Colorado suffered their fourth consecutive loss, the sixth in their last seven games, on Saturday. They fell 34-31 to No. 21 Arizona on the final play. The Buffs showed improvement in this one, as the offense was clicking early, and the defense gave them multiple chances to pull ahead late. However, they couldn’t put it all together and pull out the victory on Senior Day.
“Fought hard, played tough,” head coach Deion Sanders said postgame. “Just had a wonderful conversation with the team as well as the seniors who will never get to play here again. I apologized on behalf of myself, the staff, and the support staff that we didn’t send them out right in which we wanted to because they deserve it. I’m apologizing to the fanbase, they’ve been supporting the heck out of us, and they’ve been showing up and showing out, another sellout crowd that ended in disappointment. We’re so close, is what I told the team, but yet so far. We simply, truly don’t know how to win yet. And it’s not for lack of effort, not for lack of coaching with the staff, the support staff, the trainers, the strength and conditioning, and everybody around that’s doing a phenomenal job. We just can’t get over that hump.”
Photo Cred: SI
Colorado came out firing in the first half. This was a pleasant change from their last few games, where they have been flat and sluggish out of the gates. The Buffs took advantage of good field position twice in the first quarter, finishing both drives with touchdowns to jump out to an early 14-7 lead.
Arizona, led by redshirt freshman quarterback Noah Fifita, continued to fight back by going blow for blow with Shedeur Sanders and the Buffaloes offense. Near the end of the second quarter, the Buffs pulled out in front with a ten-play, 75 yard touchdown drive capped off with a Sy’Veon Wilkerson score at the goal line. The teams traded field goals, and Colorado went into the half with a 24-17 lead. The early returns on week two of Pat Shurmur calling plays were great, as Colorado was humming in the passing game for the first time in weeks.
“I think you saw it,” Deion Sanders said. “I mean, we’re not doing tempo. We’re not as tempo as we once were because instead of going fast, I want them to get it right. They did a phenomenal job. They did a good enough job for us to win, we’ve just got to support them defensively. That’s it, I think he called a phenomenal game, they had a phenomenal game because it’s a collaborative effort when you hear it on the set. They’re really working together as one, and they’re unified. So, it was a great effort.”
The second half, however, was a different story. Colorado struggled to move the ball for most of the half. Arizona’s defense buckled down and made things more difficult for them. The Colorado defense stepped up as well, but Arizona was able to put together a few nice drives to bring the score back even at 31. With the Buffs driving to take the lead, a false start stalled their drive out inside the Arizona 30-yard line. Sanders brought out kicker Alejandro Mata, who has been dependable this season, to attempt his career-long field goal of 44 yard. He pushed it wide right and gave the Wildcats the ball back.
Photo Cred: Yahoo Sports
“Mata finally missed,” Sanders said. “I love him though. I love him though, I love him to life, and he’s been knocking them down for us all year, so he’s certainly not to blame because he’s one of the reasons we’re in the game consistently every week.”
Arizona marched straight down the field with little resistance to get inside the 10 with under two minutes left. The Buffaloes were wrestling with whether to let the Wildcats score to give their offense a chance but opted not to. When Arizona receiver (and former Buff) Montana Lemonious-Craig caught a screen pass on third down and picked up the first, the Colorado defense didn’t let up, dragging Lemonious-Craig down at the 1-yard line. The Wildcats ran the rest of the clock down, and kicker Tyler Loop knocked in the chip shot for the win.
“We’re still fighting. We’re still fighting at that point,” Sanders said on possibly letting them score. “At that point, we’re still fighting, we’re not thinking about letting them score a touchdown at that point. Because now, you’re thinking to hold them to a field goal because you go down there and get a field goal and you’re back in the game, you tie the game. So, you’re not thinking that at that point.”
Shedeur Sanders was good once again for Colorado, and he finished the game 22-for-35 with 262 yards and two scores, adding 29 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Xavier Weaver and Travis Hunter led them with 84 and 74 receiving yards respectively on five grabs each. Noah Fifita finished 21-for-35 with 214 yards and two scores for Arizona, coming up big late despite a rocky day overall. His favorite target, as usual, was Tetairoa McMillan, who reeled in nine passes for 107 yards and a touchdown. Running back Jonah Coleman dominated on the ground, running for 179 yards on just 11 carries.