Iowa State-Colorado: Buffaloes Squander Opportunities in 17-10 Loss to Cyclones

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Iowa State-Colorado: Buffaloes Squander Opportunities in 17-10 Loss to Cyclones
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November 14th - @ Iowa State           Iowa State 17, Colorado 10

Colorado had it's opportunities, but four trips inside the Iowa State red zone netted three points, as the Buffs fell in Ames, 17-10. Falling to 3-7 on the season, the Buffs guaranteed themselves a fourth straight losing season for only the second time in school history. Colorado out-gained Iowa State, 390 yards to 310, but three turnovers, 110 yards in penalties, and missed opportunities doomed the Buffs to a third straight loss in Ames for - you guessed it - only the second time in school history (1979, 1981, 1983).

A low scoring game was certainly in the offing early, as both teams generated negative yardage in their opening drives. On Iowa State's second drive, the Buffs had the Cyclones backed up, facing a third-and-15 at the ISU 12-yard line. A face mask penalty on the Buffs, though, kept the drive alive - and set the tone for the day. Iowa State took advantage, piecing together a nine-play, 83-yard drive to take a lead the Cyclones would not surrender. Quarterback Austen Arnaud hit Marquis Hamilton from seven yards out as Iowa State scored in the first quarter for the first time in five games (take a second to re-read that - the Buffs allowed Iowa State to gain momentum by allowing the Cyclones to score a first quarter touchdown for the first time in five games!).

A 55-yard punt by Matt DiLallo on the Buffs' next drive pinned the Cyclones back inside their five yard line, and the Colorado defense gave the Buffs' offense a golden opportunity. Jimmy Smith intercepted an Arnaud pass at the Iowa State 15-yard line, returning the pick to the Cyclone five. The Buffs, though, could not take advantage, as, on fourth-and-goal at the one yard line, Demetrius Sumler was stopped for no gain.

Buffs' first trip inside the Iows State red zone - turnover on downs.

Things looked bleak for Colorado and their fans as Iowa State took off on what had the makings of a 99-yard drive. Assisted by the Colorado defense, which was guilty of defensive holding on third-and-five at the ISU six and a pass interference penalty on third-and-eight at the ISU 41 (not to mention giving up an 18-yard completion on third-and17), Iowa State looked to take control of the game. The Buffs' defense, though, made one more stand, as Anthony Perkins forced a fumble by Cyclone receiver Darius Darks, with the ball recovered by freshman defensive lineman Nate Bonsu at the Colorado 30-yard line. The Colorado offense responded with its only productive drive of the first half, covering 65 yards in 12 plays. A 12-yard completion from Tyler Hansen to Markques Simas on third-and-seven at the ISU 21-yard line set up the Buffs with a first-and-goal at the ISU nine. Three plays, though, netted four yards, and the Buffs settled for a 22-yard field goal by Aric Goodman with 5:34 left to play in the first half. Iowa State 7, Colorado 3.

Buffs' second trip inside the Iowa State red zone - field goal.

Defenses took over the rest of the second quarter, as four combined drives between the teams netted 19 yards. Two punts by Colorado's Matt DiLallo (34 and 32 yards), though, gave Iowa State field position, and the Cyclones took advantage. Taking over at the Colorado 48-yard line with 1:17 to play, Austen Arnaud maneuvered the Cyclones into field goal range, with Grant Mahoney connecting from 25 yards out on the last play of the quarter.

Halftime score: Iowa State 10, Colorado 3.

With the chances of a winning season, a bowl game, and the Big 12 North title on the line, the Buffs came out fired up, and, with the first drive of the second half - turned the ball over. On the second play of the third quarter, Tyler Hansen was intercepted by Cyclone Nate Frere, who gave the ball to the Iowa State offense at the CU 43. The Colorado defense, though, held, forcing a three-and-out. The Buffs' offense, given new life, responded by - turning the ball over. This time it was Rodney Stewart, who fumbled, with Iowa State recovering at the CU 33 yard line.

This time, the Cyclones took advantage of the Buffs' largess, taking only six plays to score. On third-and-nine at the Colorado 20 yard line, Austen Arnaud hit Alexander Robinson for a touchdown to give Iowa State a 17-3 advantage. As there was still 9:09 left to be played in the third quarter, the 43,208 on hand had no way of knowing that they had just witnessed the winning points being scored.

The Buffs' ensuing drive stalled at the Iowa State 46, but, after an exchange of punts, the Buffs took over at the Iowa State 36 yard line. Colorado was down, 17-3, but there was still over 20 minutes of football to be played. A 16-yard pass from Hansen to Markques Simas got the ball to the 20, and, on fourth-and-one at the Cyclones' 11, Rodney Stewart ran for two yards.

First-and-goal, Colorado, at the Iowa State nine yard line.

A moment later, it was first-and-goal at the Iowa State 39-yard line.

