Relentless. This is the mantra Mel Tucker has used when he has described what he wants the 2019 Colorado Buffaloes to become in 2019. And the 2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 5 appears to be just that, with a statement win coming in week 4.
The term relentless has become the social media hashtag used when the team wants to hype their fans up on social media, including Twitter. However, the Buffaloes have not been a relentless force in their eight-plus seasons in the Pac-12 minus their 2016 season. That changed, however, with Colorado’s win over the Arizona State Sun Devils. The 34-31 victory was their first road win against an AP Top 25 team in their last 30 tries.
Going Against History in Colorado vs. Arizona State
In the past, Sun Devil Football Stadium has been a house of horrors for the Buffaloes. They were 0-5 all-time at Sun Devil Stadium entering play Saturday, with a 0-4 mark in that stadium since they joined the Pac-12. They had been outscored 224-94 in those five games, with an average losing margin in those games was 30 points.
The Buffaloes were looked at as a major underdog going into their first “Pac-12 After Dark” tilt of the season, as they lost to Air Force in College Football Week 3 and Arizona State pulled off a major road upset of their own against then-ranked Michigan State. However, the Buffs would set the tone early as the offense played consistently right from the get go, which was a pleasant change from the first three games of the season.
However, the injury bug bit bad for the Buffs. First off, linebacker Mustafa Johnson injured his left leg on Arizona State’s first offensive drive. On top of that, cornerback Delrick Abrams Jr. would go out in the second quarter with a shoulder injury. It was a crushing blow for the defense, as they looked like they were on damage control in the first half, giving up 21 points. Star receiver Laviska Shenault went out in the first quarter with an undisclosed injury, and the Buffaloes’ offense could have let the pressure of not having their top wide receiver get to them.
Instead, senior Tony Brown picked up the slack in a huge way. He caught the first two of his three touchdown receptions in the first half, and Montez looked far more settled than he did against Air Force. The Buffs took a 24-21 lead into the locker room.
Despite the injuries, the Buffaloes, on first impression, proved they could play with their opponents in the Pac-12 on the road this season, after last season where they went 0-4 on the road against Pac-12 competition.
A Wild Second Half
The game tightened up defensively in the second half, as the Buffaloes caught some breaks with overthrows and drops by the ASU offense. Tony Brown scored his third touchdown of the game late in the third quarter to give the Buffaloes a 31-24 lead.
The Buffaloes showed up in Tempe to play, and had the opportunity to get rid of numerous dubious streaks that were a bad look for the program. They had never won at Sun Devil Football Stadium and had a 29-game road losing streak to ranked opponents. However, the Buffaloes were going to be relentless in their quest to end these bad streaks.
One of the definitions of the word “relentless” is “harsh or inflexible”. The Buffaloes were out to prove that there would be a different feel to the Mel Tucker era regardless of the first impression that was given via the first three games. They came through in the clutch.
The Tense Fourth Quarter
Arizona State tied the game early in the fourth quarter, and the Buffs were forced to punt on the subsequent possession. It felt like it was going to be the same old “Buffs keep it competitive but lose” storyline that dominated the majority of the Mike MacIntyre era in Boulder. Instead, safety Derrion Rakestraw was able to pick off Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels with just over ten minutes remaining in the game. The Buffaloes were able to bend but not break on defense.
On offense, the Buffaloes did enough to give the defense an opportunity to win the game, as they drove into field goal range and secured a three-point lead. The defense impressed on the next possession, as Arizona State gained negative-6 yards on four plays and gave the Buffs the ball back.
The Buffaloes hired Mel Tucker in part because of his defensive prowess as the Georgia defensive coordinator from 2016-2018. Mel Tucker’s signature was written all over what was Arizona State’s offensive possession, as they were finally able to get to Jayden Daniels and pressure the true freshman quarterback.
However, Tucker’s inexperience as head coach came out near the end of the game, as the offense tried to rush a play call on a 4th and 3. Wide receiver K.D. Nixon took the direct snap and was smothered by the ASU defense. It was a near-disaster for the Buffs, but they were bailed out by a delay of game penalty that blew the play dead. The Buffs decided to kick the field goal to lengthen their lead to six points, but a roughing the holder penalty against ASU gave the Buffs a first down, assuring victory. Crisis averted.
2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 5 Preview
This relentless winning effort should restore the majority of the enthusiasm felt by the CU Boulder community after the Nebraska win. The loss to Air Force will be a stain on the 2019 Colorado Buffaloes season, but the team is going into their bye week with a 3-1 record that they should be proud of. They were able to beat two rivals in CSU and Nebraska and shed one of the more embarrassing road losing streaks to Top 25 teams. The Mel Tucker era is beginning to take shape, and it looks like the restoration effort of Colorado Buffaloes Football as a dominant force in college football may be yielding results.
Next up, the Buffaloes will play Arizona on October 5. They have struggled against Arizona star quarterback Khalil Tate each of the past two seasons, but Mel Tucker has devised creative gameplans as a coordinator to stop players like Tate in the SEC. Arizona has to play UCLA next week, so the Buffaloes will also have an extra week to prepare for the Wildcats. This should help them, as fans and players alike will be rejuvenated in their enthusiasm about the 2019 Colorado Buffaloes season. The win over Arizona State meant a lot for the early stages of the Tucker era in Boulder, and there is hope that it was the first of many huge road wins that will be experienced now into the future.