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November 11th – at USC           No. 8 USC 55, Colorado 17

Colorado took its first lead in a month, carrying a 3-2 lead over No. 8 USC into the second quarter, but that was as good as it was get, as No. 8 USC scored 23 unanswered points in the second quarter, coasting to a 55-17 victory. Trojan quarterback Caleb Williams threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns, rushing for two more to lead the USC rout.

Buff quarterback J.T. Shrout completed 11-of-21 passes for 124 yards, also rushing for a touchdown. But Shrout also gave up a safety on an intentional grounding but had two turnovers with an interception and a fumble, leading to two USC scores. Senior running back Alex Fontenot had 20 carries for 108 yards and a touchdown, with the Buffs managing only 259 yards of total offense (going 3-for-12 on third downs).

“The turnovers and the sack where the intentional grounding safety was called, were too much to overcome against a team with the firepower that they have”, said interim head coach Mike Sanford. “We’re gonna keep on fighting. We’re gonna keep on finding a way to put ourselves in position to win games. I thought we did that and it got away from us today”.

Game Story … Colorado won the toss, and committed an illegal formation penalty on the game’s first play … which was declined as the Buffs lost four yards on the first play anyway. A 15-yard completion from J.T. Shrout to R.J. Sneed did get the Buffs a first down, but the drive went no further, with the ball punted away after five plays.

Taking over at its 12-yard line, the loaded USC offense … went three-and-out.

On CU’s second drive, the Buffs picked up a first down on a Shrout scramble, but a sack of Shrout two plays later dosed the momentum, bringing about a second punt from Trent Carrizosa.

On USC’s second drive, the loaded USC offense gained its first first down of the game on a short run on third-and-one. On the next play, however, Trojan quarterback Caleb Williams, who had thrown only one interception all season, threw his second. On a deep pass to CU defector Brenden Rice, Nikko Reed picked off the pass … but was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for his spinning the ball on the ground after the play.

With the penalty, the CU offense took over at its 11-yard line, and scored the first points of the game. Unfortunately, it was for the Trojans, as J.T. Shrout was called for intentional grounding throwing the ball from out of the end zone. Midway through the first quarter, the scoreboard in the Coliseum read: USC 2, Colorado 0.

Punting the ball back to USC, the Trojans failed to take advantage, going three-and-out after a sack of Caleb Williams by Quinn Perry.

The first three plays of CU’s next drive netted four yards, and the Buffs lined up to punt. On the punt, though, the Trojans were called for an offsides penalty, making it fourth-and-one at the CU 41-yard line. Rather than punt the ball back to USC, the Buffs went for the first down, with Alex Fontenot gaining four yards and a first down. On the next play, Fontenot went for 37 yards – CU’s longest run of the season – giving the Buffs a first down at the USC 18-yard line. The Buffs had the chance to score, but Shrout missed a wide open Brady Russell for a touchdown. Cole Becker was called upon to kick a 28-yard field goal, and Becker delivered. The Buffs lost their chance at a touchdown, but nonetheless had their first lead since the Cal game a month earlier. Colorado 3, USC 2, with 1:24 left in the first quarter.

The Buff defense gave itself chances to get off the field on USC’s ensuing drive, but … couldn’t. Caleb Williams completed a 24-yard pass to Kyle Ford on third-and-19 to prevent a three-and-out. Two plays later, the Trojans faced a third-and-23, but the CU defense again failed to get off the field, giving up a 42-yard completion from Williams to Ford. After an offensive pass interference call, USC had a first-and-25 … and still converted for a first down. Later, on a third-and-nine at CU nine yard line, a Caleb Williams pass fell incomplete. Instead of forcing a field goal, the Buffs were called for pass interference, giving USC a first-and-goal at the CU two yard line. There, Caleb Williams took it in himself. It wasn’t easy – 12 plays, 72 yards, over six minutes of clock – but the Trojans finally had the lead for good, with the new score being 9-3 at the ten minute mark of the second quarter.

The CU offense then added to the Buff frustrations, giving the ball right back to USC. Quarterback J.T. Shrout, who had already given USC two points with an intentional grounding, gift wrapped a scoring opportunity, fumbling the ball away on a sack. Taking over at the CU ten yard line, the Trojans only needed to plays to make it a two-score game. Caleb Williams posted his second touchdown in just over two minutes of clock, taking the ball in from four yards out to make it a 16-3 game.

A 32-yard kickoff return by Nikko Reed gave the Buffs good field position at its 36, but the offense couldn’t take advantage, going three-and-out.

USC’s offense was now in gear, needing only eight plays to cover 67 yards. With just under two minutes remaining in the half, Buff defector Brenden Rice became the second former Buff in as many weeks to rub salt CU’s wounds, scoring on a 32-yard pass from Williams. The Trojans had upped their lead to 23-3, but lost running back Travis Dye in the process.

