“Wake me when it’s over”

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“Wake me when it’s over”

A quick show of hands.

Let’s say the football gods had stopped by your place last Friday night, and offered you a 21-point Colorado victory over Colorado State. THe only condition which came with the guarantee -  that you not know the circumstances behind the win. Would you have jumped at the chance for a three touchdown win?

Yeah. Me, too.

Colorado entered the game against Colorado State with a bucketful of unanswered questions. Could the offensive line, with three award candidates, dominate? How much would the new wide receivers contribute? Would the Buffs’ special teams, as they did for much of 2009, implode at just the wrong time? Would the Buffs’ fragile psyche be shattered if a few bad breaks hit them early?

Yes, the Buffs came away with a 21-point win, but Buff fans were left wondering whether Colorado was a much better team, or whether Colorado State was just that bad.

Let’s take a look …

Offense

Tyler Hansen was not great against Colorado State, but he was effective, going 17-of-25 for 192 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. If we’re being honest, effective was all Buff fans were hoping for. Hansen did have a few scrambles, gaining postive yards on plays when you just knew that Cody Hawkins would have taken a sack. By the same token, Hansen did miss several wide open receivers, take a bad sack, and the offense did have a number of dumb penalties. “We have to clean that up,” said Hansen. “That was a miscommunication between me and some of the other guys … Those are precious yards and you work for those yards and you need those yards.”

The offensive line produced 115 net yards rushing (up from 87.9 per game average in 2009), and allowed only two sacks. Still, the Buffs were up against a decimated Colorado State defensive line, and, except for one drive in the second quarter, failed to dominate. Tyler Hansen was on the run much more often than his true freshman counterpart, Pete Thomas. Speedy had only 16 carries on the day, giving way to Brian Lockridge (four carries, six yards) and Justin Torres (five carries, 26 yards) in the fourth quarter.

The receivers did well, but, again, did not shine. Steady Scotty McKnight led all receivers with six catches for 78 yards. Newcomers Toney Clemons (three catches, 25 yards), Travon Patterson (one catch for 17 yards and a touchdown), and Paul Richardson (one catch, 11 yards) showed flashes of potential, but did not have that breakthrough play Buff fans were hoping for. Only four passes went for over ten yards, hardly the track meet envisioned during fall camp.

The offense scored 24 points. Good, but not great. I would think that the consensus amongst the Buff Nation is that, with the way the Colorado State defense was playing, that the total could have – should have – been 31 or 38.

Defense

The defensive front, like the rest of the team, had a game of positives and negatives. Holding a team, any team, to 49 yards rushing, is a good day. Conversely, the Buffs were up against an offensive line with four new starters, and produced only three sacks (all after the outcome of the game was decided). The line did, though, team up with the linebackers to have a great game overall. The stat of the game was that Colorado State went one-for-12 on third down, and failed to convert on two fourth down attempts.

The secondary was also a testament of contradictions. The Buffs produced three interceptions, and kept the Ram receivers in front of them all afternoon. A freshman quarterback, though, did complete 24-of-33 passes, a success rate which will hurt Colorado if it persists down the road.

Still, a three point game is as good or better than any Buff fan could have predicted. There is also this … Last season, Colorado gave up a total of 53 plays of over 20 yards. Against Colorado State, the Rams managed one 20-yard run (in the fourth quarter), and no passes over 20 yards.

Hard to call that a bad day.

Special Teams

Overall, the special teams were very efficient against Colorado State. Efficient, though, is spectacular when compared to the Buffs’ special team play in 2009. Aric Goodman made his only field goal attempt. Granted, it was an ideal situation – the Buffs were already up 14-0, the ball was placed in the middle of the field, and the kick was only eight yards longer than an extra point – but he did make it. Red-shirt freshman punter Zach Grossnickle had a 41.4 yard average on seven punts, a notch better than the 38.6 yard average posted by senior Matt DiLallo in 2009. But, as it was Grossnickle’s first game, the numbers have to be considered more than adequate.

The return teams show great promise. Brian Lockridge had only one attempt at a kickoff return, but did take advantage of his one opportunity, going for 34 yards. Travon Patterson had four punt returns for 46 yards. That’s a 11.5 yard average, a hefty increase over the 3.3 yard average (117th in the nation) from 2009. Buff fans have good reason to be excited about punt returns again, perhaps for the first time since Jeremy Bloom took the field.

