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Buffs Fall On Road To No. 7 Oregon

Oct 30, 2021
CU's Brenden Rice had five catches and a touchdown Saturday.

EUGENE, Ore. — Colorado's defense struggled without star linebacker Nate Landman on Saturday, but the offense provided a bright spot in a 52-29 loss to Oregon at Autzen Stadium.

Karl Dorrell's Buffaloes fell to 2-6 overall and 1-4 in Pac-12 play while the seventh-ranked Ducks improved to 7-1, 4-1.

 With Landman sidelined by an injury suffered last week at Cal, the Buffs' defense couldn't contain Oregon's high-powered offense. The Ducks scored on all five of their possessions in the first half — four touchdowns and a field goal — to take a 31-14 lead at intermission, then added two more touchdowns on their first two possessions of the second half.

But CU's offense did find some life, putting together two long touchdown drives in the second quarter and two more in the fourth. The Buffs had 152 yards total offense in the second quarter, their most productive quarter this season, and they finished with 341 yards, their third-highest output of the season and second-highest in Pac-12 play.

Colorado's defense, however, never found an answer for Oregon's offense, as the Ducks piled up 568 yards in the game and held off a late CU bid down the stretch.

Buffs freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis had his most productive day as a Buff, completing 25 of 33 attempts for 224 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Brenden Rice had a career-high five catches for 102 yards and a score, and he added 162 yards in kick returns, making him the 25th player in CU history to surpass 250 all-purpose yards in one game.

The Buffs also converted four fourth-down attempts, including two that produced touchdowns.

"The offense made some progress over the week," Dorrell said. "The whole team fought pretty hard. We didn't play smart at times, we had a lot of penalties early in the game, but I thought this team fought and offensively we made some progress. We had to convert on some difficult circumstances on fourth down and we did. Our players kept playing the whole game."

HOW IT HAPPENED: The Ducks took control early, going 67 yards on their first possession for a touchdown, then adding scoring drives of 78 and 90 yards on their next two possessions.

Colorado finally got on the board in the second quarter when Lewis engineered a nine-play, 77-yard touchdown march. 

Lewis completed three passes on the drive, including a 28-yarder to tight end Brady Russell. The Buffs gained 40 yards on the ground on the drive, with Alex Fontenot, Deion Smith and Jarek Broussard all picking up gains of at least 9 yards.

The Buffs then capped the march with a 9-yard pass from Lewis to Ty Robinson, giving the freshman receiver his first collegiate score. Cole Becker's PAT pulled the Buffs to within 21-7 with 9:10 still left in the first quarter.

But the Ducks answered with another long touchdown march, going 73 yards in 10 plays, with Travis Dye scoring from 5 yards out for his second touchdown of the day.

Colorado, though, stayed within striking range as CU took the ensuing kickoff and drove 65 yards in eight plays for a touchdown. Lewis had completions of 26 and 36 yards to Rice before finding a wide open Fontenot on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line for the score.

The touchdown was Colorado's second successful fourth down conversion in nine tries this year. The Buffs then added three more later in the game, including a fourth-and-goal from the 1 with Fontenot cashing in his second touchdown of the day, getting a nice lead block from tight end Alec Pell. 

The scoring pass to Fontenot, which pulled CU to within 28-14, was also Fontenot's first receiving touchdown of his career and CU's first receiving touchdown by a running back since Trayvon McMillian's 57-yard reception against Arizona State in 2018.

But the Ducks had an answer again, using the remaining time on the clock to drive downfield and collect a field goal just before the half ended for a 31-14 lead at intermission.

"It was obviously a challenging game for us," Dorrell said. "We didn't play well early, particularly defensively. We had a big deficit of 21 points. But these guys kept fighting."

Dorrell also refused to use Landman's absence as an excuse.

"We're going to have to grow," he said. "It's next man up. There were a number of issues we struggled with on the defensive side."

Oregon then left no doubt about the outcome early in the third quarter. The Ducks forced a CU punt on the Buffs' opening possession, then drove 68 yards for a touchdown. Oregon's sixth score on its sixth possession gave the Ducks a 38-14 lead with 9:46 to play in the third quarter.

The Ducks then made it 7-for-7 after another Colorado punt. The Ducks went 81 yards in six plays, with QB Anthony Brown capping the drive with his third touchdown pass of the day, a 25-yard strike to Devon Williams for a 45-14 lead late in the third quarter.

But the Buffs didn't go away quietly, adding two fourth quarter touchdowns to throw a minor scare into Oregon.

CU scored early in the fourth period, driving 67 yards in 17 plays. CU converted its third fourth-down try of the day, getting a 1-yard touchdown run from Fontenot on fourth-and-goal to pull within 45-21.

Then, following an interception by safety Isaiah Lewis, the Buffs went 65 yards for their fourth touchdown of the day. CU kept the drive alive by converting yet another fourth-and-1 on a Smith run, then capped the drive with a 16-yard Lewis pass to Rice. Lewis then added a two-point conversion throw to Chase Penry, and CU trailed 45-29 with 6:04 to play.

But the Ducks quickly turned the game back into a three-score contest, driving 46 yards in eight plays on their ensuing possession for the final score of the game.

TURNING POINT: While one player likely wouldn't have changed the outcome, the turning point for the Buffs may have come last week when Landman suffered an injury that prevented him from playing Saturday. Working under new offensive line coach William Vlachos, the Buffs' offense found a spark, but the defense was overmatched without its star player.

WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs must now win their final four games in order to become bowl eligible, but the spark they found in their offense should give them hope down the stretch. The Ducks, meanwhile, remain in contention for a College Football Playoff berth.

NEXT UP: The Buffs play host to Oregon State next Saturday at 5 p.m. at Folsom Field (Pac-12 Networks).