Watching the Colorado Buffaloes in Week 10 left fans teetering on the edge and get to the breaking point. A bad start and inconsistencies in all three phases doomed the Buffaloes, as they left the Rose Bowl with a 31-14 loss to the UCLA Bruins in College Football Week 10? The Buffaloes did get good news via Mel Tucker’s Twitter:
Bad Start Dooms the Colorado Buffaloes
The offense looked out of sync all night. Alex Fontenot, the starting running back, was inactive. The offense received the kickoff. Hoping for a first-possession jolt they have rarely got on the road in Pac-12 play, they went three and out.
The defense came into the game as the worst third down defense in the Pac-12, letting opponents convert 49.5% of the time. They got gashed on the first drive, and did not look ready to play. This start was frustrating considering how they played in their previous two road games against Oregon and Washington State, getting outscored 86-13.
Before anyone could blink, the Buffaloes were down 10-0. Matters got even worse as Steven Montez threw an interception. UCLA scored on the very next play to take a 17-0 lead. This interception was increasingly frustrating because K.D. Nixon looked to be open earlier in the route. Montez decided to wait until he had met up with UCLA defenders to throw it.
It was still the first quarter, and the Buffaloes looked like they had not fixed what has caused their terrible road starts in Pac-12 play. The Buffaloes did not pick up a first down until there was 3:35 left in the first quarter, and looked like they were going to get pummeled. In fact, they would not cross midfield until early in the second quarter. The Colorado Buffaloes have too much offensive talent for this to be acceptable.
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Offensive, Defensive, and Special Teams Inconsistencies
Laviska Shenault did not have nearly the same impact he had a week ago against USC (9 receptions, 172 yards, 1 TD). Against UCLA, he had three receptions for 16 yards and a 15-yard run on a wildcat play. Injuries have limited his availability, but it is frustrating when the star of the team has such a limited impact even when he is out on the field.
Trailing 17-0, Montez would have a rushing touchdown in the 2nd quarter to put the Buffaloes on the board. He would add a passing touchdown in the fourth quarter. He was inconsistent the whole night, as there were aspects of his game that simply not good enough. The running game was effective in spurts, but backup running back Jaren Mangham was never able to take over the game.
The offense drove into UCLA territory to end the first half, and had a chance to cut the lead to 17-10. However, James Stefanou missed a 47-yard field goal, and the Buffaloes were unable to keep the momentum they built off of the touchdown drive where Montez scored.
Buffaloes Defense Improves Throughout Game, But Can’t Get Rid of Dubious Streak
The defense held their own after the first quarter, as they forced UCLA to punt on three straight possessions in the second quarter. It looked as if the Buffaloes would have a chance to get back into the game. If the defense played well, the offense would get their opportunities to get back into the game. Carson Wells got an interception in UCLA territory to start the 2nd half, but James Stefanou would miss another field goal, this time a 29-yarder.
Consequently, the defense could not get rid of their dubious, now 14-game streak of allowing 30+ points to opposing teams. Sure, some things went better after the first quarter for the Buffaloes. Despite their effort, the first quarter set them back in every regard. They were unable to establish their presence even if one might consider them equal to UCLA as far as talent is concerned.
Bad Pac-12 Conference Road Losses Put 2019 Buffaloes Season On Brink
Overall, this game was hard to watch. It was a rehash of road losses in the Pac-12 from previous seasons and this season alike. There was never really a moment where it felt like momentum could completely swing in the Buffaloes’ favor. Unfortunately, the same miscues that led to two consecutive 5-7 campaigns in 2017 and 2018 have bled over into this season. Even worse, this talented Buffaloes team may finish with an even worse record than their two predecessors.
Mel Tucker is tasked with the challenge of creating a new norm. He has been able to coach the players up well, and they have shown up in front of their home fans. However, the team has always struggled on the road in Pac-12 play since joining the conference, and they have only had one true breakthrough win on the road in the Pac-12. In 2016 against Oregon, they won 41-38 and catapulted themselves to a Pac-12 South title. That was supposed to be the new normal, and everyone thought the rise of Colorado football was real that season. The more this Buffaloes team loses, the more that season looks like an anomaly in 15 years of inferiority regardless of the conference the Buffaloes have been in.
Looking ahead to Colorado Buffaloes Week 11
In College Football Week 11, the Buffaloes will be back home for homecoming week against the Stanford Cardinal. They are currently 3.5-point underdogs for this game, but the Buffaloes could certainly win this game. This game presents another opportunity for the Buffaloes to show they belong on the field with one of the name brands in the conference of champions. Stanford has had an up-and-down season, sitting at 4-4. The game is of the utmost importance as far as bowl eligibility, as the Buffaloes need to win out at this point to make a bowl game sitting at 3-6.