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Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
These three words defined the University of Colorado football team Saturday as the Buffaloes suffered a gut-wrenching loss to Colorado State, 14-10, before 65,701 Rocky Mountain Showdown fanatics at INVESCO Field at Mile High.
“If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas,” CU Head Coach Dan Hawkins said after the game. “It is just one of those things where really good teams can create momentum for themselves and we need to do that.”
The Buffs committed several penalties that negated big plays for their defense, including a sack on third down by senior defensive end Abraham Wright that was taken away at the beginning of the second quarter because of a 15-yard facemask penalty.
CSU would go on to score their second and game winning touchdown, going up 14-10, on that drive as a result of the penalty.
“At times, we let them out of the hole a little bit,” Hawkins said. “We would sack them and get a facemask, and that one drive we really gave them a lot with penalties.”
Another crucial play that didn’t go the Buffs way happened at the end of the second quarter. With the Buffs driving into CSU territory, junior quarterback Bernard Jackson completed a pass to junior wide receiver Alvin Barnett with 9 seconds to go.
CU was out of timeouts, so the Buffs had to hurry to the line of scrimmage to spike the ball to get the field goal unit on the field, but time expired before the snap.
Those two plays resulted in a 10 point swing that was the deciding point differential in the game.
“There were penalties that held us back,” Jackson said. “Then there was the clock running out at the end of the half. You take away those things, we win the game.”
Jackson earned a surprise start in the rivalry game, a wrench thrown in by Hawkins and his staff that even had CSU Head coach Sonny Lubick reeling.
“They came out and shocked us a little bit with (Jackson),” Lubick said. “After the first series, I told (defensive coordinator) Steve (Stanard) to blitz every down.
If he beat us throwing it, so be it, but he was not going to beat us running it.”
Jackson finished the game with 18 carries for 65 yards and touchdown, and went 8-for-13 passing for 70 yards. Despite Jackson’s adequate performance, senior quarterback James Cox was subbed in to the game a few times throughout the day. He came in twice in obvious passing downs and went 1-2 for 1 yard.
“Just because some of the things that happened and the nature of the play, we felt (Cox) was better suited to handle that than Bernard,” Hawkins said.
The game was not out of reach for the Buffs until the very end, when CSU wide receiver Johnny Walker caught a 32 yard pass on 3rd down and 8. With no timeouts remaining, the first down catch iced the game for the Rams.
“All game we haven’t gone deep,” Walker said about the play. “(CSU quarterback) Caleb (Hanie) had faith in me and threw the ball up and I went up there and made a play. Coach said if we got a first down then we win the game and we got the first down.”
Junior linebacker Jordon Dizon, who finished the game as the Buffs leading tackler with 12 tackles and two sacks in a strong defensive effort, said he thought CSU deserved to win the game.
“This is a game of pride,” Dizon said. “The team who has the most of it is going to win, and that was them (CSU) today.”
Despite the loss, Hawkins said he and the Buffs will continue to get better and persevere through the remainder of their schedule.
“It’s tough, and those things leave a dent,” Hawkins said. “But I have been down this road before. If you’re a man of character, a man of integrity and principle, you survive.”