Improved Offense Not Enough As Buffs Fall To Arizona
TUCSON, Ariz. — Colorado's offense posted its highest point total of the season Saturday night but the Buffaloes' defense had no answer for Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura as the Wildcats claimed a 43-20 win at Arizona Stadium.
The Buffs dropped to 0-5 overall and 0-2 in Pac-12 play while Arizona improved to 3-2, 1-1.
The Buffs fell behind 26-7 midway through the second quarter as the Wildcats scored on four of their first five possessions, rolling up 400 yards total offense in the first half.
But the Buffs came back to close the gap to 26-13 at the half, with freshman quarterback Owen McCown engineering a 65-yard scoring drive that finished with a 14-yard touchdown throw to Daniel Arias.
The Wildcats bumped their margin to 33-13 early in the third quarter, but the Buffs answered again with a long scoring drive and they kept the game within two scores heading into the fourth quarter.
But the Buffs could not come any closer as Arizona came up with a fourth-down stop at midfield and then drove for another touchdown to put the game away.
The Buffs finished with a season-high 154 rushing yards, led by 68 yards and a touchdown from true freshman Anthony Hankerson. McCown, making his second start, finished with 186 yards passing with one touchdown, and he added a touchdown on the ground as well.
Arizona finished with 673 yards total offense, with de Laura throwing for 484 yards and six touchdowns. UA wide receiver Jacob Cowing had 12 catches for 180 yards and one touchdown.
"That was a very challenging offense and that quarterback, we didn't slow him down," Dorrell said. "We didn't slow him down at all … We just have a tremendous amount of work to do. We're working hard and we're trying to improve the fundamentals and things that we do. It's just not showing up fast enough when we play. That's the unfortunate thing."
HOW IT HAPPENED: Arizona opened the game with a 75-yard scoring drive, but the Buffs answered with a 70-yard scoring march to knot the game at 7-7.
The drive was the Buffs' first touchdown on their opening possession of a game since a win over San Diego State in 2020, a stretch of 19 games. McCown had a key 12-yard completion to Daniel Arias to convert a third down on the drive, another 12-yarder to Ty Robinson before a 36-yard screen pass to Charlie Offerdahl put the Buffs on the Arizona 1-yard line.
McCown then took it in himself for the score, Colorado's first touchdown in the first quarter this season.
But CU's defense could never contain de Laura and the Arizona offense. The Wildcats scored on three of their next four possessions, with CU's only stop coming on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line with Marvin Ham halting Michael Wiley for no gain.
De Laura's fourth touchdown pass of the game gave the Wildcats a 26-7 lead with 3:42 still to play in the second quarter as CU's offense came up empty on four straight possessions.
The Buffs finally added to their total late in the first half with a 65-yard touchdown drive. McCown connected with running back Deion Smith for a 41-yard gain, then hit Arias with a 14-yard touchdown throw with 1:05 left in the half, but the PAT sailed wide and Colorado trailed 26-13.
Arizona then missed a field goal attempt as time expired in the half.
"Offensively, we're playing as clean as we could play," Dorrell said. "We're not making a lot of production, but in terms of not making as many mistakes and turning the ball over it has been good. It just hasn't been prolific."
The Buffs had an opportunity to make it a one-score game when they took the opening kick in the second half, but couldn't move and were forced to punt.
The Wildcats answered with another long scoring march and de Laura's fifth touchdown pass of the game, a 23-yarder to Tetairoa McMillan that pushed UA's lead to 33-13.
But Colorado refused to go away quietly. The Buffs responded with a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive, sparked by a 42-yard McCown pass to Jordyn Tyson before Hankerson took over. The true freshman RB ran three straight times for 27 yards, including a 7-yard scoring run when he bulled through two would-be tacklers for the score. Cole Becker's PAT pulled CU back to within two scores, 33-20.
Arizona then drove for a 29-yard field goal to push its lead to 36-20 with 1:22 still left in the third quarter.
"We grew up a little," Dorrell said. "We were able to have a running game. But defensively it was really challenging. It's been that way the last five games."
Colorado had one more chance to make it a one-score game when the Buffs drove into Arizona territory early in the fourth quarter, only to see the drive stall when a pass on fourth-and-3 fell incomplete.
The Wildcats then put the game away for good with a 57-yard touchdown march, capped by de Laura's sixth touchdown pass of the game for a 43-20 lead with 8:57 to play.
Colorado's final possession ended on a fumble when McCown was blindsided and the ball popped into the air and into the hands of an Arizona defender.
"We're always going to try to find a way," Dorrell said. "We're going to continue to try to find the right combinations of things … We're going to try to do anything and everything to try to improve. What we've done is obviously not very good right now."
TURNING POINT: The Buffs had a chance to pull within one touchdown when they received the opening kick in the second half. But Arizona's defense held and the UA offense drove for a touchdown to build a comfortable lead the Buffs could never overcome.
KEY STATISTICS: The Wildcats scored on four of their first five possessions and finished with 673 yards offense, averaging more than 8 yards per play … CU was 5-for-12 on third down tries while Arizona was 9-for-14 … Colorado had just one quarterback sack and did not force a turnover while UA had three sacks and one takeaway … The Wildcats scored 36 points from the red zone.
NEXT UP: The Buffs have a bye next week, then return home Oct. 15 for a game with Cal at Folsom Field. Time and television for the game has not yet been determined.