Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
In the end, the numbers produced by the Colorado offense on Saturday weren’t pretty.
During a 31-7 loss to No. 10 Washington State, the Buffs had just 297 yards, 12 first downs, and converted only two of 11 third-downs.
Not exactly what the Buffs had in mind for the return of their top star.
Still, Laviska Shenault’s return from a toe injury was a bright spot on an otherwise disappointing day for CU.
“It was good to see him back out there,” quarterback Steven Montez said. “It was good to see him running round. It was good to see him healthy.”
Shenault missed the previous three games with a toe injury. Before his injury, he was considered a candidate for the Heisman Trophy and was leading the country in receiving.
On Saturday, he caught 10 passes — matching his season average — for 102 yards, while adding an 18-yard run. In the wake of a loss, though, he wasn’t too interested in celebrating his return.
“It’s in the past,” he said. “I’m ready to work. I’m ready to see this team work and come out with a win next week.”
Asked if he was 100 percent healthy, Shenault said, “I was pretty close, but I’m feeling fine for the most part.”
Although the Buffs weren’t able to win in his return, head coach Mike MacIntyre is hopeful that Shenault’s presence will make a difference in the final two games.
“I thought Laviska gutted it out and did well,” MacIntyre said. “He wasn’t able to practice much, so you could tell he was a little rusty.”
That rust showed up with a couple of drops and a fourth quarter fumble, but MacIntyre said. “I was pleased. In talking to him after the game it doesn’t seem like it’s bothering him. He seems healthy, which means he’ll be that much better next week.”
While Shenault returned, the Buffs played without receivers KD Nixon (hip) and Jay MacIntyre (concussion), who both were injured during a 42-34 loss at Arizona on Nov. 2.
Coach MacIntyre said he’s hoping both will return next week.
Early in the second quarter, CU’s best player on defense — linebacker Nate Landman — was ejected for targeting. It’s the second time this season Landman has been ejected for targeting.
This time, he went to take WSU quarterback Gardner Minshew, who scrambled to try to get a first down. Minshew ducked and lowered his head just as Landman came in for tackle and their helmets hit.
“When you lose Nate Landman, that’s a huge deal for you,” MacIntyre said. “They made the targeting call and that’s what they ruled. That’s a really tough play. (Minshew) comes out behind the linemen, (Landman) can’t really see him, the guy is trying to get a first down, he hits him. It’s a tough deal.”
Because the penalty happened in the first half, Landman can return for the start of Saturday’s game against Utah.
Washington State true freshman running back Max Borghi enjoyed his return to Colorado.
The Pomona High School graduate caught three passes for 34 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 38 yards on seven carries. The touchdown, which gave WSU the lead for good at 10-7 in the second quarter, was Borghi’s 10th of the season. He has scored at least once in eight of the Cougars’ 10 games.
“This one is something I circled on the calendar, going back home and playing in front of everyone I know is a big deal,’ he said. “I live like 10 minutes from here, so I’ve been around (this atmosphere) all the time. I definitely had a little bit more energy today.”
Borghi originally committed to CU before flipping to Washington State and said there are no regrets.
“I feel like I’m exactly where I wanted to be and I just thank God for that,” he said.
To punt or not to punt
With a little more than two minutes to play in the third quarter, CU trailed 17-7 and faced fourth-and-11 at the Washington State 36-yard line.
It was just the second time CU had been in WSU territory. Instead of going for the first down, MacIntyre elected to punt.
“If it had been 24-7, I think it would have been a little different story,” he said. “I still think there’s plenty of time and you’re only down 10 points. You have to hope you can hold them a little bit.”
Unfortunately for the Buffs, Washington State went on an 88-yard touchdown drive to seal the game after that.
CU played its second game in a row without safety Evan Worthington (concussion), but coach MacIntyre said he’s hopeful Worthington will return next week. … In the last two meetings with the Cougars, CU has been outscored 59-7, while going 3-for-28 on third downs. … Montez moved into fourth on CU’s all-time passing list with 6,587 yards, passing Kordell Stewart, who was in attendance after being inducted into the CU athletics hall of fame on Thursday.