Injury update – When the Buffs ran out onto the field for the first offensive play against Colorado State, freshman Alex Lewis was the starter at left tackle, with junior Ryan Dannewitz at right tackle.
During the game, center Daniel Munyer went down, replaced by sophomore Gus Handler.
While not discussed by coaches during the week, senior cornerback Travis Sandersfeld did not play against Colorado State. Sandersfeld, who opened at left cornerback in the previous two games, was replaced by sophomore Parker Orms. Sandersfeld has a leg/ankle injury that could keep him sidelined indefinitely.
Buffs may go with two backups at tackle on Saturday
9/17 – Update – In the final injury report before the game, David Bakhtiari was listed as “doubtful”, while Ryan Dannewitz was listed as “probable”.
Two weeks ago, Colorado was set at tackle, with sophomore Jack Harris at right tackle; sophomore David Bakhtiari at left tackle. Bakhtiari started 11 games last year, and Harris had been slotted at right tackle since spring ball.
Bakhtiari went down in the opener against Hawai’i, replaced by junior Ryan Dannewitz, himself injured against Cal.
Joining Bakhtiari on the injured list was Jack Harris, who was lost for the season last weekend against California.
So, with offensive tackles falling at the rate nickel backs did last fall, who is next in line?
Welcome to the starting lineup … senior Sione Tau and freshman Alex Lewis. Tau, a fifth-year senior who had not played a snap prior to this season, likely will open at right tackle in place of Harris, who underwent surgery on Thursday. Lewis, a true freshman who enrolled in January, could open on the left side.
Lewis, who spelled Dannowitz for one play last weekend, is coming off a bout with a stomach virus that prevented him from traveling with the Buffs to Hawai’i. While battling the bug, he went from 277 pounds to 264, but noted Thursday he’s back up to 274 and has no lingering effects from the illness.
“The bug’s long gone, in the past now. I just got dehydrated. My strength is back now and I feel good,” said Lewis, who is expecting his parents (his father, Bill, played center at Nebraska) to travel from Tempe, Ariz., for the game.
The 6-6 Lewis benefitted from spring practice with the new CU staff and, according to senior right guard Ryan Miller, “has been a pleasant surprise. Early on, I wasn’t sure how he would be, but in practice and meetings, the guy understands the concepts we’re throwing at him. And he’s athletically gifted enough to play that position.”
Lewis, who calls left tackle his “dream position,” said he “learned a lot more about the game” during spring drills, particularly in adjusting to calls on blitzes and defensive line movement. And Marshall promises plenty of both will come from CSU defensive coordinator Larry Kerr: “He’s been around and really knows what he’s doing. We’ve got to be very sharp up front.”
Bakhtiari also helped Lewis last spring “a bunch with my pass set techniques and footwork,” Lewis said. “I went into fall camp wanting to improve on one mistake a day and not plateau or start slipping back downhill. I think I improved.”
So has Tau, who lost his redshirt freshman season to academic ineligibility then sat out his sophomore year for violating team rules. Weighing upwards of 380 as a junior last season, his bulk hampered his mobility, conditioning and overall ability to perform.
But a strict diet and a rededication to get in shape under new strength coach Malcolm Blacken helped the 6-5 Tau shed nearly 50 pounds and finally work himself into a position to play.
“I was proud of Sione because this March he mentioned to me that he had never played,” head coach Jon Embree said. “He’s come a long way . . . . Just like some of our other players, he’s going to get beat at times – and I understand that. But I know he’ll give me great effort. I know he’ll know what to do and I know it’s important to him.”
Miller said Tau “is behind the curve a little, just because it’s his fifth year and he’s finally playing. But for being as big a man as he is, he’s athletically talented. He can really move laterally.”
Tau, of Honolulu, saw the first playing of his career on special teams against Hawai’i. Against Cal, he played 31 snaps and believed he was “decent . . . there’s always room for improvement.
“Saturday has been a long time coming for me. It’s about being patient. Sometimes things don’t unfold right away. Sometimes it takes a while for it to happen. I’m glad I stuck it out here.”
