Sometimes you just can’t win no matter how hard you try. That is the lesson learned in the Colorado Buffalos (5-7, 2-6) 45-17 blowout loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-2 6-2) in the Buffs final game of the season and in the Big 12. This scrappy CU team led by interim coach Brian Cabral put up a good fight but, in the end they were out-gunned by a Nebraska squad that was more physical and more talented even with standout quarterback Taylor Martinez sidelined by injuries. The Huskers will go on to play in the Big 12 Championship game next week and the Buffalos will go home and start making preparations to join the Pac-12 next year.
The only part of Brian Cabral’s game plan that is questionable is that the Buffs started the game a little too conservative on offense. They played it safe with short passes against a dangerous Husker secondary while leaning on a ground game led by Rodney Stewart that never really gained traction. The result of their first two possessions was a total of nine yards and two punts. The Buffs third drive of the game that went 75-yards and ended in a field goal when they had a 4th-and-1 on Nebraska’s five yard-line. I understand putting points on the board was important and a field goal cut the lead to one score but when you are the underdog on the road with your season on the line… GO FOR IT! CU opened it up in the second half but the game was already out of reach at that point.
It is nearly impossible to beat a more talented team with a conservative game plan, going 2-10 on third downs and turning the ball over three times. Add Nebraska’s domination of time-of-possession (39:30) and the Buffs didn’t really have a chance. It was close after the first quarter (3-0), but the CU defenders were being punished by Nebraska backs led by Rex Burkhead instead of dishing out the pain to Husker ball carriers. After giving up a late TD before half-time the score was 17-3 in favor of Nebraska. It didn’t look good for CU but there was a small chance they could make a game of it until the first two possessions of the second half when Cody Hawkins threw back-to-back interceptions which resulted in two TDs for Nebraska that put the game out of reach.
The Buffs were simply overmatched by the more physical Nebraska Cornhuskers. They may have had a chance had they been a little more aggressive in the beginning but in the end the better team won. It’s not how CU wanted to end its run in the Big 12, but it was symbolic of the Buffs recent woes. They just didn’t have the talent to beat an elite Big 12 team and now they will have to find a way to bring in talent that can compete with elite teams in the Pac-12.
Side Notes: Cody Hawkins became CU’s all-time leading passer when he connected with Will Jefferson on a 29-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Hawkins finished his career at CU with 7,409 passing yards, surpassing Joel Klatt’s record of 7,375. It must have been a bitter sweet moment for Hawkins, breaking the record after his subpar day and knowing this would be his last game.
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Written by Matthew Stiles