Colorado Daily – Sacramento State
Utah loss to Utah State … “(I) felt like ‘throwing up everywhere.’ “
Gaggies no more.
After building a reputation last season for being unable to close out teams late in games (e.g., Utah State held a 21-13 lead over Colorado State last season with less than a minute to go, but wound up losing in overtime), Utah State came up with a big-time performance in the fourth quarter and overtime to beat Utah 27-20 in what may be the last game between the rivals at Romney Stadium.
Chuckie Keeton rushed for 23 yards on third down to set up a touchdown run by Kerwynn Williams in overtime. The Utes could not score on fourth and goal from the 17-yard line when backup quarterback Jon Hays, who replaced an injured Jordan Wynn at the end of the first half, watched his pass to DeVonte Christoper get batted down by Will Davis.
Three plays earlier Jake Murphy was called for offensive pass interference on an apparent touchdown pass from the six, backing the Utes up and ending their hopes of a victory after falling behind 13-0 in the first half.
Adding insult to injury for the Utes was another injury to the left shoulder of junior quarterback Jordan Wynn. Wynn left the game with 1:04 remaining in the second quarter and was replaced for the rest of the game by Jon Hays, who was 6-3 as Utah’s starter last year.
Utah defender Trevor Reilly summed up his team’s feelings Friday night when he said he felt like ‘throwing up everywhere.’
“We just didn’t execute”
The Colorado offensive line was supposed to be the one unit on the offense with some consistency. After all, the Buffs were replacing a three-year starter at quarterback, a four-year starter at running back, and, with the loss of Paul Richardson, five of the top six receivers from last season.
The offensive line, though, returned starters at three positions, experienced talent, and, for a change, depth. The line was to be counted upon to carry the offense while the “skill” position players settled in during the early (and easier part) of the schedule.
So … wha’ happen’d?
From cubuffs.com … Since last weekend’s loss to Colorado State, when Colorado’s ground game went underground, the questions have come at Alex Lewis in swarms.
Other members of the offense haven’t escaped the pestering either. But grilling Lewis as to why the implosion happened and how to fix it is as good a starting point as any. He’s the starting left guard on CU’s offensive line, which paved the way for all of 58 rushing yards and at times appeared dazed and confused.
“I don’t really have a specific number of questions I’ve gotten, but I’m getting asked (by students) on campus and even by my professors . . . everybody is talking about how we’re going to establish a run game,” Lewis said.
It’s really a two-part question, with how to better protect the quarterback being Part B. Buffs QB Jordan Webb, a Kansas transfer who could have been forgiven for perhaps flashing back to similarly unfriendly afternoons in Lawrence, was sacked five times and smacked that many more. He exited his CU debut with an ailing hip and an even more painful ‘L.’
Averaging 2.0 yards per carry, the Buffs, said Lewis, didn’t come halfway close to their stated pre-season goal of 4.5 yards a carry. And scoring 17 points (the Rams had 22), the Buffs came up embarrassingly short of the 30 points they hope to average this season.
Lewis, a sophomore who last season played tackle and some tight end for blocking purposes, agreed that he and his O-line buds came away from the opener humbled, disappointed and embarrassed: “All of the above . . . that sums it up perfectly. We went in ready to fight, but in the second half we came out and they got the best of us. That was embarrassing after being up 14-3. We should have scored on the goal line; that’s the biggest embarrassment an offensive line can have – being stopped on the goal line. We need to fix that. We only rushed for an average of two yards – and that was pathetic.”
CU coach Jon Embree also came away disappointed, “But not as much as (the O-linemen) were. I met with a few guys early Monday, and they were hurt; it bothered them because as they said, they didn’t have a practice as poor as what they did on Saturday. So I expect them to bounce back and rebound and play like they are capable of playing.”
Shoddy line play was central to the lack of a run game, but there other factors, too. All week a common theme has run through conversations with coaches, another O-linemen or two and a couple of running backs: “What we have heah is a failyuh to communycate. . .”
O-line work isn’t simply getting in somebody’s way, which at 6-6, 290 pounds Lewis can do naturally. It’s more about identifying who to block and adjusting if necessary, and that falls on the quarterback and running backs as well as the linemen.
“We just didn’t execute,” said center Gus Handler, who has the chief responsibility of making the up-front blocking calls. “You go back and look at the film, and I think as an offensive line we’ve got to do a better job of communicating among us – but more importantly with the backs and the quarterback.
