The Colorado Buffaloes football team gave it their all on senior day, but ultimately fell two touchdowns short of upsetting the visiting No. 11 USC Trojans on Saturday. After falling behind 27-0, the Buffs finally found some life on offense in the second half. Unfortunately for Colorado, the momentum came too late to make a difference.
Though they were never favored to win, CU started the game off with some promising plays on the defensive side of the ball. The Buffaloes defense stood tall on USC’s first possession, forcing USC kicker chase McGrath to attempt a 40-yard field goal, which he missed wide left.
After a three-and-out from the Buffs’ offense, the CU defense came up big again, denying Ronald Jones II a first down on fourth and one. The CU offense failed to take advantage of the turnover on downs though, as they once again went three and out.
Colorado would nearly score on its third possession, as sophomore quarterback Montez found sophomore tight end Chris Bounds in front of the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown. Unfortunately for the Buffs, the score was called back due to a pass interference call on senior receiver Shay Fields Jr. The Buffs failed to convert on fourth and nine, giving the ball back to the Trojans as the second quarter began.
USC took advantage of the good field position, driving 60 yards for their first score of the game. USC receiver Michael Pittman Jr. climbed over senior corner Isaiah Oliver to haul in a 10-yard pass from Sam Darnold, putting the Trojans up 7-0.
After yet another three-and-out from the Buffs, USC would capitalize again. Darnold found receiver Deonta Burnett, who shook off a tackle and trotted into the endzone for an 18-yard score.
Down 14-0, the Buffs would miss another opportunity on their next drive. Freshman kicker James Stefanou had a 47-yard field goal blocked by the Trojans’ Brandon Pili.
Any hopes for getting a score before halftime were dashed on the next drive when Montez was picked off by USC’s Ajene Harris with 28 seconds left. Harris tiptoed along the sideline and took the interception to the house to put the Trojans up three touchdowns going into halftime. McGrath missed the extra point, making the score 20-0 at the half.
Coming out of the half, CU put together a decent drive, but once again had a field goal attempt blocked. This time, Stefanou’s 39-yard attempt was swatted by USC’s Austin Jackson.
The Trojans drove down the field and scored off a 24-yard scramble from Darnold. The Buffs now faced a daunting 27-0 deficit with 10 minutes left in the third.
But just when things were looking their bleakest, CU finally caught a break on offense. On the second play of CU’s next possession, Montez took a shot deep and connected with junior receiver Juwann Winfree for a 79-yard touchdown. Winfree was filling in for Fields, who exited the game with a head injury.
CU’s special teams picked up on the momentum, as freshman linebacker Nate Landman blocked a USC punt following a Trojans three-and-out. Given the ball at the one-yard line, Lindsay punched it in to make the score 27-14 in favor of the away team.
The two teams traded fields goals before USC put the nail in the coffin with another touchdown. This time, Ronald Jones II reversed direction and evaded CU tacklers for a 22-yard rushing score. The Trojans went for two, converting on a pass from Darnold to tight end Erik Krommenhoek to go up 38-17. Darnold would finish the game with 21 completions on 34 attempts for 329 yards and two touchdowns.
But the CU offense wasn’t done quite yet. Montez connected with Winfree for another quick score, this time for 57 yards. With six minutes left in the game, the Buffs were now only down two scores, 38-24. Winfree would lead the Buffs in receiving with five catches for 163 yards.
CU managed to get the ball back, as Montez drove the Buffs down the field. Colorado would come up just short of a score though, turning the ball over on downs at USC’s five-yard line as the game ended.
“We had some critical mistakes and we kinda gave them the game,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said after the game. “We had some opportunities tonight and we squandered it away.”
The loss was especially tough to swallow for Colorado’s seniors, who were playing their last game as Folsom Field. In particular, Montez felt guilty for letting down Lindsay.
“Phil’s probably the greatest leader I’ve ever been around. I feel extremely bad that we send him out on senior night like this. Phillip Lindsay is something special,” Montez said.
Lindsay saw 20 carries on the day, gaining only 68 yards and the single touchdown.
With the win, USC officially clinches the Pac-12 South Division and will go on to face the North Division winner in the conference title game.
With the loss, the Buffs now sink to 5-6 on the season and 2-6 in Pac-12 play as they head into their bye week. They’ll need a win over Utah in the regular season finale to qualify for a bowl game. That game will kick off from Salt Lake City on Nov. 25.
Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Kyle Rini at email@example.com.