September 22nd – at Washington State          Colorado 35, Washington State 34

Colorado quarterback Jordan Webb scored on a four-yard run with nine seconds to play, the last of three Colorado touchdowns in the final seven minutes, to stun Washington State 35-34 on Saturday in the Pac-12 Conference opener for both teams.

Webb threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more for Colorado, which had been outscored by an average of 40-19 coming into the game, and entered the game in Pullman as twenty-point underdogs.

The start of the game was eerily similar to what had befallen the Buffs in a 69-14 defeat at Fresno State the week before. Washington State took the opening kickoff and barely broke a sweat in taking the ball down the field for a score. It took the Cougars only six plays to cover 75 yards, with quarterback Connor Halliday hitting Gabe Marks for a 32-yard touchdown less than two minutes into the game.

Then, something different happened … Colorado did not immediately fold.

The Colorado offense, anemic against Fresno State, responded in kind against Washington State. A 24-yard run by freshman running back Christian Powell set up the Buffs in Cougar territory. Two passes from quarterback Jordan Webb to wide receiver Nelson Spruce, the first for 13 yards, the second for 16 yards and a touchdown, gave the Buff Nation hope.

Colorado 7, Washington State 7, midway through the first quarter. Not great, but certainly better than the 21-0 deficit Colorado had faced midway through the first quarter the week before.

Washington State had little difficulty taking the ball back into Buff territory on its next drive, but a sack of Halliday by defensive lineman Will Pericak put the Cougars in a third-and-23, with the next Halliday offering intercepted by Jered Bell. The sophomore defensive back returned the first interception of his career 37 yards to the Colorado 40, and the Buffs were in business.

The ensuing drive by the Colorado offense took time off the first quarter clock, but did not produce results. Stalled at the Washington State 13 yard line, junior field goal kicker Will Oliver was called upon to give Colorado its first lead since the final seconds of the Sacramento State game. Oliver’s kick, though, was wide left, and the score remained tied.

Washington State was not to be denied in its next possession, not even so much as facing a third down in covering 80 yards in six plays. Connor Halliday hit Marquess Wilson for a 23-yard score and a 14-7 Washington State lead, with the only good news for Colorado fans coming by way of the fact that the drive went into the second quarter, a minor victory after falling behind Fresno State 35-0 in the first quarter seven days earlier.

Any sense of progress was quicky erased, though, over the next few minutes of play. On the Buffs’ second play from scrimmage, Tyler McCulloch fumbled, giving the Cougars the ball back at the Buff 39 yard line. It took eight plays, including a conversion on fourth down, but the Cougars did push the lead out to 21-7 on a 15-yard touchdown pass Halliday to Isaiah Myers.

The remainder of the half was scoreless, with the Buffs surviving another fumble, this time by Jordan Webb on a sack near midfield.

Halftime score: Washington State 21, Colorado 7.

Colorado managed one first down before punting to open the second half. On Washington State’s first possession, the first of many game altering plays took place. On first-and-24 at the Cougar 10-yard line (after two offensive penalties), Halliday completed a pass to Carl Winston, who fumbled after being hit by Buff defensive back Paul Vigo. Safety Terrel Smith scooped up the fumble, and raced to the endzone. Smith’s effort was initially ruled a touchdown, but instant replay put the ball out at the half-yard line.

No roll outs this time … Jordan Webb snuck the ball in on first down, and the Buffs were back in the game.

Washington State 21, Colorado 14.

A missed 53-yard field goal attempt by the Cougars on their next drive gave the Buffs new hope, but it was short lived. Jordan Webb’s first offering was intercepted on a deep pass, and Washington State was back in business. It took six plays, with the back-breaking play coming on a 49-yard touchdown from Halliday to Buff nemisis Marquess Wilson.

Order had been restored, with the 31,668 on hand in a smokey Martin Stadium pleased that a two score margin was being shown on the scoreboard.

Washington State 28, Colorado 14.

The two teams, which had avoided punts for much of the first half, then traded punts for much of the rest of the third quarter. A Darragh O’Neill shank, though, late in the quarter went all of 17 yards, setting up the Cougars at the Colorado 30-yard line.

The Colorado defense did stiffen, and did not allow a first down, surrendering only a 45-yard field goal.

