Colorado Football: Navigating Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Every college football team, including the Colorado Buffaloes, will have to navigate unforeseen waters as the COVID-19 Pandemic rages on. The Buffaloes are in a unique situation, as players have not had time to get used to how new head coach Karl Dorrell manages the program. It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks as the world finds out more about how to deal with the pandemic.

Lucky for Buffaloes, Offensive and Defensive Schemes Should Be Similar

When one looks at the Colorado Buffaloes football program, they will notice how the team is on their third head coach in three years. However, the offensive and defensive coordinators, Darrin Chiaverini and Tyson Summers have been with the program multiple years.

The defense improved under Tyson Summers last season, as the Buffaloes had late-season home wins against Stanford and Washington. In those two games, the Buffaloes gave up 13 and 14 points, respectively. The 2020 season will be Summers’ second season as the defensive coordinator. Making a huge leap in year one to year two in Summers’ scheme may be key to the Buffaloes making their first bowl game since 2016.

For the offense, Darrin Chiaverini reclaimed the role he had with the team from 2016-18. In this role, Chiaverini was able to help his quarterbacks be threats both in the air and on the ground. Both Steven Montez and Sefo Liufau had 300-yard passing and 100-yard rushing games in 2016 under Chiaverini.

Brendon Lewis could win the Buffaloes’ starting job as a true freshman. However, the possibility of not going through the typical spring practice routine may hinder his chances. Chiaverini may not be able to see live reps from Lewis as he would usually be able to.

All of the new players in the new recruiting class that Mel Tucker was instrumental in may have trouble adjusting to the playbook. The Buffaloes may have to rely on upperclassmen to help freshmen like Brendon Lewis learn the playbook.

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Buffaloes Are Not the Only Team in Their Situation

While these problems are unique to Colorado football, every college football team is going to deal with a myriad of problems because of COVID-19. For the Buffaloes to have a successful season, they will have to study the playbook. If players are forced to stay home, it will be harder for them to hold each other accountable for knowing the playbook. With a new coach, the sooner the team practices, they will be better off.

Right now, there are meetings scheduled for the football team starting on March 29. The University of Colorado is on spring break this week, so it will be interesting to see how the situation develops in the coming days.

Will Fans Be At Colorado Football’s Home Opener On September 12?

At this point, the whole sports world is in flux. Right now there should be talk about the upcoming Sweet 16 games in the NCAA Tournament. Because of how the COVID-19 situation is developing, it may be hard for fans to realistically think college stadiums will be full in September. While there has not been too much doubt regarding the 2020 College Football Season being played, it is reasonable to think that the Buffaloes’ home opener against Fresno State on September 12 could be played in front of zero fans.

While this issue is pure speculation, it will be interesting to see how fans would react. Fans that would potentially attend games and buy season tickets may want assurances about their safety.  Athletes also may need assurances that they will be playing in a safe environment.

As the uncertainty regarding the future continues to be on everyone’s mind, it is important to keep the safety of the student-athletes in mind. Colorado Football will need to find a way to effectively prepare themselves for the 2020 season. With a first-year head coach, how the Buffaloes emerge from their situation in the coming weeks or months will be telling in how they end up performing in 2020.

Colorado Buffaloes Make Karl Dorrell 3rd-Highest Paid Coach In Pac-12

Karl Dorrell Colorado Head Football Coach

The Colorado Buffaloes’ 2020 coaching search has ended. Karl Dorrell will be the new head coach of the Buffs. Dorrell signed a five-year, $18 million contract to be CU’s coach.

Dorrell has roots in the Pac-12. He played wide receiver at UCLA from 1983-86 and was UCLA’s head coach from 2003-07. He has had two previous coaching stints at Colorado, from 1991-92 and 1995-98, while CU was a member of the Big Eight and Big 12 Conferences. Between 1995-98, Dorrell was the Buffaloes’ offensive coordinator. They went 33-14 in that span and won three bowl games, most notably the Cotton Bowl to end the 1995 season.

Dorrell’s Contract and Assistant Coaching Pool Exceeds Amount Mel Tucker Had

Dorrell’s contract will include a $3.8 million pool for him to hire his assistant coaches, an increase from the $3.155 Mel Tucker had for his assistants.

“My salary pool is tremendous,” Dorrell said Monday at his introductory press conference. “I am very flattered to work with (the $3.8 million) pool.”

Having every extra dollar will help Dorrell. The Pac-12 distributes $33 million to its schools for media rights. This figure is $11 million less than the SEC and $22 million less than the Big Ten. On the national scale, it looks like Dorrell may have an uphill battle on recruiting. The financial difference between the Pac-12 and other conferences creates an imperfect scenario for Dorrell.

“There’s no perfect scenario where you are going to have every resource you need to get the job done,” Dorrell said.

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Dorrell 3rd-Highest Paid Head Coach In Pac-12 In Spite of Colorado Athletics Losing Money In 2019

Colorado athletics as a whole lost over three million dollars in 2019 according to the University of Colorado Athletics NCAA Financial Report. Consequently, the results of this report contribute to questions of if Colorado Buffaloes football can get back to relevance.

The Pac-12 has athletic programs that struggle financially, and it is due to the lack of support for the institutions themselves. Colorado is stepping in the right direction by providing Karl Dorrell with more resources. However, the Pac-12 as a whole still has a lot of ground to cover to match the resources available to the other Power 5 conferences in college football.

Dorrell Gets Paid, In “For the Long Haul” As Head Coach of Colorado Buffaloes

Karl Dorrell’s contract exceeds the likes of Chip Kelly and Mario Cristobal. Dorrell said the coaching the Buffaloes is a “dream job” and that “what (the Buffaloes) do on Saturdays will be a sight to be seen.”

