Give Buffs fans credit.
On a Saturday evening far more pleasant than anyone could possibly hope for in early November, walk-up ticket sales of several thousand helped push attendance to nearly 48,000. Folsom Field was (nearly) full and ready to party.
For one of the few times in what has been largely an ugly and frustrating season, the CU Buffs did their part and delivered. Barely.
A campaign that has witnessed a home shutout and, at times, an offensive attack so inept it had some fans clamoring for a return of the wishbone made Saturday’s celebration all the more giddy, as the Buffs got off the mat to respond to an Oregon State comeback bid with a late score and some late defense to secure what turned into a wild 37-34 double overtime victory.
Given how this season has unfolded, the Buffs and their fans will take it, warts and all.
For fans and, admittedly, us media types alike that have questioned some of the play-calling this season, Darrin Chiaverini deserves credit for the many wrinkles we saw on Saturday night. Two plays to Brendan Rice, one that counted and one that didn’t, showed an offense getting creative in order to get the ball to its best play-makers.
Rice originally looked like a decoy on the play that put CU up 20-10 in the third quarter, starting as a blocker on a rollout by quarterback Brendon Lewis before slipping into open space for a 5-yard touchdown. Rice was on display once again on a potential go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter, scoring on an 11-yard reverse that was called back due to a holding penalty. And count this guy a fan of the wrinkle that saw backup tight end Matt Lynch, once a prolific quarterback at Legacy High, take a snap in a short-yardage situation to barrel forward for a first down.
The Buffs of September would’ve wilted after the sort of penalty that almost derailed the go-ahead drive late in regulation. Instead, Lewis stepped up in the pocket on third-and-15 to find Montana Lemonious-Craig in the front corner of the end zone for a go-ahead score that would’ve provided a win if not for the monstrous 60-yard field goal delivered by OSU kicker Everett Hayes at the regulation buzzer.
For once, CU didn’t look like the least organized, or least disciplined team on the field. Oregon State committed nine penalties for 88 yards, compiling the bulk of those totals in the first half. With all three timeouts in hand and the clock ticking away in the final minute, the Beavers declined an opportunity to get organized for a potential game-tying 51-yard field goal. Instead, Hayes was rushed onto the field and went wide left, though that became an afterthought after his 60-yard bomb.
Hayes missed again in overtime, CU’s Cole Becker connected on the winner, and the Homecoming celebration commenced at midfield.
Don’t look now, but the Buffs actually have some momentum. In the second game since the firing of now-former offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue, the Buffs’ offense looked nothing like the bumbling, half-a-yard-and-a-cloud of dust operation on display for much of the season. Lewis once again looked like a quarterback that knew what he was doing when actually given time to throw. Jarek Broussard finished with 151 rushing yards. The Buffs had balance.
Most importantly, the performance showed the Oregon game wasn’t a fluke, or a product of the Ducks coasting after jumping to a quick 21-0 lead. Regardless of wins or losses the rest of the way, finding a way to get on track after CU staked its claim as the worst offense in the nation for much of the season is a credit to head coach Karl Dorrell, Chiaverini, and the Rodrigue-less staff. CU’s offense has risen from the ashes, with a UCLA team that has looked vulnerable of late next on the ledger followed by a visit in two weeks from a Washington team that might be ready to run out the clock on its own disappointing season.
CU still has to win out to become bowl eligible, including a season-ending date at Utah. It’s a long shot at best, and Buffs fans probably should refrain from making December football travel plans. But at least mentioning the idea no longer is cause for an immediate eye roll and unrestrained laughter.