It seemed insignificant at the time, as the lead went from 28-14 to 31-14, but the hold would prove crucial.

Down three scores, the Colorado offense … went nowhere. Washington State drove to the Colorado 19-yard line on its next drive, and was in position to put the game out of reach. On fourth-and-three at the Colorado 19-yard line, though, Cougar head coach Mike Leach eschewed a field goal attempt, opting instead to go for the knockout blow. Halliday’s pass, though, was intercepted by CU linebacker Jon Major (though he should have just knocked the ball down, with the Buffs losing 11 yards on the exchange).

Not a problem.

The Colorado offense, stagnant for much of the second half, suddenly caught fire. Two passes from Webb to tight end DaVaughn Thornton covered 14 and 13 yards, setting up the Buffs at the 30 yard line. Webb then found senior tight end Nick Kasa behind the Cougar secondary, with the former defensive end lumbering for a 70-yard score.

Washington State 31, Colorado 21 … Not great, but at least respectable.

A personal foul penalty on the Cougars stymied the Washington State offense in its next drive, with Colorado taking over at its ten yard line after a 51-yard punt .

Not a problem.

On the first play from scrimmage, Webb hit Nelson Spruce for a four yard gain. Webb was injured on the play, with the Buffs’ quarterback replaced by Nick Hirschman. On Hirschman’s one and only play from scrimmage, the junior handed the ball off to Tony Jones. On a play when everyone in the stadium was expecting a CU run, Jones managed to turn the corner, out-racing the Cougar secondary for an 84-yard touchdown run … and a new ballgame.

Washington State 31, Colorado 28. With 4:12 still on the fourth quarter game clock.

The Cougars, though – aided by a celebration penalty which forced the Buffs to kick off at their own 20-yard line – set up shop at the Colorado 23-yard line after a 56-yard kickoff return.

Now it was time for the Colorado defense to shine, forcing a field goal attempt after Washington State lost two yards in three plays. The field goal attempt was good from 42 yards out, but the Buffs were still within a score.

Washington State 34, Colorado 28. With 3:11 to play.

Colorado’s final drive of the game will not soon be compared with “The Drive” of Denver Bronco fame, but it was impressive nonetheless.

Starting at the 30 after a 21-yard kickoff return by Jeffrey Hall, Webb hit Gerald Thomas for ten yards and a first down. Next, a seven yard run by Tony Jones turned into a 22-yard play courtesy of a Washington State facemask penalty.

Set up at the Washington State 38, the Buffs faced a crucial third-and-five at the 33. Catching the Cougars in a substitution mishap, Webb hit Tyler McCulloch for 13 yards and another first down.

Then, on third-and-one at the WSU 11-yard line, Christian Powell carried for four yards and a first-and-goal at the Cougar seven yard line.

On first-and-goal, Powell carried again, but fumbled. Less than a minute remained on the clock, as everyone waited for the officials to pull players off of the pile. At the bottom tight end Nick Kasa had the ball, and the Buffs were still alive.

Second-and-goal … Christian Powell to the Cougar two yard line. Timeout, Colorado. 20 seconds remaining.

Third-and-goal … Christan Powell thrown for a loss of two yards. Timeout, Colorado. 12 seconds reamaining.

Fourth-and-goal … Jordan Webb on a quarterback draw. Four yards … and a Colorado touchdown!

Nine seconds remained, and, after Will Oliver was true on the extra point, Colorado had its first lead of the game.

A kickoff and one Hail Mary later, Colorado had its first victory of the season.

Final score: Colorado 35, Washington State 34.

“It’s a tremendous testament to them,” said Jon Embree of his team after the unlikely comeback. “We talked all week about the heart of the Buffalo and in our player meetings I talked to the guys about what our resolve needs to be, that I still believe in them and I knew we could do some good things still. It was just a great team effort.”

Quarterback Jordan Webb, bearing his share of the blame for Colorado’s 0-3 start, went 29-of-42 for 345 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Webb also had two touchdowns rushing, including the game-winner. “It was a pass-to-run option and we saw that the box was kind of thin,” said Webb of his four-yard touchdown run with nine seconds to play. “So we checked it to the run play like coach tells us and it worked out.”

