So this is the second game in a row that I wasn't able to watch live, and then was not excited to watch once I knew the outcome. So what did I decide to do Sunday morning before work instead of watching this game? I watched my Dallas Cowboys play. Ugh... my teams seem to be trying to tell me something this year. I think I'm developing acid reflux from watching them. Seriously, those were two really difficult games to watch in one day. So here is my analysis (I went back through and tried to cut out most of the cynicism).
But oy, losing to WSU 31-27 right there at the end was tough. We had a couple of chances to put the game away, but we couldn't. And then our best player coughs up the ball after making a nice catch on what could've been a scoring drive to regain the lead. Phew, I'm getting tired and stressed just thinking about it again. But there were positives and some interesting things that happened. Especially because we're going to play some offenses similar to this one as the season goes on. Also, it was a great game by our kickers! The blocked FG wasn't Oliver's fault, and O'Neill had a great day punting. Huzzah for one aspect of our team doing well!
Follow the jump to watch a video of me jumping straight out of a pool!
Interesting that guys like Tyler Ahles (back at linebacker) and Juda Parker were getting time to start the game. For a team that was lacking experience at DB, it seems like you want your most talented/experienced guys on the field up front. I wonder if Ahles (like Lockridge) asked to be moved so that he could contribute again since he's definitely the #2 at FB. Maybe Parker earned the time, which is great if that's the case.
An interception by Ray Polk to end WSU's first possession was exactly what we needed this week, especially after most of their plays went for large gains.
It helps to start with great field position (just ask Ohio State). The first two plays were runs for the first time this year, which is good to see, but an incompletion to a pretty well covered Toney Clemons on 3rd down forced a FG attempt.
The drive ends without any points because Sione Tau and Ryan Iverson get demolished by two WSU players that come right up the middle. For all of the other special teams issues we've been having, that hadn't been one of them. Add it to the list...
For their issues, we have some talented players on defense. Our linebacking corps is still figuring some things out, but between Jon Major, Doug Rippy and Derrick Webb, we have a group with a TON of potential.
Anthony Perkins looked pretty good against the run early, making a few very good instinct-plays.
Has anyone else noticed how often teams are able to exploit the middle of the field in the passing game? We don't drop our linebackers very often, and the safeties somehow never seem to be anywhere close to receivers across the middle. On a play in the middle of the 1st, Ray Polk (who I keep saying is looking more like a real safety...) runs to the wrong guy pretty quickly, leaving Espinoza's guy open for a 1st down inside the twenty.
Ahles followed that up by stuffing a run at the LOS, though. Nice to see him finding a way to contribute.
Jeez, our defense was on the field almost exclusively for the first ten minutes of the game. Not the way to start out, Buffs.
On WSU's first TD, everybody on the left side of our defense angled inside into the same gaps. It had to be a miscommunication and there should have been at least one Buffalo free on that play to drop the WSU RB for a loss.
Protection breaks down and good coverage downfield leads to a nice 9 yard run by Tyler Hansen. I'm glad the coaches are letting him run when he feels like he needs to. Earlier in the season it looked like he was told not to just run, but he's been allowed to do that the last couple of games.
A quick pass out to Tony Jones (who was in there because Rodney Stewart needed a moment after returning the Kick...) lost yardage and then a rush by Speedy gained a couple back.
A back-shoulder pass to Toney Clemons that would've gone for a 1st down was dropped. Clemons and Richardson both are having some issues with their hands and focus. We really need them to be consistent.
Fortunately, we got the 1st down on a big pass to Richardson over the middle. He broke some tackles and drew a late-hit penalty to move us down to the 25.
Oy. On the very next play, WSU's DE split the double-team by Ryan Dannewitz and Ryan Deehan and dropped Speedy way behind the LOS. We can't run toss plays if we can't keep guys from getting penetration. What's the point of a double-team if neither guy is able to do anything?
A couple of passes to Paul Richardson didn't work. The first was thrown to a spot that Richardson wasn't running to, possibly because he was very well covered and broke off his route. The second, Hansen was hit as he threw. It looked like Richardson had enough space to make the catch if it had been on target.
Will Oliver came out and hit the field goal to end that drive. He came back from the miss/block with plenty of confidence and looked very smooth and calm. That is VERY nice to see.
Will Pericak can occasionally look like a beast out there. He's usually solid or pretty good, but he can be unblockable at times. Hopefully we see more and more of that.
We are still susceptible up the middle of the field to QB runs, though it's usually to the QBs that aren't supposed to be running threats. But just about every QB can pick up a first down if you leave the middle of the field as wide open as we like to do.
Pat Mahnke has issues tackling out in space. That's not what you want to see from your nickel linebacker. His instincts can be better than Webb's, sure, but he needs to be able to tackle when he finds himself in position to make a play.