“It all starts with us. I know it got loud at times, but we’ve just got to do a better job through hand signals, pointing, whatever; we’ve got to get everybody on the same page.”
Handler said communication had not been a problem in practice “because we’ve had the luxury of having the other coaches on the field . . . you don’t have the shot clock going on and there’s not as much noise. We’re trying to emphasize (a stadium) being loud and having us pointing, using hand signals, whatever we have to do go on the same page.”
… “Whatever we have to do” … That sounds like a good slogan for Saturday’s game …
Notes of Note – Sacramento State
Notes to impress your fellow Buff fans this weekend …
– Much has been said about Sacramento State’s victory over Oregon State last season … but it was a true fluke. The Hornets have played at least one FBS team each season since 2002 (with only four of those against Pac-12 schools – most were against MWC or WAC schools), and have lost to every other FBS team they have faced. Sacramento State is 1-11 all-time against FBS schools.
– Sacramento State’s victory over Oregon State was one of just six wins for the FCS over the FBS in 2011.
– Under six-year head coach Marshall Sperbeck, Sacramento State is 2-10 in non-conference road games.
– This is a one-and-done contract between the two schools, with Sacramento State receiving a check for $460,000 for coming to Boulder.
– Colorado and Sacramento State have never met before on the gridiron. The only other matchup between the schools was a men’s basketball game in 1994, with CU prevailing 80-56 (the leading scorer was Donnie Boyce, who had 24 points).
– Sacramento State has had at least one player on an NFL roster each season since 1996.
– The Hornets were picked to finish 9th in the 13-team Big Sky Conference this season; the media placed the Hornets 10th.
– This weekend marks the second consecutive week in which the Buffs have faced a team which is known as CSU … and the second consecutive week in which the opponents’ colors are green-and-gold.
– Colorado has allowed at least one touchdown pass in 25 consecutive games … a school record the Buffs would like to see come to an end.
– If Greg Henderson cannot go (ankle), true freshman Yuri Wright will earn the start at cornerback. With fellow true freshman Kenneth Crawley at the other corner, the Sacramento State game would mark the first time in school history in which two true freshmen have started at cornerback in the same game.
– Colorado is 1-3 all-time in games played on September 8th, with the lone victory coming in 2001, when the Buffs handled San Jose State, 51-15. (Here is a link to the write-up of that game).
Captains for Sacramento State named
Rather than go with a set group of captains, as was the case last season, Jon Embree has opted to go with a different set of captains for each game.
This weekend, the captains will be center Gus Handler, linebackers Paul Vigo and Derrick Webb, and defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe. All four captains for this weekend are juniors.
Jon Embree Press Luncheon Quotes
General – “Obviously, disappointed about our performance Saturday. I appreciate the fans that did come out and support us, we had a lot of fans there and honestly we are going to need you again this weekend. Especially after watching the tape and seeing how we played, especially on the offensive side. I thought defensively, they caught us one time in a mismatched situation and got a touchdown, but for the most part our defense did a good job. Especially against the run; I think they averaged a little over two yards a carry. They had the one towards the end where the guy got out in the gap. But I was pleased at how our younger kids played-our true freshman. Kenneth Crawley had a good game, Marques Mosley, Christian Powell, Josh Tupou. Those guys and Gerald Thomas I thought all played well and I look forward to them playing even better this week.”
On The Improvements He Hopes To See – “Defensively, better tackling; I would like to see a few more turnovers. Offensive, we have to run the football, period. So we need to be better running the football. That’s what I am looking for from an offensive standpoint and better with our protection. I thought Jordan Webb played well; he had some drops that hurt his stats. With his hip, he couldn’t move, I think he was sacked five times, a couple of them if he would have been healthy I know he would have got us some positive yards. But we still need to be better with our protection. So those are things I am looking for from our offense and our defense.”
On The No Huddle Affecting The Running Game – “It affected it a little bit; it hurt us with the I.D. Generally you I.D. who the mike linebacker is, who it is you are going to double or triple or single block. And so with that tempo and with some of the things they were doing in their defense, how they were going to play for the first time, we were a lot slower than what I want us to be. So we will be quicker this week and as we keep going with it and get more comfortable doing it, we will be quicker with that pace as far as what we do from a no huddle. There are some things we can do from a coaching standpoint and then honestly there are some things that we need our guys upfront to do to help us get faster. So I expect us to be faster in that regards this week.”
