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Juwann Winfree has waited a long time for an opportunity to be a focal point of the Colorado offense.
Kabion Ento’s opportunities have been even less frequent.
Although the Buffaloes lost at Arizona, 42-34, on Friday, the two seniors stepped up and proved they could be important players down the stretch.
Winfree led the Buffs (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) with a career-high eight catches and 101 yards. Ento, who had two receptions all season, finished with a career-high five catches for 82 yards.
“We’re hungry. We’re real hungry,” Winfree said. “We haven’t gotten much opportunities this season so far, so we were just ready to make those plays. We were preached to all week about how much we were going to have to make plays. This game was going to rely on the offense. That’s how we approached it day in and day out; just work hard as we could.”
Although their efforts came in a loss, the Buffs might need to lean on Ento, Winfree and freshman Jaylon Jackson (career high six catches for 25 yards against Arizona) in the final three games.
Riding a four-game losing streak, the Buffs have been hit hard by the injury bug, especially at receiver.
Star sophomore Laviska Shenault has missed three consecutive games with a toe injury and it’s unclear if he will return this season.
No. 2 receiver KD Nixon, fresh off a 13-catch, 198-yard performance, injured his hip early in the loss to Arizona, and his status is unclear, as well.
Jay MacIntyre, who came into last week fourth on the team in receptions, left the Arizona game after a hard fall on his head. For the second time in less than a month, he is going through concussion protocol, and it’s unknown when, or if, he will return.
“It’s been super tough,” Winfree said of the team battling injuries. “We all have to deal with that this whole season, including myself. I missed four games (with an ankle injury), Laviska has been out. You never know when it’s going to happen.”
Luckily for the Buffs, their depth at receiver has shown up.
Winfree, Ento and Jackson came into last week with a combined 15 catches on the season, but had 19 between them against Arizona.
Meanwhile, Tony Brown caught three passes for 37 yards and his first touchdown as a Buff. A transfer from Texas Tech, Brown’s only other college touchdown came on Oct. 3, 2015.
“I feel our guys stepped up and made plays,” Winfree said of the receiving corps. “We didn’t make enough plays, but I felt the people who came in for the injured players definitely stepped up. We just have to deal with adversity. Injures come with football, so that’s expected. It’s just how you bounce back from that.”
True freshmen Daniel Arias and Dimitri Stanley have also proven capable, as they made plays when called upon at Washington on Oct. 20.
Buffs on national TV
CU will look to snap its losing streak on national TV this week.
Saturday’s game against No. 10 Washington State (8-1, 5-1) will kick off at 1:30 p.m. at Folsom Field and will be televised on ESPN.
The Buffs have a tough task in front of them. Under head coach Mike MacIntyre, they are 2-18 against ranked opponents, but in both wins, the Buffs were ranked ahead of the opponent.
CU has lost 22 in a row against teams ranked in the top 15 of the Associated Press poll, dating back to a 27-24 upset of No. 3 Oklahoma on Sept. 29, 2007.
Unranked CU teams have lost 27 in a row against ranked opponents, dating back to a 34-30 upset of No. 17 Kansas on Oct. 17, 2009.
Winfree, who had seven catches for 55 yards in the first seven games, has 12 catches for 155 yards in the last two. … Ento had just 10 catches during his CU career before getting five last week. … Among Power 5 conference teams, CU has the fourth-longest losing streak. Only Rutgers (eight games), Louisville (six) and North Carolina (five) have longer current losing skids.