Colorado Buffaloes (2-0, 0-0) vs #21 West Virginia Mountaineers (1-1, 0-0)
September 18th, 2008 6:30pm
Radio - 850 KOA / TV - ESPN
Back in January you looked at the schedule and circled this game. This is the game we have been waiting a long time for. ESPN...Thursday night...defending Fiesta Bowl champions...Heisman candidate in Pat White. What a forum! What an opportunity! This is a game the Buffs don't necessarily have to win but need to win. Last year when the Buffs beat a Oklahoma it was considered an upset, a shocker and a game the Buffs could never replicate if they played 100 more times. Thursday night has a chance to be a statement game. A statement that in Dan Hawkins' third season with his players, his coaches and his program, the Buffs can contend. Either way the game goes Thursday night, we will know everything that we need to know about this team. We will learn if the Buffs ready to be a consistently good team or are they too young and still need improvement?
This is also an important game for Coach Hawkins and his staff...maybe the most important of his entire coaching career. Like I said above, its year three. How good is he? We know he can recruit but what can we now expect from him ? We will know a lot about this new offense, about game day preparation, about the motivation and leadership of this team in 1 day 8 hours.
But Buffs nation, is this Colorado Buffaloes team ready to take this next step? Are the goals too lofty for such a young team? That's up to your discretion. I believe this is a game that the Colorado Buffaloes should win. I think its time for the offensive line to gel, time for the defensive line to live up to all the hype and be disruptive, and it is time to unleash Josh Smith, Darrell Scott, Rodney Stewart and Cody Hawkins. It is time to unwrap all of the toys and give them all the keys to the car. Hold nothing back, use every formation, but most importantly put the players on the field with the best opportunity to win and be successful. If the running game doesn't get off on the right foot, swallow the pride and get under center in the "I" formation. Blitz the backers if we don't get pressure. We only have one chance at such a statement. This is THE statement game for the 2008 Colorado Buffaloes team. Hold nothing back Mr Hawkins.
So how are the Buffs going to win this game? First look back at our two part Q&A with mountainlair to familiarize yourself with how West Virginia fans view this game (Part1 and Part2). Next look at what the Ralphie Report's offensive and defensive breakdowns. And for a little comic relief, check out our pieces on Pat White & Erin Andrews as well as Mountaineer's coach Bill Stewart and how he doesn't believe in oxygen. Below are my keys to the game and impact players. If you aren't going to the game, jump on our live game thread tomorrow and even if you will be in attendance, chime in before hand.
CU's Keys to the Game
- Follow the ECU Blue Print - The Buffs' offense needs to help out the defense in this game. It is imperative that CU doesn't get behind in this game because that makes WVU much more dangerous on offense and defense. If the Mountaineers' get up early, the defense is able to do what they did to Oklahoma last year and disregard the run while the offense won't put the ball in the air except to go deep when they have you creeping up to stop the run. West Virginia with a lead early is an unbeatable team. The Buffs can't come out lethargic like they did against EWU or this game will be 35 - 0 at half. Another advantage to leading early is the intangible Folsom crowd. The Buffs need to use the noise and atmosphere to their advantage.
Make Bill Stewart Believe in Oxygen - I called for it in my offensive preview, the Buffs need to wear down this defense. I believe you do that by challenging the inexperienced secondary with mid range passes and making the 3 defensive linemen rush the quarterback exclusively.
Box It Up - The biggest key for the defense tomorrow revolves around a 10 yard by 10 yard box that starts at each of the tackle positions and 5 yards from the center of the ball in both directions. That should be their box that they must contain Pat White and Noel Devine. You cannot let these two guys get outside the box, around the end or in space. I will tell you now the Buffs don't have a guy on the defense that can match the speed of these two so gang tackling is a must.
- Let the Playmaker's Play - I used this the last two weeks and will continue to use it. We saw in the CSU game that we have some playmakers. Keep feeding the ball to Josh Smith, Scotty McKnight, Rodney Stewart and Darrell Scott. Big things happened when these four get the ball.
Go Positive - If you remember my review of the offense after the EWU game, I said the inherent problem with the CU offense was their first down offense. The Buffs need to get in 2nd and manageable situations. The West Virginia defense wants to be aggressive and the Buffs will play into that if they are consistently 2nd and long.
- Win the Turnover and Special Team Battle - Buff opponents have scored 21 points on CU turnovers this year. Buffs opponents have scored 7 points on special teams. The CU defense was only accountable, in my eyes, with giving up 13 total points this year. The Buffs cannot let turnovers and special teams lose this game for them. ECU did not turn the ball over two weeks ago and forced two Mountaineer fumbles. Once again, follow the ECU blue print.
- Out Coach'em - Coach Hawkins needs to embarrass Bill Stewart. He needs to have a better game plan, a more energized team, a more physical team and a more prepared team than Stewart puts out there. The Buffs should have a coaching advantage and it needs to be apparent from the start.
This Week's 5 or so Impact Player's
LB Shaun Mohler and LB Brad Jones - Two of the bright spots on this year's team so far will be fully challenged by the diverse offering the Mountaineers offense will show. Do they have the speed and the talent to keep up against this type of athleticism? Big games are needed from these two. Jones will be integral in protecting the edges.
OT Ryan Miller - He needs to be the rock of the offensive line. The Buffs OLine cannot have a performance like they did last week. C Daniel Sanders and Miller need to make sure that Cody has time and Darrell has holes.
QB Cody Hawkins - No interceptions, no fumbles, no bad sacks. Protect the ball, wear down the defense, keep the offense moving forward and be a good decision maker. Most important, be the leader. There are a lot of young guys on this team including Hawkins but he needs to be the calm in the huddle from the first play in a big game.
DT George Hypolite - This is more of a call out than anything. Everyone is quick to tell you that Hypolite's production has been down due to double teams. West Virginia is not going to double team Hypolite. We know George can wave his arms and get the crowd pumped up but we need George to expend more energy trying to get in the back field.
- RB Darrell Scott - This selection is more of a greedy one than anything. I am sick of the publications that only look at the stats and say that Darrell Scott is having a hard time adjusting to college football. In actuality, he fits right in but hasn't had the blocking. He is just as strong and fast as anyone on the field but it is hard to run when you have defenders 5 yards deep in the backfield. Let's get the first 100 yard game this week in front of a worldwide audience where he rushes for 25 yards in the first half and the rest in second half after the passing game has worn down the defense in the initial thirty minutes.
Woodrow and I will predict the rest of the weekend games later but for now, just the game tomorrow night. I think the Buffs win 27 - 23. Woodrow is predicting 31 - 28. It will be a great scene in Boulder. A whole new level of optimism, validation for the program, a return to a national spotlight and a Top 25 ranking. Go Buffs!