In Mike McIntyre’s pregame speech before the Oregon game on Saturday, he looked his team in the eyes and told them “players make plays.” The team responded instantaneously “players win games.” The entire team, in a spirited effort, on the road at Autzen Stadium, found a way to beat the Oregon Ducks 41-38, and get coach McIntyre his signature win at the University of Colorado.
The Buffaloes came out and took an early 23-7 lead in the second quarter behind the arm and legs of first time freshman starter Steven Montez. After taking a 26-17 lead into halftime, and extending it to 33-17, the Ducks woke up. Montez made two mistakes, and threw interceptions on consecutive drives. The Oregon offense began to click on all cylinders, rattling off 21 unanswered points and taking a 38-33 lead.
Colorado fans everywhere let out a collective sigh, and many thought “here we go again” in their heads. Not this time, not these Buffaloes. Colorado found a way, and the mental toughness, the ability to handle adversity that was talked about all offseason shone bright in Eugene. Montez led a 7 play, 70 yard touchdown drive to retake the lead 41-38, highlighted by a one handed magnificent catch by Bryce Bobo for the go ahead score. Oregon wouldn’t quit, driving all the way down to the Buffaloes 7 yard line. There, quarterback Dakota Prukop threw a fade in the corner of the end zone that was intercepted by Ahkello Witherspoon.
Game over. Colorado held on 41-38. Coach Mac was seen crying on the field as the players dog piled in the corner of the end zone. After the game, he thanked his players, his coaches, and everyone involved in the program for staying the course, and believing his dream.
Colorado plays Oregon State in Boulder on Saturday, and for only the third time since they joined the PAC-12 conference in 2011 they will be favored. The Buffaloes must be careful to not look ahead to next week’s game at USC, and take care of business against an inferior Beavers squad. Colorado may still be without leader Sefo Liufau, but the way Montez played on Saturday allows the coaches to make sure he’s fully healthy before he has to take another snap. Expect Colorado to have laser focus this week, and come out ready to play even after the big win last week. Colorado wins 35-17 in Boulder.
Nobody who’s watched the Buffaloes this year can say that this team is still the doormat of the PAC-12 conference. The team believes, and now knows that it can overcome adversity in a hostile atmosphere and still come away with a victory. In 2001, Colorado head coach Gary Barnett and the team had a goal. That goal was to go to the Big 12 Championship, even though their record the year before was a measly 3-8. They beat Texas in the Big 12 Championship 39-37. The Buffaloes have their eyes on a PAC-12 title birth this year, and after watching them this season, who am I to say they can’t achieve it? Colorado is back, there’s a storm brewing, and “The Rise” is real. The conference better be ready. Welcome to the Fight.