“Never underestimate the heart of a Buffalo.”
Those were the words of Colorado head coach Jon Embree after their stunning 35-34 win over Washington State on Saturday afternoon. Down by 17 in the fourth quarter, Colorado rallied with three TDs, the final one coming on a 4-yard Jordan Webb QB keeper with 11 seconds left, to shock the world.
Ok, not quite shocking the world but they did shock the Cougar crowd that still remained, many of which thought this game was in the bag.
Here’s what went right and what went wrong for Colorado Saturday evening in Pullman:
1. Colorado shrugged off one of the most embarrassing losses in program history last week and showed heart in their second consecutive conference road victory. After falling behind 31-14 minutes into the final quarter they could have just given up and called it a night but they didn’t. Led by the gutsy play from Webb the Buffs used big-plays (70 and 84 yard TDs) to get back into the game to set up the go-ahead score. The program took a lot of heat last week after their loss to Fresno State but Embree and Co. went back to work and more importantly stuck together. The worst thing they could have done was turn on each other and totally collapse but give kudos to the coaching staff for holding the players together and continuing to believe.
2. Jordan Webb answered his doubters with a career game. He was getting battered and bruised all game long but he kept getting back up. Webb had his share of bad plays, a fumble and then a really bad INT after Colorado just got the ball back, but he was by far one of the better players on the field. He finished the day 29/42, 345 yards, 2 TD and rushed for 2 TD including the game winner on fourth and goal with 11 seconds remaining. After questions about who the starting QB should be, Webb, Connor Wood or Nick Hirschman, it seems as if the Kansas transfer finally stepped up and cemented his spot on top of the depth chart.
3. Colorado’s second half defense gave them a chance to make their comeback. They gave up 21 points in the first half but only allowed 13 points in the final two quarters. That might still seem like a lot but after giving up 35 in the first quarter against Fresno last week it is a remarkable improvement. They forced a fumble in the third that they returned to the one yard line and they had several other big stops to give the ball back to the offense. All in all Colorado’s defense forced three turnovers including two INTs. It was the defense that sparked the Buffs in the second half and it got the rest of the team fired up to make their comeback.
1. The young corners were once again picked on. True freshmen Kenneth Crawley and Yuri Wright along with sophomore Greg Henderson got picked on by Cougars quarterback Connor Holliday all game long. The corners were giving a lot of cushion, afraid of getting beat deep, and they were conceding tons of yards being 5-6 yards away every time the receiver would catch the ball. It’s tough for them because of how young they are but they need to close down the cushion and not give up big chunks of yardage underneath. The rest of the quarterbacks in the Pac 12 will be feasting on these young corners so they’ll need to continue to get better each week.
2. Colorado had three turnovers of their own. Webb threw an INT and fumbled while WR Tyler McCulloch fumbled after a short catch. The Buffs have enough problems as it is so they need to limit any turnovers in order to stay in ball games. Webb’s INT was a very poor decision and it came right after Colorado had a huge defensive stop. Plays like that are unacceptable and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy let Webb hear it once he got back to the sideline. It was good for Webb that he bounced back but they can’t shoot themselves in the foot like that very often.
Even though it was their first win of the season it was a HUGE win for the program. That’s sad to think about for such a proud program but it was a much needed win and it was done in thrilling fashion.
The craziest thing about Colorado’s win was that it moves them to 1-0 in Pac 12 play and has them sitting atop the south division over the likes of USC and UCLA. On top of that they have now won two straight road games after going through a four-year stretch where they didn’t win a single road game. Obviously it won’t last but as of right now the Buffs are in first place and they have to take anything they can get at this point.
Maybe a win like this will spark them to more success this season but at least for one day Colorado can sing their fight song and hold their heads up high all the way back to Boulder.