Brian Howell
Brian Howell

Two decisions. Ten-point swing. Ballgame.

In Saturday's 44-20 loss to Arizona, the Colorado football team couldn't tackle Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker, got run over a few times by Wildcats running back Ka'Deem Carey and struggled with its own running game again.

Yet, it was two botched coaching decisions in the final 18-plus minutes that ended the Buffs' hopes of winning this one.

With a little more than 18 minutes to play, CU trailed 34-20. That's a sizeable hole from which to dig, but with 18 minutes to play, making up 14 points certainly isn't impossible. Especially with one of the most accurate kickers in CU history standing on the sidelines and a middle-of-the-pack opponent on the other side of the field.

So, facing fourth-and-goal at the Arizona 4, head coach Mike MacIntyre elected to go for a touchdown instead of putting a nearly automatic three points on the board with a Will Oliver field goal.

"Take the chance. See us try to play to defense. Next question," an unusually agitated MacIntyre said about why he elected to go for the touchdown.

True freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau dropped back to pass, had plenty of time, but nobody open. He scrambled, no longer had ample time and tossed the ball out of the back of the end zone.

"No," MacIntyre said when asked if he regretted the decision to go for it. "The guy was open. We had the chance. We just couldn't get it to him."


Had the Buffs actually made it work and scored the touchdown, it would have made a dramatic difference heading into the final 18 minutes and MacIntyre would have looked pretty smart.

Yet, with a team that has now lost 12 consecutive conference games, MacIntyre should have taken the sure points and given his team a chance.

But that wasn't the back-breaker.

The Buffs still trailed 34-20 when, on the first play of the fourth quarter, they faced fourth-and-5 at their own 17.

MacIntyre sent punter Darragh O'Neill out to the field. Standing within spitting distance of his own end zone, O'Neill didn't punt, though. Instead, he took off running on the fake.

The Buffs needed 5 yards. They got 1. O'Neill got drilled. And Arizona's offense took over at the CU 18.

"Because if you see us playing defense, we couldn't stop them," MacIntyre said, despite the fact that his defense did force a punt on Arizona's previous possession. "I thought it was a good place to try it. (O'Neill) was supposed to read it. I thought we had a chance, and he thought he had a chance and didn't get it."

Two plays later, Carey waltzed into the end zone for the 10th time in his career against the Buffs.

Game over.

"No. Do not," MacIntyre abruptly said when asked if he regretted trying the fake punt.

He should have regretted both calls, because instead of trailing by 11, and having a puncher's chance in the fourth quarter, those two decisions put the Buffs in an insurmountable 41-20 hole going into the final 14:30.

Maybe CU would've lost anyway, but we'll never know, because they were out of reach too early.

In a conference that offers CU so few chances at victory, this one stung. MacIntyre's demeanor during the postgame press conference was out of character. This loss clearly bothered him more than others.

"Definitely. One-hundred percent," he said.


"Because we can beat that team," he said.

Change a couple of decisions, and the Buffs might have.

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