PASADENA - The Colorado Buffaloes dropped a close game at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, their second consecutive loss of the season. The Buffs attempted to keep up with the Bruins' explosive passing game, but ultimately failed to address the offensive problems that have haunted them since the beginning of the year. Now 0-2 in conference play and 3-2 overall, CU has faced troubles both on the offensive line and from quarterback Steven Montez, who has struggled to really get his offense going. But Saturday, he took a step in the right direction at least.
The first Buffs drive of the game finished in the red zone, just as it did last week against Washington. For the second time in a row, CU's offense opened the matchup with a bang and then struggled to duplicate their success for the rest of the night. While lead rusher Phil Lindsay was held below 100 yards for the third time this season, Montez shined in the run game, carving up the Bruins' defense for a team-leading 108 rushing yards. He extended several drives on the ground, including a 37-yard pickup in the second half.
He also put together a decent night in the passing game. While he completed only 17-of-36 attempts, Montez racked up 243 yards and a score without turning the ball over, nearly keeping pace with dominant Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen. Despite his personal success, Montez was visibly frustrated after the bout with UCLA was over.
"It's frustrating, it's real frustrating actually," he said. "There were a lot of plays out there that could have gone our way - obviously they didn't. We need to get back on Monday, get back in practice and just use this as motivation. Because if this doesn't fire you up, then I don't know what will."
The fight with the Bruins also illustrated parts of the Buffs' playbook that hadn't been seen before. In an attempt to get the offense firing on all cylinders, CU made several creative decisions.
"We kinda threw in a lot of different plays, different formations," Montez said. "Some of them went really well and then some of them didn't work, and that's just football. Sometimes plays are gonna work and sometimes they aren't and you just have to make the best out of the situation."
While the Buffs won the turnover battle on Saturday and did not commit any themselves, they seemed to be repeatedly bested by the Bruins defense, with drives frequently stalling in the red zone and resulting in field goals instead of touchdowns. While some of those issues reside within CU's offense, Montez also attributed them to the Bruins' defensive line scheme.
"I think, coach Lindgren and coach Adams said they changed their front up a little," Montez said, "so we didn't get the front we thought they were going to give us. We adjusted to it, and then we started running the ball really well."
Despite some improvements on the offensive side of the ball, the Buffs still have a long way to go before they are truly competing with the juggernauts of the Pac-12. With a rocky start to conference play, the Buffs have to clean things up if they want to make an honest push for another Pac-12 championship bid.
"The only way to go is up," Montez said matter-of-factly. "So hopefully we get back on Monday, get back to the drawing board and get ready for a good [Arizona] team. They're coming to Folsom, and we like to make it pretty tough to win at Folsom so hopefully we get that done."