As the shadows lengthened from west to east across Folsom Field, and the darkness deepened on an increasingly nervous Colorado sideline, it wasn't just the sun setting on an otherwise picturesque homecoming setting Saturday afternoon.
It was, perhaps, the beginning of the sun setting on the Mike MacIntyre era at the University of Colorado.
On a day when bowl eligibility was supposed to be celebrated for a team eyeing much bigger goals, it instead was the lowly Oregon State Beavers who partied at Folsom after overcoming a 31-3 second half deficit to hand the Buffs a stunning 41-34 overtime defeat.
Athletic director Rick George didn't lead the push to give MacIntyre a multimillion dollar extension in the summer of 2017 through 2021 to lose to an OSU squad that arrived at Folsom with a 22-game road losing streak and a 13-game Pac-12 losing streak. The bottom line is that teams aspiring to win division championships don't blow four-touchdown leads at home, and those who wish to go to even a lower-tier bowl don't coast to the finish line when victory is imminent.
Collectively, Saturday's collapse was a breakdown from the top down. And over the final four games of the 2018 season, MacIntyre, arguably for the first time in his CU tenure, will be coaching for his job.
There wasn't one play, or one position group, responsible for Saturday's improbable defeat. Once running back Travon McMillian rumbled 75 yards to the end zone on the first play of the second half, pushing the CU lead to 31-3, the Buffs evidently started making party plans for Saturday night. The next four CU possessions ended with a punt, a blocked field goal, a missed fourth down, and another punt.
That's not the high-octane offense promised when co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini took over the play-calling duties from Brian Lindgren, now the Beavers' offensive coordinator who got the last laugh by outscoring his former team 38-3 after McMillian's gallop.
Pick your poison as to what mistake cost the Buffs the most down the stretch. There were plenty to choose from.
Kyle Trego's targeting penalty late in the third quarter turned what would have been a fourth-and-seven situation for Oregon State into a first down and, three plays later, a touchdown. Freshman tackle Frank Fillip, making his first career start, was called for holding when quarterback Steven Montez scrambled for what would have been a game-icing first-and-goal late in regulation. Instead the Buffs settled for an Evan Price field goal and a six-point lead. Trey Udoffia promptly allowed 30 yards in defensive penalties in less than 20 seconds, helping to set up OSU's game-tying score on a fourth-down pass.
Heck, even return man Ronnie Blackmon got into the act, apparently getting no advice from the coaching staff to take a knee if the ensuing kickoff went into the end zone. Instead Blackmon, whose brief flashes of electricity in the return game have been far overshadowed by poor decisions, opted to return the kickoff from a few yards deep in the end zone. He used six seconds to get exactly where a knee would've gotten him, and those six seconds might have led to an additional play that could have made Price's last-gasp 53-yard attempt at the buzzer much more manageable.
MacIntyre has shown he can take a moribund program and make it good again. Whether he is the guy that can push the Buffs from good to great remains in doubt, particularly given Saturday's collapse and CU's general struggles in its biggest games over the past three seasons. It's not a stretch to describe the next four games as a litmus test for whether MacIntyre will be around to see the end of that contract.
Only one other time in the rich history of Colorado football have the Buffaloes lost a game in which they squandered a 28-point lead. It was in 2010, when the Buffs wasted a 45-17 lead with 11 minutes remaining in a 52-45 loss at Kansas. Coach Dan Hawkins was fired three days later with three games still remaining.
Unlike Hawkins, MacIntyre will survive the next few days. How the Buffs rebound from Saturday's disaster over the month of November will determine if he survives to see the 2019 season.