Colorado had two 100-yard performers on the afternoon. Junior tailback Tony Jones went for 105 yards on only four carries, with his 84-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter making up most of the total. Joining Jones in the century club was wide receiver Nelson Spruce, who had eight catches for 103 yards and a touchdown.

The defense was led by defensive back Parker Orms, who had 12 tackles against Washington State, including eight solo. Freshman defensive back Kenneth Crawley chipped in ten tackles on the day.

Overall, Colorado rolled up 531 yards of total offense, to 451 for Washington State. The Buffs held the time of possession edge in every quarter, holding the ball for 33:27 for the game.

Here are highlights from the CU/Washington State game:


Game Notes –

– Time spent in lead: Washington State, 49:05; Colorado, nine seconds;

– Colorado had four fourth quarter drives, resulting in three touchdowns. Average starting position: Colorado 16 yard line;

– Washington State had four fourth quarter drives, resulting in one field goal. Average starting position: Washington State 42 yard line;

– For the game, CU’s average starting position was the Buff 26 yard line … 11 yards worse than WSU, and that number includes a drive that started at the Cougar one yard line!;

Josh Ford was the flavor of the week at running back after his late efforts in the Fresno State game. Against Washington State, Ford had one carry for seven yards;

– The Buffs’ 17-point comeback tied for the fourth largest in school history. It also represented the largest ever fourth quarter comeback on the road ever; and

– Colorado had a double-double 100-yard performers. Tony Jones went for 105-yards on only four carries, with Nelson Spruce collecting eight catches for 103 yards. The double-double was the 33rd in Buff history, and the first since Rodney Stewart (181 yards rushing) and Toney Clemons (115 yards receiving) pulled the trick against Arizona in November, 2011.



11 Replies to “Colorado 35, Washington State 34”

  1. Wanna know how sweet this victory was in our household? Diehard Buff fans living here in the Seattle area for 2 years now have heard a lot of …about why are they in the PAC 12? My answer up to now was because of academics, hoping to one day again say because we belong in this football league. Shoulder to Shoulder!!!
    Bring on the baby blues of UCLA!

  2. Redemption is a great part of sports. Stuart, you witnesed one of the worst defeats in CU history, Sac. State, and two weeks later one of their greatest comebacks. GO BUFFS!!!

  3. We were at the game. It was one of the best feeling games for me in 45 years of buff games. I was incredibly proud of the grit and heart of EVERYONE!! on the team. Only about 200 buff fans there and we had the privilege of singing the fight song with the team at the end of the game. Awesome job by everyone, dont pay any attention to the naysayers and disguised Huskers posting negative comments. This was awesome.

  4. Boston Alumni watch party had Tennessee Vols fans AND USC Trojan fans cheering with us. The game never quite felt over to me, even when they went up 31-14. I also didn’t ever suspect a win today, but the men in black and gold showed some true grit. Sure, it’s a long way from where BuffNation wants to be…I’m sure we’ll hear oodles about that in the coming week. But I think Embree and company are building something there. I wanted tangible progress today, instead I got a damn fine win built on plenty of tangible progress. Again, to pre-empt comments I’m sure are inevitable…YES, WAZU is not a top tier program…but, frankly, that argument strikes me as unnecessarily pessimistic given the epic ass kicking these same players took 7 days ago from another program that is not top tier. Success for this team MUST be measured in progress and relative strides.

    OH, and BTW…how pissed are WAZU fans that Leach went for that 4th down when they were in easy field goal range and leading 28-14 eh? Karma….maybe?

  5. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so proud of my Buffs. Everyone had written them off; everyone except themselves. That grit and tenacity that won the game for us was ALWAYS a hallmark of Buff teams in the past, and has been sorely lacking for years. For one day at least, the heart of the Buffaloes is beating loud and strong.

  6. Never give in!
    Shoulder to shoulder we will
    Go Buffs!
    Great catch and run by Kasa, followed by a great run by Tony Jones. Where has that Tony Jones been? Bienemy on the field make the difference on that?
    I liked the fight in the team today.

    I am simply speechless.
    Team showed the Heart of the Buffalo that Embree has been preaching.
    What a gutty game – especially by the defense in the second half!

  8. Made real tangible progress today. Give Powell the rock…great day to be a buff after I was convinced we would not win a game!

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