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Despite loss, CU Buffs confident going forward

With Minnesota up next, Colorado looks to rebound from loss to Texas A&M

DENVER, CO - Sept. 11, 2021: ...
University of Colorado Boulder’s Alex Fontenot runs during the Texas A&M game during the September 11, 2021 at Empower Field in Denver. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

There was disappointment on the faces of Colorado coaches, players and staff members who slowly walked to the team busses at Empower Field at Mile High on Saturday evening.

There were not, however, any signs of a team hanging its head after a crushing, 10-7 loss to then-No. 5 Texas A&M.

Although they didn’t win, the Buffaloes did enough to knock A&M down two spots, to No. 7, in the latest Associated Press poll on Sunday, while boosting their own confidence a bit.

“It’s a confidence booster for us, for sure,” safety Isaiah Lewis said after the Buffs (1-1) went toe-to-toe with the highly-touted Aggies (2-0). “We never want to lose a game. We were expecting to win this game. We’re taking that same mentality into every single matchup that we get.”

The next matchup will be Saturday when Minnesota (1-1) visits Folsom Field (11 a.m., TV: Pac-12 Network) to wrap up the non-conference portion of the schedule.

It might take a while for the Buffs to get over the missed opportunity against A&M, but they left Denver ready to turn the page.

“We have no choice,” running back Alex Fontenot said. “You have to put it in the rearview. You can’t just dwell on the past. We’ve got Minnesota next week. That’s all I’m thinking about.”

CU went into the game against A&M as a 17-point underdog and not only covered the spread – easily – but nearly won the game. The result served notice to the remaining 10 teams on the schedule that the Buffs won’t be an easy out.

“Obviously, we don’t want to lose but it’s what they say is a ‘good loss,’” cornerback Christian Gonzalez said. “It shows we’re not a team that people just look at and cross off their schedules. You come to play us, we’re going to come, no matter who you are. You play football, we play football. It’s the same thing.”

The Buffs played good football – at least on defense – on Saturday.

CU held the Aggies to 97 rushing yards, which is a remarkable feat given the talent at running back. Phil Steele’s College Football Preview rated A&M’s running back crew as the best in the country. Prior to Saturday, the last team to hold A&M under 100 rushing yards was national champion LSU in 2019.

Unfortunately for the Buffs, their own offense struggled just as much, if not more.

In the first quarter, CU gained 127 yards on 19 plays (6.7 per play) and had a 7-0 lead. The Buffs never scored again, though, gaining just 133 yards on their last 44 plays (3.0 per play).

CU’s total of 260 yards was its lowest since the 2019 finale at Utah (217  yards). The Buffs ran just 21 plays in the second half on Saturday, compared to 42 in the first half, because they couldn’t get first downs.

“I felt like we were barely on the field in the second half as an offense,” tight end Brady Russell said.

While it was clear the offense has some work to do, the Buffs are doing fine in the confidence department.

“I feel really optimistic,” Russell said. “I know we’re so much better than we put out there. We lost by three points and I think we’re a lot better than we showed, so that speaks for itself. I think there’s a lot of positives.”

Much of CU’s confidence stems from how it played against one of the nation’s best teams. Despite the loss, the Buffs have been one of the Pac-12’s better teams through the first two weeks.

Three teams on the Buffs’ remaining schedule (Arizona, California and Washington) are already 0-2, while Southern California and Utah were both dealt humbling defeats this weekend.

The Buffs’ schedule looks more manageable than it did in the preseason. For what it’s worth, ESPN’s FPI gave CU a 31.6% chance of reaching bowl eligibility (six wins) just one week ago. That number vaulted to 56.9% on Sunday.

There was disappointment on Saturday and the Buffs clearly are a work in progress, but the jolt of confidence they gained could help them going forward.

“We proved to ourselves that we can hang in the big leagues,” Fontenot said. “But, we need to learn how to finish and that’s the bottom line.”