PULLMAN — After watching his Buffaloes squander a 28-point lead against the worst team in the conference, Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre stayed true to his ritual of donning a jacket and tie for the postgame news conference and answering every question as forthrightly as possible.
“We were rolling,” he said, “and I guess the wheels just rolled right off.”
That was two games ago, but the Buffaloes’ agonizing 41-34 overtime loss to Oregon State at Boulder, Colo., still threatens to define their season.
After winning their first five games, they’ve now lost four straight, and there’s a distinct possibility they’ll drop their final three and fail to secure a bowl bid for the second straight year. Simply clinging to some shred of their 31-3 second-half lead versus the Beavers on Oct. 27 would have settled the bowl issue and eased some of the pressure the team is now facing.
The injury-riddled Buffs (5-4, 2-4) play at Folsom Field for the first time since the Oregon State fiasco when they face No. 10 Washington State on Saturday (12:30 p.m. Pacific, ESPN). The Cougars (8-1, 5-1) have won five straight league contests and are favored by six points.
Until the Buffaloes win a game, memories of the rallying Beavs will surely haunt them. References to the game, from outside and inside the program, will continue. MacIntrye said after the loss that, however distasteful the task, he planned to study video that evening from his team’s collapse and start to mull corrections.
But time was limited. The Buffs’ next game was on a Friday night, on the road, against fast-improving Arizona. They lost 42-34. Since late last season, they’re now 0-7 when playing for bowl-eligibility.
At his weekly news conference Tuesday at Boulder, MacIntyre kept getting asked to compare the Buffs’ performances in the recent losses to those of their early-season wins. For example, what happened to the sort of clock-milking drive that keyed their 28-21 defeat of Arizona State?
Well, the coach replied, the Buffs mounted a fairly time-consuming drive against Oregon State, after the Beavers had closed to within 31-28. The possession was approaching five minutes when quarterback Steven Montez dashed for 6 yards on third-and-5, only to be foiled by a back-side holding penalty. The Buffs failed to convert on third-and-15 and settled for a field goal.
Were the Buffs overachieving in September? — that was another of the questions. Have they lost the type of resolve that allowed them to surge past Nebraska in a road game Sept. 8?
MacIntyre is trying not to dwell on his team’s injuries, but they’re inescapable. The most damaging is a case of turf toe that has sidelined receiver Laviska Shenault, whose sensational September had thrust him into the Heisman Trophy picture.
MacIntyre likened his value to that of WSU quarterback Gardner Minshew. And the latter could have a field day in Boulder. Injuries in the Colorado secondary aided Oregon State quarterback Juke Luton and, the next week, Khalil Tate of Arizona, who threw for 350 yards and five touchdowns.
That game in Tucson, Ariz., saw two more CU receivers get hurt, including K.D. Nixon, a would-be hero of the Oregon State ordeal. Filling the void left by Shenault, he caught 13 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns that day before dropping an end-zone throw in overtime.
“My best game turned into my worst game,” Nixon said at the time. “I let the team down. We lost the game because of me, so I live with it and make up for it.”
The pain this team is feeling is almost palpable.
MINSHEW MAKES O’BRIEN SEMIS — Speaking of the WSU quarterback, Minshew was named one of 16 semifinalists Wednesday for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award.
A fan vote counts as 5 percent of the selection process for each round. Three finalists will be announced Nov. 19.
Grummert may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2290.