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Colorado Football: Buffaloes still a work-in-progress after loss to Washington

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The full Pac-12 slate is still in front of the Buffs

NCAA Football: Washington at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s be honest about what happened at Folsom Field on Saturday night. The Colorado Buffaloes were defeated by one of the nation’s top teams, and for all intents and purposes, the outcome, especially being outscored 27-3 in the second half, was nearly identical to what we saw in last year’s Pac-12 Championship. It was, at some points, demoralizing and hard to watch the Washington Huskies do what they do best— spark the offense by creating turnovers.

Chris Petersen’s team came into Boulder well prepared, and rightfully so. Washington is building off of last year’s College Football Playoff semifinal appearance and hasn’t lost a step after the loss of some key players to the NFL. In fact, this Huskies team might be better comparatively on a couple different levels. The core unit has more experience, they have one of the country’s best pure passers in Jake Browning, and they trot out Dante Pettis, a dangerous deep-threat receiver destined to play on Sunday’s. Washington’s ramping up for a return trip to defend their conference title in Santa Clara come December.

Colorado put up a good fight in the contest early, but couldn’t keep up when it mattered the most. Despite being outmatched and losing in a fourth quarter rout, the mistakes the Buffaloes made can be turned around by Mike MacIntyre and the coaching staff. Steven Montez is young and on track to continue developing into a excellent quarterback. He made some uncharacteristic decisions against the Huskies and it cost the Buffaloes greatly.

MacIntyre’s game plan didn’t get off to a bad start. Montez flawlessly marched down the field in the first series going 4-of-4 with 52 yards, ending with a Phillip Lindsay touchdown run from 1-yard out. What killed the Buffaloes was Montez’s ill-advised three interceptions, including one returned by Myles Bryant for a pick six, increasing UW’s lead by two touchdowns with 2:03 left in the third quarter. It was his first start against a top ten team in his career. There’s no doubt Montez will use this experience to grow from in the future.

As for the defense, Colorado’s new coordinator D.J. Eliot appears to be settling in as Jim Leavitt’s replacement and the returns have been strong so far. CU held Jake Browning to below average numbers, completing 52.4 percent of his passes for 160 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Isaiah Oliver shutdown Pettis with a season-low three receptions for 54 yards, all of them in the first quarter. The unfortunate thing was Browning and Pettis didn’t have to play outstanding due to the Buffaloes allowing 254 rushing yards, with a majority coming in a fourth quarter that included a game-capping 57-yard run by Myles Gaskin. It’s the second time the Huskies back has eclipsed the century mark against Colorado. Gaskin gobbled up 159 yards in the Pac-12 Championship and finished with 202 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday.

The Rise wasn’t built overnight and neither will this season’s minor restructure with a different set of talent. Colorado has well defined strengths and weaknesses that will become more prevalent as the season goes on.

The Buffaloes face another key game in their first road test this Saturday (9/30) against UCLA (8:30 p.m. MT, TV: ESPN2). CU won last year’s matchup, 20-10, behind Oliver’s 68-yard punt return for a touchdown.