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Buffs Fall At Home To Southern California

Oct 2, 2021
Brady Russell had a 65-yard reception Saturday and finished with 3 catches.

BOULDER — Colorado's defense couldn't contain Southern California's high-powered offense and consistency continued to evade the Buffaloes' offense Saturday as CU dropped a 37-14 decision at Folsom Field.

Karl Dorrell's Buffaloes fell to 1-4 on the season (0-2 Pac-12) with their fourth straight loss while USC improved to 3-2, 2-2. Colorado also fell to 0-15 all-time vs. the Trojans.

USC scored the first 20 points of the game before the Buffs finally put together a touchdown drive following a forced fumble and recovery by the defense late in the second quarter.

The Trojans then built their lead to 30-7 in the third quarter before CU scored again to pull within 30-14 heading into the final period. But the Trojans put the game away with one more touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

CU quarterback Brendon Lewis had his most productive game of the season, completing 10 of 17 passes for 162 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Brady Russell caught three passes for 87 yards, including a 65-yard reception (CU's longest play of the year) and the Buffs finished with 234 yards total offense.

USC finished with 494 yards offense, with quarterback Kedon Slovis throwing for 276 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Drake London had nine catches for 130 yards and a score.

Still, while the Buffs again made some incremental improvement on offense, Dorrell said the overall picture has to take some dramatic steps forward in the upcoming bye week.

"We can't be talking about baby steps anymore," he said. "We scored two touchdowns and that's not enough. There's an urgency about being more productive and more demanding about what we're doing. The pacifier is going to have to go … We've got to grow up fast. There's only so long you can take those incremental steps. We're at that point right now. This season is in the balance."

HOW IT HAPPENED: The Trojans built a 20-0 lead in the first half before Colorado finally got its offense untracked.

The Trojans went 70 yards in 14 plays before settling for a field goal on their first possession, then added their first touchdown of the game following a CU punt. Slovis capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to London for a 10-0 lead, set up by a 28-yard completion to London.

"We had some breakdowns in both areas today," Dorrell said. "It was not an issue where it was just all offense. We had some issues on defense. They had a player (London) who made some great plays with great coverage on him."

Colorado's offense continued to struggle into the second quarter and the Trojans added another touchdown and field goal. Slovis connected with Michael Trigg for a 46-yard touchdown pass to cap an 85-yard scoring drive for a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter and USC then added a 44-yard field goal midway through the period for a 20-0 lead.

While Colorado's offense managed just 40 yards on its first five possessions, CU's defense could not take advantage of good field position. The Trojans' first three scoring drives covered 70, 64 and 85 yards.

"There were some things we did leave out there," Dorrell said. "We had some opportunities to get off the field and we didn't. (London) broke the game open a little bit, they had some good runs and we didn't capitalize on what we needed to."

But the Colorado defense finally did come up with a big play late in the second quarter when linebacker Guy Thomas forced a USC fumble. Cornerback Christian Gonzalez recovered at the Trojan 48-yard line, giving CU its first takeaway in three games.

Colorado's offense took advantage of the opportunity, as the Buffs drove 48 yards for their first score of the game. Lewis completed passes of 7 yards to Dimitri Stanley and 13 to Russell, with Jarek Broussard adding a 19-yard run. Alex Fontenot then put the Buffs at the 1-yard line with a 5-yard burst before Deion Smith scored from 1 yard out and Cole Becker's PAT cut USC's lead to 20-7 at intermission.

But the Trojans extended their lead with 10 more points in the third quarter. USC added a field goal on its first possession after CU's Lewis was hit in the pocket and turned the ball over, then added a touchdown after taking over on downs near midfield on downs. A 2-yard Vavae Malepai run put the Buffs in a 30-7 hole with 6:52 left in the third.

Colorado finally answered with a 75-yard touchdown drive, fueled by a 65-yard Lewis pass to tight end Brady Russell, the Buffs' longest play of the year. Two plays later, Lewis connected with Chase Penry for a 2-yard touchdown pass with 5:18 left in the third quarter, giving the freshman receiver his first career TD catch.

"We had a couple of scoring drives, which was good, but we had other opportunities to really do positive things and we didn't do it," Dorrell said. "It wasn't just Brendon. They had just a normal four-man rush and he was under pressure a lot."

Indeed, the Trojans — who had just three sacks for the season coming into the game — produced five against the Buffs, along with a handful of other quarterback "hurries."

USC finally put the game away for good early in the fourth quarter. After the Trojans claimed their second takeaway of the game — an interception by Lewis — USC went 35 yards for a touchdown, with Slovis throwing 15 yards to Gary Bryan for the score and 37-14 lead with 14:08 to play in the game.

Now, the Buffs have a bye week and two weeks to fix their multitude of issues before playing Arizona on Oct. 16.

TURNING POINT: Colorado had a chance to flip field position early in the game when a Josh Watts punt pinned USC back at its 17-yard line. But the Trojans dug out of the hole and produced a field goal, then went 69 and 85 yards for touchdowns on their next two possessions.

KEY STATISTICS: Colorado was just 1-for-10 on third-down conversions … The Buffs managed just 80 yards rushing against a team that gave up 322 yards on the ground last week … CU gave up their two longest plays of the year, a 53-yard run and 46-yard pass completion.

WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs have now lost four in a row and Dorrell is under .500 for the first time as CU's head coach (5-6). 

UP NEXT: The Buffs have next weekend off, then return to action Oct. 16 at home against Arizona. Kickoff time and television coverage for the game has yet to be set.