BOULDER - The Colorado Buffaloes were handed their first shutout since 2012 and their first of the Mike MacIntyre era on Saturday night. The Washington State Cougars racked up four scores and held the Buffs to under 200 total offensive yards on the night.
Buffs make a swap at quarterback, offensive struggles continue
The Buffs were 1/17 on third downs and 2-6 on fourth downs against Washington State. The offense was stymied at every turn, and despite not tossing any interceptions, CU decided to bench Steven Montez after halftime, putting backup Sam Noyer in for the remainder of the game. Montez headed into halftime 4-13 with 21 total yards. Noyer finished the night 7-18 for 53 yards, with third-string quarterback Casey Marksberry coming in to finish the final few snaps.
After the matchup, head coach Mike MacIntyre said that Montez and Noyer would compete for the starting role in practice this week. The offense finished with 174 total yards, 80 of which were rushing yards. The three Buffs quarterbacks finished with 94 passing yards combined on the night.
The blame for Saturday's struggles cannot fall solely on Montez, who lost his best offensive lineman for targeting and whose receivers have struggled to create separation and make plays all season. MacIntyre said that Montez's failure to make reads during the matchup was the cause for putting Noyer in. At the end of the day, there is plenty of blame to go around for the offense's problems this season, and it belongs to everyone on that side of the ball.
Injuries, penalties ravage the Buffs depth chart
In addition to losing their best offensive lineman, team captain Jeromy Irwin, to an ejection for targeting, CU saw a handful of their top players at other positions miss time due to injury. Linebacker Derek McCartney was banged up but actually managed to return to the game, unlike cornerback Isaiah Oliver, who was injured and did not return. Timothy Coleman was forced to leave for part of the game as well.
On the road against a ranked conference opponent, the Buffs had to try to replace several key pieces of their defense and the most reliable part of their offensive line. A game that was already tipped in Washington State's favor became even more insurmountable for CU. Though none of the injuries appeared particularly severe, there is still no update on Oliver's status. Any significant injury to him would be a huge blow to a Buffs team that is desperately trying to secure a bowl invitation.
The window for the Buffs to make a bowl this season is rapidly closing
Saturday night was an ugly performance by CU. The offense absolutely came apart at the seams and the defense saw their depth tested at several key positions. The 15th-ranked Cougars shut the Buffs down at every turn, and CU still has a talented slate ahead of them.
To advance to a bowl, the Buffs will need to win two of their final four games. That means beating Arizona State or Utah on the road or Cal or USC at Folsom. With the way the Buffs are playing right now, all of those matchups likely see the Buffs enter as underdogs. The Buffs will need a resurgence on offense and a return to health on defense if they hope to topple any of the upcoming foes on their schedule
The Buffs are in a tough spot. They headed into the 2017 season hoping to build on the momentum that last year's 'Rise' brought to the program. Instead of continuing as contenders in their conference, CU finds themselves once again at the bottom looking up. Though they have plenty of young talent waiting in the wings and the future looks bright in Boulder, this season's bowl eligibility appears to be slipping away from the Buffs.