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Six seconds gave CU opportunity for one final play. In the huddle, with the ball on the 19-yard line, junior wide receiver Toney Clemons told his quarterback he wanted the ball.
Those seconds ticked off slowly from the game clock as junior Tyler Hansen lofted up one last heave. When the spiral started its descent, the 6-foot-2-inch Clemons leapt to grab it over a Baylor defender on Saturday night.
The yellow-coated student section roared. Clemons seemed to come down with the ball for the game-winning touchdown.
“I was having a lot of games flash through my head right there at the end because it’s not over,” said Baylor Head Coach Art Briles. “[The clock] was going very slow.”
Not a second later, Baylor players jumped with arms up in celebration. The student section went quiet again.
Ironically named cornerback, Chance Casey, knocked the potential grab out from the junior wide receiver’s hold. The game, in all its drowned possibilities for CU, was over. Baylor won 31-25 and the Buffs fall to 3-3 on the season.
“I had confidence in [Toney] that he would go up and make the play,” Hansen said. “He almost did.”
For the first time this season, Buff players walked off their home field in defeat. They are now 0-2 in the conference following last week’s scoreless outing in Missouri.
One player had something to celebrate about despite the loss.
No matter where he plays, junior tailback Rodney Stewart jukes and slips through a defense with force. The little guy did it again when he surpassed the 2,000-career-yard mark, and overtook his position coach, Darian Hagan, for 16th on the school’s all-time rushing list.
“He’s a tough dude,” said Head Coach Dan Hawkins. “He’s got a heart of a buffalo. He’s not the biggest guy but he’s tough and he certainly has some quick feet.”
Stewart’s 125 yards and two scores gave his offense life. But it was not enough, as the Robert Griffin conducted Baylor offense ran over the Buffs defense for 543 total yards.
The defense looked about as comfortable as Ralphie in front of a slaughterhouse. Baylor did not punt once, and they did not get sacked once.
Griffin’s 371 total yards (234 passing and 137 rushing) complemented running back Jay Finley’s 143 and two touchdowns.
“We’ve been a pretty solid defense, but it’s a lot of credit to [Baylor’s] coaching staff,” said sophomore linebacker Jon Major after the game. “They did a great job scheming us. We had trouble finding answers.”
In every home game thus far, the defense made up for some of the offense’s failures. On this night a pair of Buff turnovers proved to be two too many for their defense to amend.
On the end of a long run in which he appeared he was going to score, newly positioned sophomore running back Will Jefferson fumbled the ball into his end zone and the Bears recovered. Leading up to the game, the sophomore sounded confident all week when fielding questions from reporters about switching from receiver to tailback.
He said he played the position in high school, and it would be going back to what is more natural.
“I was thinking he was going to score, he was really close,” Hansen said. “It’s unfortunate and that’s really just the difference in the game.”
Had he scored, the Buffs would have been up by two possessions late in the third quarter.
For those counting points left off the board that play was not the only low-light. After the Buffs first touchdown, Hawkins decided to go for the two-point conversion in an effort to catch the Bears special teams off guard.
The play failed when Cody Hawkins missed on a pass to junior tight end Ryan Deehan. But Coach Hawkins was not done in his attempted trickery.
Following the Buffs second touchdown, which saw the Buffs take a 12-7 lead, the offense went out to try another conversion. Hansen ran sideways for nada.
By bypassing two easy extra points, to put it at 14-7, the Buffs missed out on a future prospect to tie the game.
Trailing 28-18 in the fourth quarter, Hansen passed to senior wide receiver Scotty McKnight for a seven-yard touchdown. Hawkins then decided to send out the kicking team to make it 28-25.
If they had those two extra points pocketed they would have been able to possibly tie it after their final touchdown. But they did not, and Hawkins found himself having to defend his decision to reporters after the game.
“In the end, it’s easy to say that early on [that the failed conversions hurt them],” he said. “But then as you go and then you match whether you’re going for two or they’re going for two depending on what the scores are, you never know how that ends up.”
The game defined itself with CU’s missed opportunities – on offense, defense and special teams. Now they fall to the bottom of the conference rankings at 0-2, with a home match up against Texas Tech on the horizon.
Like Tech, Baylor’s pass game uses screens and quick outs to get their receivers in space. Griffin completed over 80 percent of his passes and improved his lead as the Big 12’s leader in total offense.
“Our whole passing game was sideways, for the most part,” Griffin said. “If we rack up 200 yards throwing it sideways, I’m OK with that.”
The Buffs secondary was already limping into the game with safety and leading-tackler Anthony Perkins ruled out for the year. Then star senior cornerback Jimmy Smith left with a concussion. Hawkins said his status is unknown for next week.
Only two home games remain for the Buffs, who have not won a game outside Colorado’s borders since 2007. That window to achieve at least six wins and crawl into a bowl game is slowly closing.
“I don’t want to say we’re desperate,” Clemons said. “We definitely need wins and we need more than just one win.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Michael Krumholtz at Michael.krumholtz@Colorado.edu.