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In the wake of Saturday night’s defense-deprived 45-42 loss to Arizona, turning around the season won’t be easy for Colorado (3-3, 0-3) considering the Buffs play three of their next four games on the road beginning with Saturday’s 2 p.m. MT matinee at struggling Oregon State, and have just two home games at Folsom Field remaining on the 2017 schedule.
And one of those is against No. 13 USC on Nov. 11.
At this point, any realistic chance of repeating as Pac-12 South champion has disappeared, so the Buffs should center their energy over the final six weeks on achieving six wins and earning bowl eligibility.
Quarterback Steven Montez, who threw three TD passes for the fourth time in his career and now has 19 career TD passes, insisted his message to his Buffs teammates this week as they prepare for the Beavers will focus on the positive.
“I’m going to tell them that I love them and we’re still a team and we have a whole lot of season left,” Montez told the Colorado Sports Network Saturday after the Buffs suffered their third straight loss and fell to the .500 mark.
“I’m also going to tell them these last couple of games don’t define us at all, not by any means. I think we’re still a very good team and we can definitely make some noise in the Pac-12. We just have to go back to the drawing board Monday and get better.”
Considering Oregon State has lost its first three Pac-12 games by an average margin of 30.7 points (and all 5 losses have been by at least 28 points) and the defense ranks near the bottom of the conference in every major statistical category, the Beavers might be showing up on the Buffs’ schedule at exactly the right moment.
“Going 0-3 in the Pac-12 is not what we set out to do at all,” Montez said. “We have great guys and there is still a lot of guys in there that are hungry. We just have to stay together as a unit and not let any outside factors break us apart. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”
Against Arizona Saturday night, the Colorado offense ran a staggering 90 plays, totaled 551 yards of offense (316 yards in the second half) , controlled the ball for close to 36 minutes and had just one three-and-out all night long. Running back Phillip Lindsay, of course, did much of the damage with 281 rushing yards (fourth most in CU history) on a school record 41 carries.
The second quarter 19-play, 85-yard touchdown drive is the fourth longest drive in school history in terms of both number of plays and time consumed (9:34).
Through six games, the Colorado offense is averaging 440.0 yards (7th in the Pac-12), 176.2 rushing yards (5th in Pac-12) and 23.8 first downs per game (3rd in Pac-12). After scoring 33 total points against Washington (10) and UCLA (23), a major topic of conversation entering the Arizona game was the struggles of the Buffs offense to move the ball consistently and generate points.
“Everyone’s been talking about how the offense hasn’t been clicking as much, but tonight it seemed like everything was just click, click, click,” CU offensive lineman Tim Lynott Jr. said. “Every cylinder was just running on high and that’s what we needed as a team. That’s going to build and we’re going to be hungry in practice and get back to it next week.”
Montez, fifth among Pac-12 quarterbacks with an average of 253.8 passing yards per game, has thrown 10 TD passes and 6 interceptions. He has thrown 71 straight passes without an interception.
So, while the Buffs defense is left licking their wounds after a dismal performance, the offense has plenty to build on heading into the second half of the season. However, unless the defense shows significant improvement over the next six games, the Buffs offense might face the precarious predicament of having to score points nearly every time they possess the ball in order to keep up on the scoreboard.
“What I’m thinking about every time we go out there on the field is let’s put up points,” said Montez, who became the 14th Colorado QB to surpass 2,500 career passing yards. “That’s our job as an offense. That’s what we need to do. We knew we wanted to run the ball, we knew our offensive line was going to play great. We knew we were going to move people and Phillip (Lindsay) was going to do his thing.”
Colorado took some deep shots down the field in the Arizona game and that knocked the Wildcats defense back on their heels a little bit, which opened up running lanes for Lindsay because they had to take a defender or two out of the box.
“Taking those deep shots opened up the field a little bit more,” Montez said. “They had to play us deep because we were going up top. We still should clean some things up, though. We had too many holding penalties, which put us behind the sticks. We missed three deep balls which could have been touchdowns. We’re going to take everything into Monday and keep working and get better.”
After a disappointing start to the Pac-12 schedule, finishing strong and going to the best bowl possible is now the main objective for the Buffs.
“If we want to be who we want to be, we can’t lose the rest of these games,” Buffs wide receiver Bryce Bobo said. “A lot of people might not think we can do it, but if we just stay around our teammates, we have that mindset to be who we were last year. We just have to come back on Monday and get back to work.”
PAC-12 WEEK 6 RESULTS (Sat. Oct. 7)
USC 38, Oregon State 10
Arizona 45, Colorado 42
Washington State 33, Oregon 10
Stanford 23, Utah 20
Washington 38, California 7
Bye: Arizona State, UCLA.
PAC-12 SOUTH STANDINGS:
USC 3-1 (5-1)
Utah 1-1 (4-1)
UCLA 1-1 (3-2)
Arizona State 1-1 (2-3)
Arizona 1-1 (3-2)
Colorado 0-3 (3-3)
Lindsay cares about wins, not stats https://t.co/EDGbMqaBVk
— CUSportsNation (@CUSportsNation) October 8, 2017
Instant analysis: Colorado run over by Tate, Arizona https://t.co/W1otoNTq9n
— CUSportsNation (@CUSportsNation) October 8, 2017
— Colorado Football (@RunRalphieRun) October 8, 2017