For three-quarters, it looked as though the Colorado Buffaloes would get out of their funk. Everyone had written them off coming into this home matchup against the #21 Arizona Wildcats, which may have been beneficial.
Alas, we are here for the fourth time in a row. The Buffs are now 4-6 in the season, and there are plenty of questions to address. Let’s get into what happened in the game, and what to talk about going forward.
The Buffaloes kept a step ahead of the Wildcats for much of the day. Shedeur Sanders ran for a touchdown and threw one to Jimmy Horn Jr. (with a DJ Williams touchdown run for Arizona sandwiched in) to give the Buffs the 14-7 lead after one.
The action was back and forth in the second. Jacob Cowing caught a short touchdown pass before Sy’veon Wilkerson punched it in from one yard out. The teams traded field goals before half and the Buffs had to feel good going into the locker room with a 24-17 lead.
The game continued much as it had in the second. Tetairoa McMillan caught a two-yard touchdown pass from Noah Fifita before Sanders found Michael Harrison for a seven-yard touchdown pass of his own. The Buffs carried the seven-point lead into the fourth quarter and had to feel good.
Shedeur Sanders with the coolest 3 yard gain you’ll see.. so elusive 🦬pic.twitter.com/EMnemrBjdu
— RanDynasty (@ran_dynasty) November 11, 2023
The 4th Quarter
Unfortunately, that lead didn’t last long. Just five seconds into the fourth quarter, DJ Williams found the end zone for the second time, tying the game at 31-31. The Buffs defense had one of its better performances of the year, keeping the Wildcats off the field for nearly seven minutes fewer than the Buffs’ offense.
But in the end, it still wasn’t enough. Tyler Loop connected on a 24-yard field goal as time expired to help the Wildcats escape. It doesn’t matter that this was a close one. It doesn’t matter that the Buffs led through three quarters after a few embarrassing games.
In the end, the only thing anyone will remember is the final score. A loss is a loss and it is the fourth in a row (and sixth overall) for the Buffs. Early success provided unrealistic expectations and the swag Coach Sanders brings to the table certainly brought a lot of attention – not all of it positive – to the program.
No. 21 Arizona beats Colorado in the final seconds to improve to 7-3 😤 pic.twitter.com/gAVvepkBqA
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 11, 2023
The Possibility of Six Wins
Before the season began, when no one really knew what to expect from Coach Sanders or the revamped Buffs program, most pundits were saying that it would be a miracle to reach six wins. That is an important thing to remember at this junction.
Despite early wins over TCU and Nebraska, this is still an extremely flawed team. The defense still needs more talent in just about every area. Coach Sanders needs to bring in more size and talent along the offensive line to keep his son (and star QB) Shedeur upright long enough to make a play.
As of October 27, the chances of Colorado winning six games was 30%. With the latest loss, that number plummets to just 6%. Winning out would be a tall enough task, but trips to Washington State and Utah make it feel virtually impossible.
ARIZONA BEATS COLORADO ON GAME WINNING FIELD GOAL 😳 pic.twitter.com/OEe0TSufTs
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 11, 2023
The Road Ahead
While getting to six might not seem very realistic, getting to five could be possible. Washington State was ranked at one point, starting the season with four wins, including a 38-35 thriller against then-14th-ranked Oregon State (who is now 10th).
Since then, the formerly ranked 21st Cougars have seen things fall apart. A tight loss to UCLA was the prelude for uneven losses to #19 Arizona and #6 Oregon, the latter of which came in hostile territory. The Cougars have lost their last six and the season is spiraling. It is a prime chance for the Buffs to take advantage, even if it is on the road.
The final game of the year is a visit to face the 16th-ranked Utah Utes. Uneven losses to Oregon State and Oregon, plus a seven-point loss to #5 Washington, have left a mark on their season. That said, they are one of the physically toughest teams in the conference. They play good defense and that could spell a lot of trouble for Shedeur and that horrid offensive line. A win over Washington State could provide extra motivation but that doesn’t seem like it will be enough.
Looking Forward to 2024
For now, the drive to six wins almost doesn’t matter. It would make for a nice jump forward from last season, but there is a lot of work ahead if Coach Sanders wants to elevate the program. He’ll no doubt hit the recruiting trail and transfer portal to find answers and take the Buffs up a step in 2024.