Two of the Buff returns, though, were negated by personal foul penalties, muting the excitement.

Did you say penalties?

Remember back in fall camp, back say, a week ago? When Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins was talking about how well the Buffs had done with penalties this fall? Out of three scrimmages, two of which were closed to the public, Hawkins said that the Buffs ran over 350 plays, and generated fewer than ten penalties.

Against Colorado State, in a game with 118 total plays, Colorado had ten penalties for 104 yards. Asked how he was planning to address penalties, Dan Hawkins responded, “Running, running, and more running. We’ll be on that.”

Buff fans certainly hope so. California will be a much stiffer test than Colorado State. Ten penalties will almost surely kill any Buff chances at victory.

The Buffs – and their fans – had a long winter. It’s been almost ten months since the last victory. It’s been almost a year since the last time Buff fans could enjoy a fourth quarter, knowing the victory was in hand.

A 21-point victory is hard to scoff at, particularly for a team coming off a 3-9 season in which the Buffs registered all of one win each month.

Still, Buff fans have to be a bit uncomfortable as the team heads off to Berkeley.

If the football gods want to pay me a visit on Friday night, offering me a four-point victory over Cal, with the only stipulation that I not know how the victory was obtained, I’ll be ready with my answer:

“Wake me when it’s over”.

 

2 Responses to ““Wake me when it’s over””

  1. Andy

    I just get a bad feeling that people expected the 1990 championship team to take the field. There’s a W on the board and the defense nearly pitched a shut-out while the offense greatly improved over its performance last year.

    I think, in all honesty, things went very well on Saturday considering the last 5 years. The author obviously knows his numbers and his football, and this post is not to detract from what he has to say at all, but in my humble opinion I think we’re being overly critical of this specific game. CSU might not be USC, but typically they play tougher vs CU than in any other game in their season. Having gone to CSU, I saw that over and over again. (And having CU season tickets helped with that too!).

    I think we should take the good where it comes, recognize areas needing improvement, and give them time to prove themselves again next week.

    What I saw was a Travon Patterson scamper for an EASY TD pass of 15+ yards. And a wide open Scotty Mac (who was not being double teamed) walk into the end zone and take a record from Michael Westbrook in style on a 15+ yard reception. I saw a defense who was not able to load the box with their safeties b/c they have to watch the passing game. Finally, I saw the offensive line pushing the CSU defensive line off the ball, especially in that running TD where the runner didn’t have to do much due to the line getting 2-3 yards on the push. A true freshman receiver caught 1 pass but it was for a first down, and Clemons caught 2 first downs if memory serves me. Finally, and most importantly, I saw Ty Hanson checking through his reads and not just scrambling after the first read, and as much as I love Cody Hawkins as a leader, I took heart that there was not a rotating QB system this time. Yes there was QB pressure, but CSU was rushing more than 4 a lot of the time. So perhaps some of that pressure wasn’t due to an O-Line not living up to its billing, but good blitz packages by the best unit CSU has, which is their linebackers.

    The penalties are frustrating and have got to be improved upon. I expect defenses who haven’t spent 9 months preping for CU and who don’t play CU every season will probably not be as efficient, especially given its not a hateful rivalry game. I’d say CU fans have good reason to be cautiously optimistic. I mean, 24-3 is not the drubbing we dream of, but when was the last time this game was decided by 21 points?

    Finally, Florida (Miami OH), OU (USU), and Texas (Rice) all had similar scores against much weaker and less familiar cream-puff opponents. And those favored teams undoubtedly field way more talent and experience than CU does. The only horrid blowout was Oregon over UNM (72-0). The point I’m trying to make is simply that CU did a good job but looked rusty. But no more rusty than Florida, OU, UCLA, Texas, Ole Miss, KU, and several others. I prefer this start to a loss to Montana State any year =0)

    Be happy Buffs Fans, there’s reason to be optimistic. Thx!

  2. J Rifas

    What had to be my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE aspect of the game, to which sadly I was not surprised, was the very first offensive play for the Buffs.

    A FALSE START – by none other than Nate Solder. If HE lacks the discipline not to jump on the first play from scrimmage, how can we expect anything more from the rest of team.

    And I don’t care who played who – but when UC Berkley (that’s what those of us from CA call) puts up 52 points against anybody and Hawaii puts up 36 against USC…and we can’t even hang 30 CSU…(this is me shaking my head).

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