If two straight losses is a funk, then three in a row is, what, a free fall? As the Colorado skid continues, that’s the reality staring the Buffaloes in the face this week as they try to regroup from a dispiriting 41-34 loss at home to Oregon State on Saturday.
Playing their second straight game without Biletnikoff Award candidate Laviska Shenault, the Buffs took a 24-3 lead into halftime, thanks in large part to the play of wideout K.D. Nixon. The 5’8″ sophomore grabbed two touchdown passes from Steven Montez in the first half, the second giving the Buffaloes their three-touchdown lead.
When Travon McMillian scooted 75 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the second half, this one was in the bag.
Until it wasn’t. Colorado proceeded to, for lack of a better phrase, fall asleep from the moment the extra point was kicked after McMillian’s run. The Buffalo offense could muster only a single field goal for the remaining 29 minutes and 48 seconds of the game. For those who are mathematically-challenged, that’s almost the entire second half.
Oregon State proceeded to erase the four touchdown deficit on the strength of the passing combination of quarterback Jake Luton and wideout Isaiah Hodgins. Hodgins did his best Laviska Shenault impression by grabbing 11 balls for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns.
For good measure, running back Jermar Jefferson churned out 135 yards on the ground. Apparently, Jefferson didn’t want to be left out of the second half party.
The Buffaloes did make one play in the second half, blocking a last-minute extra point to force the game into overtime. Overtime, however, went pretty much the same way as the second half as the visiting Beavers closed the Buffs out on a 1-yard touchdown run by Jack Colletto.
QB Steven Montez
The junior had a good day. No, make that a good half. Montez finished the day 24 of 39 for 319 yards and two touchdowns. A really good first half, with the touchdown passes to Nixon. After the break, Montez, like the rest of the Colorado offense, was for the most part nonexistent.
Draft Stock: 5th round
Preview for Arizona: With one of the top defensive backfields in the PAC 12, the Wildcats present a litany of issues for Montez. If Shenault misses yet another game Friday, this could be an ugly situation for the Buffs’ signal-caller. If Shenault does play and is not hampered by the toe, Montez and Colorado have at least a puncher’s chance.
HB Travon McMillian
McMillian continues to be the most consistent player on the Colorado roster. The senior rushed for 132 yards on 20 carries, including the 75-yard touchdown. In hindsight, it seems like 20 carries last Saturday was a bit of a light workload for a running back that does nothing but produce for this offense.
Giving McMillian more carries, especially in the second half, could certainly have eaten up more clock and even given Montez a few easier throws.
Draft Stock: 5th round
Preview for Arizona: The Wildcats are not the strongest defense in the world when it comes to the front seven. That particular group is inexperienced (if you can still be considered inexperienced at this point in the season) and I think McMillian should have another productive day. In other words, just another day at the office for the uber-productive Buffalo HB.
WR Laviska Shenault
Shenault missed his second straight game with a toe injury. The Buffs’ lack of any semblance of production in the second half last Saturday can certainly be attributed in large part to his absence.
Preview for Arizona: As of this writing, it looks like Shenault is iffy for Friday night’s game in the desert. It seems like a broken record but, especially against a solid veteran secondary, it would make a huge difference if the playmaking wideout can go.
LB Rick Gamboa
The Buffs’ senior leader seemed to break out of his slump, recording seven tackles, four of them solo. Under “normal” game circumstances, you would expect a veteran LB like Gamboa to rack up more impressive tackling numbers, but given the huge lead Colorado had through three quarters, his stats are a little more understandable.
Playing from 28 points down early in the second half, OSU had a “go for broke” attitude, no doubt leaving Gamboa and his defensive mates with their heads spinning, wondering which section of the Beavers’ playbook would be utilized next.
Draft Stock: 7th round
Preview for Arizona: Gamboa and the rest of the Buffs’ defense should have ample motivation heading into Friday night’s game. The Wildcats’ quarterback, junior Khalil Tate, made his college football debut in last year’s Colorado game, taking the field on Arizona’s second possession, following an injury to the starter.
In case you’ve forgotten, Tate proceeded to rush for an FBS record for quarterbacks in the game, shredding Colorado for 327 yards on the ground.
Yeah, I think it’s a safe bet that the Buffs’ defensive coaches have not forgotten Khalil Tate. Unfortunately, remembering him and stopping him are, uh, slightly different. If Gamboa has ever been motivated in his life for any game, this should be the one. I see him stepping up and making a statement on Friday night.
Statistically speaking, the Buffalo senior had an uneventful game, registering three tackles. Based on how wide open the Oregon State offense was forced to be while playing from four TDs down, it would seem that Worthington would have had a much bigger day. All in all, I would call his performance against the Beavers mediocre, at best.
A lot has to change for Worthington on Friday night, to say the least.
Draft Stock: 7th round
The Khalil Tate challenge will be just that for Worthington. Yeah, a challenge. A monstrous challenge. If the Colorado DB doesn’t have one of the best games of his career, he’ll spend the bulk of Friday night as a spectator, watching Tate run wild.
This game could be the defining one of the season for Colorado. If Worthington plays to the level he did in the Oregon State game, especially in run support against Tate, then he and the defense could give the Buffaloes the lift they need to stay in contention for a bowl game.