Dorrell stated in his press conference that he was “in for the long haul”, which fans will rally around because of the way Mel Tucker left the program. Because of his Colorado ties, Dorrell wants to see the program become relevant again. He stated that he has a responsibility to “bring the (Colorado football) program to greatness”.

Karl Dorrell Hiring Has Positive Reaction From Colorado Football Greats

The UCLA Bruins made a bowl game in every season (2003-2007) Karl Dorrell was their head coach. Dorrell compiled a 35-27 record at UCLA. The Buffaloes got an experienced head coach, but 2020 will be the first season in 13 years where Dorrell is the head coach of a football team. With the increased pool to hire assistant coaches, Dorrell will have to utilize his resources effectively. He received praise from many Colorado football greats, including Broncos legends Ed McCaffrey and Mike Shanahan. Legendary Buffaloes receiver Michael Westbrook also weighed in on the Dorrell hiring:

Fans Should Feel Positive About Colorado Making a Good, Not Splashy Hire

There has been a generally positive reaction from fans, even though there are always those detractors out there. While Dorrell was not the splashiest hire, he has a track record of winning games as a college football head coach. However, UCLA fans desired more from his tenure. He was able to get his team to bowl games every season, which Colorado would gladly take. The Buffaloes have only one bowl appearance in the past 12 seasons. Fans want to see a winning football team in Boulder, and Dorrell will have a great opportunity to produce.

Fans may have wanted a bigger name, such as Steve Sarkisian, Bret Bielema, or Jim McElwain. However, grand success did not happen for them at USC, Arkansas, and Florida, respectively. Some fans were on the Darrin Chiaverini hype train, but hiring Chev seemed like it would have been too easy to do. With Dorrell, the Buffaloes got a commitment, which is exactly what the Buffaloes need at this point. Dorrell has been successful in both the college and professional game but has learned from the hardships he has had in his coaching career thus far. The Buffaloes wanted to make a good hire, not a splashy hire. They hired Karl Dorrell, who is committed to making the Buffaloes better for the long haul.

Steven Montez: Record-Setting Quarterback for Colorado Buffaloes With Zero Bowl Game Starts

Steven Montez Colorado

Quarterback Steven Montez was an important figure in Colorado Buffaloes football from 2016-2019, setting numerous records during his time in Boulder. He began his career as a redshirt freshman in 2016 and started every game for the Buffaloes from 2017-2019. Montez accrued an overall record of 17-22 (9-21 in Pac-12 play).

Montez has set over 40 school records. He is the all-time leader in passing yards with 9,649 passing yards and has 63 passing touchdowns. 

How representative of Steven Montez is His 17-22 Record?

Montez had some great moments in a Buffaloes uniform but also had some not so great moments. Accountant Brandon Westbrook, a Buffaloes fan for over 20 years, believes that the record is representative of the type of quarterback Montez was at CU.

“(Montez) does have some stats that make him look a lot better, but I think ultimately his (17-22 record as the Buffaloes’ starter) speaks to the caliber of quarterback he was,” Westbrook said.

A fan may look at a 17-22 record and think Montez was mediocre. Some fans, including Westbrook, believe this to be the case. However, Neill Woelk, the contributing editor at CUBuffs.com, points out an important statistic that he believes sets Montez apart: touchdown to interception ratio. Montez ranks No. 1 in that category with 63 touchdowns and 33 interceptions.

Despite Records, Fans Left Frustrated With No Bowl Game Appearances Last Three Seasons

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Many fans will give reasons why Steven Montez was great for the Buffaloes, while other fans may give reasons as to why it may have been frustrating for fans to watch his career unfold. Despite fans being awed by his arm strength and physical capabilities, Montez never led the Buffaloes to a bowl game in his three full seasons as the starting quarterback (2017-2019).

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“At the end of the day though, we never really got to the promised land,” CU Student Drew Sharek said. “(Montez was a) heck of a talent, great arm, great personality, but just never was able to get the ultimate job done (of making a bowl game).”

The Colorado Buffaloes football team finished 5-7 each of the last three seasons with Montez as the starter. Fans of any team lay a good chunk of the responsibility for the team’s record on the quarterback. Montez was never able to get the team to the promised land, and that is why he will not be looked in the same light as other CU quarterbacks, such as Kordell Stewart and even Sefo Liufau.

However, there are plenty of people within the Buffaloes’ faithful who supported Montez, including Keith McCormick, a Buffaloes fan for 60 years who lives in Westminster, Colorado.

“I’m a fan of Steven Montez,” McCormick said. “I’ve always believed that he plays better under pressure and under a faster-paced game.”

Montez’s Biggest Home Win: September 7, 2019 Versus Nebraska

One example of Montez playing well under pressure was on September 7, 2019, when the Buffaloes welcomed the rival Nebraska Cornhuskers to Folsom Field.

They trailed Nebraska 17-0 at halftime and looked out of sorts under new head coach Mel Tucker. Then, the Buffaloes offense and Montez alike got going in the second half.

McCormick remembers the play that ended with 14:06 remaining in the fourth quarter that cut Nebraska’s lead to 17-14. It was the flea flicker to wide receiver K.D. Nixon that silenced the Nebraska invaders at Folsom Field. Montez took the pitch back from running back Alex Fontenot and threw the ball deep down the middle of the field to Nixon, who dashed into the end zone.

“That one play completely turned the game around, and the momentum and the emotion and gave (the Buffaloes) the opportunity to come back,” McCormick said.

It was time for Montez to come up strong in the clutch. The offense got to the Nebraska 26-yard line with 46 seconds left to play, and Montez threw a perfectly placed pass to wide receiver Tony Brown in the right corner of the end zone to tie the game at 31. The Buffaloes would go on to win the game in overtime, 34-31, with Montez recording 375 yards passing with two touchdowns and one interception to go along with it. Both McCormick and Neill Woelk believe that this game was his legacy game.

