Not even the return of Laviska Shenault Jr. could help the Buffaloes Saturday as they dropped their fifth straight game, 31-7 to Washington State. Despite holding Mike Leach’s air-raid attack to just 17 points through three quarters, the Buffaloes offense couldn’t get it going against one of the conference’s top defenses. With the loss, the Buffaloes are now 5-5 overall, 2-5 in Pac-12 play and need one more victory if they hope to be playing into December.
Here are my three biggest takeaways from Colorado’s loss to Washington State:
1. The defense played their asses off
A week after surrendering 566 total yards in a 42-34 loss to Khalil Tate and Arizona, D.J. Eliot’s unit was tasked with shutting down the Pac-12s most prolific passing offense. Despite being on the field for a total of 73 plays and nearly 32 minutes of game time, the Buffaloes held the Cougars to just 17 points through three quarters. And they did it mostly without leading tackler Nate Landman, who was ejected early in the second quarter after being called for targeting. Junior college transfer Davion Taylor - playing out of the Buff Backer (S/OLB hybrid) position - led the way with 11 total tackles, 10 of which were solo. Each member of the Buffaloes secondary recorded a pass breakup including Delrick Abrams Jr., who broke up a Gardner Minshew II pass to Easop Winston Jr. on 4thand 2 in the first quarter to force a turnover on downs. Minshew finished the game completing only 60.3 percent of his passes (35-for-58), his second lowest percentage in 10 games this season. Maybe it was the swirling winds at Folsom Field, but I like to think the Buffaloes secondary had a lot to do with that.
2. The offense fails to capitalize, especially on 3rd downs
Unfortunately for the Buffaloes, the offense was unable to capitalize off of the inspiring defensive play. Aside from a 64-yard run by Travon MacMillion in the first quarter which led to the Buffaloes only score of the game, Colorado’s offense had very few plays in Washington State’s half of the field. “We have to stay on the field and convert on third downs. I think we are struggling in the third down area.” Quarterback Steven Montez said following the game. “We had opportunities in this game to keep those drives going but we have to do a better job executing.” Colorado ran a total of 54 total plays compared to Washington State’s 94, and they were 2-of-11 on third down. In their last two games against the Cougars, the Buffaloes have been outscored 59-7 and are a combined 3-for-28 on third downs. “It wasn’t pretty. That is the diagnosis.”Buffaloes head coach Mike MacIntyre said of his team’s offensive struggles. “Somehow, someway, we have to get it done. Since we have done it before, we will get back in there and get working. Hopefully we will have all four of our starting receivers out there. That would help too.”
Tip of the cap to Laviska Shenault. Playing at less the 100% due to a turf-toe injury, the sophomore returned from a three-game absence to finish with 10 receptions for 102 yards Saturday.
3. Will becoming bowl eligible save MacIntyre’s job?
After dropping their seventh straight game, Louisville (2-7 overall, 0-7 in ACC play) severed ties with head coach Bobby Petrino Sunday. A week earlier, Kansas announced it was moving on from David Beaty, and who knows what is going on at Maryland. Make no mistake, college football’s coaching carousel has begun. Last week this scribe posed the question, “Is it time to move on from Mac?” After five straight losses, that question is still on the table. One more win and the Buffaloes can become bowl eligible, but would that be enough to keep MacIntyre in Boulder? MacIntyre’s $10 Million buyout will make it difficult for Rick George – Colorado’s Athletic Director - to make the move, but it’s still possible MacIntyre becomes another power-five casualty. Next week’s game against Pac-12 South rival Utah will be very telling.
NEXT UP: November 17 vs. Utah (7-3, 5-3 Pac-12), 11:30 AM MT, Pac-12 Networks
The Buffaloes hold a 32-29-3 edge in the series which dates back to 1903. However, the Utes have won 5 of the 7 matchups since both schools joined the Pac-12 conference. Utah will be without starting quarterback Tyler Huntley (broken collarbone) and running back Zach Moss (knee) for the second straight game. Behind freshman quarterback Jason Shelley (18-31, 262 yards, 2 rush TD) and junior tailback Armand Shyne, (174 rush yards) Utah held off Oregon 32-25 Saturday night.