The University of Colorado men’s football team defeated the University of Washington 20-14 Saturday night, improving their record to 5-6. CU fought hard throughout the night as they looked to snap a nine-game losing streak to the Huskies and keep their bowl hopes alive. More than just a game between two middle-ranked Pac-12 teams, the night marked the last opportunity for CU’s seniors to play on Folsom Field. The night was also the last at Folsom for Ralphie V, celebrating her 12 years leading the Buffs.
“Just really proud of our football team,” said CU head coach Mel Tucker. “Our seniors, (their) last game in Folsom, just a special game, a special moment for them.”
In limiting Washington to only 14 points, the Buff’s defense found their second consecutive game conceding 14 points or less. Before the two most recent games, CU hadn’t limited an opponent to less than 30 points.
“I said it four or five games back, I was seeing improvement in our defense it just wasn’t showing up in the score,” Tucker said. “We are gaining confidence, guys are able to stop the run, get them to third down.”
CU received the kickoff to start the game and a 13-yard run by senior quarterback Steven Montez started the drive strong. But after a holding penalty brought back another first down run from Montez, the Buffs couldn’t move the chains. The punt, however, took a lucky bounce for CU, rolling out of bounds at the one-yard line.
Their own end zone at their heels, the Huskies found one-yard gains on back to back plays, before an incomplete pass and a declined offensive pass interference call ended their drive.
The Buffs got the ball back at Washington’s 38-yard line and looked to capitalize on the short field with some points. Sophomore running back Alex Fontenot took the ball on first down, finding 11 yards to move the chains. The Buffs kept the ball on the ground, with Fontenot running again for two yards and Montez for five. Finally, junior wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. found 10 yards for another first down. But the Buffs lost steam on the doorstep of the end zone and could only find five yards before kicking a field goal to go up 3-0 in the first quarter.
Looking to answer CU’s scoring drive, the Huskies marched downfield. After a five-yard pass gave Washington their first first down, a 29-yard pass to junior tight end Hunter Bryant set the Huskies up in Colorado territory. Washington kept driving, finding two more first downs before junior quarterback Jacob Eason threw an interception to junior linebacker Nate Landman. He returned the interception to CU’s 31-yard line.
But CU couldn’t convert the momentum of Landman’s interception into a score. The Buffs drove to Washington’s 15-yard line, but a turnover on downs put the ball back in the Huskies’ hands. However, their offense couldn’t put together a drive, and a sack from freshman safety Mark Perry put to rest their third-down hopes.
Yet again, the Buffs took their time pushing down the field. CU rode nine plays for 55 yards in another charge the red zone. However, history repeated itself, and the Buffs’ drive stalled out after reaching first and goal on the two-yard line. CU walked away with three more points.
With the score 6-0, Washington looked to get its offense back in rhythm. However, CU’s defense proved to be too much for them, again sacking Eason on third down. This time sophomore defensive end Terrance Lang broke into Washington’s pocket for the loss of 15 yards.
The Buffs and Huskies traded back-to-back punts and the ball landed back in the hands of CU’s offense. After a trick play was broken apart, junior wide receiver K.D. Nixon ran for four yards and the Buffs gained 10 more on a defensive holding call. Montez warmed up his arm with a nine-yard pass to senior wide receiver Tony Brown, then fired the ball deep to Shenault. The receiver positioned himself just behind freshman defensive back Trent McDuffie and came up with the ball for a 39-yard touchdown. The pass was Montez’s 61st career passing touchdown, the most in CU history.
“Just an amazing catch. That’s kind of the Laviska Shenault effect, he goes out there and makes plays like that,” Montez said. “Kind of just makes you sit there and look around and say, ‘Did he just catch that?’”
With little time left in the first half, Washington hoped to exit with a score. Despite another CU sack, the Huskies found sophomore wide receiver Terrell Bynum for an 18-yard gain and a first down. Washington found another first down, but two consecutive incomplete passes capped off by yet another CU sack put the ball back in the hands of senior punter Joel Whitford to conclude the first half.
Following a halftime tribute to Ralphie V, Washington received the kickoff determined to score. The Huskies drove the ball downfield, and though CU’s defense slowed them down, five consecutive first downs from gains of 10 or more yards led the Huskies to the Buffs’ doorstep. Washington put the ball in redshirt freshman running back Richard Newton’s hands three straight times. Newton eventually found the end zone on a one-yard run, putting up the Huskies’ first points.
After giving up their first points of the game, CU hoped to answer on their next drive. The Buff’s hopes were answered in an 11 play, 82-yard drive. Eight of those 11 plays were in the hands of Fontenot, including the two-yard touchdown run that put Colorado up 20-7.
“Our O-line enjoys that, it’s something that we take pride in,” said senior center Tim Lynott. “That was something that was really special for us and especially going out of Folsom Field. That was really important that we did that and made our mark.”
Down but not out, Washington responded on the next drive. Through 13 plays, including two fourth-down conversions, Washington marched for 75 yards and seven more points from a 15-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Cade Otton.
The next four drives all resulted in punts, as Colorado looked to extend their lead, and the Huskies desperately searched for a touchdown to gain the lead. Instead, both team’s defenses held firm, not giving up another score. CU’s final drive, from their own one-yard line, burned through the last five minutes of the game, blocking any chance Washington had for a rally.
CU’s rushing attack was vital to the game. Fontenot contributed 105 of the Buff’s 207 rushing yards.
“It’s important to be able to run the ball on your terms. When you want to run it, when you need to run it, when everybody in the stadium knows you’re going to run it, you still got to be able to slam it up in there,” said Tucker. “We were able to do that tonight and credit to our offensive line, our backs, our receivers blocked well tonight.”
Last night’s win gives the Buffs a chance at another game this season. If they can defeat Utah next weekend, CU will be eligible for a bowl game. While winning the game on senior night means a lot to the team, Montez is focused on next week.
“It feels good, but we can’t get lulled into that comfort zone, thinking that since we won these last two games the season’s over and everything’s all right now,” Montez said.
CU will head to No. 7 Utah next Saturday, Nov. 30 at 5:30 p.m. MST for their last game of the regular season.
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