"This is a well-coached football team that has just got dramatically better in a year," said Oregon State coach Mike Riley, whose team edged the Buffs 36-31 last Saturday in Boulder. Last year, in Corvallis, Ore., the Beavers won 44-17.
"Our kids taste it. They understand they can win every game. Just got to find a way to make some plays and finish at the end," said MacIntyre, whose team has a bye this weekend before playing at USC on Oct. 18. "We've got to find a way to get it done."
"There's always room for improvement," said Gilbert, who, as a true sophomore, is the Buffs' most experienced defensive end. "I'm pretty pleased with how we're progressing. There are some points in the game where I feel like as a defensive end group, if we don't apply pressure to the quarterback, we're kind of putting our secondary in a bind. But, we just have to keep busting our butts and trying to get pressure."
Tight ends coach Klayton Adams said the offensive staff "went back and forth" with the possible position switch but came down on the side of what was best for McCulloch and the Buffs. "A lot of times in that in-line blocking you can aggravate the injury, then maybe he’s not able to play at all," Adams said. "We wanted to do everything we could to make sure he was at full strength for this season and it’s worked out really well."
Callahan is a regular member of the travel squad and he says he prepares each week as if he is going to start, but seniors Daniel Munyer and Kaiwi Crabb are the most experienced offensive linemen on the CU roster and they're leading a group that has allowed only eight sacks in six games.
Akhello Witherspoon, the transfer defensive back, was the defensive star of the 2014 Spring Game. In the team’s four featured scrimmages (including the spring game), he batted away eight balls, made 11 tackles (3 solo) and one interception. Shane Callahan, meanwhile, was the much heralded transfer from Auburn, was seen as a savior for thin offensive line. The former four-star recruit was penciled in as a starter by many before he ever donned a black-and-gold uniform.
It wasn’t the sort of start he had envisioned for his college career, and the time being sidelined took a physical if not mental toll on him. "I didn’t realize how sitting out takes an effect when it comes to the field," Witherspoon said. "’DB’ is a real rhythmic position . . . you come out one day and can’t go the next and once you mess up your rhythm you don’t have the reps to put in what you’ve worked on. Coming back these last few weeks I’ve been trying to be consistent day in, day out."
WR Shay Fields, Colorado - 2 rushes, 14 yards, 1 TD | 33 receptions, 257 yards, 2 TD Though it’s Nelson Spruce who gets most of the attention as the go-to receiver for the Buffs, Fields has done a pretty good job making a name for himself as well, becoming the No. 2 receiver. He’s a big reason why the Buffs are halfway to their 2013 win total just four games into the 2014 season, with close losses to Cal and Oregon State.
The Buffs aren't winning, but they also aren't getting blown out this year, and that's a major improvement if you've watched Colorado in the last four years or so. You can also argue that most of Colorado's problems - too many penalties, too many interceptions thrown - are fixable. At the very least, this isn't a team you can just write off as an easy win on your schedule anymore.
No Paul Richardson? No problem. Spruce has emerged as a capable replacement for Richardson and is the favorite target for Colorado’s rising star quarterback Sefo Liufau. Spruce leads the nation with 62 receptions and ranks third with 732 receiving yards. The junior also leads the nation with 10 touchdown receptions and has caught at least 10 passes in three games this season. Coming into 2014, Spruce had just seven career touchdown catches.
Though it’s Nelson Spruce who gets most of the attention as the go-to receiver for the Buffs, Fields has done a pretty good job making a name for himself, as well, becoming the No. 2 receiver behind Spruce. He's also the player on this list who came into college with the least amount of hype, yet he has still made a name for himself and he’s still a big reason why the Buffs are halfway to their 2013 win total just four games into the 2014 season.
Liufau, who had 1,779 yards passing in eight games (seven starts) as a true freshman, has 1,887 passing yards in the first six games this fall. Last year, Liufau had 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions; this year the ratio is 19-to-7. Liufau has thrown a touchdown pass in each of his 14 career games (a school record), and has thrown two or more touchdowns in eight consecutive games (also a school record). His seven touchdown passes against Cal was two more than any other quarterback in the 125-year history of the school had ever thrown in a single game.
Nelson's Spruce has almost single-handedly done away with the angst over Paul Richardson's decision to jump to the NFL a year early. Spruce is among the national leaders in every receiving category and is well on his way to a season that will match or exceed the record-breaking year turned in by Richardson a year ago. But Spruce hasn't been doing it alone. Seniors D.D. Goodson and Tyler McCulloch are both playing as well as they have in their careers and true freshman Shay Fields and Donovan Lee have been strong editions to the group, providing hope for a bright future.
"Down the line, I hope one of the trips will be to Boulder," he said in a phone interview. "I wouldn't show any favoritism toward the Buffs. But such a game would give me a sense of pride to remind viewers that CU is again among the top-rated college teams."
3-point shot: Keys for Harvard, Colorado and Iowa State - College Basketball Nation Blog - ESPN - Andy Katz gives preseason question updates at Harvard, Colorado and Iowa State.
"I worked a lot on my passing this summer and then I worked a lot on spinning out of double teams for a jump shot and hitting (jumpers), just squaring up," he said. "I did a lot more of that. You'll probably see a little more step-backs in there, too."
The first thing that jumps out to me about Brown is his ability to drive left—oh yes, he’s another Tad Boyle left handed special—and pull up with ease, knocking down the jumper. As a shooter, the hardest thing to do is driving with your strong hand and hitting a pull up, due to the degree of rotation needed to get your trigger shoulder squared.
The bracket sets up nicely for the Buffs as they get to avoid Wichita State until the very end, but it's not going to be a cake walk. DePaul is improved over last year and GW looks like a team that could make a nice little leap so it'll be something to watch.