Jon Embree Post-Practice Quotes
On perhaps having twice as many fans in Denver as CSU – “It’s always good to have ‘home field’. I think that says a lot about our fans, that they are still excited about us. We had a great crowd last weekend. They did a really good job of helping us.”
On whether he would take the team down to Mile High before the game – “No, because we can’t get down on the field. The first time they see it is when they see it. I don’t know what the issue is, a Bronco deal or whatever, but we can’t practice or do anything down on the field. So, there’s no need to go down there.”
On his offensive tackles – “Both ‘Bakh’ (sophomore David Bakhtiari) and ‘Danno’ (junior Ryan Dannewitz) were out, so I guess we’ll see how guys are feeling tomorrow, and we’ll make a determination as to who is in and who is out, or how close they are to being in. They looked okay (on Wednesday), but it started raining, and you get a little tentative. You don’t want them slipping and tweaking (their injured knees). A lot of it to me will depend on how they are feeling tomorrow.”
On kick return failures, whether it’s blocking, or failure of returners to hit the holes – “It’s both. It’s disappointing that we’re not better at that end, kick returns and kickoff coverage both, because they are both big field position swings.”
On the aggressiveness of junior safety Ray Polk, who has twice been flagged for personal foul penalties – “You know, it’s a fine line. It’s unfortunate that it has happened twice. He’s still figuring it out. We’re taking the leash off of him and letting him go.”
Jon Embree Press Conference
On Colorado State – “On the offensive side, I see a kid that’s grown up as a quarterback. When you look at our game last year, obviously his first game ever, and then – I’ve been watching him a lot at San Diego State and BYU last year, seeing the progress he’s made, to this year, that really jumps out at me. Defensively, I worked with Larry (Kerr, CSU defensive coordinator) for three years. A Larry Kerr coached defense is fundamentally sound, they do a good job of tackling. They know where there help is. They do a good job trying to take an offense out of what they do well, and force you to do what you don’t do well.”
On the Rams losing linebacker Mychael Sisson – “You can definitely tell he’s the ring leader. He brings energy to that side of the ball. He makes great plays, he’s a great player. How it affects them, though, we really won’t know until Saturday.”
On the CU/CSU game and recruiting Colorado players - ”We want to recruit Colorado kids. Right now, I think we’ve got two committed, and I think we’re going to get another one, before it’s all said and done … At the same time, it’s got to be the right kid. It’s got to be a kid who can come in here and help us. It’s got to be a kid who wants to be a Buffalo. We’re a transient state, so sometimes it’s an in-state kid, but he’s really not from here. I think if you look at some of the guys we have here, like Jon Major and Ryan Miller, those are guys who grew up Buff fans and grew up on Colorado football. I was talking to the team last week, and about the Big 12 championship, and some of the players, and I asked how many of the guys who recognized Player ‘X’, and the only guys who raised their hands were in-state kids … We have to get back to the point where we’re getting top in-state kids, staying and being a part of this program.”
On the improvement of sophomore wide receiver Paul Richardson – “He’s a better rout runner, I think he’s improved his body control, and using his speed, knowing when to burst and when to play at a different speed. He’s always been a good ‘hands’ catcher, not a ‘body’ catcher.”
On not knowing who he will have available to play offensive tackle until later in the week – “It really doesn’t (affect game preparation). In my mind, it’s kind of like the NFL. You don’t know about guys until later in the week. We’ll have to see who can practice, and how they feel the next day after practice. Whoever practices Wednesday, we’ll look at how many reps they get, and then look at how comfortable we feel about how well they know the gameplan, and then, how do they feel on Thursday morning. To me, that’s the big key. I’m sure (offensive line) coach Steve Marshall would like to know sooner rather than later, but I’m okay having to make that decision later in the week if I have to.”
