The Colorado Buffaloes scored 23 or more points in each of their first five games. Their last four games, including two wins over Top 25 teams, were decided by one score. Friday night in Eugene, Oregon was a challenge the likes of which Mel Tucker and his team had not yet seen this season.
Oregon had their way with Colorado all night, commanding the line of scrimmage and running past the Buffaloes in the pass and run game to win 45-3.
There wasn’t a whole lot of good from this game for the Buffaloes, but there’s plenty of bad and ugly to go around.
For a defense that most of the night was hesitant and full of holes, there was a promising moment in the first quarter for Colorado. It was 7-0 Oregon and the Ducks were driving. They had already converted one fourth down on the drive and were attempting another in the red zone. The Colorado defense was able to play just tight enough defense to keep Justin Herbert from completing his pass to CJ Verdell. After forcing the turnover on downs, Colorado settled for a field goal, but they were the only three points the Buffaloes would score all night.
Fortunately for Colorado, a couple important members of their team returned from injury for this game. Laviska Shenault Jr. was in action and was fairly productive after missing last week’s Arizona game. Shenault hauled in four receptions for 70 yards and also drew several flags for defensive pass interference. Aaron Maddox was also back on the field at safety after suffering a leg laceration a few weeks back.
Despite the dominance of the Oregon defense, Alex Fontenot ran the ball well. He carried the ball 15 times for 71 yards. One the other sideline, however, CJ Verdell rushed for 14 carries, 171 yards.
Where to start here? Colorado couldn’t get any pressure on Justin Herbert. The Oregon quarterback had all day in the pocket and threw 18 completions for 261 yards and 2 touchdowns on 34 attempts. The Buffs struggled in coverage at almost every level. And most of all, as Verdell’s numbers above show, they couldn’t do anything to stop the run all night. So, defense was the primary issue, and Mustafa Johnson and Chris Miller’s absence due to injuries as well as redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jalen Sami’s early departure from the game only made things more difficult.
It was a known fact before the game that the battle in the trenches would be key to gaining leverage Friday night.
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) October 11, 2019
Both Colorado lines struggled with the strength and skill of the Oregon linemen. Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell manhandled multiple Buffs defenders on more than a few plays, consistently getting to the second level on blocks.
Unfortunately, one aspect of the season that had been a positive, the near-perfect kicking of James Stefanou (9/9 on field goals, 20/21 on extra points), ended up bad for the Buffaloes too. Stefanou made one kick in the first quarter and missed a 33-yard kick off the upright late, but the deficit was already insurmountable. No amount of made kicks from Stefanou would have led Colorado to victory.
Penalties. This part of the recap applies to both sides evenly. This game featured the too-bright, highlighter uniforms of Oregon and the penalty flags were still the most annoying yellow piece of cloth frequenting the field. 24 penalties between the two teams for a combined 233 yards. Yuck!
It was a sloppy game in that regard, and for Colorado a sloppy game in terms of taking care of the ball, also.
The Oregon defensive line was able to pressure Steven Montez, and he did not respond well under duress. Montez threw not one, not two, not three, but four interceptions. A career-high. The Buffaloes had a large deficit to chip away at early, trailing three scores at the half 24-3. Since they were throwing the ball more, Oregon could drop more men into coverage and the disguising of coverages was masterful by the Ducks. Montez made a couple bad throws, but got unlucky with some tips as well.
.@oregonfootball’s defense = TOUGH. 💪
The Ducks were relentless on the defensive end tonight tallying 4️⃣ interceptions in a 45-3 win against Colorado. pic.twitter.com/QC7ziEhymn
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) October 12, 2019
It was never going to be easy for Colorado to come into Autzen Stadium and win. But they made it pretty easy for Oregon, giving up the most points they have so far this year and scoring the fewest they have at the same time. The injury bug that had plagued Colorado for the last few weeks seemed to migrate to the Oregon sideline too, but it made no difference.
Mel Tucker will now have his team refocus. They will have to learn some hard lessons from this loss and move on to Washington State. Colorado (3-3) travels to Pullman Saturday October 19th to face the Cougars (3-2).