November 5th – Boulder        No. 21 USC 42, Colorado 17

“Eventually, it will turn their way”, said Colorado head coach Jon Embree after Colorado lost its seventh game in a row, falling 42-17 to No. 21 USC.

Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley threw for a school record six touchdowns as USC used a 21-point second quarter to pull away from the Buffs. Colorado running back Rodney Stewart, out for the previous three games, made a successful return, with 88 yards rushing and 67 yards receiving, but the Colorado offense overall continued to make crucial mistakes at critical times, preventing the Buffs from keeping the game competitive.

Unlike the previous two games, in which the Buffs fell behind Oregon and Arizona State 29-0 and 21-0 respectively, Colorado started the first Friday night home game in school history as if an upset was a real possibility. Dressed in all black uniforms (complete with black helmets) the Colorado Buffs played their best first quarter in a month. Colorado took the opening kickoff, and marched smartly down the field. A ten yard pass from senior quarterback Tyler Hansen to running back Rodney Stewart followed by a 15-yard pass from Hansen to Toney Clemons put the ball in USC territory. A pair of Rodney Stewart runs set the Buffs up with a third-and-three at the Trojan 37 yard line. There, Hansen hit Clemons for a 37-yard touchdown to give Colorado its first lead in a month (October 1st v. Washington State). Colorado 7, USC 0.

When linebacker Derrick Webb smashed USC star Robert Woods on the ensuing kickoff, the 50,083 in attendance thought – ever so briefly – that there was magic in the 41-degree night.

But it didn’t last.

The USC offense, as had the last four Colorado opponents, scored on its opening possession. An incompletion and an eight-yard pass left USC with a third-and-two … that was the highlight for the Colorado defense. Plays of 15, 11, and 13 yards placed the ball at the Colorado 33, where Matt Barkley hit the first of his six touchdown passes, hitting Marqise Lee for the score. The Buffs had held the lead for 2:34 of play, but order had been restored. Colorado 7, USC 7.

Colorado went nowhere in its next drive, setting up the Buff Nation for more disappointment. Unlike the Washington game, though, where the Colorado offense scored on its first possession, then went limp as the Huskies went on 21-7 first quarter lead, the Colorado defense also held. The teams exchanged punts, chewing up most of the rest of the first quarter. On the Trojans’ third possession, though, the USC offense quickly moved down the field. The first quarter ended with a 7-7 tie – something of a moral victory for the Buffs, but with the Trojans at the Colorado 13 yard line.

On the second play of the second quarter, Barkley hit tight end Xavier Grimble for a five yard touchdown, and USC had the lead for good. USC 14, Colorado 7.

A three-and-out by the Colorado offense sent an ominous murmur through the Folsom Field crowd, but the Buff defense again forced a punt. Unable to take advantage of the opportunity provided by its defense (and a punt fielded by senior wide receiver Logan Gray at the Colorado eight yard line, putting the offense in a deep hole), giving the ball right back to the USC offense.

This time, the Trojans took advantage. Needing only seven plays to cover 52 yards, Barkley hit Robert Woods for a 15 yard touchdown and a 21-7 USC lead.

A 45-yard pass from Hansen to Toney Clemons, who would post the first 100-yard receiving game of his career (five for 112 yards) gave the Buffs new life. Stalled at the USC 13-yard line, the Buffs called upon kicker Will Oliver. The freshman had started the season making his first six kicks. Since the hot start, though, Oliver had only gone three-for-six, with two kicks blocked.

Oliver’s 13th effort of the season, a 31-yard effort midway through the second quarter against USC, became Oliver’s third block, with the freshman unable to get the ball high enough to get the ball over the line of scrimmage.

Southern California quickly took advantage of the Buffs’ misfortune, needing only seven plays to cover 80 yards. The drive should have only taken five plays, but a Barkley pass to a wide open Marqise Lee was dropped. No matter. Two plays later, Barkley gave Lee another chance, this time from 25 yards out. This time, Lee caught the ball. USC 28, Colorado 7.

Another punt by the Buffs, the fifth of the half, gave the ball back to USC with 1:13 to play before halftime. Rather than take a 21-point lead into half, the Trojans tried to pass. After an incompletion, Barkley made his only mistake of the night. The junior threw a pass right to Colorado senior defensive back Jason Espinoza, who returned the interception 26 yards to the USC eight yard line.

With yet another opportunity in the red zone, the Buffs again failed to capitalize. Three plays lost five yards, and Will Oliver was once again called upon. This time, the freshman was true, with the 30-yard field goal giving the Buffs a measure of momentum at halftime.

Halftime score: USC 28, Colorado 10

Southern California opened the second half with two straight 16-yard plays, and it appeared as if the rout was on. Instead, though, the Colorado defense held, giving the Buffs the ball back. The Colorado offense thereafter took off on its best drive of the game. The Buffs methodically moved the ball down the field, putting together a 14-play drive which covered 77 yards. Unfortunately, the drive stalled once the Buffs moved inside the USC red zone. A 37-yard field goal attempt by Will Oliver was much like his first, with the low kick having no chance to clear the line of scrimmage.