A personal foul call on red-shirt freshman offensive tackle Bryce Givens was doubled after Givens was given a second penalty, this time for unsportsmanlike conduct. "Obviously, Bryce freaked out on us a little bit. That killed us," said Tyler Hansen after the game. "We all know that he's an emotional guy and his emotions got the best of him." A 20-yard pass from Hansen to Simas got some of the yardage back, but on fourth-and-goal from the 24, Aric Goodman missed from 42 yards out, his first missed field goal since the West Virginia game.

Buffs' third trip inside the Iowa State red zone - missed field goal.

The Colorado defense once again held, forcing a punt on the first play of the fourth quarter. And, once again, the Colorado offense launched an impressive drive, only to come up empty. A Tyler Hansen 14-yard run was quickly followed by 12- and 15-yard completions to Scotty McKnight. A personal foul on Iowa State was offset a few plays later by a personal foul on sophomore right guard Ryan Miller, giving the Buffs a 2nd-and-22 at the ISU 38. A 23 yard Hansen-to-McKnight completion, though, gave the Buffs new life, with a first-and-ten at the Cyclones' 15-yard line.

There was still 12 minutes to be played when Rodney Stewart gained seven yards on first down. Instead of second-and-three at the ISU eight yard line, though, it was first-and-ten, Iowa State, as Stewart, who had only one fumble all season coming into the game, fumbled for the second time on the afternoon.

Buffs' fourth trip inside the Iowa State red zone - turnover.

After the Stewart fumble, the Colorado defense, for the seventh time on the afternoon, forced a three-and-out (Colorado came into the game tied for 14th nationally in that obscure category, forcing 4.11 "three-and-outs" per game). The Colorado offense responded with three incompletions and a punt of their own. Still, after another ISU punt, the Buffs took the field at their own 20-yard line, putting together their only touchdown drive of the game. A total of 69 yards of the 80 were in completions from Tyler Hansen to Markques Simas, including a 36-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-three.

With 3:17 to play, the score was now Iowa State 17, Colorado 10.

A comeback was still possible.

And then it wasn't.

Taking over at their 40 yard line after Aric Goodman's kickoff went out of bounds, Iowa State demonstrated why it had the 29th-ranked rushing offense in the nation entering the contest. On-third-and-three at the ISU 47 (and with 3:01 still to play), Alexander Robinson gained 16 yards and a first down. By the time Colorado got the ball back, only 23 seconds remained. One completion to Simas for 11 yards was all the Buffs could muster before time on the clock - and the hopes of a winning season - expired.

Final score: Iowa State 17, Colorado 10.

 Tyler Hansen hit on 18-of-38 passes for 258 yards, but his 36-yard touchdown pass to Markques Simas to pull the Buffs within a touchdown was too little, too late, coming with only 3:17 left to play. Markques Simas, with 128 receiving yards, became the first Buff to have back-to-back 100-yard receiving games in a decade (Javon Green was the last, gaining 133 against Oklahoma and 139 against Kansas in 1999). Joining Simas in the century club against Iowa State was Scotty McKnight, who had eight catches for 107 yards. The Colorado rushing game was led by Rodney Stewart, who had 85 yards on 19 carries - but two costly fumbles by Speedy contributed to the loss.

Overall, the Buffs had more total yards (390-310) and more first downs (21-19), but did not have the final score in their favor. Iowa State was perfect in red zone offense on the day, while Colorado went one-for-four. As to the first failed effort, a fourth-and-goal at the one in the first quarter, when Demetrius Sumler was stopped for no gain, Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins said, "It's a statement play for your offense and your offensive line. Nine times out of ten if you don't get it, it will help you in the field position game, and we didn't get either one of those (Iowa State took the ball from its own one yard line to the Colorado 30-yard line before fumbling)".

As to the Buffs' failure in the red zone against Iowa State, Hawkins had no answers. "It was a little bit of both (lack of execution and good defense)," said Hawkins. "One score in four trips combined with turnovers is what kills you."

Now 3-7, 2-4 on the season, all of the talk about a winning season, a bowl bid, and a Big 12 North title has officially come to an end. What is left for the Buffs is two games, on the road in five days against a ranked Oklahoma State team, and a finale at home against a Nebraska team which is a win over Kansas State (next Saturday) from winning the Big 12 North. Iowa State, on the other hand, is now 6-5, bowl-eligible for the first time since 2005. The six wins under Paul Rhoads are the best for a first year head coach in Ames since Charles Mayser went 6-2 in 1915, besting teams from Ellsworth, Simpson, Morningside, and (damn those "blue" references!) Drake. It took Paul Rhoads, who took over a 2-10 team (with a ten-game losing streak), 11 games to get to six wins. It took Dan Hawkins, taking over a team with four Big 12 North titles in five seasons, 18 games to get to the six win mark.

Is there anything standing in the way of a 3-9 finish?

Just pride.

