Colorado head coach Mel Tucker was on the verge of delivering a signature and historic victory on Friday night but the team whose motto is ‘Fight On’ just wouldn’t give up on leaving Boulder with a victory. USC avoided what could have been an awful upset as they mounted a comeback to beat Colorado 35-31 in a #Pac12AfterDark special in front of the Flatirons.
Sparking the charge with a 21 point outburst in the second half was none other than Kedon Slovis, the young freshman quarterback for the Trojans who helped his team finally notch a win on the road in 2019 by finding his talented group of wide receivers running free all over the field down the stretch. He finished the night with 406 yards, four touchdowns and an interception but most of the heavy lifting was done by the guys on the other end of the throws. Tyler Vaughns notched 104 yards and a score through the air while Michael Pittman was a big play machine on a night where he recorded 156 yards and two touchdowns of his own. Fellow receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown was also heavily involved in the display, catching five passes for 55 yards while also getting some featured touches at tailback and running for 50 more yards and scoring off a nifty play up the gut.
The outing by the offense helped cover up for a defense that was on the field for over 34 minutes and gave up a number of big plays in the second and third quarters to sound the upset alert on a chilly night of action.
The Buffs took advantage of that tired and banged up Trojans unit to break out of their own offensive slump the past two games, averaging nearly seven yards per play and going 4-for-4 in the red zone. Steven Montez threw for 324 yards and three scores while Laviska Shenault went off for 172 yards and a touchdown of his own to finally look healthy for the first time in weeks.
It wasn’t enough in the end however as the team ran out of steam and lost their aggressiveness late. Despite controlling the game pretty much from the start on both sides of the ball, Tucker’s decision to punt inside the opposing 40 yard line instead of going for it on fourth down was something fans of the black and gold soon won’t forget — especially given that it resulted in an 89 yard game-winning scoring drive going the other way. The result dropped CU to 3-5 on the season, leaving little margin for error the rest of the way if there’s any hope of making a bowl game in the coach’s debut campaign.
The flip side of not notching the program’s first ever victory over USC is that opposite number Clay Helton’s hot seat can simply stay warm instead of being set fully ablaze by cardinal and gold supporters. The Trojans rather improbably remain atop the Pac-12 South thanks to their win over Utah earlier and return home to the Coliseum next week to face what has proven to be the conference’s best team in Oregon. That game wasn’t expected to carry significant national and conference implications but that is the case with the calendar rolling over November.
Many Buffs fans will have to sit back and wonder what if after a few calls down the stretch but the bottom line is that the team that is supposed to fight on did just that to live another day in yet another wild start to the college football weekend out West.