Ray Polk still has trouble keeping his hips open when backpedaling. For as good of an athlete as he is, that prevents him from using all of that athleticism.
Greg Henderson is still figuring it out and learning to be consistent, but he keeps showing flashes of EXCELLENT coverage. Also, he sometimes gets GREAT jams at the line. Good stuff from the young guy.
And as nice as it is to see Ahles out there getting some playing time, he still isn't able to hold the edge against the run.
WSU turned it over on downs when Rippy knifed through the middle of the line to hit the running back and then Pericak, who had easily beaten the guy blocking him, wrapped the RB up. A great play by the CU defense. We have the potential to play really well, we just haven't put together a whole game of it yet.
A bend by Stewart doesn't go very far (when following the dummy blocks might've actually gone for a big gain), followed by a very nice screen pass to Evan Harrington, who gets a first down. Harrington is turning into a pretty solid weapon on offense, both in the passing game and as a blocker. Add a roughing the passer call and CU gets a huge chunk of yards.
On the next play, Hansen is nearly picked off when WSU covers a screen pass to the RB incredibly well. We might be getting just a little too predictable with some of our screens. Hopefully EB uses the fact that teams are beginning to key in on screens to go downfield more effectively.
We get lucky after the defense gets another penalty, moving our offense down into the 20.
The next play is a run to the right by Stewart that moves us inside the 10. Ryan Deehan does a great job running across the formation to seal the DE outside to create a lane for Stewart (both he and the other TE lined up off the left tackle). If Richardson had been able to sustain his block on the CB, Stewart would've gone for more, possibly getting the TD right there.
Then Dannewitz can't hold his block and Stewart is tackled at the LOS on the next carry.
They come out heavy, with two TEs and a FB on the next play, but they throw it to Richardson for the TD! A well drawn up play, getting the ball to a great receiver. It's nice when they put him in position to make plays.
Jason Espinoza got some good pressure on a blitz towards the end of the second quarter. He may continue to get playing time, even after some guys come back.
Rodney Stewart made another iffy decision to fair catch a punt at the 6 yardline. Really, the same mistake two weeks in a row, Speedy? You're better than that, Stewart...right?
Rodney Stewart does look a little faster when he focuses on it. He beat a couple of WSU Defenders to the edge to pick up a first down after Hansen had to scramble to pick up a few.
Stewart has a couple of runs up the middle and picks up another first down. Even at his size, he's able to break the occasional arm tackle. He's going to make some NFL team very happy as a 3rd down back.
Paul Richardson is really good at making guys miss with the ball in his hands. But it also leads to him trying to be a little too fancy sometimes (which we know leads to a big mistake late in this game)
Ryan Deehan was the guy who tipped a Hansen pass (not a terrible pass on the run after he had to escape the pocket, but slightly overthrown) to a WSU defender for a big interception. You're not supposed to deflect balls into the air if you're a receiver. It's half on Deehan, half on Hansen.
Jon Major isn't actually having that great of a game. He's missed a couple of tackles that he would normally make. He follows up a missed tackle with a great move on a blitz and a nice sack.
Doug Rippy can get great pressure, but he also needs to learn how to get to the QB when someone is putting his hands on him. He often beats blocks, but allows the blocker's last effort to knock him off of his path.
After the Major sack, Pericak gets a piece of the QB's helmet to give them a first down. We keep shooting ourselves in the foot. We need to follow good plays with more good plays, or at least solid plays, not stupid ones.
Lockridge does his best to do just that when he comes of the edge on a corner blitz and hammers the QB (who would've been taken down by David Goldberg even if Lockridge hadn't gotten there). He got there very quickly,
On the next play, though, Lockridge gives WSU's talented receiver Wilson enough space for him to make a nice catch (where was the safety help?). Lockridge wasn't in terrible position, but he looked like he was expecting a little inside help. So much for his sack, as he immediately gives up a first down.
Major knocks down a pass next, which helped to throw off WSU's momentum a little bit.
WSU runs a very nice screen play to counter a CU blitz, which Lockridge defends pretty well, but still takes them down to the 11 yardline.
Good inside pressure by Pericak forces WSU to throw the ball away, a 4th down and a WSU field goal attempt. Nice job by the defense to keep them from converting the first down. WSU is still able to tie the game up at 10.
On the kickoff, WSU opts to go for the bouncing ball, but isn't able to get it very far, and it's picked up by Evan Harrington who runs it all the way up to the CU 48 yardline. Finally a special teams play that goes our way.
Then Hansen finds Deehan down the middle of the field to the 33 yardline, setting up a CU field goal. An excellent playcall and good execution by the CU offense. Again, we're capable of things like this, it just doesn't happen often enough.
