BOULDER — The Buffs’ bye week can’t get here soon enough.
CU’s football losing streak hit four games on Saturday afternoon. And it hit it at about 150 miles per hour, thanks to a 37-14 thrashing delivered by USC.
And while the opponents’ names have changed the last three weekends, the script for the Buffs, sadly, has not: CU had managed only 137 passing yards — 65 on them coming on one play — through the game’s first three quarters.
The Buffs’ defense, meanwhile, was on its back foot almost from the get-go, as the Trojans had 437 yards through three quarters.
The Buffs (1-4, 0-2 Pac-12) have next weekend off, then host slumping Arizona on Oct. 16.
USC is now 15-0 all-time against CU, 10-0 since the latter began playing in the Pac-12 for the 2011 season.
Saturday’s result was the largest margin of victory for the Men of Troy against the Buffs since October 2014, when USC rolled to a 56-28 win. More salt in the wound: It was also the largest margin of victory for the Trojans in Boulder since 2011 (42-17, 25 points). USC (3-2, 2-2) was coming off a 45-27 loss at home to Oregon State.
Which wasn’t to say there weren’t bright spots, however fleeting. With six minutes left in the third quarter, Buffs quarterback Brendon Lewis scanned the field and completed his most impressive toss of the season, hitting a wide-open Brady Russell for a catch-and-run of 65 yards — CU’s longest offensive play of the season. Russell,a tight end, got free behind the USC defense and galloped to the Trojans’ 9.
The cloud within that silver lining?
The Buffs trailed 30-7 at the time.
Down 20-7 at the break, the Buffs opened the second half brightly, driving 31 yards on five plays to start the third quarter. But on 3rd-and-6 from the CU 48, Lewis dropped back to pass and got smothered from his blind side on a sack by the Trojans’ Grant Jackson, who ripped the ball away and rumbled with the rock all the way to the Buffs’ 29-yard line.
USC didn’t advance much after that, but tacked on a 49-yard field goal to push its lead to 16 points, 23-7.
The mood was downright dour until 4:01 left in the first half, CU down 20-0, when CU defensive end Guy Thomas stuck his hand in to punch the ball loose from USC tailback Keaontay Ingram, who’d broken free for a 17-yard gain. Buffs safety Mark Perry fell on the loose ball at the Trojans’ 48-yard line, and for the first time all afternoon, CU was in business.
The hosts responded to the break and a welcome change in momentum, punching it in for a score after six plays, including a spirited 13-yard catch-and-run from Lewis to Russell on 2nd-and-7 to the USC 6. Two plays later, CU tailback Deion Smith outran the Trojans defense wide left into the end zone from the Buffs’ 2-yard line.
With reps from a dozen NFL teams in attendance, including Broncos general manager George Paton, it was the Trojans’ prospects who put on a show.
In a game that featured the return of former CU wideout K.D. Nixon, who transferred to USC after last season, the star of the day was another Trojans receiver — Drake London. The 6-foot-5 junior, a high flyer who also plays for the Trojan men’s hoops team, was a match from Hades for the Buffs. And once USC unlocked the cheat code, the Buffs were in trouble.
The Men of Troy’s final drive of the first quarter proved to be a case in point. On the first play of the series, USC QB Kedon Slovis lofted a fade for his big target for a 29-gain to the CU 35. On 1st-and-20 from the Buffs’ 29, USC took the Fade-To-London train again, another rainbow that No 15 brought down this time at the CU 1.
After a run for no gain, The Trojans went back to the well, with Slovis chucking another jump ball London’s way, to which the wideout extended his arms near the front left pylon to haul in USC’s first touchdown of the afternoon with 1:59 left in the first quarter.
A contest that oddsmakers pegged to be closer than it played out — the Buffs were 7.5-to-nine-point underdogs as of Saturday morning — was marked by sloppiness and chippiness. CU went into the halftime break with 70 yards in penalties on six flags, compared to 88 yards of offense on 25 snaps.
Which wasn’t a surprise, given that both programs came in ranked among the bottom 40 of FBS schools in penalty yards per game — the Buffs with 62.3 yards per game (No. 89), the Trojans, 69.8 (tied for 102nd).
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