the Buffs finally put it all together.