October 8th – at USC          USC 21, No. 21 Colorado 17

The Colorado defense forced four USC turnovers, but also allowed 540 yards of total offense as the Trojans defeated the Buffs for the 11th-straight time, 21-17.

In a battle of freshman quarterbacks, USC’s Sam Darnold won the day. Darnold went 25-for-37 for 358 yards and three touchdowns … with all three scoring passes going to tight ends. Steven Montez, meanwhile, was held to 192 yards passing, completing 24-of-39 passes, with one touchdown and one interception.

Bryce Bobo was in line for player of the game, with a career-high ten catches, going for 83 yards and a ten-yard touchdown. Bobo was also in on the Buffs’ other touchdown, with the junior receiver throwing a 67-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Lindsay to help keep Colorado in the game.

“We didn’t play Colorado football,” Mike MacIntyre said. “We didn’t play hard and fast like we’re capable of doing. They (the Trojans) are a good team and had something to do with that, but we didn’t play as well as we could have.”

The loss dropped Colorado to 4-2, 2-1 in Pac-12 play, falling to 2-20-1 all-time in games played in the state of California.


The game took an ominous tone before the opening kickoff, as the Buffs lost the coin toss for the first time all season. Opening the contest with the ball, the Colorado offense, which had scored touchdowns on four of five of its first drives to open the year … went three-and-out.

The USC offense marched smartly down the field with its first drive, with the Buffs finally making a stand at the 19-yard line. The Trojans were apparently stopped on a fourth-and-one, but a favorable spot by the officials gave USC a fresh set of downs. On the very next play, USC quarterback Sam Darnold sprinted for the end zone. Just short of the end zone, Darnold fumbled, with the ball recovered by Ahkello Witherspon in the end zone for a touchback.

Given a reprieve, the Buffs generated a little momentum on their next drive. A 19-yard scramble by quarterback Steven Montez, followed by a ten-yard completion to Devin Ross, put the ball out near midfield. There the CU drive stalled, however, forcing a second punt out of Alex Kinney.

Taking the ball at the 20 after a touchback, the USC offense was not to be denied on its second opportunity. The Trojans marched 80 yards in nine plays to take the lead. A 32-yard touchdown pass from Darnold to tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe capped the drive, making it 7-0, USC, late in the first quarter.

The Buffs’ next drive was similar to their second, with the CU offense pushing across midfield before being forced to punt. Consecutive completions from Montez to Shay Fields (for 13 yards) and Devin Ross (for 16) put the ball in plus territory, but a holding call followed by a sack of Montez ended the threat.

The teams then traded punts before the Trojans took the ball at their own eight yard line with ten minutes left before halftime. Thirteen plays and 92 yards later, USC was up 14-0. In a methodical drive which consumed 6:25 of game clock, the Trojans only faced one third down on the drive (at that was a third-and-two at the CU 30-yard line). On first-and-ten at the CU 11 yard line, Darnold turned in a highlight play. A fake to the tailback resulted in a fumble, with Darnold scrambling around before hitting tight end Tyle Petite for the score. USC 14, Colorado 0, with 3:40 to play before halftime.

The Buffs took the ensuing kickoff and again pushed the ball out near midfield. Steven Montez was injured on the drive, with senior quarterback Sefo Liufau, who hadn’t played since being injured in the Michigan game three weeks earlier, coming on in relief. That drive also came to nothing, however, with the Buffs turning the ball over on downs at the USC 38-yard line in the waning seconds before the break.

Halftime score: USC 14, Colorado 0

The Buffs, who came into the contest averaging 43.2 points and 531.2 yards per game, were held to 126 total yards in the first half. In a battle of freshman quarterbacks, Sam Darnold had the better of it, completing 14 of his first 17 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns, while Steven Montez went 12-for-19 for 80 yards.

After lapses by the offense and defense in the first half, the Colorado special teams took a turn at faltering in the opening minutes of the second half … but were bailed out each time by the Buff defense.

