** Note ** … With the 2020 Fall schedule canceled, there will be no CU football for some time. But that shouldn’t stop those of us who need a football fix from writing and reading about our Buffs. Over the course of the season, I will be presenting Game stories for your Buffs – just as I have been doing for decades. These Game stories will serve as what will serve as my predictions for the Buffs had the 2020 season played out as originally scheduled. I will also be keeping track of the rest of the Pac-12, with “game results” each week for the rest of the conference. 

Then, just for fun, I will also have an ***Alternate Universe*** schedule for the Buffs and the rest of the Pac-12 (spoiler alert: The Buffs are going to have a great season!!) … 

September 12th – Boulder           Colorado 30, Fresno State 13

Ralphie VI and CU head coach Karl Dorrell both made successful Folsom Field debuts, as the Buffs methodically pulled away from Fresno State for a 30-13 victory. A crowd of 47,821 of was on hand in 90-degree heat as Tyler Lytle passed for 195 yards and a touchdown as the Buffs relied on its running game (243 yards on 39 carries and two touchdowns) to wear down the under-sized Bulldogs.

“It feels great to be back in Folsom Field”, said Dorrell, who joined Rick Neuheisel (1995) and Mike MacIntyre (2013) as the only CU coaches in the past 50 years to win their first two games. “Fresno State has quality players and a quality coach. I’m proud of how our team rose to the challenge”.

Alex Fontenot was the workhorse for the offense, with 23 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown, while the receiving corps was led by senior K.D. Nixon, who had 87 yards on seven catches, including a 14-yard touchdown which finally put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter. The defense did its part, holding the Bulldogs to one touchdown and 233 yards of total offense.

Game story … Fresno State, under their new head coach Kalen DeBoer, came to Boulder having posted an easy 42-10 win in its opener over Idaho State. The Vandals, though, were a Big Sky cellar-dweller, so the Buffs were the Bulldogs’ first test of the 2020 season.

And the Buffs – at least early – reminded the Bulldogs that they were coming off of a 4-8 season in 2019. The CU offense took the field after the opening kickoff, and looked to establish the running game. Consecutive runs of nine, seven, and 12 yards by Alex Fontenot pushed the ball to the Fresno State side of the field before a Tyler Lytle completion to K.D. Nixon for 17 yards gave the Buffs a first down at the Bulldog 30-yard line.

The Buffs were making it look easy … but a holding call on a completion to tight end Brady Russell stalled the drive, with the Buffs settling for 40-yard field goal by James Stefanou with 9:48 remaining in the first quarter.

After the teams exchanged punts, the CU offense put together another impressive drive. Jaren Mangham posted a 13-yard run to open the series, with Tyler Lytle connecting with Daniel Arias for a 22-yard gain to again put the Buffs in scoring position. This time, the Buffs were not to be denied, with Alex Fontenot finishing off an eight-play, 71-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run to give CU a 10-0 lead in the first minute of the second quarter.

Just when the sun-baked Buff fans were starting to relax, the Bulldog offense came to life. Running back Ronnie Rivers, who had led the Mountain West with 16 touchdowns in 2019, broke free for a 32-yard run to give Fresno State a first down in CU territory. A 25-yard completion from quarterback Jake Haener to wide receiver Jalen Cropper gave the Bulldogs a first-and-goal at the Buff nine-yard line. There, however, a sack of Haener on third down by Buff defensive end Antonio Alfano ended the threat, with the Bulldogs settling for a 29-yard field goal and a 10-3 game.

The remainder of the second quarter was – depending on how you looked at it – either a defensive battle or a display of struggling offenses. Neither team was able to sustain a drive until the final minutes, when the Buffs got their act together. Short completions to tight end Brady Russell and Dimitri Stanley on third downs kept the drive alive, with James Stefanou connecting on a 31-yard field goal as time expired.

Halftime score: Colorado 13, Fresno State 3

It appeared that the Buff defense had gotten off the field on Fresno State’s opening possession of the second half, but a pass interference call on a third-and-12 kept the drive alive. Ronnie Rivers, who would finish the day with 107 yards rushing, had runs of 17 and 12 yards to give the Bulldogs another red zone opportunity. The Buff defense, though, again rose to the occasion, forcing a 32-yard field goal attempt. When kicker Cesar Silva connected on his second opportunity of the afternoon, it was a one-score game, at 13-6, early in the third.

