Just when we thought it was safe to believe a win was in the bag because our Colorado Buffaloes had scored 44 points, we got the 4th quarter of Saturday's CU-KSU game. You'd think we would have had more sense considering we were playing a team from Kansas. Maybe we have a psychological disorder that causes us to involuntarily block out any truly horrific memories. Despite our condition, we watched a second half in which both teams took turns turning long offensive drives into touchdowns, starting with the longest drive of the day, an 86-yard CU TD drive about halfway through the 3rd quarter that put the Buffs ahead 30-14. What ensued were five more TD drives of 69+ yards, alternating between offenses. Despite watching our team's offense be the first one to blink by fumbling on 3rd & 2, a sight which threatened to dredge up jayhawk-like demons from deep in our subconscious, we instead saw the Buffaloes rise to the challenge, because a Buff(Ryan Deehan) recovered the fumbled ball, another Buff(Zach Grossnickle) kicked his best punt of the day, and exactly 2 minutes later a third Buff(Josh Hartigan) in his third year got his third sack of the game to give the ball back to CU. One minute later, we and all of the Buffs were celebrating a 44-36 victory.
This win was no small accomplishment. It was something of a trap game with Colorado looking ahead as always to the Nebraska game. It was a confirmation of their change in direction, of Cabral's leadership and of the talent of coaches and players alike. It showed that the offense really is a powerhouse when they run often enough, and revealed that the overall performance of the Buffs the previous week was no fluke. It also made their rivalry game this Friday an extremely relevant one.
QUICK HITS (because there were so many)
1. "Speedy" an all-around stud. - What more can you say about a guy who rushes for almost 200 yards, catches for almost 50 yards AND throws a 23-yard TD pass, accounting for a total of 267 yards of offense? How about that he is 2nd in the Big XII and 11th in the nation (NCAA Division I) in rushing yards?
2. Will, "Wild Buff" a wild success against Wildcats. Wasn't it fun to see the Buffs break out the "Wild Buff" offense a couple of times, and see Will Jefferson execute it perfectly with slashes of 31 & 45 yards? And wasn't it ironic to see the Buffs run their version of the Wildcat Offense so well against the Wildcats? Jefferson also contributed with a kickoff return of 46 yards, included in his 163 yards of total offense.
3. Hartigan, D-Line huge. We're talking here about performance, not just pounds or stature. Josh Hartigan's speed rush was so hard to stop Saturday that he ended up with 3 sacks and a QB hurry. Along with sacks by Forrest West & Will Pericak and other QB hurries, the Buff defensive line accounted for 5 of the 6 sacks and 7 of the 9 quarterback hurries. That's huge.
4. Turnovers and Penalties Down. CU had no turnovers and two penalties in the K.State game. While the penalty reduction is hardly a trend(down from the all-too-common 10 penalties last week), the lack of turnovers is. Despite six fumbles total in the last two games, the Buffs have only lost one, to go with zero interceptions in those two games. CU has got to hang on to the ball against a solid Husker defense.
5. Buffs expected & unexpected step up at the end. As Colorado fought to maintain their one-possession lead in the 4th quarter, four plays in particular stand out in the last half of the 4th quarter. A) After the kickoff put them at their own 30 -yard line with over 6 1/2 minutes left in the game, CU soon found itself in danger of a 3 & out. Cody threw a high pass on 3rd&10 to a double-covered Scotty McKnight, who leapt high in the air and made a fantastic catch to give the Buffs a 1st down. B) After a few more plays, it was 4th&4. Grossnickle made his best punt of the day, a 44-yarder that was downed at the KSU 5-yard line. C) Wildcats QB Coffman seemed to be continuing where he left off, throwing for two first downs in the first 4 plays, when Forrest West sacked him on 1st down. D) Three plays later on 4th&6, Hartigan came up with his 3rd sack to seal the victory.
(Myths & Fixes after the jump!)MYTHS
1. When Colorado hires a new coach, they need to clean house. Many fans and critics have suggested that when a new coach is picked, CU should make sure he sweeps out the current coaching staff and brings in his own. Many coaches do that automatically. If one thing has become clear during Cabral's interim head coaching stint, it is that former coach Hawkins may have been holding back not only his players but his coaching staff. DC Ron Collins has allowed his defense to be much more aggressive, resulting in a total of 14 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and the first defensive touchdown of the season in the last two games. OC Eric Kiesau has increased the percentage of running plays while mixing in effective passes to his best receivers and the occasional trick play. The offense has never looked better or more confident, and the result is 71 total points in the last two games. Even the much-maligned Coach Riddle has pulled great kickoff returns and better punt & kick coverage out of his special teams. The head coaching job should be Cabral's if CU beats Nebraska. If not, whoever comes in ought to think twice about getting rid of either Cabral or Kiesau.