Oliver's kick was beautiful, and gave CU a 3 point lead.
To begin the second half, Clemons does a great job of coming back to the ball to snag a ball for a few yards. Hansen did a good job of using his legs to buy himself more time.
Next, Stewart does a good job of finding a hole and getting the first down.
Then Hansen has the ball knocked out of his hand while he's trying to move around in the backfield, but he's able to pick it up and gain a yard or two.
CU picks up a first down on a great pass from Hansen to Logan Gray on a slant in between a couple of defenders.
Hansen scrambles again when WSU has an attempt at a screen pass completely covered up.
Then on third down, Bieniemy calls a truly great play. It's a screen to Stewart that is set up by faking a quick pass into the backfield in the other direction. Gus Handler does a great job getting out into space and blocking the linebacker, opening up an enormous hole for Stewart down the sideline. Taking the ball all the way down inside the 10.
The next play is a run by Stewart down inside the 5 yardline.
Then Hansen finds Clemons for a nice TD on a fade. CU's offense is looking pretty good!
We really need our DBs back. We can't put enough CBs on the field to effectively deal with an offense like WSU's. And they aren't the only offense that likes to go 4-wide that we'll see this season.
We get lucky on a throw by the WSU QB to Wilson, who is wide open, but who can't hold on. He has beaten Anthony Perkins, who is covering guys outside (it's been happening occasionally all year, but it's happening frequently in this game with all of the DBs out) but isn't good enough in man coverage to do so against one of the Pac-12's elites WRs.
Greg Henderson is a very good tackler when he gets his hips square, which he does on a quick screen pass to the RB. He takes him down immediately, knocking him backwards for a loss.
Then, on third down, Major misses a tackle and WSU is able to get the first down on a slant.
Rippy then commits a penalty after a quick pass out to a WSU receiver when he hits him after he's already been forced out of bounds. We can't keep doing this! Because on the very next play...
WSU TD. Nobody covered the fullback, and he catches a pass with an easy lane to the endzone. It looked a lot like the TD that Cal scored late, only instead of Mahnke being unable to bring the tight end down, there was nobody there to stop the WSU fullback on his way to the endzone.
Then, instead of taking over at the 45 yardline, a penalty moves the ball back to the 20. More ST mistakes!!!
Ryan Miller and Harrington combine to help create a nice lane for Jones on the first play of the drive, and he is able to pick up 13 before he falls down. If he hadn't gotten tripped up, he might've gone for even more.
Hansen is sacked on the next play extremely quickly, after David Bakhtiari doesn't block down. It looked like a bad protection call, because Ethan Adkins blocked to his right when the blitz was coming from the left which was why the hole was so big right away.
Jones picks up five on the next play up the middle, but it means that CU has another long third down.
But Hansen and Richardson get together to convert the 1st down. And one nice thing about the offense under Embree and Bieniemy: Most of the passes on 3rd down are at or past the 1st down marker, instead of for just a couple of yards. That was one of the most frustrating things under Hawkins. It's nice to have an offense that looks like it's actually trying on 3rd down.
Stewart is able to pick up a few yards up the middle on the next play. We're doing a better job of getting more than 2 or 3 yards on first down runs this game. That's a good sign going forward.
It doesn't matter, though, because we follow that up with a false start, and then a holding call on a play that would have gone for a first (a nice pass out to DaVaughn Thornton, who doesn't get enough balls thrown his way)
Hansen waits in the pocket way too long (because of good coverage downfield) and is taken down just after he decides to try to do something with his feet, which brings up a 3rd down with 22 yards to go.
We have to take a timeout because Richardson doesn't know where he's supposed to be lined up (for the second time in the game) and then a screen to Richardson looses yards.
Darragh O'Neill (we didn't have to punt until the second half! That's something!) had a very nice first punt. They really need to just let him use his standard punts. He's getting pretty solid at it.
The first play by WSU is a pass to Wilson, who is double covered. The ball gets to him (Josh Moten was defending and was playing way off over the top), but Perkins gets there, and then so does Moten and they are able to keep him from coming down with the ball. Nice defensive effort.
It's just too easy for teams to find guys over the middle when they go 4-wide. Our nickelbacks (even when Orms and Sandersfeld were playing) are just susceptible in the middle of the field.
Curtis Cunningham does a nice job of hitting Wilson when WSU throws him a WR screen to knock the ball free. It looked like it could have been a fumble, but it would have been recovered by WSU anyway.
Greg Henderson does a great job coming up to tackle the guy he was covering after he catches a short pass to force a 4th down.
It starts off with a huge sack of Hansen when Speedy helps Alex Lewis block the left defensive end, so the WSU linebacker gets free off the other edge and hits Hansen.
