390 yards. No, not total. No, not passing. 390 churned out, strong yards. 390 yards of your Colorado Buffaloes running backs taking it to the Minutemen before they took it to the house. Yes, Mass is a lower D1 team, and an even worse run defense team. But almost 400 yards of punishment is impressive if you're playing Pop Warner. And it's not like Hawaii was a let down either. Somehow the Buffs had over 200 yards of rushing offense on the island as well, which makes for over 600 so far this year and the 9th ranked rushing attack in the COUNTRY. Last year, CU would be lucky to finish 9th in the conference in rushing yards any given week. It's just fun to win like that, to suck the air out of the opponent and leave no doubt who the dominating team was. As The Ghost of Marv pointed out, it's been a while since the students could leave at halftime because of how big the blowout was. I don't know why they would leave, it's been so rare to see a Buff win, but they could. All of this preamble points to a simple fact, the one in the title- CU needs to run the damn ball this season. A lot. They have the horses, they have the oxen in front, it's time to let them loose.
Take the Pressure Off Sefo
Sefo Liufau shouldered the load of the offense in 2014, and while a valiant effort, it also cost CU some games. For every drive willed to points, there was a back-breaking interception and the chorus of "Bring in Gerkhe!" from Twitter. Sefo did well, but what if I told you that the offense didn't have to run like that? That Liufau didn't have to be overworked and limit his mistakes? That the offense could be balanced? That's what a good running game brings. Sefo becomes a weapon that is maximized rather than overused, an important distinction that hinges on efficiency. For all of the gaudy numbers the Buffs put up last year, the efficiency and explosiveness metrics painted a less pretty picture. Basically, the quantity out-did the quality. A strong running game like the one showcased through two games paints a much different picture. Sefo's stats are down (partly because of a not great Hawaii game), but the offense was humming against the Minutemen, and he was not asked to more than convert a few first downs and check to the right plays (read: run against UMass). Running to set up the pass also allows for a lot more opportunities downfield, creeping the safeties up and letting the well noted speed of Shay Fields and Devin Ross beat the single coverage. A play action pass is more successful after a few punishing runs in a row. Every run puts a little more hesitation in the defensive line's head, a little voice that says, "don't overshoot your gaps, hold your position." It's been a long time since the Buffs have had any sort of believable play action. It'll be nice to get back to that.
Establish a Strong Identity/PAC-12 Presence
Brian Lindgren, man of the bubble screen, has said that his ideal offense would be 60/40 run-pass distribution if he had the personnel. Think about that. The man who called for the 7th most passing attempts by his quarterback in the country stated that he prefers smashmouth football. Because who doesn't? Nothing embodies football more than big bodies going forward hitting big bodies trying to go the other way while a smaller big body navigates through the muck. It just seems right, and it has proven to be a successful formula for those with the personnel. If, and this is a HUGE if, the Buffs can get the proper talent, being "the" running team in the conference could do wonders for the record and perception. USC can keep their quarterbacks, Oregon their light-speed offense and Utah their defensive line, CU will be the fast and the furious. Yes, I know this is already Stanford, but they have put a nice blueprint of success out there for surviving pass-happy attacks with ball control and chunks of yards, and I see David Shaw out-recruiting and under-performing the Harbaugh. Let this year be a sort of experiment. There's maulers up front, every type of running back to hit the hole, and the need for some safe wins. Why not? The Buffs certainly can't out-speed anybody, but this year it looks like they just might out-muscle some teams. As for upset bids, a shootout may be beneficial, but minimizing your own mistakes, keeping the defense off the field, and wearing down the other team may work just as well, or even better. The defense in 2014 was under a lot of pressure every series, and while they most definitely folded under that pressure, there were times where they had maybe a minute in between drives. Even with a successful drive, the very nature of the aerial attack last year slowed down the clock, and gave the opponent more potential changes against the sieve that was the D. A nice, 6 minute drive does wonders for the morale and energy on the other side. CU's average time of possession this young season is 34:36 per 60 minutes, good for 17th in the country. Contrast that to last year's 32:34, and a favorable comparison could become even better going forward. The more time the offense is on the field, the less the other team has a chance to score. My Chargers executed this plan to perfection against the Broncos, handing them their first loss two years ago by keeping PFM off the field. As for upset bids, a shootout may be beneficial, but minimizing your own mistakes, keeping the defense off the field, and wearing down the other team may work just as well, or even better. Adding fuel to my metaphorical, delusion-filled fire, a run game travels better than a prolific passing attack (in my opinion), and Lord knows the Buffs have been horrendous on the road. I know I made fun of Oregon earlier in this paragraph, but the backbone of their offense was not Mariota slinging the ball around. The majority of their plays were runs, and because of their ridiculous speed and crazy good blocking, they could spring any one of them in the game. Exactly what CU used to be, and can be again.
The Buffs Are At Their Best Stampeding
If you made a list of top-5 offensive players for the Buffs, you'd be remiss to leave out Darian Hagan, Eric Bieniemy, or Rashaan Salaam, and Chris Brown is probably up there, too. The Buffs' best days, through the genius of Coach Mac (the original), stemmed from the unapologetic beatdown that the offense put on enemy teams. The quality of athlete was obviously ridiculous, a far cry from present day, but the concept remains the same- the Buffaloes belong on the ground. There's no rationale for me to try to explain here, and I'm probably romanticizing the past, but think of the best CU moments. Hagan to Flanagan, Salaams 2000 yard run, Brown's 5 touchdown performance (obligatory 62-36 reference). It just feels right for the Black and Gold to have the identity of a rushing team. Besides, who wants to be the guy to tell Phillip Lindsay he won't be getting the ball this series?