Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Like his teammates, Colorado linebacker Drew Lewis was disappointed following the Buffaloes’ 27-13 loss at Washington on Saturday.
As the senior walked out of Husky Stadium, however, he knew this was no time for the Buffaloes to get down on themselves.
“We still have a lot to play for,” Lewis said on his way to the team bus.
The Buffaloes (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) are riding a two-game losing streak, going winless during the toughest stretch of their schedule. Yet, being in the volatile South division and having three of the next five games at Folsom Field, the Buffs are in no position to hit the panic button.
“It’s tough to go out and lose two games on the road, but we’ve done it against some great teams,” Lewis said moments earlier during his postgame press conference. “I think we’re going to learn from this experience.”
What the Buffs should learn from the back-to-back losses is that they are good enough to compete with the best teams in the Pac-12, but that their margin for error is thin.
Playing without their best player — receiver Laviska Shenault — the Buffs struggled to get much going on offense at Washington. Untimely penalties and miscues also cost the Buffs in the losses to Southern California and Washington.
Favored to win the Pac-12 divisions before the season, USC and Washington were both good enough to overcome their mistakes. USC had 13 penalties and two first-quarter interceptions against CU and still won going away.
Washington played without the best running back in school history – Myles Gaskin – and ran for a season-high 201 yards. The Huskies also had potentially back-breaking penalties and a fourth-quarter fumble, but still managed to pull away late.
CU’s roster is more talented than it’s been in several years, yet still not good enough to overcome missed opportunities.
“We have good football players out there,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said after Saturday’s loss. “We had some opportunities to make some plays, but we didn’t. We need to find a way to make those.”
The ability to make those plays is there, and if the Buffs can figure out how to do that, they can still make a run at the Pac-12 title.
Every team in the South has at least two conference losses. Win out — and couple that with one more USC loss — and the Buffs can get to the conference title game.
This week, the Buffs play the worst team in the Pac-12, Oregon State, at Folsom Field. That’s followed by a date with the worst team in the South division, Arizona.
A back-to-back stretch against the Pac-12’s two hottest teams — Washington State and Utah — looms next month, but both games are at Folsom Field, where the Buffs typically play well.
Lewis said he saw some head hanging in the final moments on Saturday, but knows the Buffs have to put that loss in the rearview mirror and look forward with confidence.
“I think we’re going to come out even hotter next week,” Lewis said. “We have a big game. We have to turn this around, for sure.”
Running back Travon McMillian has no doubt the Buffs will rally.
“We believe in each other,” he said. “We’re going to keep grinding and keep fighting. We know we took two Ls in a row, but we’re going to keep pushing and keep our head up and we still have a lot to prove.”
Perhaps more than anything, the Buffs need to prove that they can turn their pre-game confidence into game-winning execution.
“Going into every game, you go in confident, you go in with a good hard week of practice and you feel like you’re prepared,” Montez said. “I think we were prepared. I think we had a good game plan. I think we just have to, when it comes down to crunch time, we just have to finish.”
After being ranked in one or both national polls the past three weeks, the Buffs have completely dropped out. They fell out of the Associated Press Top 25 last week after the loss to USC and did not receive any votes this week, ending a six-week streak of votes. Ranked No. 25 in the Amway Coaches’ poll last week, the Buffs fell to 35th overall, but did receive nine points.