Taking over at its seven yard line after a penalty on the kickoff, the Buffs were not only not able to score, they weren’t able to run out the final two minutes of the clock. An Anthony Hankerson run for eight yards, followed by a completion from Shrout to Jack Hestera for another eight yards gave CU a first down. Three plays later, the Buffs were in punt formation, giving the ball back to USC.

The Trojans needed only 45 seconds to cover 45 yards, with USC kicker Dennis Lynch hitting a 34-yard field goal as time expired.

Halftime score: No. 8 USC 26, Colorado 3

USC opened the second half with a methodical drive down the field, with a Caleb Williams 17-yard run on third-and-four keeping the drive alive. Later, however, the Trojans faced a fourth-and-eight at the CU 38-yard line. Going for it, Williams was sacked by Jamar Montgomery for a nine yard loss, giving CU the ball at its own 47-yard line.

Given its best field position of the night, the Buffs took advantage. After a two-yard scramble by J.T. Shrout to open the drive, it was all Alex Fontenot. The Buff senior running back had two runs of five yards to give CU a first down at the USC 41-yard line. Fontenot’s next carry was good for 27 yards, giving CU its second red zone opportunity. Three plays later, CU faced a fourth-and-two at the USC six yard line. Fontenot got the call, going for three yards and a first down. On the next play, Fontenot scored on a three yard run, his first touchdown of the season. USC 26, Colorado 10, past the midway point of the third quarter.

Could the Buffs take advantage of the momentum, and get back in the game.

No. These were the 2022 Buffs, who proceeded to implode.

After giving up a 40-yard kickoff return, the Trojans needed all of two plays to score. Caleb Williams hit Tahj Washington at midfield, with Washington going the next 50 yards untouched for a 61-yard touchdown. A minute of clock after the Buffs had scored, the Trojans were back on the scoreboard, with a wholly unnecessary two-point making it a 34-10 game.

Could the Buffs answer?

Sure, with a J.T. Shrout interception on CU’s next offensive play. R.J. Sneed was open, but Shrout floated the ball, which was picked by the USC safety Calen Bullock.

With the outcome no longer in doubt, the Trojans had little trouble moving down the field for another score. It took all of eight plays to cover 71 yards, with the highlight for the Buff defense being an interception of Caleb Williams by Tyrin Taylor … which was nullified by an offsides call. The drive was capped by a 12-yard touchdown pass from Caleb Williams to Austin Jones. USC 41, Colorado 10, in the final minute of the third quarter.

The well rested CU offense then … went three-and-out, gaining four yards.

Taking over at its 37, USC needed only five plays to cover 63 yards. The latest Trojan score came on 25-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Miller Moss to Raleek Brown. With 11:34 still left to get the game over, it was now 48-10.

The Buffs opened their next drive with a 26-yard completion from Shrout to Jack Hestera. After Alex Fontenot kept the drive alive with a two-yard run on third-and-one, Shrout hit Fontenot 16-yard pass and a first down at the USC 22-yard line. On third-and-five at the 17, Shrout connected with Brady Russell for nine yards and a first-and-goal at the USC eight yard line. On the next play, Shrout ran it in, making it a 48-17 game midway through the final quarter.

The Trojans then took the ball and held it for – almost – the remainder of the game. USC held the ball for 6:49 and 12 plays, scoring a completely unnecessary (except for bettors, who took USC and gave the 34 points) with 36 seconds remaining, with Darwin Barlow scoring from three yards out.

Final score: No. 8 USC 55, Colorado 17

“I think the thing that’s frustrating is our defense was playing as well as they were, particularly in the first half, and then we gave USC a short field”, said Mike Sanford, who fell to 1-4 as CU’s interim coach. “The combination of what ends up being the safety and then you’re kicking the ball at the 20 yard line and you just immediately give up field position. I think the fumble was a huge piece of the game. That was a self-inflicted wound and obviously it’s frustrating, but there’s nothing else we can do besides just continue to go back to work.”

For the CU seniors, staring at a 1-9 record with two likely losses to end the season, it was time to reflect. Said senior defensive lineman Jalen Sami: It’s not what we wanted, but we’re out here working every day. We’re trying to compete, but for me personally, I just see these as opportunities for me to get better and to elevate my game, and hopefully reach my dreams and grow professionally. The performances we put on tape are our true identity. So we are just trying to work to get better.”

Added running back Alex Fontenot, on the field for the first time in eight games, posting the fourth 100-yard game of his career (20 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown): “At this point I can’t get down on myself every game. I would just drive myself into a wall doing that. I’m out here just enjoying the time that I have, to do what I love with all my brothers, because I know I probably won’t ever get that time back.”