With the Buff Nation anxiously looking on, the CU offense responded to the challenge. Behind the tandem of Alex Fontenot and Jaren Mangham, the Buff running game wore down the Bulldog defense. Fontenot had five carries for 33 yards on the Buffs’ first possession of the second half, with Mangham gaining 25 yards on four carries as the Buffs put together a six-minute, 11-play, 75-yard drive, capped by a two-yard Mangham scoring run. Midway through the third, the Buffs again had some breathing room, upping the advantage to 20-6.

The two-score advantage, however, was short-lived.

An 81-yard kickoff return by Jalen Cropper set the Bulldogs up at the CU 18-yard line. Two plays later, Jake Haener connected with Zane Pope for a 16-yard touchdown, and, just like that, it was a 20-13 game.

Again, however, the Buff offense appeared ready to respond. Freshman wide receiver Brenden Rice, making his Folsom Field debut, collected a short crossing pass from Tyler Lytle and turned it into a 47-yard gain, giving the Buffs a chance to extend their lead. Three plays later, however, Lytle threw an interception in the end zone, ending the threat.

The Bulldogs, though, were not able to take advantage. Antonio Alfano’s second sack of the day, coming on a third-and-eight, forced a punt, giving the ball right back to the Buffs near midfield. The ensuing drive did not result in touchdown, but James Stefanou’s third field goal of the game, coming from 41 yards out, did give the Buffs a 23-13 advantage early in the fourth quarter.

After the Bulldogs were unable to move the ball on their next drive, the Buffs put the game away with a time-consuming ten-play, 70-yard drive, culminated in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Lytle to K.D. Nixon.

Final score: Colorado 30, Fresno State 13

“It was a struggle”, Karl Dorrell acknowledged. “We have a young team, and they are going to make some mistakes. There were opportunities out there, but we failed to capitalize. I trust that these young men will understand that, despite being 2-0, there is plenty of work to be done. We are taking on one of the top teams in the nation next weekend, and it will be the ultimate challenge”.

Tyler Lytle was steady, despite throwing his first interception of the season. His 195 yards passing came on 15-of-26 completions, with the one touchdown to K.D. Nixon. “Our preseason is over”, Lytle said. “It’s time to put on our ‘big boy pants’ and get the job done in College Station”.

The star on defense was defensive end Antonio Alfano. The former five-star Alabama recruit had been dismissed from the team during the spring, but had worked his way back onto the roster over the summer. “It feels great to be competing again”, said Alfano, who had two crucial sacks on the day. “I’m looking forward to getting back to SEC country and showing them what they missed out on”.

Up next: Texas A&M … No. 11 Texas A&M had little trouble raising its record to 2-0, dominating North Texas, 48-7. With the win, the Aggies moved into the Top Ten, and will take on the Buffs as the No. 9 team in the nation.

Game Notes … 

— The game against Fresno State was a makeup game for a contest which had been scheduled for the 2013 season. Flooding in Boulder, which resulted in the area being declared a “national emergency site“, postponed the back end of a home-and-home series with the Bulldogs;

— Karl Dorrell joined Rick Neuheisel (1995) and Mike MacIntyre (2013) as CU coaches who won their first two games (Neuheisel won his first five games at CU; MacIntyre went on to lose his third game as head coach, falling to Oregon State – ironically enough, after a game against Fresno State had been cancelled);

— Ralphie VI had a successful debut as CU’s mascot. The 500-pounder may have seemed small to the Folsom Field crowd, but she will grow into the job. When she reaches full maturity, Ralphie VI will weigh in the neighborhood of 1,200 pounds;

— The 47,821 in attendance was a significant drop from the 52,829 who were on hand for the 2019 opener, but, then again, the 2019 opener was against No. 25 Nebraska;

— Linebacker Nate Landman again led the defense, with 12 tackles (six unassisted). Defensive tackle Antonio Alfano, making his Folsom Field debut, made an impression. The former five-star recruit posted two sacks, with two other tackles for loss.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12 in Week Two (Pac-12 non-conference losses in italics) … 

