There have been a few constants over the last three years - the Buffs will always lose on the road, the Buffs probably have the worst special teams play in the nation and at the most inopportune times, CU will commit a penalty. Most of the time, one of those will be the headline as to why Colorado lost.
It was no different for Missouri, who is one team all Buff fans won't mind leaving in the dust when the move to the Pac-10 becomes official in 2011. Colorado has been outscored 138-19 at HALFTIME the last five years, 86 - 3 over the last three years...at HALFTIME. I think most would admit this was the Missouri team to beat when you look back over the past five years but regardless of who Colorado plays on the road, the same issues prohibit them from winning.
A few observations after the jump...
Dan Hawkins sure has a quick trigger pull for the quarterback position. I wonder why the same quick trigger doesn't apply to his coaching staff? That would certainly make more sense if it was consistent across all of Coach's workings. But for some reason, nothing has changed in regards to special teams. Missouri led off the game with a big kick return that put the Buffs defense against the wall that resulted in pinning the Buffs offense inside the 5 yard line the first two possessions of the game that led to a safety that put the Buffs behind and gave the momentum to Missouri. A nice run on sentence there but special teams has a causal effect, almost always a negative causal effect for the Buffs. As CU fans, we always get to appreciate just how important special teams are when the opposition uses it to beat Colorado. We get a first hand view every game just how important kicking, punting and returning are to the game of football.
Want some more causal special teams events. K Aric Goodman, who has now made 16 of 36 field goals in his career and 1-4 this year, missed again wide left. Missouri then went on to score a touchdown on the next possession after converting a 4th and 5 on a fake punt, another special teams blunder. Next, CU brings in true freshman Justin Castor to kick a field goal. That one gets blocked and then Missouri scores a touchdown on the very next possession. Make those two field goals, might be a different ball game. Instead, 16 points for Missouri.
As for the quarterback change, it certainly surprised me to say the least. QB Tyler Hansen has been tampered with over the last three years at Colorado, losing precious eligibility while playing the musical chair game at quarterback. Last week, Hansen played one of the better games at quarterback that I could remember in the Dan Hawkins era. He was effective on the ground, made big plays on third down and led the Buffs to a win against the Georgia Bulldogs. It was certainly the best game of Hansen's career. One game later, Hansen is pulled. Hawkins said he wanted to get something going. Nothing got going except another situation where Hansen is now looking over his shoulder and the team is put in another awkward situation having to answer questions about who should be the starting quarterback.
If you had to attribute last week's win against Georgia to something on offense, what would it have been? You would probably say the ability to run the ball with both Rodney Stewart and Tyler Hansen. They tried with Rodney Stewart but once again on the road, Colorado refused to move Hansen out of the pocket and allow him to make plays with his feet. The reason Tyler Hansen is the quarterback over Cody Hawkins is his ability to make the defense have to account for him. Sometimes Colorado realizes that, sometimes they don't. Last night, the game plan didn't feature one of their playmakers.
Staying on the playmaking ability. Colorado doesn't have that bona fide playmaker or the Buffs refuse to use potential playmakers. They don't have an Alshon Jeffrey, A.J. Green, Taylor Martinez...somebody who can flip the field, turn momentum or just get his team out of trouble. When you are on the road, that is an important weapon to have. What we have at Colorado on the road is an offense that operates in a five yard box afraid to take risks, afraid to spread the field and ultimately allowing the opposition's defense to tee up on the quarterback and line of scrimmage. Toney Clemons has shown against Hawaii and returning kickoffs Saturday night that he can make plays. You have to take some chances deep with him on offense, you have to get the other squad's defense to loosen up.
Defense was, once again, solid and once again, was negatively impacted by special teams and the offense. Missouri came into the game averaging 432 yards a game, Colorado held them to a season low 345 yards. The Buffs forced two turnovers which the offense failed to capitalize on. They pressured, sacked and hurt Blaine Gabbert. Held Missouri to 3.7 yards per rush. 16 of the 26 points given up could be tied to poor special teams play.
Colorado's defense is going to struggle this year against strong slot receivers given crucial injuries to Parker Orms and Tyler Sandersfield.
8 Penalties, 66 yards. Last week, 3 penalties and a win. 8 penalties and you lose. Ticky tack penalties like false starts and delay of games continue to stop drives. Penalties are a game changer. Take last night for example. Buffs down 19-0 at half but they get the ball first coming out of intermission. Score a touchdown there, Colorado is right back in it. The defense is playing well, Colorado should have had at least six points after two missed field goals, you start to have hope if CU scores.
Colorado drives down the field to the Missouri 37 yard line after a few nice completions by Tyler Hansen. Its 2nd and 2. False start penalty, delay of game penalty back to back. Now 2nd and 12, drive over. Chance for a comeback over.
Final words - Last week brought hope, this week brought us back to reality that the Buffs are guaranteed 5 or 6 losses each year due to their troubles on the road. That leaves little room for error just to make a bowl game and no room to try and turn the corner as a program.