At least there is this: Few prognosticators, including this one, pegged the Washington game as a win for the Colorado Buffaloes heading into the 2017 season.

In that view, little changed in the big picture Saturday night despite the Buffaloes' undefeated record ending with a resounding 37-10 defeat against No. 7 Washington. A winning record and repeat bowl berth remain well within a list of attainable goals. Some vulnerability shown by USC for three quarters Saturday against Cal makes the argument of a repeat run at the Pac-12 South Conference Division crown perhaps a little more realistic.

It was an unfortunate score on a night when the rainy conditions and a late kickoff robbed Folsom Field of a little of the boisterousness typically featured when a top-10 team comes to town. But as they say, no harm no foul in the grand scheme of things.

In fact, the Buffs can say that for the better part of three quarters they played toe-to-toe with a squad harboring legitimate aspirations of a repeat appearance in the College Football Playoff. Yet after producing a 3-0 nonconference mark against teams that couldn't take advantage of CU's mistakes, Saturday night's defeat at Folsom should serve as a harsh learning experience for the Buffs.

You simply can't make those kinds of mistakes against a team like Washington and expect to survive.


Entering the fourth quarter of the rain-soaked conference opener, the Buffs trailed 24-10. That seemingly manageable deficit, however, was magnified by the fact that 17 of those points by the Huskies came from a direct result of four CU giveaways — a ledger that included three interceptions from Steven Montez and an early blocked punt all too reminiscent of special teams foibles that have cost the Buffs games in recent seasons.

Indeed, the Buffs looked like a team eager for payback from the drubbing they received in last year's Pac-12 title game, opening the game with the team's most impressive drive of the season, an 11-play, 75-yard march that utilized just about every one of CU's extensive offensive weapons. CU jumped to a 7-0 lead on a one-yard plunge by Phillip Lindsay and Folsom was rockin'.

However, the party started to end two possessions later when Alex Kinney's punt was blocked, giving UW possession at the CU 12-yard line. Counting a punt that caromed off the back of one of his own blockers last year at Michigan, that was the fifth punt Kinney has had blocked since the beginning of the 2015 season. Blocked punts arguably cost the Buffs a win in 2015 at Hawaii and again last year at Michigan, and that play reversed the momentum Saturday night.

For the season's first three weeks I offered the point that any excitement over the Buffs' 3-0 start should be tempered with the myriad mistakes the club was making, miscues that could be overcome against the Texas States and Northern Colorados of the world but not so much against a top-10 team. That pretty much was the script Saturday. The Huskies turned Montez's first interception, thrown in UW territory, into a field goal and a 10-7 lead. CU's defense seemingly put together a critical third-down stop on UW's opening drive of the third quarter, but a facemask penalty against Drew Lewis kept the drive alive. The Huskies capitalized on the second chance on the very next play with a 43-yard Jake Browning-to-Quinten Pounds touchdown.

CU kept battling to stay within 17-10 late in the third quarter, but Montez's third pick was returned 35 yards by UW's Myles Bryant, pushing the Huskies' lead to 24-10. UW dominated the fourth quarter to quickly turn CU's upset bid into a comfortable rout.

Montez can be excused for the most frustrating performance of his young career. Still just a redshirt sophomore in his first season as the full-time starter, there was going to be nights like this. It's more understandable to have them against a top-10 team than, say, Arizona or Oregon State in the coming weeks.

But mental gaffes have been a theme for the Buffs through four games. With USC eventually coming to town and a road-heavy slate otherwise the rest of the way, the Buffs will only go bowling if they stop being their own worst enemy.

Pat Rooney: or