  • Stanford 27, Arizona 24
  • No. 2 Ohio State 31, No. 9 Oregon 27
  • No. 11 Texas A&M 48, North Texas 7
  • No. 17 Utah 41, Montana State 17
  • No. 25 Arizona State 40, UNLV 10
  • USC 54, New Mexico 10
  • California 56, Cal Poly 7
  • Oregon State 33, Colorado State 21
  • Washington 49, Sacramento State 7
  • Washington State 27, Houston 24
  • UCLA … Idle

Noteworthy

The game of week in the Pac-12, and indeed the nation, was the game in Eugene, pitting No. 2 Ohio State v. No. 9 Oregon. The game pitted the Buckeyes’ high-octane offense, led by Heisman trophy candidate Justin Fields, against the Ducks’ highly-regarded defense. The last time the teams met, it was in the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship. Ohio State game won that game, and was able to hold on to take down the Ducks once again, this time by a score of 31-27 (giving Ohio State a 10-0 lead in the all-time series between the two teams) … The other two ranked teams from the Pac-12, No. 17 Utah and No. 25 Arizona State, were able to easily take care of business against lesser foes, with Utah defeating Montana State, 41-17, and Arizona State handling UNLV, 40-10 … Overall, the Pac-12 went 9-2 in Week Two, with only Oregon and Arizona absorbing losses. Arizona fell to 1-2 overall, after losing to Stanford, 27-24, in the first Pac-12 conference game of the 2020 season …

In the rankings … With its loss to No. 2 Ohio State, No. 9 Oregon dipped slightly, falling to No. 12. With easy victories over double-digit underdogs, Utah and Arizona State were able to move up thanks to losses by other Top 25 teams, with Utah rising to No. 15 nationally; Arizona State up to No. 22 … In the “others receiving votes”, USC, bouncing back from its humbling loss to Alabama in Week One with a dominating win over New Mexico, had 87 votes, good enough for No. 27 in the poll. Washington, which had fallen to Michigan in the opener, took out its frustrations on Sacramento State, received 44 votes (good enough for 31st in the poll). Stanford, at 2-0, received three votes, coming in at No. 37 nationally …

Pac-12 Standings Week Two Up Next
North DivisionPac-12Overall
Stanford1-02-0USC
Washington State0-02-0Idaho
California0-02-1Idle (Utah – 9/26)
No. 12 Oregon0-01-1Hawai’i
Washington0-01-1Utah State
Oregon State0-01-1Portland State
South DivisionPac-12Overall
No. 15 Utah0-02-0at Wyoming
No. 22 Arizona State0-02-0BYU
Colorado0-02-0at No. 9 Texas A&M
USC0-01-1at Stanford
UCLA0-01-1at San Diego State
Arizona0-11-2at Texas Tech

*** Alternate Universe *** – CU Game Two

September 12th – Boulder        Colorado 42, Fresno State 10

Freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis continued the impressive start to his CU career, throwing for two touchdowns while running for two more, as the Buffs cruised past Fresno State.

Lewis had 278 yards passing, connecting with Dimitri Stanley and Daniel Arias on touchdowns passes covering 47 and 32 yards, respectively. In addition, Lewis ran for 59 yards on only eight carries, tallying scoring runs of three and six yards as the Buffs dominated throughout.

The Buffs scored on their first three possessions of the game, racing out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and never looking back. Fresno State managed only a field goal in the first half, and a late touchdown against backups in the fourth quarter as the sun-baked CU crowd of 47,821 enjoyed their day in the sun.

Tight end Brady Russell (seven catches for 88 yards) led the receiving corps, which had no fewer than six players with at least three catches. Running backs Alex Fontenot (18 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown) and Jaren Mangham (11 carries for 68 yards) led the rushing attack, but the Buff Nation got a look into the future, with true freshman Ashaad Clayton, seeing his first action as a Buff, tearing off a 55-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter with the game well in hand.

The victory, coupled with the demolition of Colorado State in the opener, got the attention of some of the nation’s sportswriters. With a match-up against No. 9 Texas A&M on the horizon, the Buffs received 18 votes in the “others receiving votes” category of the AP Top 25, good enough for a No. 33 ranking nationally.

Note … The kickoff for the game against the Aggies has been changed. It will now be a 6:00 p.m. CT (5:00 p.m., MT) kickoff, with the game to be broadcast nationally on ESPN2.

Previously Posted … 

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