Texas Tech 27, Colorado 24

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October 23rd – Boulder            Texas Tech 27, Colorado 24

Colorado watched a ten-point fourth quarter lead, and any realistic hope for a bowl bid, slip away in the fourth quarter in a three-point loss at home to Texas Tech. The Red Raiders out-scored the Buffs 13-0 in the final quarter, handing the Buffs a 27-24 setback. The loss dropped Colorado to 3-4 overall, 0-3 in Big 12 play, as 47,665 on hand for Homecoming went home knowing that Colorado may well have to wait yet another year for a chance at a winning record and bowl appearance.

As has been the custom in 2010, Colorado opened the game with the football (most teams defer if they win the coin toss, but Colorado has been taking the ball when the Buffs win the toss, all but assuring that every game this season will commence with the Buffs’ offense on the field). Neither did fared well in the first possessions, each gaining one first down before punting.

Colorado’s second drive was given a boost when Travon Patterson returned the Texas Tech punt 45 yards to the Red Raider 40-yard line. The Buffs methodically moved the ball down the field from there, taking 11 plays (and just over six minutes of game clock) to cover the 40 yards for a touchdown. Converting three third downs along the way, the drive was capped by a one-yard quarterback sneak by Tyler Hansen.

7-0, Colorado, with 4:41 to play in the first quarter.

On Texas Tech’s first drive of the second quarter, the Red Raiders struck back. An 11-play, 79-yard drive was aided by two penalites on the Colorado defense, and concluded when Aaron Crawford walked in from the one yard line with 6:10 to play in the half.

With the score now tied, the complexion of the game changed on the Buffs’ next offensive play. On first down after the kickoff, Tyler Hansen pitched the ball to Rodney Stewart on an option. The play lost two yards, but Hansen was knocked out of the game with bruised ribs. Hansen, who was nine-of-ten for 62 yards passing to that point, would not return.

Enter Cody Hawkins.

The senior quarterback proceeded to lead the Buffs on a 73-yard drive which consumed most of the remainder of the second quarter. Highlighted by a two-yard run by Rodney Stewart on a fourth-and-one at the Texas Tech 48-yard line and a 29-yard pass from Hawkins to Scotty McKnight on third-and-17, the Buffs made it as far as the Texas Tech two-yard line before settling for a 23-yard field goal by Aric Goodman with 12 seconds to play before halftime.

Halftime score: Colorado 10, Texas Tech 7

The first half was far from the offensive explosion which had been expected.

Coming into the game, Texas Tech was surrendering 32 points per game on the season; Colorado 25. The Buffs were 87th in the nation in pass defense over the first half of the 2010 campaign; Texas Tech 117th. Yet at the half Colorado had managed only 155 yards of total offense; Texas Tech 94. Despite the decent weather (59 degrees and cloudy), the Folsom Field crowd was witnessing a defensive struggle.

That was about to change …

Colorado looked to take charge of the game early in the second half.

After forcing a punt on the Red Raiders’ opening possession, the Colorado offense marched smartly down the field. The second 11-play touchdown drive of the afternoon covered twice as many yards as the first (80), and took less than half the time (2:34). Cody Hawkins hit junior wide receiver Toney Clemons on two big passes, the first going for 23 yards, the second going for 25, to give the Buffs the ball at the Texas Tech three-yard line. On second down, Hawkins hit wide receiver Paul Richardson for the score. The freshman’s grab was the first of his career at Colorado.

17-7, Colorado.

The two-score advantage did not last long, as it took less than two minutes for Texas Tech to cover 93 yards on the Red Raiders’ next possession. Tyler Potts, who would have 286 yards passing on the day, completed a 45-yard pass to wide receiver Alex Torres to put the Red Raiders in the Colorado red zone, then hit Torres again for a 15-yard touchdown two plays later. The score brought the Red Raiders to within a field goal, at 17-14, midway through the third quarter.