“That’s going to go down as his highlight as a CU Buff,” McCormick said.

“That’s the kind of game that I’m going to remember from Steven because it demanded a big play at a big moment,” Woelk said.

Montez Also Beat Nebraska On the Road in 2018

Along with the heroics of 2019, Montez led the Buffaloes to victory against the Cornhuskers in Lincoln on September 8, 2018. He was able to accomplish this in what was Nebraska head coach Scott Frost’s first game in charge. Frost, who was Nebraska’s quarterback on their national championship-winning team in 1997 and is revered by the Cornhusker faithful. The Buffaloes played spoiler, as the offense got the ball back with 2:23 left to play in the game. Montez delivered, as he hit wide receiver Laviska Shenault for a 40-yard touchdown with 1:06 left to play, giving the Buffaloes a 33-28 lead. The defense would hold on for the victory.

When Buffaloes fans think Steven Montez, the two wins against Nebraska will stand out as some of the best memories of the team while he was quarterback. Even though Nebraska football may be looked at by some as worse than Colorado, the win was vitally important to Buffaloes fans.

Beating Oregon in 2016 Another One of Montez’s Great Moments

Colorado white uniforms vs Oregon

Another standout game in the minds of many fans was Montez’s first start of his career his redshirt freshman year in 2016. The Buffaloes had never beat Oregon since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, and Montez had to come in relief for injured starting quarterback Sefo Liufau. Montez introduced himself to the fans and left a great first impression, leading the Buffaloes to a 41-38 victory in Eugene. Drew Sharek was particularly impressed with many throws by Montez in this game, including his pass to wide receiver Bryce Bobo to give the Buffaloes the lead in the fourth quarter.

“It was incredible to see him scramble around (the pocket), stay calm, and make some absolutely perfect throws,” Sharek said.

Beating Oregon was thought to be a stepping stone for greater achievements to be had in Montez’s career, but Brandon Westbrook believes these achievements never came.

“I would have thought he would have gotten better over the years but I actually think he regressed each year,” Westbrook said.

Frustrating Losses Also a Part of Montez’s Legacy

steven montez usc 2019

A frustrating loss that sticks out in Westbrook’s mind is when the Buffaloes played USC on October 25, 2019 in Montez’s senior season. The Buffaloes were coming into the game off of two embarrassing road losses to Oregon and Washington State, 45-3 and 41-10, respectively. The Buffaloes built up a 31-21 lead going into the fourth quarter but would ultimately lose the game 35-31.

Montez left the game momentarily late in the third quarter after he took a hit while rolling out to his left. He came back, and Westbrook thought he did not look the same. Even though it was the defense that gave up the 10-point lead, Montez and the offense had one last chance. On a 4th and 4 in the Buffaloes’ own territory, Montez threw a swing route to running back Alex Fontenot that was behind the line of scrimmage. Westbrook believes this was a bad decision by Montez and a product of not being able to improve each year.

“When the offense is looking out of sync, that comes back on the quarterback,” Westbrook said.

Inconsistencies Go Back to Constant Coaching Carousel

Mel tucker

Montez may have been wildly inconsistent at many points throughout his career, but he also had to deal with coaching changes throughout his career. He had three quarterback coaches, three offensive coordinators, and two different head coaches in his career. Neill Woelk attributes this as one of the main reasons Montez was inconsistent.

“It’s been hard for Steven to develop any kind of continuity because every year there’s a new quarterback coach saying, okay, this is the way we do things,” Woelk said.

Fans have expected the Buffaloes to have more success with Montez at quarterback, but it never yielded the results of a bowl game. However, Keith McCormick felt empathetic towards Montez with having to go through coaching changes.

“I just felt for the kid,” McCormick said. “(Montez) had a lot on his plate during mid-season last year. I know he was close to coach (Mike) MacIntyre.”

Montez could have foregone his senior season to test the NFL waters but decided to stay. He had some good moments as the quarterback on first-year head coach Mel Tucker’s team. He led the Buffaloes to surprise victories in conference against Stanford and Washington. Although the season did produce its struggles, Tucker stood by Montez the whole season.

“Hats off to Mel Tucker for hanging in with him and letting him finish out his senior year,” McCormick said.

Montez Will Be Remembered As Decent, Not Great Quarterback

Some of Montez’s struggles can be attributed to the coaching changes, but he kept showing the same inconsistencies throughout his time at CU. He was never able to elevate his play enough against good teams, and that will be the knock against him. Steven Montez was a great statistical quarterback at CU, but in reality, he was a decent to average quarterback for the Buffaloes.

McCormick goes up to Boulder for the parade before the first game each year and met Steven Montez at this parade.

“I was taking some video and he walked right past me,” McCormick said. “I took a couple snapshots and a selfie, and he was very professional about it, very friendly and talked with me.”

The 2019 Colorado Buffaloes Need a Miracle to Make a Bowl Game

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The 2019 Colorado Buffaloes season has been a roller coaster ride. Tough losses at home and blowout losses on the road have made this season tough, but there have been bright spots. The goal from the start was to make a bowl game. It may take a miracle for the Buffaloes to achieve that goal, but Mel Tucker has laid the foundation for a successful tenure in Boulder.

First Up: Washington

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The Buffaloes host the Washington Huskies in College Football Week 13 next week on ESPN at 8 p.m. mountain time (7 p.m. pacific time). CU has never beat the Huskies since joining the Pac-12. In the 2016 Pac-12 Championship Game, the Huskies beat the Buffaloes 41-10, and the Buffaloes have never been the same since.