Adoree Jackson returned the second half kickoff for 38 yards to set the Trojans up at their 42 to start their drive. Several quick hitting plays put the ball deep into CU territory. There however, Justin Davis fumbled, with a hit by Rick Gamboa forcing the ball out, picked up by Afolabi Laguda.

The Colorado offense, with Steven Montez back under center, responded … with a three-and-out. The Alex Kinney 42-yard punt was then returned by Adoree Jackson 47 yards to the CU 26 yard line.

The Colorado defense would have been forgiven at that point for surrendering a score, but instead the Buffs rose to the challenge. On third-and-six, Darnold was sacked by linebacker Addison Gillam. Darnold fumbled on the play, with the ball recovered by Jordan Carrell at the CU 33 yard line.

This time, the Buff offense responded. On its first play, Bryce Bobo received a lateral pass from Montez, then turned and launched a bomb to a wide open Phillip Lindsay. The junior running back had to juke a safety near the ten yard line, but was able complete the 67-yard touchdown play.

Just like that, the Buffs were back in the game. USC 14, Colorado 7, with 11:23 still remaining in the third quarter.

On USC’s next possession, the Trojans lost their leading running back, Justin Davis, to an ankle injury … then lost the ball. At the USC 41 yard line, Darnold threw a pass which was intercepted by linebacker Kenneth Olugbode. The senior’s returned his first career interception 14 yards, setting up the Buff offense at the USC 43-yard line.

The Buffs were unable to take advantage, however, with Steven Montez giving the ball right back to the Trojans. Montez was harassed by the Trojan pass rush, and tried to throw the ball away, but an athletic interception by Adoree Jackson gave USC its only turnover of the game.

Another play by another Trojan athlete, this time a 34-yard completion from Darnold to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, gave USC a first down at the Colorado 35 yard line. There, however, the Buff defense made yet another stand. On fourth-and-six at the Buff 31, a Sam Darnold offering was tipped at the line of scrimmage by Jimmie Gilbert, giving the ball back to the Colorado offense.

The Buff offense was then able to take advantage … just not right away.

The teams traded punts before the Buffs took over at their 16-yard line with 13 minutes left in the game. A 21-yard connection between Montez and Bryce Bobo was followed two plays later by an 11-yard completion to Kabion Ento. On the next play, at the USC 48, Phillip Lindsay broke through for a 38-yard run to the Trojan ten yard line. There, on third-and-nine, Montez hit Bryce Bobo for ten yard touchdown.

Tied at 14-14, with 10:20 left to play.

On USC’s second play from scrimmage after the Buffs forged the tie, Ahkello Witherspoon had a chance at CU’s fifth turnover of the game. Instead, Witherspoon was out-fought for the ball by Trojan wide receiver Darreus Rogers, who turned the play into a 46-yard gain to the Buff 24-yard line. Three plays later, Sam Darnold hit Tyler Petite for a seven yard touchdown to give the Trojans the lead back, at 21-14, with 8:28 remaining.

The Colorado offense then countered with a drive of its own, with a pair of completions from Montez to Bryce Bobo for nine and 11 yards giving the Buffs some momentum. A 22-yard pass to running back Phillip Lindsay got the Buffs to the 25, but the CU offense could get no deeper. Freshman kicker Nick Price then coolly hit a 42-yard field goal to make it a 21-17 game with 4:49 left in the game.

It was then left to the Colorado defense to make one last stand … but the unit was unable to deliver. USC managed to hold the ball for the remaining time, converting on a third-and-seven at the CU 39 on a pass completion to JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Final score: USC 21, No. 21 Colorado 17

“Somehow, some way, we’ve got to get USC,” MacIntyre said. “We’re 0-fer right now. We’ve got to get that off our back. We’ll do that eventually.”

