A week after blowing a 28-point lead to Oregon State, the Colorado Buffaloes dropped another heartbreaker Friday night to Khalil Tate and the Arizona Wildcats. It was the Buffaloes fourth straight loss, as they fell to 5-4 overall and 2-4 in conference play. After a 5-0 start to the season, Colorado remains one-win shy of becoming bowl eligible for just the second time since joining the Pac-12.
Here are my three biggest takeaways from the Buffaloes close loss:
1. Steven Montez is one tough sonofabitch
This scribe has to give credit where credit is due. Were it not for the play of quarterback Steven Montez, the Buffaloes might not of had a chance at all against Arizona. Despite being sacked five times and suffering a number of big hits, the junior completed 27-of-42 passes for 343 yards and three touchdowns against the Wildcats.
”We had some drives and put some plays together and we were starting to make positive plays,” Montez said after the loss. “There was a little bit of consistency, but there was pressure all night. But the good ones find a way to get it done.”
Being without his top weapon Laviska Shenault for the third straight game and having lost receivers K.D. Nixon and Jay MacIntyre to injuries mid-game, makes Montez’s performance that much more impressive. It’s also extremely difficult to “get it done,” when you’re running for your life most of the game. For the second straight week, the Buffaloes started three freshmen - LT Wil Sherman, C Colby Pursell and RT Frank Fillip - on the offensive line. Some of the pressure can be attributed to good coverage downfield or Montez holding onto the ball too long, but the bottom line is the Buffaloes offensive line unit needs to improve quickly if they plan on playing into December.
Tip of the cap to true freshman walk-on placekicker Tyler Francis. Filling in for James Stefanou (hip) and Evan Price (illness), the Carlsbad, Calif. native connected on both of his field goal attempts (25 and 48 yards) and all four of his PAT kicks.
2. Missed opportunities cost the Buffaloes again
“It’s not a question of effort or of guys going hard, it’s just what’s killing us, dragging us down, is when those opportunities to make plays present themselves, we have to take advantage.” Montez said following the game.
Colorado had three opportunities inside the red zone on their first three possessions of the game but could only muster 10 points. In what very well could’ve been a 21-0 lead at the end of the 1st quarter the Buffaloes left 11-points off the scoreboard.
“We just didn’t execute. We’ve got to start executing if we want to have a chance to win these close games.”
3. Is it time to move on from Mac?
I hate to even broach the subject, but it’s a serious question. Sure, Mike MacIntyre led Colorado to the Pac-12 Championship game in 2016. But since that turnaround season the Buffaloes are 10-11 overall, 4-11 in conference play. They are 1-7 in conference road games since 2016, losing by an average of 13.8 points. Blowing a 28-point lead at home last week to Oregon State and losing in overtime was inexcusable. And after following that up with an eight-point loss at Arizona, their fourth consecutive defeat, it’s time to wondering if this is the end of the MacIntyre era in Boulder. The next three weeks will be very telling. The Buffaloes get the conference’s top two teams, Washington State and Utah, at home before taking on a tough California Golden Bears team in Berkeley to finish the season. Is one more victory and a bowl game enough to keep MacIntyre in Boulder? In his five-plus seasons at Colorado the Buffaloes are 30-42 overall, with a third of those wins coming in 2016.
NEXT UP: November 10 vs. 8 Washington State (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12), 1:30 PM MT, ESPN
Fifth times the charm? The Buffaloes get another chance to become bowl eligible when they host the 8th-ranked Washington State Cougars next Saturday. The Cougars blanked the Buffs 28-0 last season in Pullman, Wash. Colorado is 6-5 all-time against Washington State and 2-3 since joining the Pac-12 Conference.