After an exchange of punts, Colorado set up shop at the Buffs’ 28-yard line. After a four yard run for a first down by Rodney Stewart on third-and-two set up the Buffs at the 40-yard line, Hawkins hit Paul Jefferson for a 60-yard touchdown, the second longest play from scrimmage for the Buffs all season. Suddenly, with 4:43 to play in the third quarter, the Buffs were back on top again by two scores, 24-14. A fourth win for Colorado finally appeared to be within grasp.

But the Buffs would not score again.

Texas Tech used up the remainder of the third quarter getting into position for a field goal. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Matt Williams hit a 40-yard field goal to cap a 57-yard drive.

Colorado 24, Texas Tech 17.

The tide had seemingly turned in favor of the Red Raiders when the Buffs went three-and-out on their next possession. The Zach Grossnickle punt, however, touched a Texas Tech defender, with Arthur Jaffee falling on the ball at the Red Raider 35-yard line.

Given new life, the Colorado offense moved in for the kill. An eight-yard completion from Hawkins to Richardson gave the Buffs a first down at the Texas Tech 23-yard line. An illegal substituion penalty made it first-and-five at the 18-yard line.

Thirteen minutes remained. The Buffs already had a touchdown lead. Momentum was on the side of the black-and-gold. A two-touchdown lead seemed imminent.

Then … the series of plays which changed the outcome of the game.

Rather than pound the ball against a defense which was giving up 142 yards per game against the run, Colorado, with a first-and-five, instead threw the ball.

First-and-five: incomplete, intended for Toney Clemons.

Second-and-five: incomplete, intended for senior tight end Luke Walters.

Third-and-five: incomplete, intended for Toney Clemons.

Even with the failure to score a touchdown, Colorado was in line to regain a two-score lead, but Aric Goodman, who had made his three previous attempts, missed from 35 yards out. The golden opportunity to put the game away was gone.

The Red Raiders quickly took advantage of the Buffs’ miscues, taking only seven plays to go 80 yards to tie the score. Never facing a third down on the drive, Texas Tech knotted the score at 24-all when Taylor Potts hit Lyle Leong from seven yards out with 10:54 to play.

After a three-and-out by the Colorado offense, it was the Texas Tech offense which moved in for the kill. The Red Raiders marched down the field, and seemed poised to score the winning touchdown. The Buff defense, though, still had some fight left, and hope was renewed when senior cornerback Jalil Brown intercepted a Taylor Potts’ pass in the Colorado endzone with 5:56 to play.

Yet another three-and-out by the Colorado offense, followed by a short (29 yard) punt by Zach Grossnickle, though, sealed the Buffs’ fate. Five plays – four of them rushes – set up Texas Tech for a 36-yard field goal by Matt Williams with 2:08 to play. Texas Tech had its first lead of the game, 27-24.

Colorado had one last chance. For the fourth time in the fourth quarter, however  – and for the third time in succession – the Buffs’ offense went three-and-out. Only on this last possession, it was actually four-and-out, as after Cody Hawkins’ four straight incompletions, Texas Tech took over on downs.

Final Score: Texas Tech 27; Colorado 24

“It was tough to come up one play short,” said Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins after the game, repeating almost the exact same speech he had given after the Buffs’ 31-25 loss to Baylor the week before. “Half of life is getting up one more time when you’re down, so they’ll do it. It’s a tough way to be in the locker room, and I feel bad for those guys. It wasn’t for lack of effort. They got one more play than we did.”

Colorado mustered 364 yards of total offense, including a season-high 336 yards passing. The passing numbers, though, came at a cost to the rushing game, as the Buffs posted only 28 yards rushing against Texas Tech.

What was curious to Buff fans was why the Colorado offense abandoned the running game in the second half. In the first half, Colorado had 23 rushes; in the second half, only nine. Rodney Stewart, who was 22nd in the nation in rushing, at over 100 yards per game, had 20 carries for 34 yards. “They kind of jumped into some Double Eagle Bear stuff,” explained Dan Hawkins after the game. “It really out-numbers you at the point of attack. That is why we threw it a little bit more.”