Had it not been for the four turnovers, the game might not have been as close as the final score indicated. USC out-gained Colorado, 539 yards to 371. The Trojans had a 28-20 advantage in first downs, with almost twice as many rushing yards as the Buffs (181-96), and converted half of their third down conversion attempts (7-of-14).

The Buffs had 275 yards passing on the 90-degree afternoon in the Coliseum, but those numbers were padded by the 67-yard touchdown pass from Bryce Bobo to Phillip Lindsay to get the Buffs on the board in the third quarter. Lindsay also had 105 yards receiving (on six catches), but only 57 yards rushing on 11 carries.

“It was a humbling experience,” said Steven Montez. “You’re never as good as you think you are, and things aren’t as bad as they seem right after a loss. I’d never say a loss is a good thing, but I do know we have to take this and learn from it and grow from it.”

Game Notes … 

— Colorado trailed in the game for 46:29 of game time. In the first five games, the Buffs trailed for a combined 39:04 of game clock;

— Kenneth Olugbode had ten tackles, making him the first Buff to have 10-plus tackles in four straight games since Anthony Perkins did it in 2011;

— The temperature at kickoff was 90-degrees, tied for the 11th-warmest games in CU history;

— The Buffs were shut out in the first half for the first time since November, 2015 (14-0 at Washington State);

— Phillip Lindsay had six catches for 105 yards, becoming the first CU running back to go over the 100-yard mark receiving since Cortlen Johnson had an identical six catches for 105 yards against Iowa State in 2001;

— Bryce Bobo had ten catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. His previous high for catches in a game was six (v. Arizona in 2015). His 67-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Lindsay was the first pass of his career.

— Ten of USC’s 13 drives had snaps in CU territory; six of CU’s 12 drives went into Trojan territory.

— The Colorado defense forced four turnovers in the game, giving the Buffs a turnover in a nation’s best 19 straight games.



32 Replies to “USC 21, No. 21 Colorado 17”

  1. Now with that being said,

    conference O scoring……19.7…….35.0
    Conference D scoring……32.3…….21.7

    Bodes well for the next 6. As long as the new offense is in force.


    1. So true Victor. This loss stings way more for the very reason that they WERE in the game and that they ARE in the fight again!

      And, man, I am excited to see the next 2-3 years of Montez at the helm. But I’d love to see Sefo healthy and finishing what he fought so hard to start.

  2. didn`t get to see the game in the second half but I thought they would have to play alot better to win , and it sounds like they made the ajustments but just didn`t play CU ball. well that one done we or the Buffs need to get over this and start to play ball like they can , still alot better then last few years and will be happy to see them win again still need to get enough to get to a bowl game.

  3. This is a game Buffs win in Folsom. Having said that, the talent level and speed differential was obvious, especially on both sides of the line. In addition, Lindgren needs to be eased out of the play calling duties. USC’s demise is greatly exaggerated. Next week, it is time to bring back Sefo against ASU, and run it up on their suspect D.

    1. I hope Sefo is healthy. But in his brief time in this game, it seemed pretty apparent to me that he was not at 100%. He wasn’t moving like he can, he wasn’t dropping like he can.

      That said, Montez looked like he was feeling a bit shocked, by that pass rush or by that stadium, not sure. I know he played in the Big House earlier this season…but he seemed shaken at times. Despite him appearing shaken or intimidated, I think he played pretty well under that condition. He just needs to step up and play Buff Ball, like everyone.

      I know they can do it, I’ve been awful proud of how they have stepped up this season. I still believe the Rise is Real…it just takes time and there will be speed bumps on the way, but it is real!

  4. I am not sure why the pundits are giving up on the Buffs, they only have one more difficult game at Stanford, and the rest are winnable.

    1. Ael, after watching the Stanford WSU game I feel that that game is also very winnable. No doubt it will be a tough go as even though this team has some experience the whole program is still just learning how to win winnable games.

    2. I think every game they have left is winnable…but I also feel every game they have left will be difficult. These buffs have shown us a ton, but we are not in a position to take any opponent lightly.

