TUCSON, Ariz. — Missing Laviska Shenault for a third consecutive game was, in itself, enough to put the Colorado football team at a disadvantage on Friday night at Arizona.
"Any time you lose a Heisman candidate, that's a pretty big deal," head coach Mike MacIntyre said after the Buffaloes' 42-34 loss at Arizona Stadium.
Shenault's toe injury, however, is just one of many that is derailing the season for CU (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12), which has now lost four in a row.
Colorado also played without strong safety Evan Worthington, who suffered a concussion a week earlier and had a 19-game starting streak snapped.
Kicker James Stefanou also missed his third consecutive game and his backup, Evan Price, stayed in Boulder because he's battling mononucleosis. True freshman walk-on Tyler Francis was thrown into the fire, and actually did quite well.
After the game, MacIntyre said "we're hopeful" of getting Shenault back this season. He sounded less optimistic about Stefanou's return in 2018.
The injury list grew longer during the game, as receivers KD Nixon (hip) and Jay MacIntyre (concussion) both left the game in the first half.
Nixon scored CU's first touchdown on an 8-yard run and immediately went to the ground in pain. He spent the rest of the first half working with trainers and tried to return in the third quarter, but only briefly.
"We'll know more later," MacIntyre said of Nixon's injury. "Hopefully he'll be back, but I don't know. He thought he could go and he couldn't go, so that concerns me.
Jay MacIntyre's injury is a concern, too. He went up high for a pass and fell hard, head-first to the ground. It was similar to a play that led to a concussion just three weeks ago at USC, causing him to miss a game.
"That (play on Friday) was definitely scary, for sure," coach MacIntyre said, adding that it's too early to determine whether his son needs to shut down for the season after multiple concussions.
"(Doctors) have a whole protocol they go by, they know how it works. I trust the doctors on exactly how they want to do everything. If they tell us we should (shut it down), we will. If they tell us he's OK, if he wants to keep playing, he'll keep playing. The doctors are on top of that."
Meanwhile, running back Beau Bisharat injured his ribs against Oregon State on Oct. 27. He played briefly against Arizona, but spent most of the night on the sidelines.
In addition to the those ailments, the Buffs have dealt with season-ending injuries to defensive lineman Jase Franke (knee), outside linebacker Jacob Callier (shoulder) and cornerback Chris Miller (hand).
Tight end Jared Poplawski suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in fall camp, while the Buffs also continue to play without tight end Chris Bounds. The Buffs' top tight end most of the year, Bounds missed his second game in a row and is taking a leave of absence for personal reasons.
"It makes it extremely tough," coach MacIntyre said of the long list of injured players, "but nobody (on the outside) cares. Nobody cares who is hurt when you get up there playing. They say they do, but nobody cares. You have to find a way to win. We have to find a way to win."
Francis had no idea until Thursday that he'd be playing against Arizona, but he responded well. He went 2-for-2 on field goals, including a 48-yarder, and made all four of his extra points.
"When I found out Thursday, I was excited to finally get out there on the field and I wanted to perform for my team," said the walk-on from Carlsbad, Calif. "When I got out there for my first kick, I was a little nervous, but I got out there and got the job done. After I got those nerves out, it was just like practice."
Francis said his parents both went to CU and that's why he ended up in Boulder.
"I liked what the program was offering and what their ideals were," he said. "I just wanted to compete for that first spot, push people I was competing with and be the best I could be."
With Stefanou and Evan Price both questionable going forward, the Buffs might be in good shape with Francis.
"I was really, really impressed with him," coach MacIntyre said.
For the second game in a row, the Buffs started three freshman on the offensive line: left tackle William Sherman, center Colby Pursell and right tackle Frank Fillip. CU had never started three freshmen on the line before last week. Tony Brown had his first touchdown reception as a Buff. Safety Derrion Rakestraw made his first career start (in place of Worthington) and got his first career interception. Juwann Winfree posted his second career 100-yard game, finishing with 101 yards on eight catches.