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Buffs Defense Paves Way For Win Over Huskies In Home Finale

Nov 20, 2021
CU linebacker Jack Lamb heads to the end zone with a

BOULDER — Colorado's defense produced four takeaways and the offense drove 90 yards for a game-clinching touchdown Saturday as the Buffaloes claimed a 20-17 win over Washington at Folsom Field.

Karl Dorrell's Buffs improved to 4-7 overall and 3-5 in Pac-12 play while the Huskies dropped to 4-7, 3-5.

Washington dominated nearly every statistical category except one — turnovers. CU's defense collected two interceptions and two fumble recoveries while the Buffs offense did not turn it over once. CU's defensive takeaways included a 88-yard scoop-and-score by linebacker Jack Lamb in the first quarter that gave CU a 10-0 lead; a Robert Barnes interception to stop a UW drive in the third quarter; a Barnes fumble recovery that CU converted into a field goal in the fourth quarter; and an interception by Nikko Reed that opened the door in the fourth quarter for the Buffs' game-clinching touchdown.

The Buffaloes were outgained 426-183 and allowed UW to convert 14 of 21 third-down tries while converting just 2-of-14 of their own.

But the four takeaways, the long scoring drive late in the fourth quarter and one more CU defensive stand on UW's final possession made the difference.

"It was a hard-fought win," Dorrell said. "I'm very proud of his team. They're starting to develop that competitiveness, that drive to just fight for 60 minutes. It's definitely something our program's going to build on. It's really going to be part of who we are, that's our fabric, is being fighters. We have to continue to build this program the way that it used to be. We're going to get it back to that level."

HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado jumped out to a 10-0 lead for the third straight game, but the Buffs did it in a very unconventional manner.

CU started by taking the opening kickoff and marching 58 yards before settling for a 35-yard Cole Becker field goal and 3-0 lead.

The Huskies then took the ensuing kickoff and drove to the CU 3-yard line for a first and goal. But following a timeout, UW quarterback Dylan Morris fumbled the snap and Colorado's Lamb alertly scooped up the loose ball and rumbled 88 yards for a touchdown and 10-0 CU lead.

The score was Colorado's third straight game with a first quarter touchdown after managing just one first quarter TD in the first eight games.

But the Huskies finally answered, going 59 yards on their next possession for a field goal to cut Colorado's lead to 10-3 early in the second quarter.

Colorado's offense then stalled while the defense held, resulting in five consecutive punts before Washington finally tied the game with a 40-yard scoring drive. A short CU punt and Buffs penalty gave Washington good field position, and the Huskies used seven plays to reach the end zone, getting an 8-yard Morris pass to Rome Odunze to knot the game at 10-10 heading into halftime.

"You look at that stat sheet and you will say, 'How did they win that game?'" Dorrell said. "We were opportunistic on the turnovers, that gave us an opportunity to get some points on the board."

Indeed, CU's defense continued to make momentum-shifting plays.

Washington threatened to score twice early in the third quarter, but both times Colorado produced drive-stopping moments. A Barnes interception of a tipped ball stopped one UW drive at the Colorado 36, and following a CU punt, a Mustafa Johnson sack of Morris forced the Huskies to attempt a 49-yard field goal that sailed wide left.

Thus, despite Washington dominating the statistics, the score remained tied 10-10 with just 3:55 left in the third quarter.

Colorado's defense then came up with another big play late in the third quarter when Barnes recorded his second takeaway of the day, pouncing on a UW fumble deep in Huskies territory. The Buffs couldn't get into the end zone, but did get a Becker 22-yard field goal with 14:35 left in the game to take a 13-10 lead.

Three takeaways, though, weren't enough for the Buffs defense, as they added another on UW's next possession. After the Huskies drove to the Colorado 28, freshman cornerback Reed came up with a big interception in the end zone, snatching the ball away from Washington wide receiver Jalen McMillan.

Following a penalty, CU then drove 90 yards for the clinching touchdown. The drive was kept alive when a UW penalty on third down gave the Buffs new life, and the Buffs followed with a 15-yard Brendon Lewis completion to Chris Carpenter and a 26-yard run by Jarek Broussard to the UW 14-yard line.

Five plays later, Lewis rolled to his right and could not find an open receiver. He then tucked the ball, headed for the sideline and dove for the pylon for a 2-yard touchdown and 20-10 Colorado lead.

"Offensively, we still didn't have a lot of production, but their production came when they needed it," Dorrell said. "We had a 90-yard drive when we needed a 90-yard drive." 

But Washington quickly answered, driving 75 yards in just five plays, getting a 55-yard touchdown pass from Morris to Ja'Lynn Polk for a touchdown to narrow CU's lead to 20-17 with 2:30 left in regulation.

Washington then got one more chance with the ball, taking possession with two minutes left. 

But the Buffs held, getting a pass knockdown from Terrence Lang on third down and a quarterback pressure from Carson Wells on fourth down that resulted in another incompletion.

"They know they needed to make a stand," Dorrell said. "That is something  this team is learning through this process, understanding the adversity that games present, and then how you have to step up. When they're around the football they're trying to generate the play to be made."

CU then took victory formation to run out the clock, with senior linebacker Nate Landman, who didn't play defense because of an injury, lining up in the backfield for the final few snaps of his final game at Folsom Field.

TURNING POINT: With Colorado's offense stalling, it seemed only a matter of time before Washington would finally finish a drive in the second half. But Barnes' fumble recovery deep in UW territory paved the way for a CU field goal and 13-10 lead, and the Buffs never gave up the edge the rest of the game.

KEY STATISTIC: Colorado produced four defensive takeaways and the offense did not have a single turnover.

WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs now have a little momentum in their pocket as they head to Utah next Friday for their season finale. And, a number of players who came up with big plays Saturday should be back for next year — a solid sign for a program still trying to build a foundation.

NEXT UP: The Buffs wrap up their season next Friday when they travel to Utah for a 2 p.m. game with the Utes (Fox).