  5. This game was lost the moment Montez took the field. I can’t believe that they didn’t go with Liufau’s experience against a team as athletic as the Trojans. Also, the same lame Lingren play calling that lost us the game last year at the Rose Bowl showed its ugly head today. Shame on the coaches, they lost the game today.

    1. On Sefo’s series in the game, it seemed pretty obvious to me that he is not at 100% yet. Montez is very capable, and whoever has been calling plays this year has clearly done a good job of it. I’m sorry, but I can’t really hop on the blame wagon when we’re at 4-2 and were just ranked for the first time in 11 years.

  6. Whelp. At least we covered the spread? That should have been a lot worse, like 42-14 worse.

    Obviously the rumors of USC’s death have been greatly exaggerated. That was the best team we have played against all year, even Michigan did not play that well against us.

    Here are my observations:
    Teams are no longer looking past the Buffs. Congrats guys this is what being taken somewhat seriously feels like.

    We do not have the recruits. USC just has bigger, faster, more athletic guys. Our lines got DOMINATED. We weren’t running more because almost every time we did we got stopped between 2 and -2 yards of gain. This disrupted our offensive game plan. On the D-line the times we were able to get pressure on the QB was out of a blitz. Over time this should change if the Buffs stay relevant.

    Lindgren needs to go.
    1. Once their O-line stopped the run their safeties compressed and contained. This allowed them to T off on our screen passes. Those got blown up repeatedly yet we did them again, and again, and again. Why?

    2. Logically when safeties compress go deep to keep em honest. We couldn’t connect on the deep ball (and for some reason didn’t try it for the whole first half?!). Some of that has to do with our receivers being up against corners who are every bit as quick as they are. However, I only remember 3 deep attempts all of which were at predictable times in the 2nd half. Why as an “explosive” offense with a top tier corp would we not go deep more?
    3. Tight ends, we have them. Irwin has great hands, we know this. They are also bigger and get a couple more yards after contact. This would really have turned 3&4/5/6s into to first downs. But we didn’t target a tight end once. Why?

    It really felt like it was “lindgrens turn to OC” and it showed.

    1. Since I missed the game, all these comments from others are helpful. Clear that USC has better athletes. Then better, smart game plan required. Instead, under these situations, Lindgren cramps up. It happens a lot and needs to end. Be true to yourself. Don’t be something your note. Sayings go on and on this vein. I hope this is a learning experience with quick adjustments this week. Before the season, I felt ASU was the pivotal game of the season. Now, with a slightly better Buffs record than I expected, it still feels like that. Win, go to 5-2. Lose, go to 4-3 with Stanford on the horizon. I agree with VK below if we handle ASU. Don’t want to be sweating going into November.

  7. I have to agree with others that on offense I didn’t see the up-tempo game or long pass attempts hardly at all. That is what got this team to 4-1, why stop now? What I saw was USC defense packing in the box. Lots of pressure on Montez. Montez appeared a little frazzled at times, even when he did have time he took the short option. It happens sometimes.

    However, I was really happy to see the team fight back in the 2nd half. A couple of key plays and the game is either a big loss or eeking out a win. I’ll take it. I’ll also take a big win vs. ASU next week please.

  8. 6 to go. 4 at home. 2 on the road. Gotta protect Folsom. Win em all. Get one more win on the road.

    Go Buffs.

    Also, it appeared the refs did no favors for the Buffs, and more than a few for usc.

  9. I feel like all those fears of the guys going back to SoCal came true. They seemed distracted. I can’t imagine the machete incident helped this week. All and all, they looked a bit scared. Also, our OC not calling run plays in the first half to slow down their pass rush is head scratching. It’s these kind of lapses that make the fans really frustrated with him – lack of adjustments.

    1. Disappointing to hear about the offensive play calling. Sounds like it regressed. Need to get back to aggressive, creative, lights out approach next Saturday against ASU’s poor pass defense.

