Well, another year, another Columbia disaster for Colorado, who must now start another scoring streak after another shutout imposed upon them by another, and less-talented, Missouri team. Mindless word repetition seems the appropriate response to repeated failure by the Buffaloes to win on the road. Recurrent special teams failures and a curious substitution helped create the 2nd goose egg in a row for the Buffs at infamous Faurot Field, and the fifth loss in a row home and away to Missouri. The best thing about this game is that it should be the last time CU plays Mizzou in a long while as they pass through a Big XII schedule for the last time. Chalk it up either to road game failure that is Coach Hawkins' biggest weakness, or to the Tigers matching up well with the Buffs and just having their number, or both. Any way you look at it, it's best to just put it behind us and move on, as Colorado gets two home games in a row against two very beatable Big XII South teams. But first...
1. Buffs Defense - With the exception of the coverage breakdown in the 2nd quarter that allowed Jerrel Jackson to walk into the end zone on a 33-yard pass play, Colorado's defense played a good game. They started out the game by completely shutting down Missouri's offense with 3 three-&-outs, which included the only sack of Blaine Gabbert in the game, forced a fumble in the 2nd quarter, and held the Tigers to only 345 yards of total offense, well under their average. Not counting the aforementioned 33-yard pass, Mizzou passed for under 200 yards and ran for well under 200 yards. Other than that pass, no Mizzou completion went for more than 25 yards, and no Missouri player had as many as 90 all-purpose yards. The defense also committed no penalties while producing a fumble and an interception. The achilles heel for CU's defense seemed to be watching CU's special teams or offense fail on 4th down, as they allowed all 3 of Missouri's TDs after unsuccessful plays by CU on 4th down while deep in Tiger territory. Twice they allowed TDs after failed CU field goal attempts in the 2nd quarter, and during the first of those two drives, they weren't on the field for the drive's crucial play, and the key play of the game, when Mizzou faked a punt after taking their punter out on 4th down, resulting in a 26-yard gain for a 1st down. Later in the game, the defense allowed a TD after the CU offense turned the ball over on downs following the only sack of a CU QB in the game, when Cody Hawkins went down on 4th and 12 at the start of the 4th quarter. The Buffs defense just didn't quite have the fortitude to withstand repeated failures by the rest of the team.
2. Toney Clemons - For almost a year and a half, many of us CU fans and critics have been clamoring for wide receiver Toney Clemons to be made a big part of CU's offense once he was eligible to do so. It took an injury to Brian Lockridge for Clemons to show what he could do on kickoff returns, and with his six catches, Clemons led the team with 153 all-purpose yards. His biggest play was a 53-yard kickoff return to the Missouri 44, which produced CU's deepest penetration into Mizzou territory to that point of the game. Three of his six catches were for 1st downs. Hopefully, this is only a harbinger of great things to come from Clemons, if only CU's coaches will let him play a major part in their offense and special teams.
3. Josh Hartigan - By now, many know the story of how Josh Hartigan went from position to position in past years until he began to play defensive end on the scout team. When CU's massive offensive linemen were unable to stop his speedy moves, Hartigan found himself starting at DE. After a stellar game against Georgia, Josh backed it up with a terrific game against Missouri, where he made CU's only sack of the game in the 1st quarter, and didn't give up until he had an interception in the 4th quarter on a terrific leap and catch near the line of scrimmage. That play not only stopped another possible Mizzou TD drive after they had driven to the CU 9-yard line, but it came late in the 4th quarter and gave CU's offense one last chance to avoid the shutout. Together with BJ Beatty, Hartigan is sure to bring much more mayhem to bear on the rest of CU's Big XII opponents in 2010.
(Myths and Fixes after the jump.)
1. It's not that CU is a bad road team, it's just that they are a less-talented, mediocre team compared to their opposition. I continue to hear and read that the Buffaloes' talent just doesn't match up with other teams like Missouri and California, saying such things as that Tyler Hansen isn't a Big XII-caliber quarterback and that our lineman and other players just don't belong on the same field as other Big XII players. If that's the case, then why did CU start the season with so many players on awards watch lists and pre-season All-Big XII lists? If our defensive line just can't compare with other BIg XII DLs, why is CU's rushing defense ranked 20th in the nation, and why are they tied for 2nd in the nation for fewest rushing TDs allowed(per Dave Plati). Have these people who think CU has lesser talent actually watched CU play at home? Did they not see Tyler Hansen do a pretty good imitation of Colt McCoy against Georgia? Can they not read game stats showing his passing numbers nearly matching up with Missouri's Gabbert despite not playing any of the 4th quarter? Enough with the lack-of-talent B.S. Here are some names of CU players that you can expect to see on1st or 2nd team All-Big XII lists and who will be playing on Sundays someday: Nate Solder, Jimmy Smith, Scotty McKnight, Jalil Brown, Ryan Miller, Toney Clemons, Ryan Deehan, Josh Hartigan, Jon Major and Curtis Cunningham. CU is a bad road team - they have only won two true road games in four and a half years - and that's attributable to coaching, not talent.