A short run takes CU to 3rd down and 18. Perfect time for a false start right? I guess so.
So that makes it 3rd and 23...a draw to Rodney Stewart picks up a couple, but it's punt time again. Another nice punt by O'Neill with solid coverage. Thanks goodness.
Josh Moten makes a play on 3rd down to come up and tackle a WSU receiver after he gets a screen pass. A nice play by Moten, who may see more time in the weeks to come.
It begins with a Stewart run for 4. We have used an interesting 3-tight end formation a couple of times. It uses Alex Lewis and Thornton lined up next to Ryan Deehan, so it effectively gives us eight blockers all in a line. It's a package that gives us some versatility, and we've run a variety of runs and a couple of passes out of it. I bet we'll see it more next week against Stanford.
Then they roll Hansen out and he finds Clemons for a first down. It's nice when we don't have to get to third down.
After a short run by Stewart, we get a holding call on Handler on a play that would've gotten us another first down. Nope!
But fortunately, that's when Rodney Stewart finally gets a big hole and goes for 50+ yards, goes over 100 yards rushing in a game for the first time this year, and makes our offense look pretty good!
Hansen then almost got his throwaway pass intercepted on the next play. He threw the ball out of bounds because everyone was covered, but not very far out of bounds. A WSU CB nearly came up with the pick, but couldn't hang on. His toes were in, though.
Then Hansen does a great job of finding Richardson over the middle, who does an even better job of getting outside and getting to the first down marker. He's very good at finding the sticks, this guy. But again, he can occasionally get too fancy, which is bad when he doesn't hold onto the ball tightly enough. Big first down conversion!
Then they run Stewart up the middle for 5 yards, down to the 6 yardline.
Then Stewart gets the ball again, this time taking it down to the 2 yardline for a 3rd down with 1 yard to go.
A QB sneak gets the first down on the 1 yardline, which allows Rodney Stewart to finally get a rushing TD this season!
Josh Moten reacts slowly to a WSU pass allowing a 9 yard completion right in front of him on the first play of the drive.
Josh Hartigan misses a tackle on 3rd down, allowing WSU running back to pick up the first down.
Then Moten brings down a WSU Receiver by the facemask, giving up a medium length completion, plus 15 yards, moving WSU into CU territory.
The Buffs then miss a big opportunity when Rippy knocks the ball out of the WSU QB's hands, but WSU is able to recover the fumble. That could've ended the game right there...
Henderson then is abused by WSU's Wilson on a great catch along the sideline over his head. There was almost nothing Henderson could have done.
Then a WSU receiver runs right by Terrel Smith to get open over the middle of the field in the endzone. WSU TD. Smith wasn't in great position anyway, with safety help on the other side. The lead is now down to 3 points...
Stewart hesitates on the runback, and doesn't get the ball up to the 20, but a personal foul on the defense moves the ball an additional 15 yards down the field.
WSU comes up and takes down Stewart at the LOS and then uses it's first Timeout.
On second down, Hansen floats a pass to Clemons, who dives but can't come down with it. He manages to draw a (questionable) pass interference call to move the ball 15 yards
Stewart gains five and WSU uses it's second timeout.
Next play, Stewart loses a yard on a run to the left side, WSU uses it's final timeout. 3rd down for CU with 6 yards to go. Big play time...
The pass to Richardson is incomplete because Hansen has to get rid of the ball in the face of pressure. Yup, CU can't make the big play when we need them to.
A nice punt by O'Neill means WSU has to start at their own 10. That's a pretty big play by the CU special teams (but that's not exactly what I meant by big play).
Our defense forces a big 3rd down with 1:41 left in the game and 3 yards to go. Big play time...
The snap is low, but WSU's QB recovers and still manages to hit his receiver for a first down with a blitzer breathing down his neck. I meant a big play for US...
Then WSU picks up another 1st down on a pass by Perkins...
And then, the killer: The 63 yard pass to Wilson on a double move that gets both Henderson and Perkins...This one was all on both of them. Both of them bite on the first move, and neither one has the speed to recover. Really well executed by WSU, poorly defended by CU. Yikes.
Rodney Stewart has a nice return here, taking the ball down to the 38 yardline. Solid starting field position for this possession with 1:04 left. That's plenty of time...
And CU does what it's supposed to. It gets the ball into the hands of Paul Richardson. But the ball is knocked loose before he's able to get it secured and he turns it over. He is so close to recovering it, but this play ends the game as WSU only has to kneel their way to a victory.
Oy. There are positives to take away from this. We also learned that it's tough to defend the pass when you've got guys like Espinoza and Lockridge back there. A painful game, for sure.
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