BOULDER — After the game — on with a sixth win, a leg up in the Pac-12 South chase, all of it — slipped from K.D. Nixon’s fingers, the Colorado wide receiver was all thumbs.
“I let down the team,” the sophomore wideout aforesaid Saturday, chapfallen, after the Buffaloes born an overtime gut-wrencher at homecoming to Oregon State, 41-34. “We lost the game because of me, so I live with it and (have to) make up for it.”
The ending would be ironic if weren’t so dang cruel, too. With the heavily favored Buffs (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12) having watched a 31-3 third-quarter lead flip into a seven-point overtime deficit at Folsom Field, the hosts baby-faced a third-and-goal at the 7-yard line, needing a touchdown and an extra point to extend the contest.
Nixon was a logical option, and the Beavers (2-6, 1-4) knew it, especially after the shifty Texan had not yet racked up personal single-game highs in receptions (13), receiving yards (198) and touchdown catches (two).
The CU receiver lined up on the left side of the formation, stuttered, juked, and made a quick cut inside on a slant route, extending a step, possibly a step-and-a-half, cushion on Oregon State football player Isaiah Dunn, who was chasing him in single coverage — with no safety help.
Buffs quarterback Steven Montez discharged a dart toward the back of the end zone, toward Nixon, that appeared as if it mightiness have been slightly tipped but still had enough juice to hit the CU receiver in stride. It was catchable, earmarked for8’s grasp. And yet…
No. 3 appeared to lose track of the ball, just for an instant. The pass caromed maddeningly off his fingers and harmfully to turf, forcing fourth down.
Montez’s next attempt, this time toward Juwann Winfree, besides failing to find a mark, ending the game and causing Oregon State players and coaches sprawling onto the field in celebration.
“I blame it all on myself,” Nixon would say later. “I should’ve stepped up.”
And that’s the ironic part: For 96 percentage of the afternoon, he had. Brilliantly.
Nixon and Montez hooked up on the Buffs’ first passing attempt of the afternoon — a 4-yard gain to the Colorado 30 — and apparently ne'er looked back as the hosts blew the contest open with a 24-point first half that was punctuated by Nixon’s 32-yard marking grab late in the first quarter and some other, from seven yards out, with 4:44 to go second period.
If Montez needful to move the irons, Nixon was there. If Montez needful to flip the field, Nixon was there, too. A 47-yard pitch and catch with 6:20 to go that put the hosts at the Oregon State 14. A clutch grab in the fourth quarter between two defenders up the left boundary on second-and-11 that turned into a 39-yard gain, a snare that set up a 34-yard field goal and a 34-28 lead.
Dust in the wind, blown away by an overtime bobble, turning a game Nixon would want to remember into an evening he’d just as shortly forget.
“My best game,” the wideout aforesaid, “turned into my worst game.”
And the Buffaloes’ best start to a season since 1998 — 5-0 turned 5-3 — is now standing at a crossroads, a ride threatening to veer off the rails.