Gardner Minshew lifted the eighth-ranked Cougars to a sixth straight win, dominating the Buffs 31-7 on Saturday afternoon. The nation’s top passer threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns, along with a 10-yard run for another score.
It was Minshew’s ninth straight game passing for over 300 yards this season. However, this was the East Carolina transfers third lowest passing total of the year. Additionally his 60.3 completion percentage that saw him throw 23 incompletions (35/58) was a season low. For a Buffs secondary that’s struggled recently it’s a remarkable feat, but part of their ineffectiveness in the early going could be chalked up to poor execution.
“I thought that in our case we just weren’t in great tempo,” Leach said. “We could have capitalized on more stuff, we could’ve scored more points in the first half.”
For the first time in CU history, the Buffs dropped a fifth straight game after starting 5-0 in a season. Colorado (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) took an early 7-0 lead on Washington State (8-1, 6-1 Pac-12) when Travon McMillian ran 67 yards on consecutive plays with 4:14 in the first quarter. The Buffaloes seemingly felt good about the 3-play, 80-yard drive in under a minute, but it was all for nothing.
The Cougars took the life out of CU from that point on, keeping the Buffs defense on the field for a total of 41:46 in time of possession. The Buffaloes had numerous chances to get on the scoreboard but shot themselves in the foot by either turning the ball over, or getting stupid penalties or punting from the WSU 36-yard line, or... you get the point.
A turning point in the game came when McMillan fumbled the ball away at the CU 31 on the second play after halftime. The score at the time was still 10-7. But after the the turnover, Washington State went on a 21-0 run to close out the game.
It also didn’t help that the team’s best player - linebacker Nate Landman, was ejected in the second quarter on a controversial targeting penalty in which Minshew seemingly started his slide prior to getting a hit.
“When you lose Nate Landman that is a huge deal for you,” MacIntyre said. “It did hurt us out there some. Some of the mistakes we had happen underneath, he wouldn’t have made.”
For the first time in three weeks, star receiver Laviska Shenault was back on the field. He finished the game with 10 catches for 103 yards, but unfortunately had two costly drops and a fumble down the stretch which overshadowed an otherwise solid day. Despite his struggles, it was good for the Buffs to have number two back on the field, and he’s expected to improve over time.
“I thought Laviska gutted it out and did well. He wasn’t able to practice much so you could tell he’s a little rusty,” MacIntyre said. “I was pleased, in talking to him after the game it doesn’t seem like it’s bothering him. He seems healthy which means he’ll be that much better next week.”
The Buffaloes will hope to get back several injured players for an all important divisional matchup with the Utah Utes (7-3, 5-3) next Saturday. After losing their two most important players last week in quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zach Moss, the Utes pulled off an impressive win against Oregon last week. Evan Worthington (concussion), K.D. Nixon (hip) and Jay MacIntyre (concussion) all sat out today’s game. Worthington reached the final level of concussion protocol but was unable to clear it by for game time.