Washington has looked more vulnerable in 2019, as they sit at 6-4 (3-4 Pac-12 North). They are led by quarterback Jacob Eason, who will look to further expose the Buffaloes secondary. Eason, a transfer from Georgia, had high expectations from the Husky faithful. However, Washington ranks only sixth in offensive pass efficiency in the Pac-12. Eason is ready to have a breakout game against a Buffaloes defense who is second to last in defensive pass efficiency this season. For all the progress many believe the Buffaloes have made in Mel Tucker’s first year, the defense has been a weak spot.

However, the Buffaloes have a chance to win this game. That chance is larger than most may think. ESPN’s Football Power Index only gives the Buffaloes a 17.1% chance to win this game. Despite the Buffaloes being 4-6, the respect that they have been given nationally is nonexistent. The team has played hard in every game at home. With the emotions of it being senior day and the possible last home game for star receiver Laviska Shenault, one should expect the Buffaloes to show up and possibly win this game.

After Washington, Buffaloes head to Utah

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With a win against Washington, the Buffaloes would sit at 5-6. In the last week of the College Football regular season game, they have to go to Rice-Eccles Stadium to play Utah. In the latest College Football Power Rankings As They Should Be, Utah was ranked 7th. They are on a collision course with Oregon, as they will most likely be the two teams playing for the Pac-12 title at Levi’s Stadium.

ESPN’s FPI gives the Buffaloes only a 4.3% chance to win this game. It may take a miracle for the Buffaloes to do just that. After beating CSU 52-31 in Denver and Arizona State 34-31 in Tempe, the Buffaloes have lost their past three road games by an average of 30 points. They lost to UCLA 31-14, and they just lost to Utah 49-3 in College Football Week 12.

Bowl Eligibility Longshot Due to Missed Opportunities

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My prediction for the Buffaloes is that they will have a 50-50 chance to beat Washington, but it will take a miracle for them to beat Utah and make themselves bowl eligible. The games that they will look back on as the main reasons for not making a bowl game are their home losses to Air Force, Arizona, and USC.

Against Air Force in College Football Week 3, the Buffaloes jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, but then they had to rally from down 23-10 to force overtime. The Falcons would score on the first play of overtime, and the Buffaloes would lose 30-23. One of Mel Tucker’s main goals as the Buffaloes’ head coach would be to show recruits in Colorado that CU was the best team in the state. Losing to Air Force was a bad look for the program, and Air Force also beat CSU in College Football Week 12.

Next, the Buffaloes lost a 35-30 heartbreaker to Arizona in College Football Week 6. They were unable to contain Khalil Tate through the air, as he threw for 404 yards and gashed the Buffaloes defense. Against USC in College Football Week 9, the Buffaloes relinquished a 31-21 fourth quarter lead. This loss was extremely frustrating because Montez got hurt, but then he came back into the game and was ineffective in the fourth quarter. The defense had chances to possibly end the game, but let USC get chunk plays and eventually score to take a 35-31 lead.

The Legacy of the 2019 Colorado Buffaloes

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The 2019 Colorado Buffaloes will have a complicated legacy when they are talked about in the future. They will be remembered most for their comeback at Folsom Field against Nebraska, but will also be remembered for having narrow losses to teams that, at least from their perspective, they should have beat.

People will remember Steven Montez as a quarterback who showed flashes at times, but sometimes left Buffaloes fans wanting more. Montez is first in CU history in touchdown-to-interception ratio. Still, CU being 11th in quarterback efficiency this season shows how Montez was never able to have legendary moments as the Buffaloes’ quarterback. Along with Laviska Shenault and Nate Landman, Montez was a key leader of this team. It is frustrating that the Buffaloes have not been able to make a bowl game the last two seasons with the talented leaders they had.

With the hype surrounding recruiting for the Buffaloes, the future does look bright for them. They can lay a foundation for future success by being able to win their last two games. However, this task is close to insurmountable, and there is no real expectation that the Buffaloes will win out. If they are somehow able to do the impossible, it could bring out a new wave of enthusiasm for the Buffaloes now and into the future.

Pac-12 Football Seasons: 2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 11

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The Colorado Buffaloes had an opportunity to resurrect their bowl hopes against the Stanford Cardinal at Folsom Field in College Football Week 11. Despite the offense being held in check and the defense giving up another long touchdown pass to start the fourth quarter. They did just that, as Evan Price kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give the Buffaloes a much needed 16-13 victory. This result may have come as a surprise to people who may not follow the Buffaloes as closely. For Buffaloes fans, it was relieving to see the Buffaloes finally pull out a victory in a close home game after the heartbreaking losses to Arizona and USC earlier in 2019.

Three Phases Complement Each Other From the Onset

Colorado Buffaloes Buffs

The Buffaloes did a good job playing complementary football across all three phases in the first quarter. The offense had not scored an opening-drive touchdown since College Football Week 4 against Arizona State. Mel Tucker took the aggressive approach and chose to receive the football. He did the same against Washington State when it went woefully bad for the Buffaloes, but the opposite would occur this time. Offensively, the Buffaloes looked like the more aggressive team. They were winning the line of scrimmage on their first drive with tough running by Alex Fontenot. Montez would score on a 13-yard scramble, and Tucker’s decision paid off greatly. Montez would become the second player in Colorado Buffaloes history to go over 10,000 total yards on the touchdown run.

Stanford was also able to run the ball on their opening possession. However, once they were knocking on the redzone, the defense tightened and was able to hold them to a field goal.

The special teams recovered a muffed punt after the Buffaloes stalled on their next offensive possession. Unfortunately, they were called for holding on the play, nullifying the fumble. However, the Buffaloes defense would force Stanford into a three-and-out. It finally seemed like the Buffaloes were excelling at playing complementary football.

