Sorry for the delay in getting this article written. Things have been getting a little busier for me (in a good way). But enough about me! Let's get to them Buffaloes!
This week our 1-3 Buffs take on the recently much-maligned (though less so this season) Cougars of Washington State. Despite losing their starting QB, they've been putting up some crazy numbers on offense and are currently 2-1. This is both teams first conference game, though, which means that those records don't matter one bit. (Interesting tidbit, both the Buffs and the Cougs are the last two teams in the Pac-12 who haven't played a conference game yet...interesting, though completely meaningless)
- The Entire Buffaloes Offense vs. Finding a Rhythm
- This didn't happen until very late in the game against Ohio State, and has been plaguing us all season. We can't seem to make anything happen on that first drive, and then everything feels off for a long time after that. Later in games, we've been able to put together some impressive scoring drives. Can you imagine how our team will look and feel if we can score on that first possession? Maybe the defense won't lose their fire so quickly? Maybe we'll actually have something to build on at halftime, instead of reacting and desperately trying to fix everything? Maybe we'll win a big game? We'll never know, unless they actually figure things out to start the game.
- Sure, he's had more than 100 yards of total offense each week, but he has yet to break that mark on the ground. He needs to. For many reasons: a performance like that from this offense will mean a number of things are working finally. For example, it means we'll be winning those matchups up front early on. It means that we won't be playing from behind all game. It means we'll be successfully keeping the high-scoring WSU offense off the field. And it means his shoulder will be feeling OK. Really, it means a lot of things, and all of them are important.
- As difficult as the OSU game was, it was meaningful for our offensive line. It was the first game in which nobody was injured, and this group (Bakhtiari, Adkins, Handler, Miller & Dannewitz) started to play together as a unit. If they can stay healthy and begin to develop even more cohesiveness, that will be a much-needed boost to the offense. This is a group with some ability, and is technically a little bit more experienced than the one we were supposed to start the season with (Ryan Dannewitz had a few snaps under his belt coming in and this is his fourth season here, while Jack Harris hadn't played a down and was only in his third year), and they could be solid for us. All five of them can move (as hard as Tau has worked, he's still not all that fleet of foot), and that should allow the offense to have as much flexibility as it needs.
- He schemed pretty well against Hawaii (minus the previously non-threatening legs of their QB) and CSU. Against Cal, they kept two very talented wideouts in check. Against OSU, the defense was hung out to dry by the rest of the team but actually played pretty well considering the circumstances...what does that mean for this week? He has to bring his A++ game to the field on Saturday. With fewer resources in terms of man-power, but a few games worth of tape, he has to have his best game yet. He has proven to be pretty creative, to be able to generate pressure, and to mess up an opponent's gameplan, but he has to double his efforts in every area. I know our defense has been carrying the whole team, and while they haven't been quite good enough to deliver us wins, they can't lose hope or heart. They have to double-down, throw all their cards on the table, and prove to the other units that this team can go places. And it's up to coach Brown to make that happen.
- I've got to tell you, I won't be surprised to see Brian Lockridge to get at least a few snaps at DB against the Cougars. We are scraping the bottom of the barrel right now with Sandersfeld, Orms, Harrington, Vigo, Bell and Ewing out. Terrel Smith will get even more time at nickelback, and Deji Olatoye will be starting opposite one of our bright spots of the 2011 season, Greg Henderson, but they'll need help. We're going to need to have enough guys out there to cover WSU's 3 and 4 wide receiver sets, and they'll need to be ready to go. Josh Moten will see some time, and we could see those safeties playing more outside than they're used to. You always hope that this is the situation in which someone steps up and takes over, but we don't know if there's anybody left who can.
- This defense has shown the ability to make big plays. They'll need to this week, but will they be able to deliver when our Buffs need it most? Our linebackers are talented and all have the capability to make momentum shifting plays, but will they when we need them to? Can we force more than a turnover or two? Can our defense help us win the battle of field position (since our special teams clearly can't)? The answer to all of those questions is this: we need them to. I know it's asking a lot, but the guys on this side of the ball are clearly further along than the rest. And we still need to be seeing improvement from week-to-week with this unit as well.
- At this point, WSU has had a bye week, and many of our opponents will have had one by the time we face them. That means they will all have had a week to rest, recover and recharge, while our Buffs will not have been able to do so. We have to hope that it doesn't start showing any time soon. It will matter as the season goes on (and we're already dealing with injuries that we won't get extra time to let heal), and it could matter this week. We'll see how our Buffs look in the fourth quarter, and I'm not just talking about physical fatigue. If this season ends up being filled with a lot of losses, we have to see if they can stay hungry throughout games. Something to watch this week and for the rest of 2011.
- Our special teams have been anything but, and mental errors are a huge part of that. But it spills over to the offense, and it's always important for the defense to remember as well. Know where you are on the field. Know the situation. Don't make stupid mistakes. Don't be an idiot. DON'T KICK THE BALL OUT OF BOUNDS, GOSH DARNIT!!!! Mistakes kill two of the biggest parts of college football: emotion and momentum. We need those in our favor to win, and so our Buffs can't go screwing that up. This issue needs to be resolved (I believe that's now the fourth time I've said that...)
- This has been one of the biggest problems yet. Our gameplanning hasn't been terrible, our execution has been. And often, it isn't the execution of the whole team. We've set up running plays really well where the RB has slipped of his own accord. We've worked receivers open and given Hansen plenty of time to hit them and he's missed them. Guys have dropped passes when they've been wide open and the ball has hit them in the hands. On defense, guys have been in position but have missed tackles. Individuals have broken containment when the coverage has been sound and the pressure has been effective. On special teams, unnecessary penalties have been committed, and kids have lost focus. This is both on the coaches and the players and it goes back to Embree's favorite saying: We don't have to have the best players, but we do have to be the best team. And we can't be the best team if we're not playing together like one.