BOULDER - In their third Pac-12 tilt of the season, the Colorado Buffaloes had an opportunity to bounce back from consecutive conference losses and climb out of their division basement. Instead, it all went wrong.
The Buffs' offense is officially cause for concern
The offense looked successful on paper, with over 500 total yards through the matchup, and maybe they did take a small step forward. But more than half of their collective yards came on the shoulders of lead back Phil Lindsay, who rushed his way to nearly 300 yards and three scores. He also claimed CU's all-time all-purpose yards record along the way.
But outside of a few passes and a pair of touchdowns by Buffs tight end Chris Bounds, the receiving game continued to struggle. Devin Ross was a ghost, with one target and no receptions. Shay Fields pulled in just three receptions for 38 yards, his third game in a row with no touchdowns and less than 40 yards. Bryce Bobo had a little spark with 53 yards and a score, but none of these receivers have met expectations this year, and the blame falls all around.
Bottom line - with the amount of talent on this side of the ball, nearly every phase of this offense is still waiting to get going.
The defense had no answer for the run
Though they have been largely successful as a unit this season, the Colorado defense was steamrolled by Arizona's run game this week. As in the Wildcats' backup quarterback set an FBS record by rushing for 327 yards and four touchdowns on CU's defense. Ouch.
Defenses get beaten occasionally and one bad game from this group will not define them, but it did raise a series of questions. It seems like the adjustments made mid-game by the defensive staff just weren't working, and that is worrisome. College football games are won and lost based on which team adjusts to their opponent better, and the Buffs lost that battle in a big way on Saturday night. The loss also shined a spotlight on the performance of new defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, who is at least partially to blame for the defense getting flattened.
Perhaps this was a fluke game for the defense, and the group can bounce back next week. But if they can't find a way to stop the run, the Buffs can no longer lean on that side of the ball to keep them in games.
Despite struggles among the starters, CU's young talent remained on the bench
When a team's starting wide receivers are being shut down week after week, there is a problem brewing. When that team's younger receivers come in and make plays in limited snaps but are still kept on the bench, the problem becomes exponentially bigger.
The Buffs don't need to sit their starters - Fields is a very talented player and Bobo and Ross both flash impressive at times. But when Laviska Shenault makes a play every time he steps out on the field, when K.D. Nixon looks like an explosive game-changer on special teams and when Juwann Winfree nearly matches the starters' production despite being on the field for all of four minutes, the coaches should consider making adjustments. Even if that just means throwing the younger guys in for a change of pace or to switch things up, that has to happen. Those players deserve a chance, especially when they have proven valuable at every given opportunity.
There are problems in Boulder right now, but perhaps they are not insurmountable. The Buffs still have a shot at a bowl game, though repeating as Pac-12 South champion is no longer viable. The past few weeks have been tough, but this could still technically be an eight-win team at the conclusion of the season. CU has some work to do, and it starts on Monday.