A Big Mistake for Montez, but the Defense Gets Timely Turnover

On the next drive, the Buffaloes got to Stanford territory. Montez would make a big mistake on a first down. He saw his receiver open to his left, but Stanford senior safety J.J. Parsons picked him off. Fortunately for the Buffaloes, the defense stepped up and only allowed a field goal on the ensuing Stanford possession. The Buffaloes still had the 7-6 lead.

Stanford would get the ball back, and the defense got back to their calling card early in the season: a timely turnover. Safety Derrion Rakestraw would pick off Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello on a deep pass to give the ball back to the Buffaloes. They had 3:42 left to score before halftime. The offense would follow through, as Evan Price kicked a 34-yard field goal. As was the case with the last two home games against Arizona and USC, the Colorado Buffaloes entered the halftime locker room with the lead.

Third Quarter Uneventful, but Defense Falters to Start 4th

Stanford and Colorado were playing their game at the same time as what many in the media were pinning as the “Game of the Year” in College Football 2019. Fans may have had one eye on the Buffaloes while having another eye on how the LSU-Alabama contest was unfolding. With how boring the third quarter was, it would not have been to anyone’s surprise if watching Joe Burrow picking apart the Alabama defense was more entertaining even to die-hard fans of the Buffaloes or Cardinal.

The Buffaloes were able to shut Stanford down the whole game when they crossed the 50-yard line. Stanford had a chance to make it 10-9, but Ryan Sanborn missed the field goal try. The offense was unable to muster much offense on their two third-quarter possessions and did not do much of anything. They punted twice, and Stanford had the ball to start the fourth quarter trailing 10-6.

Colorado had gone a full three quarters without giving up a big play to the Cardinal. However, all Buffaloes fans’ worst fears were realized one minute into the fourth quarter. The defense forced Stanford into a 3rd-and-15 from their own 21-yard line. Unfortunately, they faltered as they let receiver Simi Fehoko pop open. He went through the entire CU secondary to give the Cardinal a 13-10 lead. The defense has given up so many big plays this season to lose games.

The Offense, Able to be Methodical, Does Enough to Win

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The offense was able to be the defense’s best friend after the big play. They kept the ball for 12:31 in the fourth quarter. Moving the football methodically, the offensive line started winning the war in the trenches again. Alex Fontenot gained 36 yards on seven carries on the ensuing possession. The Buffaloes had a 3rd-and-2 from the Stanford six yard line. However, Montez missed a wide-open K.D. Nixon for a touchdown to take the lead. Despite being pressured, it was still a throw that a senior quarterback is expected to make. Instead of taking the lead, the Buffaloes had to settle for a field goal to tie the game at 13.

The defense did their job on the ensuing Stanford drive, forcing them into a three-and-out. After the offense held the ball for 6:31 on their last possession, this stop was huge. The Stanford defense was forced back onto the field. The Buffaloes got the ball back with six minutes to play. They had a win in front of them. After fans left Folsom Field disappointed the past three home games, it was time for them to experience the joy of winning.

The Buffaloes were able to methodically get into Stanford territory, but the Cardinal defense stood up and forced them into a 4th-and-1 at the Stanford 34-yard line. It was time for the Buffaloes to let their star player, Laviska Shenault, get the ball. They handed it to him on an inside sweep play, and he muscled his way for a five-yard gain. Stanford did not use any of their remaining timeouts, and the Buffaloes had a win right in front of them. 

Evan Price would deliver on a 37-yard field goal, and the Buffaloes finally broke their five-game losing streak. The defense finally broke their 14-game streak of giving up 30+ points, and they did this emphatically. The Buffaloes needed to win one of these close in-conference home games. They finally got a sense of relief at home for the first time since beating Nebraska.

A Momentum Boost for the Buffaloes Heading Into Bye Week

The Buffaloes sit at 4-6 now, and they still have a chance at a bowl game. However, some may argue that it may take a prayer for them to make it. Winning against a name-brand school such as Stanford is a huge momentum boost for Mel Tucker. It improves team morale and is great for recruiting. Next week, the Buffaloes are on bye, but they will play Washington on November 23, which will be senior day. Steven Montez will have one more chance to build upon his legacy in front of the Folsom faithful. 

Washington sits at 6-4 and also is on bye before the play the Buffaloes. Both teams will be well-rested. If any of the Buffaloes’ home games are any indication, fans should be ready for a tightly knit affair. It is up to the Buffaloes to build upon finally winning a close conference home game and continue to show they belong with the name brands of the Pac-12. 

Pac-12 Football Seasons: Colorado Buffaloes Week 10

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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.

Steven Montez Buffaloes 2019 season

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.

Colorado buffaloes week 10

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.         

Pac-12 Football Seasons: 2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 7

Khalil-Tate-Arizona-Colorado-2019

On October 7, 2017, the college football world found another star in the making. His name was Khalil Tate, and he embarrassed the Colorado Buffaloes‘ defense with 243 passing yards, 237 rushing yards, and four total touchdowns in a 45-42 victory.

Then, one year later in Tuscon, Tate lit up the Buffaloes defense for 350 yards in a 42-34 victory.

And while the Buffaloes hoped the third time against Khalil Tate would be the charm, Tate returned to Folsom Field this past weekend and led the Wildcats to another victory over Colorado.

While Tate’s performance drew eerie similarities to past years, there was one overriding difference from previous Arizona vs. Colorado games: the coaches.

Rich Rodriguez and Mike MacIntyre were the coaches, but even with Kevin Sumlin at the helm for Arizona and Mel Tucker leading the Buffs, Tate still posted a career-high passing performance, with 404 yards through the air, leaving the Buffaloes at a precarious position of 3-2 with a road trip to Oregon awaiting the Buffaloes in college football Week 7.

Setting the Table For 2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 7

The Buffaloes, coming out of their bye week, had to deal without star wide receiver Laviska Shenault and standout linebacker Mustafa Johnson for this tilt. Shenault is dealing with a core muscle injury, and Johnson has a high-ankle sprain.

