Pat Rooney: 3 extra points from CU Buffs' win against CSU Rams

Sep. 18—BuffZone beat writer Pat Rooney breaks down three reactions from Colorado's 43-35 double overtime victory against Colorado State.

1. Stepping up

One dynamic of Colorado's prolific offense so far is that while it has been driven by quarterback Shedeur Sanders, the Buffaloes are getting contributions from all across their array of skill position players. Xavier Weaver has been consistent (already the first player to record at least 100 receiving yards in his first two games at CU, Weaver was just two yards short against CSU from becoming the first with 100 yards in his first three CU games) but it has been a collective effort otherwise. Dylan Edwards and Travis Hunter have been relatively quiet on offense since the Week 1 win at TCU (in Hunter's case, missing most of the CSU game didn't help; See below) but other players have stepped to the plate. In the Week 2 win against Nebraska it was Tar'Varish Dawson, whose 30-yard touchdown catch late in the first half helped get CU's attack back on track. Against Colorado State on Saturday it was receiver-turned-tight end Michael Harrison's turn. The walk-on finished with seven receptions for 76 yards and a pair of touchdowns (plus the game-tying two-point conversion with 36 seconds left in regulation), compiling all of those numbers after halftime. It also shouldn't be overlooked that receiver Jimmy Horn Jr. shook off a rough night marked by several drops (and, until the final drive, a stat line with six receptions that accounted for just 21 yards) to get free for the critical last-minute touchdown. Hunter will be sorely missed, particularly on defense, but offensively the Buffs should have enough weapons to fill the void.

2. Impact player

CU's defense so far is mastering the bend-but-don't break approach. CSU outgained the Buffs on the ground (102-70) and through the air (397-348) but CU once again won the turnover battle. Through three games the Buffs already have created 10 takeaways, just one shy of the Buffs' total for the entire 2022 season. A unit still seeking consistency (heading into Pac-12 play, the Buffs are allowing 460.3 yards and 30.3 points per game) will be tasked with replacing Hunter in the secondary, but CU may have added a significant play-maker in linebacker Juwan Mitchell. The oft-traveled Mitchell has played for Texas and Tennessee and was set to play for Arizona State this season before being dismissed from the team. A late addition at CU during the preseason, Mitchell didn't play against TCU but made his debut against Nebraska, with a 12-yard tackle for loss among his three tackles. Mitchell was a force against CSU, leading the Buffs with 15 tackles — the most by any CU player this year — while adding another tackle for loss.

3. Low blow

The more I've watched the late hit delivered by Fairview alum Henry Blackburn on Hunter, the dirtier it looks. Blackburn, apparently not caring how exactly he attained his 15 seconds of fame back in his hometown, never once looked for the ball and was zeroed in on Hunter the entire time. And by using teammate Ayden Hector as a shield, Hunter had zero chance of seeing Blackburn coming. On Monday, it was announced Hunter will be sidelined at least three weeks due to a lacerated liver suffered on the play. That means the Buffs will be without a marquee starter on both sides of the ball for this week's showdown at No. 10 Oregon and next week at home date against No. 5 USC. For those clamoring for Blackburn to be suspended, you're probably going to be disappointed. The lack of a targeting call, and its automatic one-half suspension (in Blackburn's case, since it was the first quarter, he would have missed the remainder of the CU game but would return this week), means any suspension would have to come from the Mountain West Conference or CSU coach Jay Norvell. Is a suspension warranted? Absolutely. But I'd be shocked if it actually happened.