2. Buff Defense is getting better. Coach Collins, surely with an assist from Coach Cabral, has got the defense playing more aggressively than they have in years. However, the KSU game showed a troubling tendency for the defense to shut down their game instead of the opposition's game in the 4th quarter. Until the last series, the defensive scheme wasn't giving the linebackers enough to do. They seemed to be standing around waiting to see what the Wildcats would do. Allowing 36 points, 22 of them in the 2nd half, does not suggest a solid defense. It helps them look better that CU has often had large leads in the last two games. Nevertheless, the Buffs' rushing defense has been solid in the last two games, and they will need to be so again against a Husker ground game that, even without QB Martinez playing this week, has two very good ground-gainers in Helu and Burkhead.
3. Nebraska's Black Shirts Too Much for Colorado. While it's true that teams don't usually score a lot of points against Nebraska, and that the Huskers have the 9th-rated defense in the country, they have only the 55th-rated rush defense in the country. This average rush defense will be facing a revitalized CU team with the 11th best running back in the country and an offense that has scored an average of 41 pts a game in the last 3 games. Meanwhile, Nebraska lost two key players to injuries this week - their starting QB and their top wide receiver - who lead the team in 3 of 4 offensive categories. The Huskers now will have to rely almost solely on their running game without the guy who scored over half of their rushing TDs while running for almost 1000 yards. That depleted Husker offense will be facing the 27th-rated rushing defense in the country, as the Buffaloes have allowed 128.9 rushing yds/game all season but only a total of 95 yards rushing in the last two games. We're about to find out who is too much for whom.
1. CU Offense must keep doing what they're doing. If Colorado hopes to win this Friday, they need to find a way to stay in the groove against a team much better than the last two they have played. That means controlling the line of scrimmage, which will require their most physical game of the season. They must stick with the ground game as their primary motive force, throwing just enough passes to keep the defense honest and unsure. The biggest offensive line in the Big XII can push around the NU defense; it's just a matter of whether they will.
2. Neutralize NU's rushing attack. Just as they have done for the last two weeks, the Buff defense must turn an opposing team's strength into a weakness. If the defense can make the Husker offense second-guess their ability to gain yards on the ground, and if CU's offense can take a lead, the Huskers will feel like they will need to emphasize their passing game. Then Hartigan, Beatty and the rest of the defense can go to work on their quarterback.
3. Trick Plays - Do them & Watch for them. There is no better time to pull out the bag of tricks than in the last regular season game. Nebraska knows this; they're infamous for trying fake punts against CU. The Buffs should be ready for kicker Alex Henery to take off, as he already faked a kick this year and ran for 27 yards. The Buffaloes should counter with their own tricks, including the fake FG play they surely must have in their playbook considering the team field goal percentage. I know of a certain lineman who would be ideal as either a decoy or a target for a trick pass play. And a certain versatile running back would make a good passing threat at some point as well. Just make sure to use them at the right time.
4. ABOVE ALL, BEAT THE BUGEATERS! There may have never been a better time to beat the Cornhuskers than this Friday. Here it is, the last time the two teams meet as conference rivals after playing in the same conference since 1948. What better way to stick in their craw (and Huskers definitely have craws) than to see Colorado win the last conference game for eternal bragging rights against a team that still insists CU is not their rival. Actually, a better way to stick in their craw is to knock NU out of their last chance to win a Big XII Championship. A Nebraska loss to CU paired with a Missouri win over Kansas eliminates the Huskers from the conference title game. Of course, these concerns have to take a back seat to making sure CU avoids another losing season, qualifies for a bowl game, and BEATS THE BIG RED. Sending off the seniors not only with a win against the hated Huskers but with a bowl appearance would be the icing on the cake. And the big red cherry on the top would be accomplishing all of the above on Nebraska's home field in Lincoln in front of all of those Children of the Corn. Come on, Buffaloes, leave a mark that will never go away! GO BUFFS! CU MUST WIN!! BLAST THE BUGEATERS AND SING & DANCE ON THE MEMORIAL STADIUM FIELD!!!