On What Needs To Happen To The Running Game – “Well sometimes it’s the backs not making the right cut or being too quick with their footwork, they are not where they need to be to make the proper read. Then just being better at the point of attack and our communication. For instance, if we had a double call where the guard and the tackle are going to block the three technique say up to the linebacker, if the tackle leaves too soon, he puts the guard out on an island and then it makes it hard for him to get movement. So there is not a lot but there are some details that we need to clean up, and again, we can help them as a coaching staff with some of the things we are doing too. So it is a group effort. Receivers are involved but we never have runs where receivers were needed. We didn’t get far enough down the field, but they have to be ready to help us make an eight or 10 yard gain on a run.”
On The Elevation Playing A Park In The No Huddle Decision – “Part of it, but it’s something I wanted to do from the beginning. It’s just we weren’t ready for it last year, there were just so many things that we needed to do to get prepared to do that and we weren’t ready as a program. This year, it was obviously there year and we are going to do it, refine it and keep moving forward and using it as a weapon. But altitude was part of my thinking.”
On The Advantages Of The No Huddle – “Well, it allows you to dictate the defense more; it allows you to keep them from substituting. And when we get the personnel that you want i.e. a tide-end like Vincent Hobbs, more of those types where they can be good enough on the line of scrimmage but also do some things from a receiver standpoint. You can create mix-matches and dictate to the defense, so that was the main reason why we wanted to, or I wanted to have that be part of our offense. And then as you wear people down you should be able to run the ball better as the game gets going later.”
On Pulling QB Jordan Webb Late In The CSU Game – “Oh no, I don’t. I thought Jordan gave us our best chance to win. So that’s why I stayed with him. Someone asked me that yesterday on the last drive if I thought about putting Connor Wood in and the answer was no. I felt Jordan gave us our best chance to win, and then to put a guy in there that hasn’t played a college snap, and say ‘oh here it is, good luck.’ So it never crossed my mind, it never did. Like I said, I don’t think Jordan was the issue with our performance on Saturday.”
On The Offensive Line – “I was disappointed, but not as much as they were. I met with a few guys on the offensive line early Monday, and they were hurt, it bothered them because as they said, they didn’t have a practice as poor as what they did on Saturday. So I expect them to bounce back and rebound and play like they are capable of playing.”
On The Team’s Mental Game – “You have to do it every week. And I told them, it’s okay to be disappointed but don’t be discouraged. Discouragement leads to failure. And it was funny I asked the leadership council, “how many of them felt like this after a game last year, on how the team felt like they did on Monday.” And they said, “One game.” So it’s good to know that they care, that it bothers them that this happened. And if that’s true, if they are what I think they are, that will help be the fuel that will keep them working and preparing and doing all the things you have to do. There is a lot of football to play and I think I was asked Saturday do I still think we can go to a bowl game; yeah I do. I still do, and our players still do. So you have to get going again. The thing about this game, you know you fool around and you win a game you aren’t suppose to win too, you know it happens all of the time. You can’t stop preparing, like I said, nobody feels sorry for you and unfortunately half the teams in the country are 0-1 right now. So what we have to do is focus on this game and find a way to beat Sac State and move forward.”
On Specifics Of The Offensive Line’s Struggles – “I would say it was more technique issues and assignments, just details of our assignments. Not necessarily not blocking the right guy, but just like I said, staying longer on the double teams or things like that.”
On Colorado State Loading The Box – “Yeah, they were and there were times where we wanted to take shots. There were times where we wanted to do some other things, reverses and all that, and it seemed like every time we had it called they had the right defense or we had to check out of the play. The offensive coaches refer to me as Al Davis because I want to throw the ball down the field as much as possible. And that’s obviously something we got to keep working on. I think we hit [WR Tyler] McColloch on a fairly deep ball, I think we had a chance at [TE Nick] Kasa, he got P.I’d (pass interference). And then I think we threw another one decent depth, and an intermediate throw down there to [WR Nelson] Spruce. But there will never be enough as far as I’m concerned.”
On Plays Without WR Paul Richardson – “Well it’s easier with Paul, there’s not doubt on that. So you have to work a little bit or be a little bit more creative to get the ball down the field without having him.”