Game Notes … 

— USC increased its lead in the series to 16-0 (8-0 in Los Angeles; 11-0 since CU joined the Pac-12 in 2011) … CU fell to 19-28 all-time in Friday games (7-14 road) and watched its all-time record in games played in California fall to 4-28-1;

— The 55 points by USC were the most against CU in a regular season game since a 56-28 setback at USC in 2014; Oregon was the last to score 50 (52-29 in Eugene last year); and Texas scored 55 in the 2020 Alamo Bowl (55-23);

— The first quarter safety by USC was the first against the Buffs since October 22, 2016, when Sefo Liufau ran out of the back of the end zone with 0:04 to play in CU’s 10-5 win at Stanford;

— 2’s Were Wild. Cornerback Nikko Reed picked off his second career interception (first was against Washington in 2021); it was just the second interception on the season by USC quarterback Caleb Williams, and he swiped it from former teammate Brenden Rice (who wears No. 2);

— 3:55. That was the game time, the fifth-longest in CU history and the second-longest for a regulation game (topped by 3:56 versus Nebraska in 2007, a 65-51 Colorado win);

— Running back (20 carries for 108 yards and a touchdown posted the fourth 100-yard game of his career, his first since gaining 105 yards against Washington in 2019.  Career high was 125 versus Colorado state in 2019 season opener. Fontenot had the longest run of his career (37 yards); former long rush was a 32-yard touchdown run against Colorado State on Aug. 30, 2019. He converted twice on fourth downs; in his career, he was now 17-of-21 earning a first down one 3rd or 4th-and-1. Fontenot also moved from 34th into 31st on CU’s all-time rushing yards list (1,476 yards);

— Wide receiver Jack Hestera had three catches for 39 yards. A modest amount, but Hestera nonetheless became the first walk-on to lead the team in receiving yards in a game since Scotty McKnight did it the first for games on the 2007 season (McKnight would be placed on scholarship after that season; due to a recruiting issue, he had walk-on status that season).  Otherwise, you have to go back to Sept. 15, 1979, when sophomore running back Willie Beebe caught four passes for 47 yards against LSU in Boulder.

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11 Replies to “No. 8 USC 55, Colorado 17”

  1. Fontenot did play hard. There were early glimpses of a possible upset due to quality play on both sides of the ball. Good effort the entire game.

    Regarding the quarterback situation, I was impressed by Shrout’s attitude when Lewis was named the starter. He was active on the sidelines while being completely supportive by communicating play calls while the offense was on the field and huddling with the offense when the defense was on the field. He seems to be a team first guy. I did not see Lewis play that same role during the Air Force game when Shrout was on the field.

    Yes, the miss of the tight end early cost the team the difference between three and either six/seven/eight points, and was painful to watch (as was the safety). However, this individual seems to be a “team first guy.” It is also apparent that he has qualities that the two back-ups likely do not have, or he would have already been replaced. Yes, Owen M. should redshirt.

    The effort of the players (and coaches) is commendable!!

    1. Largely agree with your pov, but let Kopp get in there at the end of the game so we can see what he can do in game action. Let JT start, let him play 3 quarters, but in these blowouts you have to think about next year. Obviously we don’t burn Owen’s redshirt.
      It wasn’t just the open Russell play, it was jumping up in the air and fumbling the ball yards from your endzone, a safety, missed passes, and int’s. I have been rooting for the guy, but we could have been a lot closer for longer in this game pointwise.
      Besides my frustration on this, I do agree the players and coaches have been doing a good job since the change
      Go Buffs

  2. USC committed to a name brand coach and to the portal (with NIL $$ I’m sure), 26 portal players, 7-9 of which became offensive starters- this is the recipe CU must use

    Is there any chance CU does this? Maybe even half way?

    1. problem was a beautifully executed play action short pass meant for a wide open Brady for a TD was thrown behind him close to the end of the quarter and everything went down hill after that.

  3. Begging the question: which CU football team is the worst in their history? The post Fairbanks, early Mac teams, of which a few stand out? The Embree teams? Or this one?

  4. Up.
    made it
    JT
    Take the last 3 games off
    Give the next in line a chance

    Thanks
    VK.

    Note: Colorado is not a basketball school.

  5. How about letting some other QB’s play so they have some experience for next year ?
    Most of the Buff squad play well and the QB misses opportunities and takes the team out of the game…
    Wide open TE on a slant for a TD and ball is well behind him, ouch

    Anyways, was nice to see most of the Buffs show up and fight, it is what it is…
    Have liked Sanford on the sidelines and his overall role as interim coach, it appears the players do too…

  6. Broken record.. JT should never play Qb for Buffs again.. Let Owen rest play younger qbs to get practice.. Momentum killer.. wish we were known as a football school again.. Not even a basketball ball school like we pretend.. Have done nothing in BBall that maters really?.. Anyone? Tired glad for exciting ice fishing season .. sigh

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