Most local football fans had almost one full day to think about the Buffaloes loss Saturday to Texas Tech at home, where the Red Raiders of Lubbock had never won, before the Denver Broncos annihilation by the hated Black & Silver Raiders of Oakland swept over the state of Colorado like the Platte River Flood of '65, which is about the last time the Broncos lost so badly and played so poorly. One might have thought the Bronco loss would act to put CU's 3-point loss in a little better perspective. Instead, the failure of all four local D-I schools and the Broncos to win a game thrust fans and media alike into a tailspinning frenzy of fury that lashed out at Bronco and Buffalo players and coaches, with the coaches bearing the brunt. The good news is that such a reaction is to be expected because both teams are held to a higher standard than are their Mountain West counterparts. Both teams have histories of great success, such that the prospect of non-participation in postseason play once again seems too much to "bear", as in Bears from Baylor qualifying for a bowl while Buffs from Boulder face an uphill battle to do the same with three more wins still needed out of a schedule that includes only two more home games.
While the Buffs just missed a victory, the North flexed its muscles and knocked around the best the South had to offer. Nebraska came back from the Texas loss to give the Oklahoma State Cowboys their first loss of the season. Iowa State shocked everyone but themselves by beating the Longhorns in Austin, dropping Texass to a low they haven't seen in a while and making them irrelevant in the South Division race. And Missouri finally may have reached the next level by toppling #1 Oklahoma and making the Sooners look bad in the process. So much for southern dominance in the Big XII; maybe this is the beginning of payback for some of these South teams thinking they are better than the rest of the conference. It would have been nice to see Colorado join the party.
If Colorado is to seek those bowl-qualifying wins, they will have to do it without their starting quarterback and their leading tackler. Both Tyler Hansen and Jon Major suffered season-ending injuries, from which we hope and pray for a speedy recovery. It's time not only for CU to win for their fallen teammates, but to find a way to return to the kind of Buff Football they played earlier in the season (outside of the state of California). It's all uphill from here, but isn't that often the case when you live at the base of the Rocky Mountains?
1. Freshman Rise Up - Youth served the Buffs against the Red Raiders, as true freshmen led the way on offense and defense. Paul Richardson finally got the attention he deserved, as he became the first true freshman in CU football history to catch two TD passes in a game. He also caught the longest TD pass of the game, a 60-yarder from Cody Hawkins in the third quarter. Meanwhile, on defense, Terrel Smith got his first start ever, and all he did was cover the entire field and lead the team in tackles with 14. Smith and Chidera Uzo-Diribe also made the only two sacks of the game for CU. Their future is so bright, we need to get them shades. Their early success bodes well for CU as they head into the 12-PAC next year.
2. Clemons and 'Sons Get Their Touches - Apparently, the coaching staff agreed with me that the quartet of Clemons, Richardson, Patterson and Jefferson needed more catches and carries, as the group caught 20 passes and had 12 carries for a total of 32 touches. Now that's more like it. Maybe next time we can combine that with a ground game.
3. No Turnovers - One of the few bright spots for CU was that, despite two fumbles by CU players and despite having to play two different quarterbacks in the game, the Buffaloes had zero turnovers. Usually, you win those games, if you know what to do with the ball when you get it. Which leads to...
(See MYTHS and FIXES after the jump!)
1. If you win the turnover battle, you win the game. When you are plus-two in turnover margin in a game, you should win that game. You don't win the game when you don't know how to take advantage of good fortune, because there is a degree of luck in every game. Turnovers in football should not be pastries, they should be game-changers, but they are only potentially. They should charge the offense with new-found power. If they aren't taken advantage of with scores, turnovers become pastries, tasty morsels that give you a temporary rush but leave you with empty calories. Colorado continued to squander opportunities created by turnovers, only this time they outdid themselves by failing to score at all after getting two turnovers in the 4th quarter! The Buffs have been taught for so many years not to get too high or too low that now their offense can't seem to get excited about fumble recoveries and interceptions by their defense.
2. In the Modern Era, you don't need a strong running game if you have a strong passing game - Historically, Colorado beats Texas Tech, especially at Folsom Field. Of course, historically, CU usually runs the football to beat their opponents into submission. So I found it ironic but predictable that CU outpassed Texas Tech but lost because Tech outgained them on the ground. Did we suddenly forget that Air Leach never did particularly well against the Buffs in the past, and never got them even a Big XII South crown? How many pure passing teams have you seen winning championships? Remember Hawaii? Not only did they fail to beat CU this year when their passing game tried to matchup with the Buffs 2nd half ground game, but in their best year ever, they got creamed by Georgia in their bowl game. I don't care which conference you're in, you need a ground game to win. This better be the last time this year we see anything like the pathetic 28-yard rushing total CU had in its last game. Which leads to...
3. CU is still searching for its identity - I fear that the lesson of the Tech game will not sink in. The de-emphasis of the run game led to another loss against an inferior opponent. It proved that CU need not search for an identity. They know they can run by looking at the results in the games they won. They also know they can pass because they've actually broken out the air game a few times to much success. Their true identity is a balanced team with emphasis on a strong ground game. My concern is that the coaches will decide that with Hansen out for the season and few backups available behind Rodney Stewart, they've found their identity, and it is to become a passing team. If that happens, they may get Cody injured, burn Hirschman's redshirt, and not win another game
1. Re-establish the run - Giving up on the run game will be the road to ruin. The only chance Colorado has to find a Bowl at the end of the rainbow is to focus on making the ground game succeed, using everyone capable of running besides Cody, and put each of them into the best situation to use their talents. Get the speedy ones going north ASAP. Get the strong ones into the middle quickly. Act like you know what you're doing with your rushers, and you will succeed.
2. Nothing to lose approach, but be careful - Against a team like Oklahoma, you know that nobody expects CU to win. The Sooners have more talent and more success, they usually beat you, and they're really upset about losing their first game of the season. You, on the other hand, are on a losing streak and don't seem to know how to win on the road. So the question you ought to be asking, Buffaloes, is, what do we have to lose? You've lost your last three games, your starting QB, and a few of your best players on defense. It's time to circle the wagons and play like the tight-knit team that you are. The rookies showed the rest of you that when one man goes down, another needs to take his place and STEP UP! You have to be careful on how you use this approach. It's more about focus and determination than about doing everything differently. You don't abandon what has worked, you improve upon what has worked, using the successes you've had as a foundation upon which to build victory when it's least expected.
3. Trick or treat - This Saturday is the day before Halloween, so what better occasion to bring out some tricks to play while visiting Norman, a town that sounds like it was named after the weird kid down at the end of the block whose home is always dark on Halloween. His was always the house that got egged on Halloween and got the TP treatment on other select autumn nights. It wasn't that long ago that Colorado shocked the nation by beating Oklahoma in Boulder 27-24(9/27/07). Why not leave a burning bag of nasty on the doorstep of the Sooners this year? Run some trick plays, especially on special teams. Show some blitzes that will make them think, "wait, weren't you already here tonight stealing candy from me?" Just the right amount of tricks might be just the treat for CU players and fans alike. A win here can turn the season in a whole new direction. GO BUFFS! NEVER GIVE UP!! BEAT OKLAHOMA SOONER, BECAUSE LATER WILL BE TOO LATE!!!