It was hard for any Buff fan to feel too terrible after Colorado's oh-so-close loss to California Saturday, and not just because Buff fans are so used to witnessing CU losses. No one at Folsom Field knew what to expect in a match-up that resulted in a 52-7 slaughter a year ago. Certainly nobody could have foreseen that one of the top three performances in PAC-10/12 history in terms of receiving yards by one player would be witnessed at Folsom, and that this one player would also produce the best receiving performance in team history while wearing a Colorado Buffaloes uniform. While Paul Richardson was setting or tying three CU school receiving records, Tyler Hansen was setting one-game passing yardage and total offense records himself. As frustrating as it was to see these tremendous efforts fail to result in a win, we all witnessed the best CU passing game ever seen in all of Colorado's football history.
Does that mean that the identity of the CU offense has changed? Let's hope not. The fact that the best CU skyball ever did not produce a win only reinforces what Coach Embree has been saying all along - it takes a great rushing game and a defense strong against the run to produce a winning football team. Colorado must find its running game, and what better time to find it and improve it than against CSU in the Rocky Mountain Showdown. The Rammies' defense has always placed an emphasis on stopping the run, and they have some talent on the defensive line, so CU will be challenged in the run game. The appearance of a strong CU ground game this Saturday would improve the chances of the Buffaloes finding a good balanced offense for success in PAC-12 conference play.
1. The Obvious
The numbers tell it all. Richardson: 11 receptions, 284 receiving yards, 2 TDs, 10 first downs earned, all CU records; also, 297 all-purpose yards. Hansen: 474 yards passing, 500 yards total offense(includes 26 yards rushing), both CU records. It was beautiful to behold the "Flying Black & Gold".
2. The Less Obvious
Lost in the gaudy numbers posted in the passing game for CU were the 159 yards of total offense posted by Speedy Stewart and that Hansen spread the passes around to nine receivers (it just SEEMED like P.Rich caught all of the passes). The screen passes to Stewart worked especially well, and we'll see more of them as they are a favorite of O-Line Coach Marshall. Also, it looks like we might just have another future all-conference kicker in Will Oliver, who set an all-time CU Freshman record for longest field goal with his 52-yarder in the second quarter. It was one of four FGs to go along with 4 PATs by the cool-under-pressure freshman, who kicked a game-tying FG to end the scoring in the 4th quarter, then a go-ahead FG in overtime. And he had fun doing it. Nice.
3. The Not So Obvious
While we are blaming the offensive line for not opening holes for the running game, we might want to step back and realize that an O-Line missing its two starting tackles still managed to completely turn around their pass protection by going from 7 sacks allowed last week to ZERO sacks (and zero turnovers) allowed this week against the blazing, exceedingly fast Cal defense. We should also acknowledge the extra-point attempt by Cal blocked by DE Will Pericak, the first such block by CU in almost 6 years. Great job, Will! Now just teach the others how to do it. There was also a partially-blocked punt(/kicker) by Paul Vigo missed by the referee because the punt still went so far, ruled as a miss and a roughing the kicker penalty. These are good signs that the special teams are ramping up quickly. Now, if CU coaches can just find someone that's not Speedy or Richardson to run a good return on a punt or kick...
1. CU must focus on running against the Rambs this week.
There is no doubt that the running game must be improved, but it could lead to trouble if we assume we can just run over CSU so why not use the Showdown as a scrimmage to improve our rush against a weak team. While I agree that Colorado State is a weak team that struggled for 6 of the 8 quarters in their first two games against two of the most dreadful teams in all of college football, they usually figure out a way to play their best game against Colorado. CSU usually handles the run game pretty well, so Colorado will need a good, not necessarily great, passing game to beat the Ramlets.