On what he thought of CSU, growing up in Denver (Cherry Creek) - ”I always remember watching the Leon Fuller show on Sunday mornings. That and the Notre Dame shows. That was all they had on TV back then. We didn’t have cable. The thing I remember about CSU is the brawl they had with Wyoming, when they walked through the stands, and they were at Wyoming, and a brawl broke out. I always thought that was kind of funny. But growing up, Colorado and Colorado State didn’t play each other (the series was resumed in 1983, after being shelved after the 1958 season). I always thought that was kind of odd, because my family, growing up in Los Angeles, USC/UCLA was always a big day in our family. I thought it was kind of odd that Colorado didn’t have that, so I think it’s special that we play each other every year.”
On the improvement of Rodney Stewart – “I think that Rodney has become a better runner from a patience standpoint, letting things develop. He’s really improved in the pass protection game. I’ve always felt that he was a good receiver, and that he was under-utilized (the past few seasons). The thing about Rodney is that he is really tough; he’s a physical guy … If he can stay healthy, I think it’s very realistic for him to knock Eric (Bieneimy) down to number two (on the all-time rushing list).”
On the play of the defense – “I think our defense is just a reflection of our team. We’re just inconsistent. In the first half against Cal, we really should have held them to nine points (instead of 16), but we let them make a big play right before half to set up a touchdown. Then to start the second half we go three-and-out and then rough the punter … in stretches it’s like ‘what are we doing?’. That’s our team, whether it’s offensively, or on special teams. We play well in spurts. From the Hawai’i game to the Cal game, there were longer spurts, but we haven’t played a game yet, and that’s where we have to get … Every game is going to have an ebb and flow; it’s really how well you react when adversity hits you. How you react when the other team makes a run, makes a little push. Or if you have some things go against you, whether its a turnover or a bad penalty – it’s how you react, how you respond to that.”
On the play of the freshmen – “I feel that all of our young players have done well. I feel that all of our freshmen have done very well. They’ve done a good job of contributing. They’ve done a good job of going in there without a lot of mental busts, which is what you worry about sometimes with younger guys.”
On the lack of a running game – “I don’t know if ‘concerned’ is the word. I think it’s just a matter of us sustaining our blocks, it’s a matter of us hitting the hole, it’s receivers blocking downfield. I guess I’d be more concerned if it was just a scheme, or us being over-powered … I believe in these players, I trust these players
Jon Embree Post-Practice Quotes
On how he was feeling Monday – “Better. One more day closer, then a chance to play again.”
On who will play along the offensive line against Colorado State – “We probably won’t know until Wednesday or Thursday. We’ll see how guys move around some. We’ll try and get them another day of healing, try and get them as many reps as we can without killing them, so, if they have a chance, we can have them on Saturday.”
On the status of his players – “(Sophomore offensive tackle) Jack (Harris) is definitely out. Danno (Ryan Dannewitz, who played for Harris when Harris went down against Cal) and ‘Bakh’ (sophomore left tackle David Bakhtiari, who was injured against Hawai’i) – we’ve got to kind of work and see where they are, then make a determination. I would like to make it by Wednesday, because I think that after a certain point, if you don’t practice, you are not going to be effective.”
On the status of Jack Harris – “I don’t know if it’s a year, for the rest of the year, or if it’s similar to what their guy did up there (CSU linebacker Mychael Sisson, who also broke his ankle last weekend) – I read they were hoping to get him back at a certain point. They both had lower leg fractures.”
On whether any other freshmen from the Class of 2011 will play (ten have already), or whether the remaining players will all red-shirt – “I don’t who the guys are that have played. D.D. (Goodson) might play, I don’t know if he’s played yet. Paulay (Asiata) might play. I don’t know. There will be other guys.”
On whether, with 28 seniors on the team, he wanted to get some playing time for his freshman this fall – “Just trying to play the best guys. It doesn’t matter to me what year they are … just trying to get the best guys in there.”
