After ‘frustrating’ loss to USC, CU Buffs aim to focus on next game

Jae C. Hong / Associated Press
Southern Cal defensive back Iman Marshall, right, breaks up a pass intended for Colorado wide receiver Bryce Bobo during the first half Saturday in Los Angeles.

CU opponent glance

Opponent: Arizona State Sun Devils

Game time: Saturday, 6 p.m. MDT, at Folsom Field in Boulder

Coach: Todd Graham, 5th season (39-20; 88-49 career)

Record: 5-1, 2-1 Pac-12

Last week: Defeated UCLA, 23-20

Key players: QB Manny Wilkins, So. (97 of 149, 1,233 yards, 5 TD, 4 INT; 63 carries, 254 yards, 4 TD); RB Kalen Ballage, So. (61 carries, 310 yards, 9 TD); RB Demario Richard, Jr. (112 carries, 436 yards, 2 TD); WR Tim White, Sr. (39 catches, 428 yards, 0 TD); LB DJ Calhoun, Jr. (35 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks); PK Zane Gonzalez, Sr. (16 of 17 field goals, 24 or 25 on PATs).

Notable: ASU has never lost to Colorado, going 7-0 all-time and 5-0 since the Buffaloes joined the Pac-12. Each game has been decided by at least 14 points. … The Sun Devils started the season 4-0 before a 41-20 loss at USC. They got back on track with the victory against UCLA on Saturday. … ASU, Colorado and Utah enter the week tied atop the Pac-12 South division, all with 2-1 conference records. … The Sun Devils are 1-1 on the road, beating UT-San Antonio and losing to USC.

LOS ANGELES — All season, the Colorado football team has stuck with the motto, “One snap and clear.”

The meaning is simple: After each play, each day, each game — win or loss — forget it and move on to the next.

CU’s ability to do that has been a factor in a solid start to the season. At the midway point of the season, the Buffs (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) are tied atop the Pac-12 South division, a spot in which few expected them to be when the season began.

The “one snap and clear” mantra will get heavily tested this week, however, after Saturday’s 21-17 loss at Southern California. It was a game in which CU didn’t play its best, but certainly could have won with a better performance. The Buffs walked out of the Los Angeles Coliseum feeling it let a win get away.

“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot and didn’t really play our typical Colorado football,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “We didn’t play fast and tough all the time. We didn’t get into a rhythm like we like. They had a lot to do with that, and we had a lot to do with it. We had our opportunities to go take the game, and we didn’t do it.”

During the past couple of years, the Buffs have had a lot of those games, but until this year, they were never really in position to where an extra win would have made much difference.

Even a nonconference loss to Michigan on Sept. 17 didn’t sting like Saturday’s loss, because the Buffs know that they coughed up a chance to bury USC (3-3, 2-2) in the standings and solidify their own spot at the top of the division.

“A loss is a loss and it’s frustrating either way, I’d say,” linebacker Addison Gillam said, “but definitely this year there’s a lot more at stake and we all know that.”

That’s why putting this one in the rearview mirror is essential. The Buffs have six Pac-12 games to play, and each one is winnable. Even once-mighty Stanford now looks pedestrian at best after consecutive blowout losses.

Big-time goals are still attainable for the Buffs, if they are locked in.

“We’re an older team and we’re going to keep pushing because that’s what we do,” running back Phillip Lindsay said. “We made some mistakes; we can’t control that now.

“We have one goal, to be Pac-12 champs, and that still hasn’t changed. We’re going to regroup, come back tomorrow and get ready to play.”

Redshirt freshman quarterback Steven Montez has no doubt the Buffs will do that. They have proven week to week that they focus only on the game in front of them. Even against overmatched teams, the Buffs haven’t been caught looking ahead — or behind — them.

Knowing the opportunity lost against USC, Montez believes that focus will be even more intense.

“I think it’ll help us in the long run,” Montez said. “It’ll keep us hungry and get us refocused. We can take it, we can grow from it and we can move on. This is going to make us hungrier down the line.”

Getting loose

Linebacker Kenneth Olugbode was disappointed after the game because of the missed tackles the defense had against the Trojans, especially in the first half.

“That’s huge,” he said. “Miss a tackle and he gets to run for an extra 5, 10 yards. We have to make plays, we have to make tackles and stop them in space.”

During the second quarter, USC had a 13-play, 92-yard touchdown drive that included two plays where CU had ball carriers locked up, but failed to bring them down. Those plays netted 25 yards and kept the chains moving.

Decision time

Trailing 21-14 with 4:49 to play in the fourth quarter, the Buffs faced fourth-and-9 from the USC 24-yard line.

MacIntyre said he felt it was important to get points and trust his defense to give the offense one more possession after that.

“We felt like if we could get that, then you get down and your next score is a touchdown,” he said. “We felt like we could hold them and do that.

“If it had been fourth and 1 or fourth and 2, I think it would have been a different story on that.”

Davis Price nailed the 42-yard field goal, but CU never did get the ball back.


Lindsay caught six passes for 105 yards — both career highs — and a touchdown. He became the first CU running back to get 100 receiving yards since Cortlen Johnson put up the same numbers on Nov. 10, 2001, at Iowa State. … The Buffs fell to 2-20-1 all-time when playing in California. … The Buffs are 4-0 when running 80-plus plays on offense and 0-2 when having fewer than 80. They ran 73 plays against the Trojans. … The Buffs have forced 13 turnovers this season, putting them on pace for 26. That would be their highest total since forcing 26 in 2002.

Brian Howell:, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.