Meanwhile, the Buffaloes had first place in the Pac-12 South within their sights. Only they and Arizona remained undefeated in the division.

And at first, things looked good. The offense showed they wanted to take control of the division, opening the game with a 13-play drive that saw them take an early 3-0 lead.

Defensively, despite Johnson’s absence the Buffaloes managed to contain Khalil Tate on Arizona’s first drive. After two first downs, Tate missed three consecutive passes as the Buffaloes forced Arizona to punt. First test: pass.

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However, the Buffaloes could not build upon their first drive on defense, and Khalil Tate started his aerial assault on the Buffaloes defense. The Colorado defense responded well enough to keep the game within striking distance, but the offense could not reciprocate the defense’s efforts.

Arizona’s defense came to show they would not be pushed around by the Buffaloes either. This was in stark contrast to the two previous matchups of these teams. The defenses finally made their presence felt.

The Buffaloes also weren’t helping themselves, as they played undisciplined football in the first half. They had numerous penalties that set the team back, and then Daniel Arias dropped a sure touchdown that would’ve given the Buffaloes a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter. Instead, the drive ended in a punt. Seven points, gone by the wayside.

Colorado Buffaloes

The referees did not do the Buffaloes any favors either. They took away a defensive fumble returned for a touchdown for the Buffaloes with 2:28 left due to forward progress being stopped.

However, the Buffaloes would get their turnover later in the drive as Mikial Onu came up with yet another clutch defensive play, picking off Khalil Tate. On the next play, Jay Johnson had another trick up his sleeve, as Steven Montez pitched the ball to Jaren Mangham, who then pitched it to wide receiver K.D. Nixon. Nixon threw a dime to fellow wideout Dimitri Stanley for a touchdown to give the Buffs the lead. This set off the end-of-the-half fireworks.

Arizona would take the lead right back, but 1:40 would be plenty of time for the Buffaloes to strike as well. Montez led the Buffaloes right down the field, and found Brady Russell on a scramble-drill play with three seconds left to give the Buffaloes the 20-14 lead.

However, first-half excitement was not over. Arizona looked to have had a chance at retaking the lead into halftime, as they nearly returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. Luckily for the Buffaloes, Arizona returner Jamarye Joiner stepped out of bounds before he raced down the sideline into the endzone. Another potential crisis averted.

A Doomed Second Half

In the second half the Buffaloes did not play well with the lead. Building off their quick-strike to end the first half, the Wildcats went out and scored 1:49 into the second half to go up 21-20.

Colorado, meanwhile, struggled to gain any traction on their first two second half drives, but Montez found Tony Brown yet again for a 49-yard gain on their third drive.

After that, it was all Touchdown Tony Brown. Given the monicker by his teammates and fans alike, Brown scored a touchdown on the ground to give the Buffaloes a 27-21 lead. The touchdown continued his streak of important plays for this season, and he came through in the clutch yet again.

The defense could not hold onto the lead yet again, however, as it only took the Wildcats 1:29 to score again to take a 28-27 lead.

With all the back-and-forth throughout the game, only one question remained: could the Buffaloes win yet another close four-quarter game?

The Buffaloes drove into the red zone early in the fourth quarter and had a first-and-goal from the Arizona two-yard line. However, they would lose one yard in total on the next three plays and were forced to settle for a field goal. They took a 30-28 lead.

Arizona then scored a touchdown on the next possession and burned clock, doing so for the first time all game. Their drive took a bit over seven minutes, but it left the Buffaloes with about six minutes.

The Buffaloes were able to have somewhat long drives, in terms of time, to tie games with Nebraska and Air Force earlier in the season, and would have a chance to do the same against Arizona. However, once they got into Arizona territory the Wildcats defense stood pat and did not let the Buffaloes move any further into scoring range.

On the deciding fourth down with 2:26 remaining, Montez overthrew wide receiver Dimitri Stanley, giving the Wildcats the ball back with a five point lead.

The Buffaloes had all three timeouts and would utilize them all, but the Wildcats were able to convert two first downs and end the game. Their’ chance at claiming first place in the Pac-12 south was gone.

Looking Ahead During 2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 7

The 2019 Colorado Buffaloes have been inconsistent and unpredictable. All three phases will play well at certain points of the game, but they had trouble feeding off each other against Arizona.

Colorado also struggled with discipline, as they were penalized eight times for 85 yards, compared to the lone 5-yard penalty for Arizona.

If they have any hope of pulling off a major road upset in Eugene in College Football Week 7, Colorado will have to put together good offensive and defensive series that compliment each other.

Oregon has a coveted NFL quarterback in Justin Herbert and arguably the best defense in the Pac-12, and the Buffaloes will not be picked by many to win the game. However, the 2019 Colorado Buffaloes have played up to their competition in all of their games, and it might not be a total shock if they are able to keep the game close. They will have their shot this Friday, but they will have to bring an improved, cohesive unit to Eugene to compete with the cream of the crop in the Pac-12.

Pac-12 Football Seasons: 2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 6

Tony-Brown-Colorado-Nebraska-2019

The 2019 Colorado Buffaloes entered their bye week 3-1 and with plenty of optimism. As they now shift back towards game preparation, Colorado and their fans are hopeful about what is in store for the Mel Tucker era. The new head coach’s relentless attitude has helped the Buffaloes compete until the very end in all of their games while instilling confidence into the players. 

Tucker has accomplished feats previous coaches did not. He beat a ranked opponent on the road for the first time in 30 games, and in that same victory left Sun Devil Stadium with Colorado victorious for the first time in six tries.