"Football is similar to life. You need to battle back and finish strong," said Scotty McKnight. " We need to bounce back and win the next two games. You have to have pride." Senior linebacker Marcus Burton, who now has two games left in his Colorado career, agreed. "Basically we came in with a lot of heart and we can't look forward to a bowl game anymore," said Burton, who had eight tackles against Iowa State, "but hopefully we can finish the season with a good record."

- Game Notes -

- Three players got their first career starts against Iowa State. On the Buffs' first offensive play, junior Corey Nabors lined up in the backfield, with senior running back Kevin Moyd lining up at wide receiver (The Buffs' first play was a Kevin Moyd run, which lost two yards). On defense, linebacker Tyler Ahles was in for his first career start (the usual starter, B.J. Beatty, did not see action as he recovers from a concussion).

- Markques Simas has had back-to-back 100-yard receiving games (135 v. Texas A&M; 128 v. Iowa State). Only two Buffs have had three such games - Charles E. Johnson (who did it twice, in 1992 and 1993), and Michael Westbrook (in 1992).

- Scotty McKnight, with eight catches and 107 yards, continues to make inroads on the Colorado record books. His 1,715 receiving yards ranks him 7th all time in that category; his 151 catches is 3rd all-time (just one behind Phil Savoy's 152). McKnight has 62 catches on the season, only the fourth Buff to have that many catches in a single year.

- Rodney Stewart, who had two costly fumbles against Iowa State (one lead to a Cyclone score; the other was on the ISU eight yard line), but his 85 rushing yards moved him up to 34th on the all time list, with 1,295. The former #34 on the list was Kordell Stewart, who had 1,289 rushing yards in his career as a Buff.

- In just eight starts, quarterback Tyler Hansen has made great strides in making a name for himself in the Colorado career passing charts. With 258 yards against the Cyclones, Hansen now has 1,471 career yards, good enough to move from 25th to 22nd on the list. Hansen will likely finish the season in the top 20, with Sal Aunese (1,526) and Bobby Pesavento (1,554) just in front of him.

Reality Check

No sense beating a dead horse here.

I have been in the disillusioned, disenfranchised, disappointed, and disgusted camp since being a first-hand witness to the meltdown in Toledo.

I'm ready to get past the "how the Buffs can still win the North" scenarios. I'm over the "the Buffs can win out and go bowling" dreams.

It's time for the Buffs and their fans to face reality. Colorado is one of the worst programs in Division 1-A football, certainly one of the worst in the six BCS conferences. What teams are worse? Perhaps Virginia (3-7) or Maryland (2-8) from the ACC? Syracuse (3-7) from the Big East? Illinois (3-7) or Indiana (4-7) from the Big Ten? Vanderbilt (2-9) from the SEC? Washington State (1-9) from the Pac-10? Certainly, Colorado is better than some, if not all, of these teams - but them's slim pickin's, folks. There are 65 teams in BCS conferences. It would be tough to make an argument that Colorado is in the top 55.

How can the Buffs recover? How does the University of Colorado rebound from four straight losing seasons?

Let's look for a bright side ...

How's this? Colorado does not have a large senior class. Almost all of the offense generated this year, save the catches by tight ends Riar Geer and Patrick Devenny, has been by from underclassmen. Quarterback Tyler Hansen is a true sophomore, and, over the past few weeks, has shown glimmers of what he can bring to the table, not only with his feet, but with his passing arm. The running back and wide receiver corps will return virtually in tact. The offensive line, for all of its penalties and sacks given, remains a unit with potential.

On the defensive side of the ball, there are a few losses, but mostly in the linebacking corps. Senior Jeff Smart leads the team in tackles, with fellow senior Marcus Burton seventh. Still, if there is one unit which the Buffs have had adequate depth in the past, it is the linebackers. In the secondary, cornerback Cha'pelle Brown will be missed, as will Benjamin Burney. The remaining play-makers, though, return (there has been talk about junior cornerbacks Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith leaving early for the NFL draft, but I don't see their draft stock being high enough to warrant giving up another year of perfecting their craft in the collegiate ranks).

We will go through the depth chart in great detail during the "Doldrums" - the period in December when football teams with winning records are preparing for bowls, while Colorado, for the third time in four years, is putting in that extra time in the weight room, staring at motivational posters about getting ready for CSU next September. For now, Buff fans, it's enough to know that the Buffs are showing marginal signs of improvement (more total yards on offense, fewer points on defense). Colorado has only been blown out of a game twice (Toledo and Missouri), and has hung tough against better opposition.

Let's hope for more of the latter, and less of the former, come Thursday's game against Oklahoma State, and next week's game against Nebraska.

The pressure of trying to win out is gone. The pressure of trying to cling to false hopes has dissipated.

The remaining two games only have relevance to the Buff players - and their coaches.

There is no reason not to try some trick plays, and go for broke. No one would be surprised if Colorado is blown out by Oklahoma State and Nebraska, so there is nothing left to lose.

That's Colorado's 2009 reality.

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