The USC offense then showed Colorado how to put together a successful long drive. The Trojans also marched 77 yards, taking 11 plays. The USC drive, though, resulted in a touchdown, with Barkley hitting Robert Woods for a 45-yard score. USC 35, Colorado 10.

On the Buffs’ second drive of the second half, the Colorado offense finally got it right. The Buffs followed up their 14-play, 77-yard drive with an 11-play, 83-yard drive. This time, the offense was rewarded. A pair of passes from Tyler Hansen to senior tight end Ryan Deehan of 17 and 14 yards, coupled with a Hansen to Paul Richardson 15 yard connection, put the Buffs in a position to score. Four straight runs by Rodney Stewart put the ball on the USC five yard line. After a false start penalty on senior guard Ethan Adkins pushed the ball back to the ten, where Hansen connected with Toney Clemons on a ten-yard fade to the right corner of the end zone. USC 35, Colorado 17.

There was 11:19 left on the fourth quarter clock when USC took the ball back.

Still time for a Colorado comeback?

Nah.

Not content with sitting on the lead, USC took off on a nine-play drive – a drive with six passes. With 7:00 left to play, Matt Barkley finally got his record, hitting on his sixth touchdown pass of the game, a 19-yard pass to Amir Carlisle.

Final score: USC 42, Colorado 17

“That is a tough one,” said Colorado head coach Jon Embree, whose team lost its seventh game in a row to fall to 1-9. “I felt like the way we came out, we played with some good intensity and energy, but they wore us down.” Despite the 25-point loss, the fifth consecutive blowout defeat, Embree was not willing to give up on the season. “There were lots of positives today,” said Embree. “In the end, they just wore us down … It doesn’t get any easier.  I’m just trying to help this team, help these guys take the next step, and really for us is playing four quarters and playing consistent.”

On the night, the Colorado offense posted 384 yards, its second straight game over 375 yards – after six straight game below that total. However, the Colorado defense surrendered 561 yards, the fifth straight game in which the defense surrendered over 500 yards (for the first time in school history).

For the Colorado seniors, the number of chances to post a second victory in 2011 was reduced to three. “It was a tough stretch in our schedule, and we knew that. We expect to win every game; we go in thinking we can win,” said senior quarterback Tyler Hansen. On the night, Hansen had 250 yards passing, but it came on only 17 completions on 37 passes, including some very poorly thrown balls. “It’s the same story (each week),” said Hansen. “Lack of execution by one guy, one guy here, one guy there. Myself included, I missed some throws I should have made.”

Fellow senior Rodney Stewart was also despondent. “It’s not okay to lose, and so I’m really down right now,” said Stewart on a night when he became the all-time career All-Purpose yards leader in school history. “I never like to lose, especially when it’s a big night game and it’s a black out. You really want to win a game like this, so it is very disappointing.”

The Colorado seniors would have one last chance at a home victory in 2011, with Arizona coming to Boulder before the Buffs would go on the road to finish the season with road games against UCLA and Utah. Against the Wildcats, the Buffs would enjoy a luxury not seen the entire season …

… in game 11, Colorado would face – for the first time  all year – a team which would also come into the game with a losing record (2-7 after falling, 34-21 at home to Utah – in a game in which the Wildcats had 457 yards of total offense, to 332 for Utah) …

 

Game Notes –

– Senior running back Rodney Stewart had 88 yards on 21 carries, adding 67 yards on six catches. Stewart’s 155 all-purpose yards were enough to make Stewart the all-time leader in career All-Purpose Yards, with 4,466. In so doing, Stewart passed his position coach, Eric Bieniemy, who had 4,351 all-purpose yards (1987-90).

– Stewart’s next records to break are yards from scrimmage (4,205 – excludes return yards), trailing only Bieniemy (4,320), and the record for receptions for a running back (82, only behind Lee Rouson’s 90).

– Senior wide receiver Toney Clemons had his first 100-yard receiving game against USC. Coming on the heels of a 97-yard game against Arizona State the weekend before, Clemons had 20 catches for 209 yards over his last two games.

– Sophomore wide receiver, still hobbled with a knee injury, had only two catches for 18 yards. Those 18 yards, though, were enough to make Richardson the 22nd receiver in school history to post 1,000 career yards (1,006).

– Despite having his third and fourth blocked kicks of the season, kicker Will Oliver, with his one successful field goal, tied Tom Field as the only two freshmen to connect on ten field goal attempts.

– Sophomore kicker Justin Castor, called upon after Oliver’s second blocked field goal attempt, made the extra point on the Buffs’ second touchdown, giving Castor his first career point.

– Senior cornerback Jason Espinoza, who had switched over after three years at wide receiver, had his first career interception (on just his second play of the game).

– Colorado fell to 21-19-1 in all-black uniforms, suffering the fifth straight loss when decked out in all-black.

– The USC game was the third in succession for the Buffs against a ranked team (and the fourth game out of five). The USC game represented the 14th time in school history in which the Buffs faced three straight ranked teams – and only the third time the Buffs were swept in all three games.

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