But in all the optimism there have been twists and turns. Inconsistencies on offense have led to close nail-biters and thoughts of something more. Still, for all the inconsistencies the Buffaloes have flashed, the team has remained consistent in one aspect: making sure the games are competitive. Regardless of who the Buffaloes have played, all the games have been within one score at some point in the fourth quarter. The Buffaloes were able to prevail in three of these four games, but they may not have been the combination of wins many who follow the program were expecting to see.

The Buffaloes were expected to beat Colorado State, and they did 52-31. 

Many thought Nebraska was going to be a close game, and the Huskers were slightly favored. Colorado was able to push through adversity and make up a 17-point deficit to win in overtime. 

However, the next week, the Air Force Falcons shocked everyone in Boulder and gave the Buffaloes a permanent stain on their season, defeating them 30-23 in another overtime game. 

The Buffaloes then went the unexpected route and beat a ranked Arizona State team on the road in their Pac-12 opener. Unpredictability has been this team’s calling card.

Take the Nebraska game. The Buffaloes looked like a team with no sense of identity for the first 40 minutes, as they were down 17-0 until getting their first score late in the third quarter. Then suddenly, the script changed. The Buffaloes were a team on a mission and though it took them a while to warm up, they made a 180-degree turn and became one of the best teams in the country for 20-plus minutes.


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2019 Colorado Buffaloes Strengths

Conditioning: Mel Tucker has stressed being the best-conditioned team. The Buffaloes have been able to stay in games late and improved as games have progressed. The players are more energized as the games go on, and their conditioning helped in comebacks against Nebraska and Air Force.

Wide Receivers: The wide receivers group, coached by Darrin Chiaverini, has been a huge strength of the team. With Laviska Shenault facing double teams and being injured in the Arizona State game, the other wide receivers, namely Tony Brown, were able to pick up the slack. Known as “Touchdown Tony Brown” in high school, Brown is trying to reclaim that nickname in his senior year.

2019 Colorado Buffaloes Weaknesses

Inconsistency on offense, particularly the offensive line and Montez: The offense has looked extremely choppy at points this season. There has not been a consistent flow to the offense, and as a result, they’ve had various versions of the offense on display through the first four weeks.

Against Colorado State, it looked like the offense was figuring out how to deal with the double teams Laviska Shenault was receiving. Against Nebraska, it took nearly three quarters to pick up steam. 

The offensive line’s struggles were magnified against Air Force, as Montez was struggling in the pocket, throwing off his back foot on numerous occasions. With an offense that features three upperclassmen in Arlington Hambright, Kary Kutsch, and Tim Lynott, and a senior quarterback in Montez, it is frustrating when the chemistry has been off for one reason or another this season.

Secondary giving up big plays: The Buffaloes struggled to contain big plays in the opening game of the season against Colorado State, but the defense has improved each week. They have a bend-but-don’t-break attitude and turnovers have been their calling card. Cornerback Delrick Abrams has struggled on numerous occasions, as opposing receivers have had decent games against him. 

The defense has given up 31, 31, 30, and 31 points in their games this season, and secondary play will have to improve before the Buffaloes will be able to hold opponents under 30 points. 

Offensive MVP: WR Tony Brown

Stats: 19 Receptions, 301 Yards, 4 Touchdowns

It may surprise some that Laviska Shenault is not the offensive MVP of the Buffaloes right now. Some may point to the fact that he has been underutilized by offensive coordinator Jay Johnson, and an undisclosed injury prevented him from being fully utilized against ASU. Because of this Tony Brown has benefited. He has come in the clutch for the Buffaloes’ offense on numerous occasions this season, including catching two crucial fourth-quarter touchdowns. The first of these crucial touchdowns came trailing Nebraska in the final minute of the game when the Buffs were down 31-24. He was able to catch the ball in the end zone and send Folsom Field into a frenzy. 

His second fourth-quarter touchdown came two weeks later in the Arizona State game to give the Buffs a 31-24 lead. This play was huge because it came on a 2nd-and-goal from the ASU 20-yard line. Most teams would have been assured of a field goal on this drive, but this would not be the case as Brown went up over a defender to catch the clutch touchdown.

Defensive MVP: S Mikial Onu

Stats: 27 Tackles, 3 Interceptions, and 2 Forced Fumbles

Onu, a graduate transfer from SMU, has been the main tone-setter on defense. The defense’s calling card has been the turnover this season, and Onu is the driving force behind that. He was the first to don the “turnover robe” in the CSU game when he came up with the first of his two interceptions in that game. He also had an interception and a forced fumble in the Air Force game. Those two turnovers were arguably the only reasons the Buffaloes were even in that game in the fourth quarter. Onu is second on the team in tackles, and has had a profound impact on the successes of the Buffaloes defense so far this season.  

Most surprising player: RB Jaren Mangham

Mangham, a freshman, has had some timely runs for the Buffaloes this season and has shown his physicality that he brings to the table at 6-2 and 215 lbs. He had two red zone touchdowns in the Nebraska game, which were a contributing factor to the Buffs being able to come back and win those games. He might not get as many carries as Alex Fontenot, but he is going to get noticed more if he continues to be a physical presence running the football.

2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 6

There are many positives to take away from the first third of the 2019 Colorado Buffaloes season. These will be crucial moving forward, as Colorado faces six straight Pac-12 opponents before another bye week on November 16. 

To succeed will require flipping the script from last season, as the Buffaloes failed to win a game after beating Arizona State in 2018. This task begins against Arizona, a team that will challenge Colorado.

The Wildcats may be without Khalil Tate, who has given the Buffs fits in the past. However, Arizona beat UCLA with backup quarterback Grant Gunnell in College Football Week 5. With the parity in the Pac-12 on great display this season, Brown, Onu, and the rest of the Buffaloes cast need to come prepared as they try to beat the Wildcats at Folsom Field for the first time since 2011.  

