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Colorado Buffaloes vs. Oregon State Beavers: Report card

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Insights from a big Buffs win

NCAA Football: Texas State at Colorado Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Another week, another game decided by four points or less, but this time the Buffaloes prevailed. Despite giving up 569 yards of offense, Colorado (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) squeaked by Oregon State (1-6, 0-4 Pac-12) 36-33 Saturday in Corvallis, OR for their first conference win of the season.

OFFENSE: B

Tailback Phillip Lindsay followed up his impressive game against Arizona by rushing for 185 yards and two scores, including a 74-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. It was longest play of the season for the Buffaloes and first over 50 yards. Last year, Colorado had 10 plays of 50-plus yards. Quarterback Steven Montez and receiver Bryce Bobo connected on three touchdowns – Montez receiving a pass from Bobo in the second quarter – the last of which proved to be the game winner. Montez completed 14-of-24 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns on the day. Most importantly, the sophomore gunslinger had a clean sheet for the third straight game. Bobo hauled in nine passes for 126 yards for two touchdowns, a two-point conversion and threw an 11-yard dime back to Montez on a trick play for a touchdown.

This grade would have been higher except the Buffs only managed 385 total yards against the Beavers, who were allowing 493.8 entering the game, 122nd worst in the FBS.

DEFENSE: D

It’s hard to take away many positives from Colorado’s defensive performance against Oregon State. The Buffaloes allowed 569 yards -312 in the first half - to a team averaging just 321.2 prior to the game. The defense came up big when it matted the most however, halting Oregon State’s final drive. With under a minute on the game clock, cornerback Nick Fisher and defensive end Leo Jackson III stuffed Beavers tailback Ryan Nall (24 rush, 172 yards, 3 TD) for a three-yard loss on second down from Colorado’s 31-yard line. Defensive back Isaiah Oliver broke up a Darell Garrettson pass to Timmy Hernandez on the following play, setting up a 52-yard game-tying field goal attempt by Jordan Choukair which fell short. Evan Worthington led the Buffs with 12 total tackles, two pass-breakups and an interception.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

Kicker James Stefanou connected on all four of his PAT attempts and redshirt-freshman Ronnie Blackmon returned five kicks for 95 yards.

COACHING: C

On the offensive side of the ball, the game plan was once again to feed bell cow Phillip Lindsay (41 rush plays vs. 25 pass), which made sense given the Beavers were allowing just under 200 rush yards per game. The pass protection however continues to suffer. I’d like to see Brian Lindgren and Darrin Chiaverini call more plays which allow Montez to get rid of the ball faster. A good example Saturday was the quick slant to Shay Fields Jr. on the second play of the game. Had he not dropped the pass, good chance he would’ve gone 85-yards for the score.

D.J. Eliot’s 3-4 defense has also struggled, especially against the run. After surrendering 280 yards on the ground to the Beavers, the Buffs have now given up 1,042 rush yards in their four Pac-12 contests, 260.5 per game. Colorado will need to shore up that rush defense if they hope to be playing in December.

OVERALL: C+

Winning on the road in the Pac-12 is tough, just ask Washington State. Yes, the Buffs were facing a team that had lost its head coach earlier in the week. A team with nothing to lose, motivated by interim head coach Cory Hall. But that doesn’t excuse the 569 yards allowed to one of the worst offenses in the Pac-12. Lindsay, Montez and Bobo played extremely well and Eliot’s defense came up with a huge stop at the end of the game, otherwise the Buffs – 10.5 point favorites entering the game – could easily be 0-4 in conference play.

NEXT UP: October 21 at Washington State (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) – 8:45 p.m. MT, ESPN

Mike Leach’s Cougars will be looking for blood coming off a stunning 37-3 loss at California which saw quarterback Luke Falk throw five interceptions. CU’s secondary will have their hands full as Falk likes the spread the ball around. Washington State boasts six receivers who each have over 20 catches on the season. Colorado has four scoring drives this season of 15-plays or more (including an 18-play, 88-yard drive for a touchdown against Oregon State) and will need at least one or two to hang with the Cougars in Pullman, WA.