Nikko Reed collected an interception against USC on Friday.
Neill Woelk, Contributing Editor
ROCK — While virtually no one expected Colorado to produce an upset against No. 8 USC on Friday — and virtually everyone was right — the Buffaloes still missed an opportunity to make the game much closer than the final score of 55-17.
That’s been the story for the Buffs too many times this season. Missed opportunities and mistakes have led to a long list of one-sided losses.
Now the 1-9 Buffaloes have two games left, meaning they have two chances to pick up at least two wins and join the 1980, 1984, and 2012 teams as the only Buffs side in modern history to have just one win a game in a season.
What we learned from Friday night’s loss at the Colosseum:
1. CU’s trainers made some good changes to the defense system. For at least a quarter, the Buffaloes confused USC’s top-flight offense and quarterback Caleb Williams.
The Buffs forced two three-and-outs and recorded an interception in the first quarter, limiting the Trojans to just 8 total yards of attack. Colorado rushed just three players, leaving eight under cover and keeping Williams at bay for a quarter. Nicko Reed came with an interception — only the second Williams has thrown this year — and CU also conceded a big sack from linebacker Quin Perry with a late flash.
The Buffs had a chance to extend their lead into the second quarter — but allowed USC to convert a third and 19, a third and 23, a third and 2, and a third and 9 (on a penalty kick) for the first touchdown to produce the trojan that night.
Still, CU received some solid performances from Reed and a handful of other young players. Newbie DB Simon Harris played 70 snaps and had the highest Pro Football Focus rating of any CU defender in the game. DBs Kaylin Moorereeds and JasonOliver also quite well graded.
Colorado also had a season-high three sacks, having had none in the last two games.
2. Consistent quarterback play is still elusive. The Buffs have started three different quarterbacks this year, and inconsistency has been the most consistent result.
Saturday, JT Shrout had a key fumble early, missed an open receiver that could have produced a touchdown in the first quarter, threw an interception early in the third quarter, and completed just 52 percent of his throws.
There’s no way everything rests on Shrout’s shoulders. He was under pressure for most of the night and the Buffs were missing their best receiver. Jordan Tyson.
But the Buffs will need more consistent quarterback play, not just for the next two games, but for next season. It will no doubt be a major development next spring for those in charge as CU head coaches.
3. Hats off to RB Alex Fontenot and the rest of the seniors of CU. Fontenot had an injury-plagued career – but he never quit. On Saturday night, he ran as hard as his career, finishing for 108 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
Fontenot is part of a CU senior contingent that has been going through a difficult time in Boulder. They were part of the shortened 2020 Covid season that resulted in a Bowl appearance, but there were few other bright spots. Especially this year they could have taken it a little easier, especially on the track, and saved themselves the wear and tear of their bodies.
Instead, Fontenot ran away fearlessly. Close end Brady RusselHe, who also sustained injuries, threw some big blocks. DanielArias played like a demon on special teams. defender Terrace long, Guy Thomas and Quin Perry Everyone did their best to lock up Williams.
They played hard because they love the game and respect the Colorado uniform. For this, every CU senior deserves an appreciative nod.
4. Missed opportunities have plagued CU all season. A piece that we still remember?
Attempt a fourth and one on CU’s first offensive possession of the season. The Buffs had a chance to collect a first down deep in TCU territory and position themselves for an opening-drive touchdown.
Instead, the buffs got nothing… and it seems like that set the tone for the season. Not to mention that the end result of the game would have been a lot different if Colorado had scored. But at least it would have been fun to see what confidence and momentum would have done for CU in that moment.
But that moment also seemed to set the tone for the year. It seems every time the buffs gave themselves a chance to gain momentum throughout the season, all too often the opportunity slipped.
If there is a bright spot, then CU’s young players should learn from those moments. When adversity strengthens the character, the young buffs have armor for the next year.
5. Credit Mike Sanford and the rest of the CU staff with the work they’ve done. When Sanford was named interim head coach with seven games left, it was an impossible situation. A brutal track schedule and a team that had lost much of their confidence faltered.
Sanford managed to pull off a win in their first game, and the entire staff somehow convinced the Buffs to keep playing hard. Player development has improved, and staff have continued to recruit for a future they may not have a stake in.
The situation is undoubtedly difficult for all involved, but all employees have continued to invest in Colorado. It’s an admirable quality that CU fans should appreciate.