Coach Mike MacIntyre and the Colorado Buffaloes wanted to prove the football program’s success was something other than a one-year phenomenon, but that’s how it looks in Boulder these days.
The Buffs have lost to Washington, UCLA and Arizona to begin Pac-12 play, in defense of their South division title. Colorado is not out of the race, with games to come against USC and Utah, but it would take a big rally for the Buffs to win the South again.
Colorado lost 45-42 to Arizona last weekend, even with Phillip Lindsay rushing for 281 yards. That’s because the Buffs allowed 327 rushing yards to Arizona’s Khalil Tate, an FBS record for a quarterback.
The big question about the Buffs going into the season was how the loss of defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt to Oregon would affect the program — besides Colorado’s having four defensive players drafted into the NFL. New coordinator D.J. Eliot’s group performed well in non-conference wins over Colorado State, Texas State and Northern Colorado, but league play has been another story.
The Buffs may have had some bad luck against Arizona. A first-quarter injury to Wildcat quarterback Brandon Dawkins sent Tate into the game, and he just kept running. His 327-yard, four-touchdown effort required only 14 carries — and 317 of those yards came on 10 attempts. Tate also completed 12 of 13 passes for 154 yards, as 27 plays produced 471 yards of total offense.
“He was faster than anybody on our team and powerful; we couldn’t tackle him,” MacIntyre said on the Pac-12 media teleconference Tuesday.
Three of Tate’s long runs came on broken plays, as he circled backed across the field “almost like a reverse,” MacIntyre said.
‘Shocked’ or not?
Thanks to Tate’s performance, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez temporarily joins UCLA’s Jim Mora and Arizona State’s Todd Graham as coaches who look like they may do just enough this year to keep their jobs. Such speculation never surrounded Oregon State’s Gary Andersen — until Monday, when he walked away with four years left on his contract.
Colorado will visit the Beavers on Saturday in the first game for OSU interim coach Cory Hall, a former Weber State assistant. MacIntyre’s San Jose State teams went against Andersen’s Utah State Aggies in the final years of Western Athletic Conference football. Andersen reportedly was Colorado’s top choice for the job that went to MacIntyre, before Andersen ended up at Wisconsin in 2013.
“I was shocked,” MacIntyre said. “I know Gary really well. He’s a great man and a great coach. We definitely need people like him in college coaching.”
Utah’s Kyle Whittingham’s reaction? “It didn’t shock me,” he said, citing frequent conversations with his former defensive coordinator. “I know how Gary thinks and what his makeup is.”
Whittingham said Andersen’s exiting after 2½ seasons with the Beavers “speaks to what the profession has become,” in terms of the pressure to win. He added, “With the money people are being paid, it’s justified.”
No. 5 Washington and No. 8 Washington State both are ranked in the top 10 for the first time in 20 years, continuing the programs’ pattern of rising and falling at the same time.
In 2008, the Apple Cup contestants went into the rivalry game with a combined 1-20 record. The Huskies and Cougars were a collective 18-4 going into last November’s game, and they’re likely to have an even better record this year. Each team is 6-0, with WSU already having beaten USC and Washington not facing the Trojans this season.
So both teams are likely to keep winning for a while, with their toughest games to come against Stanford and Utah in November.
Pac-12 power rankings
1 • Washington (6-0)
ESPN displayed real cupcakes to illustrate Huskies’ non-conference schedule.
2 • Washington State (6-0)
Cougars recorded 11 tackles for loss vs. Oregon.
3 • USC (5-1)
Trojans’ only loss to Utah in Los Angeles (1916) predates the Coliseum era.
4 • Stanford (4-2)
Cardinal will miss two players in first half vs. Oregon, due to targeting vs. Utah.
5 • Utah (4-1)
Program’s first appearance on an ABC prime-time telecast.
6 • UCLA (3-2)
Bruins have five wins in a row over Arizona.
7 • Arizona State (2-3)
Sun Devils had beaten Washington 10 straight times until last season.
8 • Oregon (4-2)
No. 2 QB may be available vs. Stanford.
9 • Arizona (3-2)
Win at Colorado should boost attendance, after smallest crowd in 20 years vs. Utah.
10 • Colorado (3-3)
Buffaloes had TD drives of 19 and 15 plays vs. Arizona.
11 • California (3-3)
Offense totaled 93 yards vs. Washington.
12 • Oregon State (1-5)
Stanford (Oct. 26) is only current Top 25 team remaining on schedule.