On Fans Being Patient – “When I said be patient, I was more saying myself being patient with our players, not being so quick to get on them. Being a little bit more patient when things aren’t right with them. As far as our fans: hey I know what it’s like and trust me, it’s personal with me about getting it right because having been a player, been around it as an assistant coach, you know obviously this is a very special place. So at the end of the day, 51 percent of the people wanted me hired, 49 percent didn’t. And the 49 are going to be the loudest when you lose. I can’t control that. I can’t do anything about that. All I can do is come and work and keep the players focused and keep improving and when it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. We have a lot of young players, a lot of things going on but there are some good players and they can win games for us. I’m not going to change my standard; I’m not going to change my expectations. We should expect to go to a bowl game every year, that’s what it should be like around here. I’m not going to change those standards; I’m going to keep working towards that every day. And I’m going to keep the players focusing on that because you are always going to have adversity, things don’t always go how you want them to go. And it’s still just one game. If you let those kind of things effect how you prepare, if you let it effect how you see things or make you start changing your goals or your standards, you are not going to be successful in anything you do. I learned that early as a player, going through some of the things I went through here. It was some difficult times but being a competitive person, someone that is willing to fight to me, it’s a no brainer, just keep grinding.”
On Updates On Injuries with DB’s Ray Polk And Greg Henderson – “Polk is out. He has a high ankle sprain. I was teasing him, I said if it would have been last year, he wouldn’t have gotten hurt because he would have hit the guy out of bounds and wouldn’t have got rolled up by two teammates. So much for playing smart, right? Greg is questionable for this game, so we will see. I will have a better feel for him probably Thursday.”
On CB Greg Henderson’s Injury – “The trainer said it’s a high, low ankle sprain; whatever that means.”
On Impressions Of The Freshmen Defensive Backs – “Well Kenneth Crawley is a physical guy. He did a good job of tackling; I think he missed one. His situational awareness was good, he gave up a comeback, they were coming out and we wanted to press and he bailed late in the quarterback’s cadence. So I asked him when he came off the field why did you do that and he said, ‘Well, I thought they were going to double move me.’ And just the fact that he was thinking that, you know that’s a great spot to take a shot. The fact that he was thinking like that and knew a first down really wouldn’t kill us then, he was right there when the ball was completed to make the tackle, that says a lot about him. And then he went on to stick his nose in there against the run, he did good in the returns. We had the long one, that if Malcolm Creer turns and blocks the other way he might go, he kind of ran into his own guy. Marques Mosley, what he did on special teams, caused a fumble on the kick off coverage. And then when he was in the game, just flying around being in the right spots. Yuri [Wright] got in and he is a special kid. But what Yuri did really good was be in the right spots and he did a good job of jamming, knowing where his help and leverage was. So I’m excited they are going to be very good players. That is what impressed me about those guys.”
On Rebounding With A Game At Folsom Field – “I think it does. Having a lot of our fans there to help our kids does play a huge advantage. A lot of these kids that I just got through talking about, they haven’t played a game at Folsom so this is a chance to run out behind Ralphie, be at home. As I told our seniors, this is your first of [six] to run out behind Ralphie. So it’s big being at home, obviously there is a different comfort level when you’re at home. And getting a team from outside the state in this altitude, what we do with our no huddle offense and getting that pace going.”
On Losing Ray Polk’s Leadership With His Injury – “Well as you mentioned it right there, his leadership. You are going to miss having that in the physical aspect that he brings back there. Now Parker Orms will hit you as he showed on Saturday, and so will Terrel [Smith] and Marques [Mosley]. We will have that element still back there, but his leadership of getting guys lined up and being able to help dissect plays, give guys a heads up if he senses something is happening or being alert with a pass or run concept. We will miss having that back there.”
On The Running Game – “I’m very frustrated because it doesn’t matter what conference you are in or what level, if you can’t run the ball; it’s going to be hard to win. I think we have run the ball effectively two times now in about 14 games and that is not good enough. Like I said, we have got to get it fixed, and I have some good ideas of some ways we can do that so we will see how it works Saturday and as we continue to move forward.”