2. A quarterback switch can always help spark a team that's struggling. Like many people watching the Colorado - Missouri game in the third quarter, I was completely surprised to see Tyler Hansen replaced by Cody Hawkins towards the end of that quarter. I went back on the DVR to the plays made by Hansen on the previous series to see if he got injured or played poorly and I somehow missed it. No injury, and Tyler was 5 for 6 and had actually converted on third down with a 12-yard pass that Scotty McKnight took down to the Missouri 20, but a 5-yd penalty on CU brought it back, and his next pass fell incomplete. The explanation after the game was that the offense needed a spark, so Cody was brought in. Here's the thing, or several things: 1) one thing Hawkins' teams have been able to do is come from behind, so why take your best QB out with a whole quarter to go. 2) when a team knows you're probably going to have to pass to catch up, why pull your most mobile QB. 3) while there was a delay of game penalty on the next-to-last Tyler Hansen drive, it, like the two false start penalties on that drive, did not appear to be Hansen's fault. 4) if you need a spark, why not throw downfield, or run a trick play, or change the cadence to draw Mizzou offsides, or run when you'd normally pass and vice versa, or go no-huddle, or change formations, or start misdirecting, or try the option, or put in a fresh lineman or two, or try a RB with a different running style, anything but change QBs when the QB is not the problem. The switch reeked of desperation or a last-ditch effort, when you still have other "ditches" with a quarter to go. And the result was some completed passes, another delay of game call, more false starts, a sack, some incomplete passes, an interception, a QB rush for a loss, a QB fumble that was picked up by Stewart, and 0 points. One hopes that the post-game mistrust and uncertainty that must have been felt by Hansen and the rest of the team is replaced by a renewed desire to show how good the Buffs can be. Between that and the insults hurtled CU's way by Baylor during last summer's realignment skirmishes, Hansen and the Buffs may just be playing with chips on their shoulders this Saturday.
3. It's a good idea to no-show at future games because of failure on the road or a desire to show no support for the current coaching regime. In my opinion, this is wrong-headed for many reasons. If you're a loyal CU fan, you support your school and the players through thick and thin. If you know your team is terrible on the road but usually good at home, give up the road games, not the home games. Who doesn't like going to Folsom in the fall? And why would you stop going now of all times, when it's the last chance to see these Big XII teams for probably a long while. Why would you give up your tickets now when CU is about to join the Pac12 and start playing teams you may never have seen at Folsom? If you're upset with the coach(es), write or meet with the AD, the President, the Regents, etc, and don't stop until a change is made. Just don't abandon the kids or the storied program that is the CU Football Team.
1. Forget - as in, it's time to have a very short memory about the Missouri game and try to return home in the form the team appeared against Georgia. Forget about the mistakes made against Mizzou and start grounding and pounding the Bears. Change some things, like throwing long to create a vertical game, to show that things will be different this Saturday and to challenge Baylor's defensive backfield so they can't keep eight in the box to stop the running game. We have the speed at receiver - let's use it.
2. Commit - as in, devote yourself to eliminating mistakes and start playing at the highest level all of the time. That is the lesson that should have been learned from Alfred Williams, Eric Bieinemy, and the rest of the 1990 National Champions. Whether they go into the game with a chip on their shoulder or not, each player needs to commit to focusing on the responsibilities of their position, and then execute and go all out every play. By the fourth quarter, the Buffs may be a little tired, but Baylor will be absolutely gassed and have little left to fight with. The coaches need to commit to the best game-planning they can come up with before, during, and at halftime, and need to focus on their individual jobs. And we the fans need to commit to showing up on time and being loud and proud in support.
3. Let the Right Ones In on Special Teams. While there were some highlights on special teams last week, especially Clemons' long return and Grossnickle's coffin-corner kick to the 2-yard line, there were way too many mistakes. I still can't believe that the fake punt worked when everybody knew it was coming without the starting Mizzou punter in there. Make sure that you have the best tacklers on the entire team in there on kickoffs and punts. Make sure that Clemons and Patterson have the best blockers on the team in there when they are returning kicks. Have the right schemes and the right players with the desire to take the ball away on kicks and score on returns every time. I like that they're trying other place-kickers besides Goodman, who tries his best but misses more than he makes. I want to see the Buffs blocking kicks. I want to see the Buffs taking it to the house. I want to see the Buffs taking the ball away. I want to see the Buffs successfully faking punts and kicks now and then. Let's clean up the mess that has been special teams and start making it a priority, not an afterthought. I would love nothing better than to see Colorado bring back the "wall" on returns. I can still see Cliff Branch, Jeff Campbell and Ben Kelly as they sprint down the sideline and into the end zone one more time. It's time to put Clemons and Patterson into that fabled group. Go Buffs! Stuff the Bears!! Rout Baylor!!!