John McCoy / Getty Images
John McCoy / Getty Images
LOS ANGELES — After each win this season, the Colorado football team has displayed the ability to move forward and focus on the next game.
Following their first loss of the season, the Buffaloes are hoping to do the same.
In the moments after a 31-20 loss to Southern California on Saturday night, the Buffs (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) were already eager to prepare for their next test. They will visit No. 15 Washington (5-2, 3-1) on Saturday in Seattle.
CU, ranked No. 19 a week ago, fell out of the Associated Press Top 25 — and down to No. 25 in the Amway Coaches’ poll -— with the loss.
“Guys in (the locker room) are down, but also their heads up,” sophomore linebacker Nate Landman said. “This game is over we’re now looking on to Washington. We’re going to watch the film and learn from our mistakes.”
Those mistakes included getting routinely beat in the secondary, a lackluster offense that generated very little until it was too late and penalties that killed drives. Four times in the second half, the Buffs were flagged for holding.
“It seemed like every time we’d get some momentum, we’d get a holding call or something to that effect, which hurt us,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “We couldn’t establish the run very well early. They kind of had our number early in the first half and we started to get some stuff going, but a couple of those penalties hurt us.”
The Buffs also squandered an opportunity to score late in the first half. After falling behind 21-7, they got the ball back with 63 seconds to play in the half and all three timeouts to use.
Although the offense had not done much to that point, quarterback Steven Montez did complete four consecutive passes, and then the Buffs benefitted from a pass interference call on the Trojans.
MacIntyre got a flashback to 2017, though, and that impacted CU’s approach to that drive. During a 38-24 loss to the Trojans in Boulder last year, the Buffs were down 14-0 in the final minute of the first half and tried to get a quick score before the break. Instead, Montez threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown and a 20-0 deficit.
On Saturday, the Buffs used just one timeout during that final drive and let quality time melt off the clock before settling for a desperate heave to the end zone. Montez’s pass sailed out of the back of the end zone and the Buffs came up empty.
“We were a little cautious at the first of the drive because I didn’t want to all of a sudden have another turnover,” MacIntyre said.
A more aggressive approach may not have resulted in points, but it might have given the Buffs a better chance at getting at least a field goal — and some positive momentum — before intermission.
Miscues in a variety of areas added up to what was a dismal night, and one that the Buffs hope to use as a springboard for the second half of the season.
“I don’t know if it’s (about) what we learned tonight,” Montez said after the game. “I think it’s what we’re going to learn on Monday and what we’re going to learn on Tuesday and how people are going to react to this?
“I think it’s easy to criticize after the play is already done or after the game is already over — we should have done this, we should have done this. Well, we didn’t, so how are we going to react and hopefully bounce back on Monday? We’ll ultimately figure that out on Saturday (at Washington).”
MacIntyre felt it was a good sign that the Buffs kept battling in the fourth quarter, turning a 28-7 deficit into a closer final score.
“I was looking for that,” he said. “They kept battling. They kept competing.”
It’s what the Buffs have done all year to this point, and it’s what senior linebacker Drew Lewis expects them to do going forward.
“Last season, I could tell that people would be keeping their heads down and we’d let that negative energy seep into the following week,” he said. “With this kind of team, I think we’re going to really erase this whole game, learn from the mistakes and capitalize on that and we’re going to take that to the next week and get better.”
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/bhowell33