Paul Richardson first-ever CU Pac-12 Player-of-the-Week
Here is the Pac-12 Press release:
Richardson, a sophomore from Gardena, Calif., caught 11 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns (66, 78 yards) in CU’s heartbreaking overtime loss to California, 36-33 in Boulder; 10 of his 11 catches earned first downs (school record for a receiver), 162 of the yards came after the catch and he had 297 all-purpose yards including one rush for 9 yards and a punt return for 4 yards. He set the Colorado record for the most receiving yards in a single game, and third most all-time in Pac-12 history, with the 284 yards (the third 200-plus game in CU history), and tied the CU single game reception mark of 11. It was also his fourth two-TD game, third most ever at CU. Richardson now has six career plays of 50 yards or longer, and his 10 career TD catches have covered 362 yards (3, 60, 62, 4, 3, 50, 15, 21, 66, 78).
While the award seemed like a foregone conclusion to Buff fans, there were other nominees who also posted significant numbers: Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas threw for a school-record six touchdowns in the Ducks’ 69-20 destruction of Nevada; Heisman trophy favorite Andrew Luck threw for a career-high four touchdowns in Stanford’s 44-14 win over Duke; while Washington quarterback Keith Prince threw for four touchdowns and a career-high 315 yards in a 40-32 win over Hawai’i.
Colorado freshman kicker Will Oliver was nominated for the Pac-12 Special Teams Player-of-the-Week. Oliver hit on all four of his field goal attempts against Cal, including a CU freshman record 52-yarder, but lost out to defensive tackle Everrette Thompson, who blocked two extra points in the Huskies’ win over Hawai’i, the second of which was returned for a two-point conversion with 1:38 remaining in the game, after the Warriors had scored to pull within 38-32.
Sisson the “heart and soul” of Colorado State defense
Colorado State lost more than their leading tackler of the past two seasons last Saturday.
They lost the most vocal player on the team.
“From an intangibles and leadership standpoint, there’s really no way to replace him,” coach Steve Fairchild said Sunday in a news release confirming the severity of the injury Sisson suffered during Saturday’s 33-14 win over Northern Colorado. “If we had 22 Mike Sissons, we’d win the national championship every year.”
All three potential replacements, said defensive coordinator Larry Kerr, are good, talented and capable football players. But they’re clearly not Sisson; a preseason pick for all-conference honors in a Mountain West Conference loaded with talented linebackers and No. 12 on CSU’s career tackles (303) and career sacks (12 1/2) lists.
Sisson’s attitude, linebackers coach Bernard Clark said recently, set the tone for the entire defense, if not the entire CSU team.
“Obviously, Sisson’s a great leader and without him on the field, it’s going to be a little tough to get everyone going,” senior safety Ivory Herd said. “But we still have to continue to press forward.”
Colorado State earns Pyrrhic victory over Northern Colorado
Colorado State is 2-0; Colorado is 0-2.
One has momentum borne from celebrating victory; the other has doubts borne out of the inability to close out a victory in the fourth quarter.
It was not all high fives in the Ram locker room Saturday, though, despite the 33-14 win over Northern Colorado.
Four Colorado State players, including star linebacker Mychal Sisson, suffered potentially season-ending injuries.
Starting fullback Austin Gillmore went down with a right knee injury on CSU’s first offensive play, defensive tackle Scott Carter also suffered what appeared to a right-knee injury, and even Gillmore’s backup, Jake Levin, left the game early with a knee injury.
But the biggest blow was the loss of Sisson, who lay near midfield writhing in pain and clutching his lower right leg after breaking his ankle on a punt return late in the second quarter. Last season, Sisson led the Rams in tackles (with 95), and sacks (with 4.5). Sisson also led the team in tackles in 2009, and has started in 37 of his 39 games as a Ram.
Last weekend, the Rams lost junior defensive end Broderick Sargent, who suffered a season-ending knee injury, most likely a torn ACL.
“That’s a tough blow, obviously, to our football team,” said CSU defensive coordinator Larry Kerr. “But the guys just go on; you’ve just got to keep playing.”
Colorado State fans have little or no sympathy for the Buffs’ two tough opening season losses.
Expect Buff fans to have equal sympathy for the Rams’ rash of injuries …