Well aware of the rotation system in place at his position, Colorado running back Donovan Lee refused to be denied.
After watching Stanford march down the Folsom Field turf on the game's opening drive Saturday, Lee helped the Buffaloes produce a stirring answer with a tough four-yard touchdown run during which Lee barreled over several Stanford defenders to tie the game 7-7.
"I had some good blocks on the front side, and the defense had a front that made me go backside and it was just me and one other person," Lee said. "I know about the rotation and I might not be able to get another chance. I'm like, 'I'm this close, I have to get in.'"
Unfortunately for CU, that play comprised nearly the entirety of the Buffaloes' highlight reel, as the ninth-ranked Cardinal ran away with a 42-10 victory.
The offensive effort marked another valley in the up-and-down production of CU's running game. After surging out of the gate with 200-yard rushing efforts in three of the first four games — a stretch that included 390 yards against UMass and 358 against Nicholls — Saturday's effort marked the third time in the past six games the Buffs were held under 100 rushing yards, finishing with a net of 83.
Although the final tally was skewered by sacks and a mounting deficit that forced CU to turn to the air, Lee and fellow running backs Patrick Carr and Phillip Lindsay still only managed 47 yards on 19 carries, a frustrating average of 2.5 per attempt.
"I feel like our run game as a whole hasn't been what it can be," Lee said. "We could be doing better. We can't go away from it when it's not working because we're going to be able to bust some big runs and make some plays when we keep on believing in our run game. I know our O-line is going to make some plays for us up front, and we have to do the same in the backfield whenever we get some holes."
While Carr had the hot hand last week, gaining 100 yards on 19 carries at UCLA, none of the Buffs' rotation of runners could get on track Saturday. Lindsay, CU's leading rusher, didn't get a carry in the first half and had only one through three quarters.
"Sometimes it is hard (to get into rhythm) but you just have to deal with it and go out there and play," Carr said. "At the end of the day, we're not going to say, 'Oh, we weren't in our rhythm.' It's either a win or a loss. You might get in a rhythm on the first play and that's it. You just have to take it one step at a time when you're rotating."