Pac-12 Football Seasons: 2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 5

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.

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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.

Pac-12 Football Seasons: 2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 4

Air Force Falcons Colorado Buffaloes 2019

The Colorado Buffaloes were riding high after their epic victory over Nebraska. It was time for the Mel Tucker era to take shape. The 2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 4 looked like it would be one with the team entering Pac-12 play undefeated.

However, what was a big step forward was countered by the Air Force Falcons, who defeated the Buffaloes 30-23 in overtime. It was a tough loss for Colorado, but one they can — and must — recover from.

Situated just 86.2 miles from each other, the 2019 Air Force vs. Colorado matchup was the first between the two Colorado schools since 1974. And with the Buffaloes having already dispatched in-state Colorado State in the Rocky Mountain Showdown, Saturday’s game against Air Force was a chance to secure state supremacy. But instead of locking Colorado down and moving to a 3-0 start, Colorado looked impressive in bursts but wasn’t consistent enough to hold off the upset. 

For Colorado, the game started in positive fashion. On the first drive of the game, Colorado took the ball for an 11-play, 75 yard drive that ended with quarterback Steven Montez connecting with Laviska Shenault to give the Buffs a quick 7-0 lead. Then, on Air Force’s third offensive play, Colorado safety Aaron Maddox forced Air Force running back Taven Birdow to fumble and linebacker Davion Taylor recovered. The Buffs’ defense, under coordinator Tyson Summers, found their calling card for the third straight week and forced yet another timely turnover.

But after the Buffs cashed the turnover in for three points, it was Air Force laying claim as the best team in the state of Colorado. Three straight touchdown drives gave the Falcons a 20-10 lead as Air Force was winning the battle in the trenches and confusing the Buffaloes with their triple option offense.

Colorado’s offense, meanwhile, cooled-off after its opening scores. The offensive line had trouble protecting Steven Montez and the Buffaloes couldn’t get things going on the ground. The two together led to another wildly inconsistent game from the redshirt senior.

The stadium was silent. The Buffs were having trouble supplying the fans with the energy necessary to cheer on their team and things looked grim. Fortunately, Colorado safety Mikial Onu created a spark with an interception off a deflection in the end zone in the final moments of the first half. Instead of Colorado facing a 17-point deficit for the second week in a row, the Buffaloes were down by 10.

The interception brought the fans who made it out to the early kickoff, that or the clock passing noon. Whatever the case, the early 11 a.m. start for the Buffaloes was not ideal for players and fans alike, especially in a game where Colorado was the clear favorite. Football is about momentum, and while Colorado supporters showed up and were loud, the quick response by Air Force in the first half hushed the crowd. The caffeine had worn off. This isn’t an indictment against earlier kickoffs or Colorado supporters, because Buffaloes fans showed up.

Early kickoffs are a necessary evil that comes with program exposure and television deals. However, credit goes to the fans who stayed for the whole game and those that arrived late. Folsom Field filled up and was full until the final whistle. To the credit of Air Force fans, some were theirs. The service academy traveled well for a chance to watch this rare in-state rivalry, and they made themselves heard.

Colorado fans, meanwhile, began the second half with nervous notes countered by the confidence knowing the Buffaloes had come back from worse. Unfortunately the half did not start well, with Aaron Maddox leaving the game with an apparent leg injury after colliding with a misting machine on the Air Force sideline. This was a blow to the defense, but the unit regrouped and forced Air Force to finally punt for the first time in nine possessions. 

The Buffaloes couldn’t take advantage on offense. In their first two possessions of the second half they were forced to punt and Colorado relied on their defense to stifle Air Force while the offense figured it out. 

Holding the Falcons to three points in the second half, the Colorado’s defense gave the offense just enough time to mount a comeback. Down 23-10 in the 4th, the Buffaloes’s offense marched 75 yards to get within seven points with 6:09 remaining in the 4th quarter. However, the Buffs had another mishap as the extra point was blocked. 

Now down 23-16 with time winding down, the offense needed a clutch drive and delivered just that. On their final drive in regulation the Buffaloes converted three 3rd downs and tied the game with 28 seconds left on a play that saw Shenault take a snap from the wildcat formation and run it into the end zone. This time, the extra point converted. 

The rare meeting between Air Force and Colorado would be decided in overtime. It was the second overtime game in as many weeks for the Buffaloes, and Colorado took to defense first.

Unfortunately the momentum from an impressive second-half defensive showing did not carry into overtime. On the first play of OT, Falcons running back Kadin Remsberg took the ball to the house for a 25-yard touchdown that put all the pressure on Colorado’s offense to convert.

Touchdown or bust. 

After the Buffaloes converted their first third down of their first overtime drive on a 4-yard run by Shenault, the Air Force defense came up huge.

Putting pressure on Montez on his next three dropbacks, the Falcons’s defense prevented another Colorado comeback as Montez failed to connect with Shenault on 4th and 12.

Game over. 

2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 4 Preview

The new era of Colorado Football that some may have thought started after last week’s win looks eerily familiar to the previous one. The Buffaloes have consistently beat teams such as Colorado State, and won both matchups against Nebraska this year and last, but have floundered against inferior teams. Last season the Buffaloes lost in overtime to an in-conference opponent, Oregon State, that they should have beat. This season they have an overtime loss to Air Force, a non-conference opponent many thought they would handle.

But 2019 is a new year and only time will tell if it will be a repeat of 2018. There is a lot of football to play and the Buffaloes have plenty of opportunities to create a new identity. This starts next week against Arizona State. 

The Sun Devils are coming off an enormous victory over Michigan State and are trying to create a new identity themselves. Playing in Tempe will be no easy task for the Buffaloes. But with the way this team has found a way to compete in every game, so long as they show up they’ll have a shot.