From the beginning of the preseason through the non-conference portion of their schedule, it certainly appeared this year's seasoned Buffs were different. And it continued to look that way when Colorado took a 33-17 lead over Oregon in its Pac-12 opener.
But then the Ducks went on a 21-0 run to take the lead, most Colorado undoubtedly began either thinking, saying or screaming, “Here we go again!”
“It looked like it was happening but our players didn't feel like it was happening again,” said MacIntyre, the Buffs' head coach. “I could see it in their eyes. They wanted to keep battling, keep competing, keep fighting.
“They can box with the heavy weights. And when you know you can box with the heavy weights, you keep punching.”
In his first collegiate start, quarterback Steven Montez stood up to the pressure and engineered a 70-yard touchdown drive mid-way through the fourth quarter. And Colorado's defense regained its composure after a rough third quarter by stopping Oregon on three-straight possessions to end the game.
"There are ebbs and flows to the game," said junior tailback Phillip Lindsay. "We had been dominating the whole game, it was bound to happen that we were going to face adversity. We showed that we're grown up."
Senior cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon made a game-clinching (or game saving) interception in the end zone for the Buffaloes with less than a minute left. Witherspoon admitted it was the biggest play of his life.
“It was big for me,” he said. “You guys don't know, but I love playing for my team. Just having them coming over, hugging me, celebrating with me, that means everything to me.”
Added MacIntyre: “When they threw the route to the corner of the end zone, I have seen Ahkello do it so many times in practice to our guys, he is like 'Stretcho Man.' I said, 'He is going to pick it.' He (Oregon receiver Darren Carrington) looked open but [Ahkello] is so long. What a heck of a play.”
Montez enjoys memorable debut
After suffering an ankle sprain early in the second half at Michigan last week, Colorado senior quarterback Sefo Liufau participated some in practices this past week and he was in pads for warm-ups on Saturday, but Colorado's coaches decided a healthy Steven Montez gave them the best chance to win in Eugene.
They were right.
Montez did throw two interceptions in the second half, but his first start went exceptionally well. The redshirt freshman from El Paso accounted for 468 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. He had the first ever 300 yard passing, 100 yard rushing performance game in school history.
“I can understand how people were a little nervous about Sefo not playing, especially after the Michigan game,” Montez said. “[My] 0-of-7 [passing performance against the Wolverines] was tough but I wanted to come out here and just show our fan base and show our team that they can believe in me and that I can get it done on the road.”
His 14 straight completions in the first half tied for the second most in program history.
“Our goal was to get him off to a comfortable start so we had repped those same routes and they got in the coverages we wanted them to and that helped,” MacIntyre said. “I would say he exceeded my expectations, especially with the way he kept battling. We have two really tough quarterbacks, there must be something in the water in Boulder.”
Additional game notes
*** Colorado extended the nation's fifth longest extra point made streak to 156 before Oregon blocked Chris Graham's second point-after-attempt of the game.
*** Walk-on kicker Davis Price became the fourth true freshman to see action for the Buffs this year. He sent his first kickoff deep enough for a touchback but his next six kickoffs failed to produce the same result.
*** Witherspoon's interception extended Colorado's nation's-best streak of forcing at least one turnover to 17 games.
*** Junior wide receiver Devin Ross had a career-high 153 receiving yards on seven catches against the Ducks. His athletic 48-yard touchdown grab early in the third quarter gave Colorado its largest lead of the game.
*** The Buffaloes have come out of the gate strong in all four of their games this season. Colorado has outscored its opponents 72-14, with an 815-197 edge in total offense, in the four first quarters combined.