On DL Kirk Poston – “Well Kirk had a very good camp and he plays with a mean streak and all that. He had a better camp than what Juda did. Juda was a little inconsistent, he had more play making at the end. And with Chidera on one side, we need to have somebody over there that is going to make plays, because they are going to get someone on match ups. So we thought he was the better guy at that position to start there, so that is why we started him.”
On Chidera Uzo-Diribe’s Game vs. CSU – “He played very well. I singled out three guys defensively that I thought played exceptionally well and that was Chidera, Derrick Webb and Will Pericak. They played well enough for us to win and we had nine guys on special teams that played very well, Christian Powell, Lowell Williams, Brady Daigh, Marques Mosley, Terrel Smith, Paul Vigo, Kyle Washington. We had some guys that did play well. And I thought our special teams have remarkably improved from last year and that is due to the athletes that we have in here now. And the speed, it showed. We had one block in the back which had no business happening, that kid is a better player than that to make that mistake. But other than that on teams, [D.D.] Goodson got held three different times that they called and so he did a great job of running it, getting back up after and making plays. Chidera played good, but that’s got to be his worst game, he’s got to get it every week.”
On The Senior Linebackers – “I thought that Jon [Major] got a little bit tired towards the end. he made some good plays there. And Doug [Rippy], it was good to see him back out there running around. You could tell he’s not quite there yet but it was good to see him out there playing and he was physical when he had opportunities to make plays and make some tackles. He did a good job of running through windows. But you can tell he’s not back, back yet, but I anticipate that will happen here in the next couple games.”
On Sacramento State – “I think when you talk about their defense; they have a lot of speed, not a lot of size, but a lot of speed. They get five or six guys to the ball and tackle, they base out of a nickel front, 4-2-5: four D-linemen, two linebackers, five defensive-backs. They are all physical and can run. When you look at their stand out players, number 91 [Todd] Davis, number 6 the safety (Ryan McMahon), number 43 the D-lineman (John Bloomfield), those guys really jump out. Offensively, they will mix some spread stuff with traditional. [Morris] Norrise is their deep-ball guy, he can really run, so that’s the guy they like to get the ball to. They have number 8 (Ezekiel Graham) and number 24 (Sam McCowan), they are interchangeable, tailbacks. Number 8 plays some receiver too. The quarterback does a good job of getting them in the right place; they do a no-huddle, so he will be communicating the plays. They will push the ball down the field. They have a big tight end, number 17 (T.J. Knowles), he’s a hybrid. He is 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, but they will play him as a receiver or tight end, so that’s why I’m calling him a hybrid. Special teams, they come after your punt team, and they bring it, they rush eight or nine, they try to block it every time. Same with their kickoff coverage, they come screaming down the field. They are a physical team; they are a fast team that’s very physical. Last year they beat Oregon State in overtime so they are not afraid to come play in a big state. Our players are aware of that and excited to start practicing today so we can start moving forward.”
On DB Parker Orms’ Hit – “I tell our guys just to play, and if it happens, it happens. I’d rather be sitting here talking about that than the guy catching it, scoring a touchdown because he didn’t want a penalty or he takes a bad angle or he does something. Guys as they are breaking on the ball, they don’t think, ‘Okay, I’m going to hit him right in his head.’ It is a split second and you’re trying to knock the ball loose from the receiver. In that case, Parker did what was right, so you’re going to have to live with that, those kinds of things are going to happen. Those penalties don’t bother me as much as the self inflicting fouls-offside, delay of game, illegal procedure-those things bother me more. When you get a penalty of aggression, that is just going to happen from time to time. So I am okay with this, I didn’t say anything to Parker.”
On Rearranging The Defensive Backs With Ray Polk Out – “Parker [Orms] can still go to nickel and then you bring [Marques] Mosley in so you can still do that. You still have that flexibility to put him or Mosley at Nickel, we have been playing him there some too. There is enough flexibility back there with those guys. That’s the good part about what we have done from a recruiting standpoint. We have recruited more corners than we have safety’s and then moving them to corner so that you can have that flexibility now to move them even into the Nickel position or away from the ball and do some things at the safety position. With them having corner background, they understand the issue that they may be facing based off of formation, based off of film study and where to help. So we will continue to recruit more corners and then move them to safety. It’s easier to do that then to get a safety to play corner, generally those guys can’t cover then you are really hamstrung. The thing I always want to have is the best 11 on the field and if your backup safety is the 15th or 16th best player, but he has to play because he is the safety that doesn’t help you.”
