The stage was set. The CU defense stopped Kansas in three plays and had 2:26 left on the clock. All Colorado needed was a touchdown and PAT.
Chase McBride dropped back to field the punt. He helped set up game-tying and game-winning drives in the two aforementioned games with big returns.
This time, though, the script ended in Kansas' favor. Colorado was – to put it kindly – inept on its final series, earning no yards in four plays as the clock ticked under 2 minutes. Kansas took over on downs, ran out the clock, and ran out of the stadium still atop the Big 12 North.
But justice was served. The better team won this game. Evidence: the decisive 94-yard scoring drive. CU pinned Jayhawks on their own 6 on a good play by special teamer Jalil Brown. But KU converted four of four third downs on the ensuing drive. Quarterback Todd Reesing — who proved to the home team he's a playmaker — ran for a crucial third-down conversion, at one point.
"You punt the ball, you get them down there (on their own 6), you think, ‘What are the chances (of them scoring on the drive)?" CU head coach Dan Hawkins said. "But that's the hallmark of a good team, a mature team. You've got to give them credit."
If making plays when needed is the mark of a good team, Colorado — just three games after making enough to knock off then-No. 3 Oklahoma — can no longer be mistaken for a good team. Not after consecutive losses to Big 12 North foes.
"Our margin of error is small. …It's not a matter of effort," Hawkins said of his team's loss. "We're just going to have to play with a bigger level of efficiency."
Inefficiency on offense came in the form of a first-quarter fumble by senior tailback Hugh Charles (on what looked to be a touchdown drive), three dropped passes, two Cody Hawkins interceptions, three sacks, a missed field goal by Kevin Eberhart and a poor final series. On defense, some missed assignments led to the critical 94-yard scoring drive by Kansas.
Reesing also gashed the Buffs on two big scramble plays. Reesing turned two third-and-longs into first downs. Both of those KU drives ended in a combined 10 points for Kansas. Reesing's scrambles earned him 84 yards, and he led all rushers in the game.
"He's a great quarterback," CU linebacker Jordon Dizon said of the sophomore signal-caller. "He did what he had to do."
Reesing also completed 20 of 29 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps most importantly, he didn't throw a pick. Reesing plays with charisma, but hasn't made many mistakes this season. He's thrown just four interceptions in seven games. Hawkins, meanwhile, is still learning the importance of sound decision-making. He's thrown 14 picks.
Not that the loss is on the Colorado quarterback. It's a team game, for certain. And this team couldn't get its run game untracked vs. Kansas. Charles led CU with 39 yards – a week after rushing for a career-high 171 against Kansas State.
Charles spent some time on the bench after the fumble, which came when he reached with second effort on a third and 2 early in the contest. It was just the senior tailback's third fumble since his sophomore year, and first this season. But it came at a bad time – as CU was driving for what would have been a go-ahead TD. His backups, the trio of Demetrius Sumler, Brian Lockridge and Byron Ellis combined for 51 rushing yards.
Colorado actually outgained the Jayhawks on offense, 353 to 333 yards. That mattered little in the Colorado locker room.
Of not being able to stop Kansas on its impressive 15-play, 94-yard march Dizon said, "It's on the defense. Not making plays when we need to make plays. I put the blame solely on me as a leader."
Dizon led the team with 12 tackles.
While holding Kansas to just 19 points should have been enough to garner a win, Dizon was adamant afterward the defense needs to play better.
"Someone has to do something to ignite this defense," Dizon said. "We're letting (opponents) control the tempo. We can't do that anymore."
Their next opportunity comes against the highest scoring offense in the Big 12. CU travels to Texas Tech Saturday to face the Red Raiders.
The Buffs are now 4-4 overall, 2-2 in conference. Kansas is 7-0, 3-0 in the Big 12.
• Fake-a-rooski Works: Colorado blew its scoring chances in the first half, and went into the locker room down 3-0. They got on the board first in the third, though. Here's how it happened: On their second drive of the second half, the Buffs sputtered out near midfield. But a rarely called defensive delay of game penalty on a fourth down punt attempt gave the Buffs new life. Four plays later, Cody Hawkins hit a wide-open Tyson DeVree for a 27-yard touchdown.
The play was a designed "fake fumble." Hawkins took the snap and appeared to stumble as he turned and went backwards into the backfield. But he was faking it. Center Daniel Sanders, meanwhile, hollered, "Fumble, fumble, fumble!" and the action drew the Kansas defense toward the line of scrimmage as DeVree snuck through un-defended. Hawkins hit him with a perfect strike. It put CU up 7-3.
Kansas answered quickly on its next series, driving 58 yards in five plays for a touchdown.
• 8 and Counting: Hawkins' touchdown toss gives him a touchdown pass in eight consecutive games. He's one shy of tying Koy Detmer's school record of throwing a touchdown pass in nine games in a row.
• Moving Up: Charles moved into 11th place all-time on the CU career rushing chart on Saturday. He moved ahead of Cortlen Johnson, and now has 2,231 yards.
• Quotable: Cody Hawkins noted that a few plays going a different way, and CU's locker room would've been a happier place after the game. He put it this way when he walked into the press room: "I was two or three plays from walking in here with a big, cheesy grin on my face, acting like it was the last day of school."
Then Hawkins said players were already in position meetings, 20 minutes after the game had ended. He indicated coaches plan to turn up the heat this week in practice. Anyone not ready to stay on the train needed to get off now.
• DeVree's Day: Senior tight end Tyson DeVree had his most productive game to date. DeVree hauled in seven passes for 90 yards and a touchdown.
• Injury Report: CB Terrence Wheatley sprained an elbow. He's probable for the Texas Tech game.