Cody Hawkins had 274 yards passing on 22-of-43 attempts, and upped his all-time career record total for touchdown passes to 48, but was fully aware of how the 13-0 deficit in the fourth quarter would be met by the Buff Nation. “It’s not about play calling,” said Hawkins of the Buffs’ fourth quarter drive deep inside Texas Tech territory with a seven point lead when the Buffs threw the ball on every play inside the 31-yard line. “It’s just great execution. We had a miscommunication on a route and a dropped ball, and then other than that, we kick a field goal. If we would’ve caught those balls, everybody would say, ‘Wow, great job, way to throw it down the field and take a shot and punch one in.’ Going out and competing and focusing on our assignments, that’s all we can do.”

The assignment for the Buffs would not get any easier.

After dropping two winnable games at home, the next two games put the Buffs back on the road, where there have been no “W’s” posted since 2007. Up next: an angry Oklahoma team. The Sooners were the No. 1 team in the first BCS standings release of the 2010 season, but fell to No. 18 Missouri, 36-27, Saturday night as the Buffs were collecting their belongings, and their thoughts, after falling to Texas Tech.

“It’s getting harder (to stay optimistic)”, said Tyler Hansen, who hit to the ribs made him a question mark for the Oklahoma game. “You feel like you’re up against the world a little bit, but you’ve just got to stay positive, and I think we’ve done a good job of doing that.”

Unfortunately, for Colorado to have a chance against Oklahoma in Norman, it will take a great deal more than just staying positive.

It will take nothing short of a miracle.

Game Notes –

– Senior quarterback Cody Hawkins became just the third player in Colorado history to top 6,000 yards of total offense. His 267 yards of total offense against Texas Tech (274 yards passing; minus-7 rushing) gives Hawkins 6,124 yards, trailing only Kordell Stewart (7,770) and Joel Klatt (7,245) in that category. Hawkins’ 6,269 yards passing also is in third position, behind Klatt (7,375) and Stewart (6,481).

– Senior wide receiver Scotty McKnight continued to extend his consecutive games reception streak (43), and his five catches for 50 yards move him closer to becoming the first receiver in Colorado history to post 200 catches (he has 196). With 2,238 career yards receiving, McKnight remains in fourth place overall, 209 yards shy of third place Charles E. Johnson (2,238 yards).

– True freshman wide receiver Paul Richardson became the first true freshman in Colorado history to have two touchdown catches in the same game (covering three and 60 yards). Only two red-shirt freshman had ever accomplished the feat: Michael Westbrook (v. Missouri in 1991); and Brody Heffner-Liddiard (v. Iowa State in 1996). Richardson also becomes the first Colorado receiver to have two touchdowns in the same game for the Buffs in 2010.

– Colorado out-gained Texas Tech in every quarter … except the last. In the fourth quarter, the Red Raiders posted 179 yards of total offense to only 34 for the Buffs.

– Three players made their first career starts, all on defense. Sophomore defensive end Nick Kasa; junior defensive back Jonathan Hawkins; and freshman safety Terrel Smith were all in the starting lineup against Texas Tech. Smith became the second true freshman to start, joining fellow defensive back Jered Bell, who started against Baylor. Smith fared quite well in his debut, leading the Buffs with 14 tackles, including nine solo, and also registered a sack.

– Travon Patterson’s 45-yard punt return was the longest for Colorado since Josh Smith had a 51-yarder against Eastern Washington in 2008.

– Colorado is 0-3 in Big 12 play for the first time in the 15-year history of the league. The last time the Buffs began conference play so poorly was in 1983, when Colorado opened Big Eight play with an 0-4 record (though the Buffs did rebound to finish 2-1 in the remaining three games. Ironically, the Buffs won on the road at Kansas and at home against Kansas State, while losing on the road against Oklahoma … the Buffs conclude their final Big 12 campaign with those same three opponents – plus Iowa State – with games to be played in the same venues as in 1983. Here’s guessing the Buffs would love to have that same 2-1 result as the 1983 team).

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