2. PAC-12 officials/referees are so much better than Big XII referees.
One only had to watch the first quarter of the game Saturday to realize that we are no better off with these "specially-trained" PAC-12 referees than we were with the Big XII versions. Just what did they do during the more intense training they were supposedly going through during the transition this summer from Pac-10 to PAC-12? Unlearn the rule book? Fall asleep in class? Shop for visual aids? I watched the game in person and then reviewed the calls from a recording which I slowed down to a standstill at times. Many of the calls seemed as random as a spinning wheel or the flip of a coin, and both CU & Cal were victimized. Twice there were calls for illegal procedure/false start when movement occurred AFTER the ball was snapped. They called roughing the kicker on CU with no blocked punt when clearly one can hear the well-known double-thud of a partially-blocked kick, then called no roughing the kicker on Cal even though two Bears clearly missed blocking O'Neill's punt and both ran into Darragh. Two clear receptions were called incomplete. They spent a good ten minutes trying to figure out how to handle a Cal jersey number change, then blew the call. There were too many to mention all of them. With bad calls on both sides, they probably didn't change the outcome, but they sure slowed the game down. Nevertheless, CU's offense still needs to rid itself of the real false starts and procedure penalties, and the Buffs' defense needs to do better than give the opposing team 5 of their 22 first downs by committing penalties.
3. The PAC-12 is just too fast for CU to compete against for now.
Poor, slow Paul Richardson. He had so much trouble trying to outrun the lightning-fast California defense. If only he was faster, he could have had 200-300 yards receiving instead of a pitiful 259.69 meters... Oh, that's 284 yards? Poor, shuffling CU offensive line. If only they could have kept up with that laser-quick Bears defense, they could have prevented ANY sacks... Oh, uh, Hansen didn't get sacked at all? Well, poor, stumbling CU running backs. All they have is Rodney Stewart. If only they had someone speedy, like that guy that catches the screen passes. They should let him carry the ball sometimes. Good luck matching points with PAC-12 teams and their speed with those guys!
1. PLEASE let Jones and Ford share the rushing load
I have no problem with Speedy getting the majority of handoffs, and I definitely love seeing him as a receiver out of the backfield. We need to get him 25-30 touches a game, with at least 10 of them being passes like those terrific screens. But we will never have a balanced offense if we keep his touches down to preserve him for the next 11 games unless we give our other running backs some touches. 25 handoffs and 49 passes will never make a balanced offense. When CU is getting 3 yards a carry, it's time to let Tony Jones and Josh Ford take some turns if for no other reason than to provide a change of pace, a different style of running for defenders to take a few plays getting used to. Remember, it's not a true team if you rely too much on a few individuals.
2. Tackles and Turnovers on Defense - Step Up!
The Buffaloes' defense has looked great at times, but the end result has been 70 points allowed and two turnovers forced in two games. We have some hard-hitters and tough players on the D, but they've got to be more sound in their tackling. Nobody should be dragged into the end zone as happened twice in the Cal game. D-backs need to either be getting their hands on the pass or preparing to hit and tackle the receiver as the ball reaches him. One or the other, as you can rarely do both. And Coach Brown, please let these kids turn their heads toward the ball on coverage. I never understood why some coaches teach cornerbacks to keep their eye on the player and never look for the ball in the air. You eliminate the chance for an interception and you increase the chances for a face-guarding interference call. And there is one safety in particular that needs to become more of an asset to the defense and less of a liability. We have got to make sure our safeties are moving to the ball or to coverage on every play, as there are still too many times they are wandering aimlessly. The biggest change can be made in their style of play. They are still too hesitant. The defense must be active, aggressive, and go after the ball as if its theirs. Assume the turnover every play..
3. Special Teams must turn the corner on kick returns.
Special Teams has(have?) made great progress in just two games. Our freshmen punter and kicker are great; their play belies their youth. The kickoff and punt coverage teams improved tremendously this week from last. Now we need to find kick returners who know how to return kicks and who aren't Paul Richardson or Rodney Stewart. I'm sure I'm not the only one in the stadium who held my breath when P.Rich was slow getting up and off the field after a kick return in the 4th quarter last Saturday. He and Speedy get enough chances for injury playing their regular roles on offense. Arthur Jaffe and a healthy Brian Lockridge have usually done very well. Give D.D Goodson or our fastest wide receivers(again, not P.Rich) a try (Alex Turbow sounds fast). Find somebody who knows that you only have time to make one, MAYBE two quick moves, stick with your decision and go straight up the field. If you're lucky, you get somebody who believes that he can go all the way everytime he touches the ball. It's time for that somebody to step up!
GO BUFFS! BEAT THE GREEN & GOLD OR SOMETIMES ORANGE! BURY THE RAMETTES INTO THE MILE HIGH FIELD WITH AUTHORITY!! NEVER GIVE IN!! FIGHT!!! FIGHT!!! FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!!!
* They Do! Note that question in title forms ACRONYM.