BOULDER, Colo. — For a program that bore the brunt of rebuilding for such an excruciatingly long time, the Colorado Buffaloes sure carried the weight of expectations well on a sunny Saturday afternoon at jam-packed Folsom Field.
A rare double-digit favorite in a Pac-12 game, Colorado cruised past Oregon State 47-6 on Saturday behind three long TD throws from freshman Steven Montez to Shay Fields.
“We just called some plays that worked,” Fields shrugged.
You have to go ball the way back to Oct. 24, 1992, when the Buffs beat Kansas State 54-7 in Big 12 play to find a league laugher quite like this.
The last time the Buffaloes (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) were a double-digit favorite in a league game was Nov. 25, 2005, against Nebraska — and they were walloped 30-3 by the Cornhuskers.
This time, they came in as an 18-point darling against the Beavers (1-3, 0-1) and they handled their business a week after a signature win at Oregon.
“It proves we’re legitimate, maybe, that we can do it,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said. “Everybody kept asking me all week, ‘Are they going to have a letdown? Did they play out of their minds?’ Like I said since Day 1, we’re a good football team.”
And they’re getting better every week.
The Buffs, who entered this season 5-40 in Pac-12 play, failed to score a touchdown on their opening drive for the first time all season. But they scored on their next five possessions to turn the game into a rare October laugher, where a crowd 47,000-strong relished in Colorado’s resurgence after nearly a decade of so much disappointment.
Montez, a freshman making his second straight start in place of injured senior Sefo Liufau, hit Fields with scoring strikes of 51, 33 and 63 yards before Phillip Lindsay ran it in from a yard out.
Fields had seven receptions for 169 yards and Montez completed 19 of 27 passes for 293 yards without a sack or an interception.
When the Buffs finally stalled again, Davis Price trotted in and nailed a line-drive 54-yard field goal, the longest by a freshman in school history, for a 30-6 lead with less than a minute left in the first half.
Ten seconds later, freshman QB Conor Blount’s quick throw to running back Artavis Pierce was snared by linebacker Rick Gamboa, whose 20-yard pick-6 gave Colorado a 31-point halftime cushion.
This time, when the crowd streamed out of the stadium in the fourth quarter of another blowout, it was in celebration, not resignation.
Colorado, which held a league opponent out of the end zone for the first time since a 34-0 win at Oklahoma State 11 years ago, continues inching its way toward its first Top 25 ranking since Nov. 6, 2005, when the Buffaloes peaked at No. 22.
“From what I saw? Yeah, why not?” said Beavers coach Gary Andersen. “Put them in the Top 25.”
BOLDEN BOTTLED UP: The Buffs neutralized Victor Bolden Jr., who came into the game leading the nation with a 40.2-yard average of kickoff returns. He returned two kickoffs for a 22.5-yard average and fumbled one kickoff but recovered another coughed up by Jaylynn Bailey.
OREGON STATE: Left guard Fred Lauina hurt his left knee and was helped off the field. Outside linebacker Titus Failauga limped off and cornerback Jay Irvine left with an arm or shoulder injury.
COLORADO: The Buffaloes hadn’t had more than one conference win since 2011, when they beat Arizona at home and Utah on the road in their first season in the Pac-12.
OREGON STATE: It doesn’t get any easier for the banged-up Beavers who host Cal next weekend.
COLORADO: The Buffaloes travel to USC next weekend where they’ll go for their first win over the scuffling Trojans, against whom they’re 0-10.