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Colorado Buffaloes vs. Arizona Wildcats: Report card

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Insights from the Buffs tough loss

NCAA Football: Arizona at Colorado Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports

“Well I didn’t even know his number if I’m going to be quite honest,” Colorado safety Ryan Moeller said following Saturday’s 45-42 loss to Arizona.

Moeller was referring to Wildcats backup quarterback Khalil Tate who set an FBS record for must rush yards (327) by a quarterback in the victory. You think Moeller and the Buffaloes defense know Tate wears number 14 now? After all, they got a good look at his name and the GIGANTIC number on the back of his jersey last night.

OFFENSE: B

Tate’s record-setting performance overshadowed Phillip Lindsay’s huge game. The Buffaloes tailback rushed for a career-high 281 yards and three touchdowns on a school-record 41 carries in the loss. He also moved past Charlie Davis (1971-’73) and Bobby Purify (2000-’04) into fourth on CU’s all-time list with 3,043 career rushing yards. He trails the late Rashaan Salaam (3,057 yards), Rodney Stewart (3,598) and all-time leader Eric Bieniemy (3,940).

For the second straight week, quarterback Steven Montez managed a mistake free game despite having to avoid an opponent’s pass rush. The sophomore finished 19-of-32 for 251 yards and three touchdowns Saturday night, two of which went to tight end Chris Bounds, who was making his first career start.

The offensive line however has got to do a better job of protecting their gunslinger, who was sacked four times against Arizona. Through six games the Buffs offensive line has allowed a total of 18 sacks or three per game, an average which ranks them 110th out of 129 FBS schools.

DEFENSE: D

This probably would’ve been a failing grade if not for the fumble recovery by Ryan Moeller on the Wildcats opening of the game. However, Arizona had nine possessions after that initial drive and scored six touchdowns and a field goal. Four of those touchdowns were on Tate runs of 58, 28, 47 and 75 yards. He also completed 11-of-12 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown for a 218.6 passer rating. The Buffs simply didn’t have an answer for Tate, despite preparing to face a mobile quarterback entering the contest.

Starting quarterback Brandon Dawkins - who left the game on the Wildcats first drive with an ankle injury - was Arizona’s leading rusher entering the game with 341 yards in 5 games. Tate surpassed him on just 14 carries against CU. “Could someone please tackle No. 14 for Arizona?” Buffaloes head coach Mike MacIntyre said after the game. “That was the difference in the football game. He was amazing. He should be National Player of the Week. He’s a phenomenal player.”

SPECIAL TEAMS: C+

After beginning the season connecting on 10 of his first 11 field goal attempts, 30-year old freshman James Stefanou missed his only try against Arizona. His 50-yard attempt at the end of the first half sailed wide left, breaking a streak of nine consecutive makes. Stefanou did connect on all five of his point after touchdown attempts.

OVERALL: C+

It’s hard to believe, but if a couple of breaks were to go their way against UCLA (27-23 loss) and Arizona, this Buffs team could easily be 5-1, 2-1 in league play. But midway through the season, the Buffs sit 3-3 overall and 0-3 in the Pac-12. Saturday’s loss was a prime example of how the Buffs have yet to put it all together. Offense was firing on all cylinders for the most part, while D.J. Eliot’s defense looked out of sync and couldn’t contain Khalil Tate. If the Buffs can cut down on the mistakes and play a game in which both the offense and defense are on point, there’s no reason they can’t turn this season around.

NEXT UP: Saturday, October 14 at Oregon State (1-5, 0-3 Pac-12) – 2 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks

The Buffaloes next head to Corvallis, Oregon Saturday for the first of two consecutive road contests. Like the Buffs, the Beavers have yet to win a conference game and are 1-5 overall. After putting up 42 points against Arizona, the Buffs offense has got to be salivating as they’re facing an Oregon State defense which ranks 121st in the nation with 493.8 yards per game allowed. As a result, Colorado has opened as 13 points favorites over Oregon State.