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Plenty of Positives But Penalties, Lapses And Redzone Woes Hurt Buffs Against Cal

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The Colorado Buffaloes put up a valiant and sometimes spectacular effort Saturday afternoon against California coming back from 10 points down to take the lead but ultimately losing in overtime 36-33. The Buffs, in a polar opposite of last week against Hawaii, looked like an offensive juggernaut against a Cal defense that was supposed to be the strength of the team. The Buffs ran an astonishing 82 plays for 582 yards, 474 of which came through the air. The 474 yards from QB Tyler Hansen was a single game Colorado record. Hansen also had three touchdown passes and no interceptions. He now has five touchdown passes for the year against one interception and is second in the Pac 12 with 697 yards passing through two games.

His main target, WR Paul Richardson, just embarrassed the California secondary hauling 11 receptions for 284 yards and two scores. The 284 yards is also Colorado single game record. His 25+ yards per catch average was something special to watch, often taking a simple five yard slant or out route for a huge gain. CU out-gained Cal by 214 yards, sacked Cal QB Zach Maynard three times compared to no sacks allowed, had seven minutes more time of possession and forced one turnover while not turning the ball over themselves.

So how did the Buffs lose this game? More on that in a little but Cal capitalized when they needed to while the Buffs, who still need to learn how to win, failed to finish in crucial situations.

read on after the jump...

First, let's go through the positives and yes, there were many as you can guess from the stats above.

After the Hawaii game, two things came to mind in what we needed to see against California: improvement game to game and better offensive line play. Mission accomplished. Much was made by Cal fans about offensive line coach Steve Marshall, who was coaching the Bear's offensive line a year ago. Colorado was playing without arguably their best offensive lineman in LT David Bakhtiari due to a sprain MCL against Hawaii. CU also lost his replacement LT Ryan Dannewitz for a short time period and then lost LT Jack Harris during the game to a broken fibula (which is going to be a big loss for the rest of the season). With only two linemen with any legitimate experience playing, Colorado didn't allow one sack to a Cal defensive front that was highly touted. Cal's main goal yesterday was to crowd the line of scrimmage and stop the run, which they did for the most part, but excellent play calling and solid blocking up front allowed Tyler Hansen and Paul Richardson to go off. Overall, great improvement up front. The running game is still a concern, though, but as stated above, Cal was loading the box. Now with Paul Richardson as a known playmaking threat, expect the running game to get better as the season progresses.

Certainly, the offense showed game over game improvement. It all started up front with the offensive linemen but credit OC Eric Bieniemy for calling a game that helped slow the Cal defense and kept them off guard. Bieniemy used a variation of screen passes to punish Cal when they became too aggressive trying to get to Hansen. RB Rodney Stewart finished with seven catches for 85 yards. Bieniemy's NFL background was apparent yesterday getting the screen game going. The Buffs practiced screens a lot in fall camp and it showed yesterday. Bieniemy also got Hansen outside the pocket which didn't let the aggressive Cal defense take a straight line to the quarterback.

One of the things we highlighted in the "Keys to the Game" Saturday was targeting Richardson more. He was not targeted enough against Hawaii with only three receptions (the Buffs failed to throw his way in the second quarter and fourth quarter last week). We called for at least 10 targets because he is the Buffs best playmaker. Bieniemy beat our own expectations. Hansen targeted Richardson 18 times including one end around run. Richardson rewarded his coach and Tyler Hansen. He looked like the fastest and most athletic player on the field. Cal continued to cover Richardson one on one and the Buffs continued to feed him the ball.

After two weeks, Richardson is second in the Pac 12 in all purpose yards with 173 ypg (ranked 20th nationally), second in receptions with seven per game (ranked 21st nationally), first in receiving ypg with 166.5 (ranked 3rd nationally) and first in scoring with 12 points per game (ranked 15th nationally).

On the defensive side of the ball, LB Doug Rippy was all over the field and was clearly Colorado's best player on that side of the ball. Rippy finished with nine tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss. Parker Orms was second on the team with seven tackles and a sack.

True freshman K Will Oliver is slowly but surely bringing us back to being positive about special teams. Yesterday, Oliver made all four of his field goals including a 52 yarder, a 39 yarder to send the game into overtime and a 22 yarder in overtime. So far this year he is five for five on year which ranks him first in the Pac 12 for made field goals and 5th nationally.

Now how did the Buffs lose this game? Look at the stat chart below, how did they lose this game?

 Team Totals  Tennessee Logo
Tennessee Logo
FIRST DOWNS  22  25 
   Rushing Attempts  31  32 
   Average Per Rush  3.2  3.4 
   Rushing Touchdowns 
   Completions-Attempts-Int  19-36-1  28-50-0 
   Average Per Attempt  7.5  9.5 
   Passing Touchdowns 
   Total offense plays  67  82 
   Average Gain Per Play  5.5  7.1 
Fumbles: Number-Lost  2-0  1-0 
Penalties: Number-Yards  5-50  12-98 
PUNTS-YARDS  4-204  3-94 
   Average Yards Per Punt  51.0  31.3 
Interceptions: Number-Yds-TD  0-0-0  1-0-0 
Possession Time  26:28  33:32 
Third-Down Conversions  7 of 13  6 of 17 
Fourth-Down Conversions  0 of 0  2 of 3 
Red-Zone Scores-Chances  6-6  3-4 
   Touchdowns  5-6  0-4 
   Field goals  1-6  3-4 
Sacks By: Number-Yards  0-0  3-28 
PAT Kicks  3-4  3-3 
Field Goals  1-1  4-4


Well, a few things jump out. For as well as the offense played, look at the redzone stats above. 0-4 in the redzone scoring touchdowns. Look at the penalty numbers: 12 for 98 yards. In overtime, the Buffs' defense had Cal at first and 30 from the 35 yard line. The defense allows WR Keenan Allen to get behind them for a 32 yard gain down to the Colorado three yard line. Cal went on to score two plays later. These are just a few of the reasons why Colorado outplayed and out-gained California but still lost.

The penalties need to stop and the ticky-tack ones like false starts and offsides are on the players to figure out. This has been an issue under Dan Hawkins and now under Jon Embree. It needs to get figured out now.

First drive of the game for Colorado. Buffs are down to the California 18 yard line, 1st and 10. A false start penalty puts CU back to 1st and 15. The Buffs are forced to throw three times, end up in 3rd and 15. Hansen completes a 14 yard pass to Tyler McCulloch. Fourth and one in the redzone, first drive of the game, an opportunity to capitalize on a good CU defensive stand and take a 7-0 lead. Rodney Stewart cannot get the one yard and Cal holds, turning the Buffs over on downs. One penalty sends the Buffs into a 1st, 2nd and 3rd and long. Colorado can't get one yard and leaves the first drive with no points. Missed opportunity.

Cal's third drive of the game. The Buffs had the Bears to third down twice and two pass interference penalties kept the drive going. California went on to score a touchdown and take a 6-3 lead.

First drive of the second quarter, Buffs get a first down then a six yard run by Stewart. Next play, another false start which put the Buffs back in second and long. Two plays later, punt.

You get the point about the penalties. It affected the Buffs in the redzone and forced turnover on downs and field goal attempts instead of touchdowns.

Once you see the penalty numbers, the miscommunication and poor alignment in the secondary to allow receivers to get behind and most important, the redzone conversions, you can now see why Colorado lost this game.

Cal went 5 for 6 scoring touchdowns in the redzone while the Buffs went just 1 for 4. That's a killer