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Keys to the Game - Colorado Buffaloes vs Kansas State Wildcats

You know the story, the Colorado Buffaloes go on the road today to take on the Kansas State Wildcats where the Buffs are 2 - 17 in the Dan Hawkins era when they go outside the state of Colorado. This year we have seen Colorado play a very winnable game on the road against Toledo and get torched, force four West Virginia turnovers and lose in Morgantown and finally, against Texas three weeks ago, similar to West Virginia, have a third quarter lead in Austin but a key turnover and the failure to execute in sudden change situations cost them the game.

A failure to execute in sudden change situations. That is the best way to describe 2 - 17.

Looking at the past four years or 43 games, the Colorado Buffaloes have only won consecutive games twice, both three game win streaks early in the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Other than that, they have followed up a win with a loss, usually two, in the other 47 games. Only once in Big 12 play has a Dan Hawkins' team won consecutive games.

Dan Hawkins needs to get his team ready to play today. Plain and simple, it is time to grow up on the road and win a very winnable game.

The Buffs need to start executing on the road and showing up every week. It has been a problem in the Dan Hawkins era. Beat the #4 Oklahoma Sooners, lose to Kansas State on the road two weeks later. Beat a ranked West Virginia team last year, lose to Florida State on the road. Will the trend continue today beating a ranked Kansas team last week and losing on the road against Kansas St? Kansas St. is 3 - 0 at home this year. The trend needs to stop today to show signs that the program is progressing on the field.

The Buffs have the opportunity to get a few monkeys off their back.

Keys to the Game

Colorado_mediumNot Only Win the Turnover Battle, but Beat Kansas State in Productivity Off Of Turnovers

Last week, both Kansas State and Colorado won because the points scored off of the turnovers they forced. Colorado lost the turnover battle against Todd Reesing and the Kansas Jayhawks, usually the kiss of death against a ranked team, but the difference was the Buffs scored 14 points on two Jayhawk turnovers while Kansas only scored six points of three. Kansas State scored 28 points off of five turnovers last week against Texas A&M.

The key for the Buffs this week is Tyler Hansen's progression in protecting the ball. He turned the ball over twice last week (Rodney Stewart also fumbled) something that won't work today if the Buffs want to win. Kansas State plays a ball control style of football. The Wildcats take little risks and thrive off of forcing turnovers and playing the special teams game extremely well. From the Kansas City Star yesterday, "through seven games as the Wildcats have collected 132 first downs and averaged 184.0 rushing yards a game. Of K-State’s 27 scoring drives this season, 16 have covered 50 or more yards and eight have consisted of 10 or more plays. Because of the consistent rushing attack and the ability to sustain drives, K-State has possessed the ball for an average of 34:41 per game this season, a figure that currently ranks first in the Big 12 and second in the nation." In fact Kansas State ranks first in turnover margin in the conference (aided by five turnovers a week ago from Texas A&M) and 17th in the nation. The Buffs on the other hand rank 10th in the conference and 76th in the nation with a turnover margin of -0.33. Can't have that today.

Colorado_mediumScore Early, Make Kansas State Go to the Air

Its no secret, Kansas State loves their JUCO transfer running back Daniel Thomas. The first year player leads the Big 12 in rushing attempts (145) and is third in yards per game at 95.6. The 6'2" 227 pound running back is the point person for the Kansas State offense. The best way to change that is for the Buffs to get offense going early. Force a few unproductive Kansas State possessions and get some points on the board. Then, let's see what KSU QB's Grant Gregory and Carson Coffman can do. Grant Gregory, the player who has assumed the starting position from Coffman, has only thrown 50 passes this year. Make him do the damage against the Buffs, not Thomas.

Colorado_mediumPaging Kent Riddle and the Buffs' Special Teams Squad

Kansas State boasts one of the best return games in college football behind Brandon Banks. Banks is second in the Big 12 averaging 31.17 yards per kickoff (amazing because he has 23 returns this year) with three touchdowns. It would be help if Colorado could kick for touchbacks today. DON'T LET BRANDON BANKS TOUCH THE BALL.

Colorado has done a good job returning kicks as well but a block punt here and a missed field goal there still plagues Colorado like it did last year. Against Texas, Colorado gave up a blocked punt for a touchdown. Against Toledo, the Buffs missed an early second quarter field goal. Against West Virginia, the Buffs missed four field goals. All games on the road, all games where the Buffs lost and had special teams issues.

Colorado_mediumReact Well to Sudden Change

It is a term that is used in every football program: Sudden Change. How do you react when things hit the fan. How do you react when Texas blocks a punt for a touchdown? How do you react when Brandon Banks goes for a touchdown on special teams? Part of a football program evolving and a display of good coaching is how your team responds on the road in the face of adversity. With a 2 - 17 record on the road, you can make the claim that the Buffs have failed to respond to adversity. Remember this key today when you are watching the game. On the road, everything doesn't go your way but when that point in the game comes where Kansas State seems to gain a little momentum, see how the Buffs respond. Do they fall apart and give up more points or do they respond? If Tyler Hansen is our quarterback of the future, let's see how he responds with sudden change.

Colorado_mediumLet the Offense Be Dynamic

Last week we saw five different receivers get the ball in the first half. We saw Tyler Hansen make plays with his feet. Rodney Stewart went for over 100 yards on the ground and the Buffs scored over 30 points. More of the same today Coach Kiesau.

The offensive line needs to play it's best game of the year for that to happen, though. Last week, Kansas State sacked Texas A&M QB Jerrod Johnson six times and annihilated the Texas A&M running attack to the tune of -13 yards. The week before,  Kansas State team gave up 739 yards to Texas Tech. Don't turn the ball over, block up front and the Buffs offense will have plenty of opportunities to score against Kansas State.