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Colorado Buffaloes vs. Wyoming Cowboys: Keys to the Game

Colorado Buffaloes RB Rodney Stewart returns from injury this week against the Wyoming Cowboys.
Colorado Buffaloes RB Rodney Stewart returns from injury this week against the Wyoming Cowboys.

Many Buff fans are going to have a nervous walk into the game today or a tough time turning on the television. I know I will. It has been a difficult two weeks for Colorado Buffalo supporters, and we are all left wondering what will happen next. Today, the Wyoming Cowboys come to Boulder in another matchup that just 13 days ago, many thought should be a double digit-plus victory in preparation for a prime time matchup with West Virginia. Instead of being undefeated and coasting, the Buffs are 0 - 2 and searching for an identity anywhere and everywhere. With the schedule getting drastically tougher in the coming weeks, Colorado needs to find their way desperately today. The Buffs will get some help with the debut of WR Markques Simas, the much heralded receiver that has yet to see the field due to off the field issues, as well the supposed return of RB Rodney Stewart, the Buffs leading rusher from a year ago who played only sparingly against Colorado St. two weeks ago. Many saw the emergence of RB Darrell Scott last week against Toledo, going for 85 yards in the first half. Scott had a bruised knee this week so it will be interesting to see how much time he gets today especially while throwing Stewart back into the mix.

Sticking to the offensive side of the ball, it is now week three of the season and the fifth week that highly touted wideout Andre Simmons has been at the University of Colorado. He has only caught one pass against Colorado State and has been very limited in both playing time and the type of routes the coaches have him running. Is this going to be another case where after the season (i.e. Tyler Hansen) Buff fans will collectively look back and say what a waste of a year of eligibility? It's time to stop coddling play makers. They can't make plays from the bench. If it is problem of preparation, that falls on the coaches shoulders. That is what they get paid to do; to get their horses ready to run. Colorado needs to get their horses on the field today: (if healthy) Darrell Scott, Rodney Stewart, Brian Lockridge, Anthony Wright, Markques Simas and Andre Simmons. I like the sound of those six players getting touches.

But most will tell you to look at the defense and the men in the trenches to find the biggest trouble spots for the 2009 Colorado Buffaloes team. Defensive coordinator Ron Collins has said that the intensity was raised in practice this week as well as a simplified defense installed. Wyoming's offense is still trying to find an identity itself so it might be a good combination for the Colorado defense to get well in a hurry... it might also be a good time for the Wyoming offense to find success. To me, it all starts up front. Colorado needs to pressure the quarterback and  that will have to come from the linebacker spot, a position heralded as one of the best groups in a long time but has been overshadowed by poor execution and the propensity to give up big plays. If the Buffs don't commit to playing in the Wyoming offensive backfield today, Dave Christensen has enough experience against Colorado to be successful and send the team from Boulder home 0 - 3. 

Today's game is all about pride. How much pride does this coaching staff and group of players have? Who is going to step up in that locker room, in that athletic department and say "enough is enough." We will know a lot about this game and this program in the first 10 minutes. It's all about how they respond.

Other than the few important factors mentioned above, nothing is more important than getting a lead early. Win the coin toss and go score. You know the statistic: Colorado has not led in one game this season and has been behind 109:05 out of a possible 120 minutes this season. That puts a large amount of pressure on a team to always be swimming against the current. This is a fragile team right now with a coaching staff that is on the ropes, getting a lead in a game might snowball things in the right direction. Allowing the Pokes to come out and take the lead might be a breaking point.

And finally, it's on the coaches today. Collectively, they need to call the best games of their lives. It is time for Ron Collins to get his players in a position so that they can get a few three and outs to get their swagger back. It is time for offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau to debunk a trend of not getting play makers the ball in rewarding spots. All said, it is time for the coaching staff to actually look like they have out-prepared the opposition in terms of game planning and intensity. No more excuses of "a few more tweaks" and "we are so close." It is time for the Buffs' opposition to have to use those terms, not Colorado coaches. Every time you use the words "we are close" and a "few more tweaks", it means you weren't prepared for what the other team was bringing to the table or you don't have the horses to play with Wyoming, Toledo and Colorado State. After four years, either way, it falls on you.

Go Buffs, get a W.