  10. I think the play calling, with the exception of the trick play, was predictable and repetitive. How many screens can you run? Wasn’t it inside slants over and over last week or the week before that? Why on more then one 3rd and long do you throw to a player short of the 1st down marker? Why? Sure you want to establish a run game but sometimes it isn’t going to work. 2nd half adjustments on both sides of the ball were good, just too late, still encouraging to see us be able to do that.

    1. Yup just like in years past the play calling was predictable. Barnett mentioned several times and when discussing the last touchdown drive, he stated there were no slants in that drive only posts and skinny posts.

      Go Buffs.

      1. On TV it appeared that the Buffs were willing to play in a much smaller area on offense then USC and at times when a play was in progress it seemed that USC had about a 4 to 1 advantage in the number of players around either the runner or the receiver. I know that USC has players that are good and they are fast but not that good and fast. So the only conclusion is that the play calling was very pedestrian and the slants which had worked and the off tackle slant running plays that worked against other teams had been scouted by the USC D.

        Time to change some concepts and go to some other schemes. A little TE pass now and then might have been in order, and as the announcer kept calling for, go down field more.

  11. Sucks to lose, but honestly I feel good about how we competed. The reason we lost is simple, they have far superior athletes on the offensive and defensive line. They easily controlled both lines of scrimmage. We struggled running the ball, and could not get consistent pressure on their QB. They easily got pressure on Montez. This game was lost in the trenches on both sides of the ball. But it could have been a blowout. We competed until the end, and to me it bodes well for our future games against teams that don’t have the talent of USC (i.e., ASU, Arizona, Washington State, and even UCLA). We are still on track!!!

  12. I did not watch the game due to a family commitment. Upon reading this write up, it seems that the team was not ready to play the game on either offense or defense? I would like to hear some comments. Was Montez ineffective or was Lindgren’s play calling conservative or both? Leavitt’s D giving up 500 yards? What was with that? Sounds like the team fought hard at the end and had a chance but could not overcome the first half. Without seeing the game, I hope this is an one time performance. We lost to Michigan on special teams blunders and loss of starting QB. This loss sounds like poor preparation and execution, owned by the coaching staff which is more worrisome as other tough Pac 12 games loom. Again, I did not see the game so would like to hear others’ thoughts. ASU game now very important. Lose that one and the air starts coming out of the balloon with Stanford following that one.

    1. In short? Not the cleanest game by either team. USC just had some dudes who made key plays at key times. You can probably name them all. Their dudes, that is.

      Buffs can continue growing from this game. I am sure they will.

      Hoping to see a sold out game next week in Boulder. Gotta beat ASU.

      Go Buffs.

  13. Tough loss. I think they can learn a lot from that game. Given the offensive struggles, could have been way worse. USC isn’t dead yet, after all.

    Go Buffs. Beat ASU!

  14. all the USC scoring passes to tight ends. Brilliant. Mac NEVER uses tight ends so the D probably never sees them even on the scout team

    1. Good observation. Seem to lack the motivation. Coaches job. Same uniforms they wore in the Hawaii loss. Looked the same .

      Never wear that combination again.

      Go Buffs

      1. Exactly VK. No energy from the get go. And then….we had to endure the bad play calling reminiscent to the past few years under Lindgren. As mentioned previously, no hurry up. When they tried they stopped the play to look over to the sideline. Thus, resulting in regular play. It seemed like imagination in play calling was abandoned.
        Just not the same team.

        1. Fully agree with this. Until it was too late in the second half they abandoned everything that made them successful.

          1. Old habits die hard:
            Playing not to lose rather than playing to win.
            Get into the play calling rut
            Close but no win game (moral victories)

            The Mac Mantra of ” Players play the game and Players win games and players lose games” has its basis. But so does “Coaches coach games and coaches win games and coaches lose games.”

            I put this one on the coaches.

            Hopefully back on track next week with the new offense rather than last years.

            Go Buffs

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