SEATTLE – Colorado has played so much ugly football that it seemed this season couldn’t get much worse.
On Saturday night, the Buffaloes found a new low.
CU played possibly its most disastrous half of the season to start the game and never posed a threat to 15th-ranked Washington in a 54-7 loss at Husky Stadium.
“It was obviously a challenging game,” CU interim head coach Mike Sanford said. “It was just really tough from the start.”
The 47-point margin of defeat was the largest for a CU team since a 59-7 loss to Washington in this stadium on Nov. 9, 2013.
Overall, it was the third consecutive loss by 38-plus points for the Buffs (1-10, 1-7 Pac-12), who have now lost six times by at least 31 points.
CU knew it would be a challenge against the Huskies (9-2, 6-2) and their high-powered passing attack. Michael Penix Jr. came in as the leading passer in the country.
It wasn’t Penix who caused much of the damage, though. Instead, the Huskies powered through the Buffs on the ground.
Penix was efficient but threw for a season-low 229 yards and a touchdown. Wayne Taulapapa ran for 107 yards and two touchdowns, while Cameron Davis added 59 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Washington wound up with 575 yards in total offense, including a season-high 280 on the ground. The Huskies came in averaging 124.2 rushing yards.
“I think that their backs were good, their O-line is good,” Sanford said.”A lot of respect for their overall plan and how they execute.”
Washington executed that plan well in taking a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.
CU then caught a bit of a break. After the defense finally held the Huskies, their kicker, Peyton Henry, missed a 48-yard field goal with 1:55 to play in the first half.
Rather than take advantage of the opportunity, CU had a nightmare stretch on special teams.
Three straight incompletions by quarterback JT Shrout took a total of 15 seconds off the clock. On fourth-and-10, the snap sailed over punter Trent Carrizosa’s head and eventually rolled out of the back of the end zone for a safety, giving Washington a 23-0 lead.
The Huskies had a 28-yard return on the ensuing kickoff and then needed just 70 seconds to reach the end zone again, taking a 30-0 lead on Davis’ first touchdown run.
Only 15 seconds remained in the half, so Washington squibbed the ensuing kickoff, but CU’s Nikko Reed couldn’t handle the ball. The Huskies recovered at the Buffs’ 16-yard line and two plays later got a 33-yard field goal from Henry.
“They just kicked a good ball,” Reed said. “I tried to hurry up and pick it up and get out of there, but I just was moving too fast and I didn’t pick up the ball. That was just on me.”
Certainly CU was already in a deep hole before that stretch, but that dismal sequence sealed the Buffs’ fate.
“That, to me, was what kind of got the score line of out of sorts, or more so than it was,” Sanford said. “It was uncharacteristic of how we’ve played special teams-wise this year. It was error, but I still think that unit in particular has played well, throughout the course of the year through the ups and downs. I think today was certainly not one of their better performances, and obviously, was detrimental to the overall score of the game.”
Down 21-0, the Buffs seemed checked out, but Sanford said that wasn’t the case.
“I think halftime, that was a time where I challenged the team, ‘Are we truly what we say we are? Are we going to fight for each other? Are we going to be a brotherhood?’” Sanford said. “What I would say is that I think the response in the second half was much better. I think a lot of frustrations were boiling over at the end of that second quarter.”
Washington, which didn’t punt until six minutes remaining in the game, added a pair of touchdown runs in the third quarter to increase the lead to 47-0 before sending its starters to the bench.
CU finally got on the board after that, as JT Shrout connected with Montana Lemonious-Craig for a 69-yard touchdown pass. That play accounted for 34.2% of CU’s 202 total yards.
“At the end of the day, you’re either going to fight or fold and I’m not going to fold up,” Lemonious-Craig said. “I’m gonna fight to the end, so it’s not really tough for me. It’s just you’ve got to keep coming back, keep coming back. Because at the end of the day, if you give up, it’s over with at that point. Once you check out, the game is done. So I never believe it’s done until it’s zeroes on the clock. Until then I’m always going to keep going.”
This fight didn’t last long, however, and it didn’t end well for the Buffs, who have lost to top-15 teams in three consecutive weeks.
“That’s a really good team,” Sanford said. “I said it this week in my press conference before the game, leading up to it that I think right now they’re playing as good of football as anybody in our conference. Having seen Oregon, USC and Washington, where Washington’s at right now and the quarterback play they have and the athletes they have and then really the O-line, D-line crew they have, they’re as good as anybody in our conference right now. I’m gonna tip my hat to (Washington coach Kalen) DeBoer and most importantly, those players.”
Snapshot: CU Buffs at No. 15 Washington Huskies
Play of the game: CU’s top play was its only touchdown, when JT Shrout found Montana Lemonious-Craig behind the Washington defense for a 69-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.
Turning point: Washington had a methodical 12-play, 85-yard touchdown drive to start the game. Then, after CU went three-and-out, the Huskies needed just two plays to score again. That made it 14-0 and the rout was on.
Top 3 Buffs of the game
1. RB Alex Fontenot: The senior continues to play well. Despite not having a lot of chances, he had 71 yards on 11 carries and caught a pass for seven yards.
2. LB Josh Chandler-Semedo: Finished with only five tackles, but he picked off a Washington pass.
3. WR Montana Lemonious-Craig: Caught just one pass, but it was a big one, as he hauled in a 69-yard touchdown.
No. 15 Washington 54, Colorado 7
Colorado 0 0 7 0 — 7
Washington 14 19 14 7 — 54
WASH — Taulapapa 8 run (Henry kick), 5:18.
WASH — McMillan 27 pass from Penix (Henry kick), 2:49.
WASH — Taulapapa 2 run (Henry kick), 10:33.
WASH — safety, 1:32.
WASH — C.Davis 4 run (Henry kick), :15.
WASH — FG Henry 33, :00.
WASH — C.Davis 6 run (Henry kick), 8:51.
WASH — Newton 2 run (Henry kick), 2:11.
COLO — Lemonious-Craig 69 pass from Shrout (Becker kick), 1:45.
WASH—Adams 15 pass from Morris (Shrock kick), 8:10.
First downs 11 28
Total Net Yards 202 575
Rushes-yards 33-79 43-280
Passing 123 295
Punt Returns 0-0 1-31
Kickoff Returns 8-136 2-58
Interceptions Ret. 1-1 1-0
Comp-Att-Int 7-22-1 23-38-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 2-21 0-0
Punts 5-35.0 1-37.0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-40 5-35
Time of Possession 27:17 32:43
RUSHING — Colorado, Fontenot 11-71, Carter 5-16, Hankerson 6-13, D.Smith 6-9, Stacks 2-3, Shrout 2-(minus 2), (Team) 1-(minus 31). Washington, Taulapapa 11-107, C.Davis 12-59, Morris 4-32, G.Jackson 2-26, Newton 6-21, Sunday 1-19, Adams 2-10, Nixon 1-7, Penix 2-6, (Team) 1-(minus 1), Holmes 1-(minus 6).
PASSING — Colorado, Shrout 6-18-1-120, Carter 1-4-0-3. Washington, Penix 19-31-0-229, Morris 4-7-1-66.
RECEIVING — Colorado, Hestera 2-36, Lemonious-Craig 1-69, Fontenot 1-7, Sneed 1-6, Harrison 1-3, Russell 1-2. Washington, McMillan 8-98, Polk 3-39, Odunze 2-17, G.Jackson 2-4, Moore 1-25, Culp 1-24, Waiss 1-21, Newton 1-20, Westover 1-18, Adams 1-15, T.Davis 1-9, Boston 1-5.
MISSED FIELD GOALS — Washington, Henry 48.