The opportunities were there, but for the second straight week the Colorado Buffaloes just couldn’t capitalize, dropping their second straight conference game, 27-13 to the Washington Huskies. The Buffaloes are now 0-7 against the Huskies since joining the Pac-12 and have lost 29 straight games on the road to ranked opponents
Here are my three biggest takeaways from Colorado’s loss to Washington:
1. Missed red zone opportunities, Huskies 4thdown conversions the difference
Field goals won’t help you defeat a ranked team on the road. Both the Buffaloes and Huskies saw the red zone twice in the first half Saturday afternoon. The Buffaloes managed just six points, while the Huskies found the end zone twice. Through their first seven games, the Buffs have scored on 21 of their 25 trips (84 percent) inside an opponents red zone. Nine of those scores however have been field goals.
Red zone efficiency can mean the difference between a good and a great team. So too can 4thdown conversions, and the Huskies converted both of their attempts against the Buffaloes. Facing a 4thand 3 from the Buffaloes 22-yard line early in the 2ndquarter, Jake Browning’s pass to Ty Jones fell incomplete, but Colorado’s Nick Fisher was flagged for pass interference. On the very next play, Huskies sophomore tailback Salvon Ahmed scored from seven yards out tying the game at 7-7. Fast forward to late in the 4thquarter, the Huskies up 17-14 and facing a 4thand 5 from the Colorado 26-yard line, and Chris Peterson rolled the dice again. Browning threw a 26-yard touchdown to Aaron Fuller to give the Huskies a lead they would not relinquish. “We had our chances and Washington had their chances,” Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre said following the game. “But it all boils down to they converted their fourth downs and we didn’t. That was the meat and potatoes of the game.”
2. Laviska-less offense showed promise, but needed more Juwann Winfree
Without star wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (toe), the Buffaloes offense looked slightly better than expected against the Huskies. Quarterback Steven Montez completed 17 passes to seven different receivers Saturday afternoon, including tight ends Brady Russell and Chris Bounds and true freshman wideouts Dimitry Stanley and Daniel Arias. K.D. Nixon led the way with 4 receptions for 36 yards and Arias had the Buffs only touchdown, catching a 37-yard pass for a score in the 1stquarter.
Colorado offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini emptied the cupboard against Washington, and while the ‘spreading of the wealth’ was nice to see, the one player that needed more touches was Juwann Winfree. After missing the last four games with a high ankle sprain, the senior wide receiver made his return against Washington but was only targeted once. Was he not at full speed? Did the Buffaloes want to ease him back into the rotation? Assuming he was good to go, he should’ve been more prominently featured Saturday. Next to Shenault, when healthy, Winfree is the top playmaker on the Buffs offense.
3. Pac-12 South race tightening up
With the loss to Washington, the Buffaloes sit at 5-2 overall and 2-2 in conference play, but a second Pac-12 South title is not out of reach. Including Colorado, four of the six Pac-12 South teams have two losses in league play.
After their 41-28 win over USC Saturday night, Utah is now in the driver’s seat, but they still have to face UCLA, Arizona State and Colorado on the road and Oregon at home. For the Buffs it’s simple, they need to win out and hope USC drops one of their four remaining league contests - vs. Arizona State, at Oregon State, vs. California and at UCLA. According to ESPN’s FPI, (Football Power Index) the Buffaloes are favored in three of their five remaining games.
NEXT UP: October 27 vs. Oregon State (1-6, 0-4 Pac-12), 1:00 PM MT
One of the contests the Buffs are heavily favored to win is Saturday’s matchup against Oregon State. Colorado is 5-5 all-time against Oregon State, but has won the last three games including a 36-33 victory in Corvallis last season.