On Talking With UNC Coach Earnest Collins Jr. – “I know Earnest well, and you know their (Sacramento State) offensive coordinator came from Southern Utah, I don’t know how much Earnest can help us from that side. I’ve watched there game last year and that did not do us any good, because it was raining, it was a slop fest. I know him well and I am sure he will call us after the game and want to know stuff we have; you know that happens all the time. That’s the thing about the coaching circle is that on almost every staff, somebody has worked with someone at some point. As your facing future opponents you are generally going to get coaches that have played that team at some point and get information. And generally and I say information, it means what’s there signal for their personnel stuff like that. You really don’t get much more than that.
On Kenneth Crawley on Punt Returns – “Crawley yes, he will still be back there. You know he misjudged the one. It was just so windy down there, in fact we had a punt that our kicker almost ‘wiffed’ on the ball. It was just really hectic down there; Crawley will continue to be the guy back there.”
On More Specifics Of Parker Orms Hit – “I never do. You know as long as he’s inbounds and it’s a bang-bang, like he said it’s such a bang-bang play and I understand the officials they are told, ‘When in doubt, protect the player.’ And I understand that because we have a player, Will Harlos, who can’t play with us any longer because of concussions so trust me, I understand all that, but it is still a violent game and I still want my guys to play that game violently.”
On Offensive Issues
“At the end of the game, a couple times our receivers broke off his route and he shouldn’t have. They have to be better. That’s part of the thing when your doing a huddle, guys have to acknowledge that they are getting the signal or they heard the call, cause a lot of time the quarterback is looking over here and he’s yelling ‘Aggie, Aggie, Aggie’ and then he’s turning over here and then that guy didn’t here it or see it and then now he is guessing. And the quarterback and the receivers have to be better at acknowledging that they are on the same page with the call. We’re fortunate, most of the times when that happens it ends up being an interception. So were fortunate that at least did not happen.”
On Pressure from CSU
“We also expect pressure, we worked on some things. We had some screens that is obviously a good answer for it, did not execute those. One would have been a really big play so that’s one way to do it. And then there are some other things that we’re going to be able to do. I can’t say but there are things that we have to do to answer and to also help us with our run game too. I am involved on both sides of the ball heavily, I am in the defensive meeting room a lot, going over stuff with Brownie (defensive coordinator Greg Brown) and the stuff I like and don’t like, things I think we should do. And so you know, I see some things and that’s what I am trying to get when I talk with the offense, talk about some of the things we need to do because it will help with the pressures because I know, when certain things happen, when I hear the defensive coordinator go ‘Oh blank’ because of a certain player formation, that’s something you know makes him take five or six of his calls off his call sheet. Those are the kinds of things we have to make sure were doing offensively so were diverse enough that we can talk people out of doing some of the things they do from a pressure stand point.”
On Kickers and Tight Ends
“Yes, we got to use the tight end. We had some things dialed up for Nick [Kasa], it just didn’t work out that way, one was a P.I. (pass interference). Another couple of times, coverage took it away from them. Same with Vincent Hobbes. We’ll continue to try to get those guys involved, you know I said earlier when we lost Paul Richardson, everybody has to help pick up that slack, so it has to be our tight ends, it has to be our backs, not just the receivers we have. As far as the kicking game, Darragh [O’Neill] did well, he had one poor punt and that was due to the wind, and I say poor punt just from hang time stand point, I expect him to continue to improve and get better, cause I think he has a big time leg and he has a chance to be a guy that has All-American potential if he will continue to work at it and get better. And then obviously Will Oliver making his only [field goal] attempt. And then Castor did a good job on the kickoffs, placing the ball deep and where we wanted. I think he mis-kicked one that put us at risk, but we did a good job at covering it. Those guys have to continue to help us change field position on the punting game and then help us when we get an opportunity to get us some points to be able to do it, count on them.”
Colorado returns to the “Bottom Ten”
Colorado was, in the early 1980’s, a fixture in the old “Bottom Ten” put out by Steve Harvey.
Now, in 2012, the Buffs are back …
In the Bottom Ten posted at ESPN, Colorado came in at No. 10 on the list of Bottom Ten teams, with the following write-up: “For a team trying to gain a little bit of good will and build some momentum back home after a two-win inaugural Pac-12 season, losing to Colorado State, which has won just three games in each of the past three seasons, just isn’t a good start.”
