BOULDER - On a cold, rainy night in Pullman, Washington, the Colorado Buffaloes found themselves on the wrong end of a shutout for the first time since 2012. The Washington State Cougars put on a dominant Pac-12 show, holding the Buffs to 174 total yards in an ugly offensive performance that saw starting quarterback Steven Montez benched in favor of backup Sam Noyer.
The 28-point loss sent the Buffs back to Boulder with a 4-4 record and little breathing room remaining in their hunt for a bowl game.
Perhaps the biggest story of the night was the change at quarterback as CU entered the second half with a different signal-caller at the helm. Backup Noyer took the field to start the third quarter, a startling adjustment to the Buffs offensive strategy.
“Yeah, Steven wasn't getting it done, he wasn't making the reads," head coach Mike MacIntyre said after the game. "Sam came in and did okay. He should have done better than he did, especially that fourth down play he threw it in the dirt. That would have been a big play.”
As the Buffs head home to host another conference opponent with Cal coming to Folsom next week, a quarterback controversy could be brewing in Boulder.
In addition to issues at the signal-caller position, the Buffs receivers struggled mightily on Saturday night. Devin Ross led all CU wideouts with 27 yards on four receptions, an accurate indication of the Buffs offensive problems. CU failed once again to get their passing game going, an issue that has disabled their offense for the duration of the year.
"Their defense whipped our offense," MacIntyre said pointedly.
CU suffered a bevy of injuries throughout the contest, highlighted by the loss of starting cornerback Isaiah Oliver, offensive lineman Johnathan Huckins and linebacker Timothy Coleman.
The Buffs also lost starting left tackle Jeromy Irwin in the first half of the game when he was flagged for targeting, a huge hit to an offensive line already struggling to protect the quarterback. Irwin is easily the strongest player of CU's front seven, and his ejection only served to weaken the Buffs' offensive scheme.
But as usual, the defense did their best to keep the Buffs in the game. The defensive line managed to pressure the quarterback, totaling two sacks on the night, and the secondary was incredibly disruptive, with several near-interceptions throughout the evening. Unfortunately, CU's defensive backs didn't manage to secure the turnovers.
"We dropped three picks and two of them could have gone to the house," MacIntyre said. "That's the difference in a game. But very poor performance - especially by our offense."
The Buffs lost the battle on both sides of the football Saturday night, stumbling to their fourth conference defeat of the year. With four games left on their schedule and only two losses left before they are eliminated from bowl contention, CU will be faced with several important decisions this week. A tumultuous offensive situation and struggling veteran talent has put the Buffs aspirations for the season in jeopardy.