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Colorado 36, Oregon State 33: Three things we learned

The Buffs almost gave away another game in the second half, but an ugly win is still a win.

Brian Murphy/ Getty Images

In a back-and-forth contest for much of the afternoon, the Colorado Buffaloes escaped from Corvallis on Saturday with their first conference win over the Oregon State Beavers. It was a game that came down to the wire and could have easily turned into an overtime shootout, if not for a missed 52-yard field goal attempt by OSU’s Jordan Choukair.

Here’s the assessment of the victory in Corvallis and what’s next for the Buffaloes.

The Buffaloes second half goals are coming into focus

We’re halfway through the 2017 season and with losses against Washington, UCLA and Arizona, the overall feeling is that CU can’t compete with the “upper echelon” teams of the Pac-12. The slow start against Oregon State along with the comeback win wasn’t much of an indicator otherwise. We’ll quickly find out what this team is made of going into the rest of the season. No. 15 Washington State has taken a hit in the race for the Pac-12 North and will need to gain as much ground as possible before facing No. 22 Stanford, on Oct. 4. The Cal Bears are no slouch either as one of the best 4-3 teams in the nation behind a fired-up defense. Colorado needs two more wins in the final five game to become bowl eligible. The good news for the Buffaloes is that feat can accomplished by playing sound football. The bad news is the majority of the remaining games are on the road.

Phillip Lindsay is turning up at the right part of the season

The saving grace for Colorado in the last two weeks has been the performance of Lindsay, who has dominated out of the backfield when called upon. CU’s leading rusher is currently fifth in the nation, second in the Pac-12 with 995 yards and 10 touchdowns. Lindsay seems to be hitting his stride right before the Buffaloes face their most difficult run-stopping opponents. Expect him to stock up footage for prospective NFL suitors from here on out. He’s also chasing CU’s record book to become the school’s first-ever 1,000 yard receiver/rusher.

The defense needs some major improvements

It was another week of blown coverages, missed tackles and a general lack of consistency for the Buffaloes on defense. There is no secret D.J. Eliot will have to return to the drawing board again this week to try and dial up a more constructive game plan against Luke Falk and the rest of Washington State’s offense. Colorado looked out of position on some plays, especially both goal line stands that resulted in OSU touchdowns by Ryan Nall. At other times, Eliot’s defensive scheme was exposed by the opposition, in what seems to be a reoccurring theme week after week.

As of now, the Buffs have surrendered the third-most yards among Pac-12 teams (2,970- 122 overall). There’s a direct correlation with that stat and team sacks, as Colorado has the third-least amount, ahead of only Oregon State and UCLA in both respective categories. Eliot’s inexperience against superb offenses could be to blame for the downward trend in total yards allowed to conference opponents.

Sept. 23: Washington- 414 yards

Sept. 30: at UCLA- 467 yards (+53)

Oct. 7: Arizona- 567 yards (+100)

Oct. 14: at Oregon State- 569 yards (+2)

Eliot must proceed with caution and make the necessary adjustments going forward. If the defense can improve it’ll allow the Buffaloes offense to be more productive. It may require a simpler game plan, but one that keeps Colorado in the game with tougher opponents.