Buffs Fall At Air Force
AIR FORCE ACADEMY — Colorado dug a big hole early and could never recover Saturday as the Buffaloes dropped a 41-10 decision to Air Force at a cool and wet Falcon Stadium.
Karl Dorrell's Buffs fell to 0-2 while the Falcons improved to 2-0.
Colorado fell behind early, 20-0, thanks to two early turnovers that the Falcons converted into touchdowns, including a fumble on the second play of the game.
But the Buffs bounced back and had a chance to pull within 20-17 early in the third quarter, only to see Air Force recover an Alex Fontenot fumble at the goal line. Two possessions later, the Falcons drove for their third touchdown to take a 27-10 lead and the Buffs could never get themselves back in the game again.
Air Force dominated the statistics, piling up 443 offensive yards — including 435 on the ground — while the Buffs were held to 162 total yards. But while the Buffs lost three turnovers, Colorado's defense also produced three takeaways, which kept CU in the game until midway through the third quarter.
J.T. Shrout got the start at quarterback for Colorado and finished just 5-for-21 for 51 yards and one interception. CU rushed for 111 yards, led by Deion Smith, who carried 11 times for 59 yards and a touchdown. Daniel Arias was the only Buff with at least two receptions, nabbing a pair for 36 yards.
Colorado also finished a combined 1-for-13 on third- and fourth-down conversion tries while the Falcons averaged 6.2 yards per rushing attempt. AFA running back Brad Roberts carried 24 times for 174 yards, including touchdown runs of 14, 20 and 46 yards.
"Obviously, it was a disappointing performance," Dorrell said. "We didn't play well, we didn't play to our capabilities … We have a tremendous amount of work to do. We've got to find some rhythm offensively at some point. We've got to continue this work and develop this football team … The coaches and myself, we all take responsibility for it."
HOW IT HAPPENED: The Buffaloes were their own worst enemy early, falling behind 20-0 after just 17 minutes of play.
A Shrout fumble on Colorado's first possession gave Air Force the ball at the CU 14 and the Falcons needed just one play to punch the ball into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Air Force then added a field goal after a CU three-and-out, and tallied another three-pointer late in the first quarter as Colorado's offense went nowhere.
The Falcons then threatened to turn the game into a rout early in the second quarter. A Shrout pass was tipped by CU receiver Maurice Bell to an AFA defender, giving Air Force possession at Colorado's 35. The Falcons then needed just four plays to find the end zone, with Roberts notching his second touchdown of the game to give AFA a 20-0 lead with 12:55 still remaining in the second quarter.
At that point in the game, Colorado's first five possessions had produced 24 yards offense and two turnovers.
"We couldn't sustain any drives consistently enough and those are the two things we talked about throughout the whole week, about how we need drive consistency, about getting in the red zone and getting points," Dorrell said. "We did okay at times, but we didn't do enough. We just have a lot of work to clean up with. We're really at the bottom and we're trying to work our way back up right now."
But the Buffs finally found some offensive rhythm in the second quarter. After AFA's second touchdown, CU responded with a four-play, 71-yard scoring march. Fontenot opened the drive with a 21-yard run, Smith ran for 23 and Shrout connected with R.J. Sneed II for 7 yards before Smith capped the drive with a 25-yard scoring run. Cole Becker's PAT cut Air Force's lead to 20-7 and the Buffs at least slowed AFA's momentum.
CU's defense then stepped up with a big play. After the Falcons drove deep into Colorado territory, Buffs defensive lineman Jalen Sami punched the ball out of AFA running back John Eldridge's arms just before he crossed the goal line. CU linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo recovered to prevent the Falcons from extending their lead.
Colorado couldn't manufacture any points out of the takeaway, but the defense came up again on AFA's next possession. Safety Trevor Woods delivered a big hit on Roberts to force a fumble in Colorado territory, which Chance Main recovered.
That led to a 41-yard Becker field goal in the final minute to cut AFA's lead to 20-10 at intermission.
"I was pretty proud of us," Sami said. "We didn't give up. We still were out there fighting for 60 minutes, working trying to get the ball to our offense, which we did, causing three turnovers. So that's one thing we keep our heads up on. But at the end of the day, we didn't get the job done."
CU had a golden opportunity to pull within three points early in the third quarter when a bad snap on an AFA punt attempt gave CU the ball at the AFA 13.
The Buffs then produced a first and goal from the 2-yard line, but Fontenot's fumble on second down put the ball back in Air Force's hands. The play was reviewed, and while it appeared that Fontenot may have gotten the ball into the end zone before the fumble, officials upheld the original call.
Colorado's defense then forced an AFA punt, but the CU offense came up short on fourth-and-2 and the Falcons responded with a 69-yard touchdown drive for a 27-10 lead to put the game away.
"We didn't keep ourselves in the game," Dorrell said. "In the second half, we had a chance again (but) we give up the ball deep into the red zone on the 2-yard line. We also don't convert on a couple of fourth downs that we need to convert on. Obviously, they did and we didn't. They played better than we did today and were obviously deserving of the win."
Air Force then added two more touchdowns in the final period to complete the scoring.
TURNING POINT: The Buffs had a chance to seize momentum and put themselves in good position in the third quarter before a fumble at the goal line ended a potential scoring drive. What could have been a 20-17 game became a 27-10 AFA lead minutes later and CU never threatened again.
KEY STATISTICS: AFA's run game was at full throttle all day, finishing with 435 yards on the ground while averaging 6.2 yards per carry … Colorado was just 1-for-13 on third- and fourth-down conversion tries. CU is now 0-for-5 on fourth-down attempts this season … Colorado averaged just 3.1 yards per offensive snap while AFA averaged 5.9. … CU quarterback J.T. Shrout completed just five of 21 pass attempts for 51 yards.
WHAT IT MEANS: Colorado is now 0-2 for the first time since 2012, when CU started out 0-3 en route to a 1-11 finish … Paired with the 2019 loss to AFA, it's the first time in the 18 game series between the two schools that Air Force has won two in a row. CU leads the overall series 12-6.
NEXT UP: The Buffs travel to Minneapolis next Saturday for a 1:30 p.m. matchup with 2-0 Minnesota (ESPN2).