The only other BCS conference school to make the list was Pitt, coming in at No. 5 after a 31-17 loss to Youngstown State. The rest of the Pac-12 was not completely immune, though, as on the waiting list you will find, “Grand re-openings at Cal”, a reference to the Bears’ 24-17 loss to Nevada, and “Mike Leach’s first impression”, after Washington State fell, 30-6, to BYU in their opener.
Still, seeing Ralphie back in the Bottom Ten … brings back all the wrong sort of memories …
Six players earn first career starts
Against Colorado State, six players earned their first career starts. Some we were prepared for; others were a bit of a surprise.
Junior quarterback Jordan Webb was the starter at quarterback, as has been known for several weeks. True freshman Kenneth Crawley also started the game at cornerback, another starter which had been announced previously. Junior nose tackle Nate Bonsu also earned his first career start, but he had been listed as the likely starter all through Fall Camp.
The other three starters, though, were not altogether anticipated:
True freshman wide receiver Gerald Thomas was on the field for the first offensive play, instead of red-shirt freshman Nelson Spruce, who had been listed atop the depth chart at the “z” wide receiver position. (Thomas, along with Crawley, became the eighth and ninth players in CU history to earn their first career start as a true freshman).
Junior fullback Alex Wood was also in the lineup first against Colorado State, ahead of true freshman Christian Powell.
Sophomore defensive end Kirk Poston was also the first on the field in the opener, ahead of junior Chidera Uzo-Diribe. While Uzo-Diribe earned accolades for his two sacks against the Rams, it was in fact Poston who was on the field for the first play.
Defensive line coach Kanavis McGhee expects the two to continue to push each other this season. Poston registered the first tackles (five, four solo; a QB sack and a rundown) of his CU career. All in all, it was a fairly solid start after Poston calmed his nerves and concentrated on his DE duties. “I was definitely nervous, but once I got out there I was OK,” he said. “For the most part, I think it went pretty good; I made a couple of plays.”
Not surprisingly, McGhee wants more. The 6-2, 256-pound Poston “did OK for it being his first time in that role,” McGhee said. “But we’re at the stage now where we’re looking for high productivity. He made some plays, he left a lot on the field. We’ll continue to work to find someone to work opposite Chidera (Uzo-Diribe). It’s good to have someone like Chidera to set the tone of what we’re looking for.”
Uzo-Diribe, a junior, set the bar high. He started on the right side against CSU and produced a pair of sacks and three tackles for loss. That’s McGhee’s version of productivity, and if it was apparent to him it also will be apparent to every other CU opponent hereafter.
McGhee expects Uzo-Diribe to draw more attention from left tackle/tight end tandems in the weeks to come, which increases the pressure for the CU end opposite Uzo-Diribe to ratchet up his game. So there are no assurances that Poston will make his second career start this Saturday when CU plays its home opener at Folsom Field against Sacramento State (1 p.m.).
“The starter this week is undetermined,” McGhee said. “Guys understand every day is a competition; they knew it in spring and fall camp. Everybody’s job is up in the air every week – even Chidera’s.
“I’m looking for two guys by the end of the week to stand out, to play that position for that week and for the betterment of the defense.”
Note … Senior tight end Nick Kasa also made his first career start against CSU, at least his first career start on offense. The converted defensive end had one career start for the defense coming into this season.
Buffs may start three true freshmen in defensive backfield against Sacramento State
With senior safety Ray Polk out with a high ankle sprain and sophomore Greg Henderson questionable with a sprained ankle of his own, Colorado may be playing with three true freshman in the defensive backfield against Sacramento State.
Cornerback Kenneth Crawley started against Colorado State, becoming just the eighth true freshman to start in a season opener. If Henderson can’t go, fellow true freshman Yuri Wright will earn the start at the other cornerback position.
“I’m ready right now,” true freshman Yuri Wright said Monday. “I was ready a week ago, so I’m ready right now to step in if I have to. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time now,” he said of his first start.
During fall camp, another top-notch freshman corner, Kenneth Crawley, earned a starting job, leaving Wright as a second-stringer. That motivated Wright, he said.
“It definitely showed me that I need to work a lot harder,” he said. “He’s a good player and I have to give him that. Hopefully I just keep working and get better and one day I’ll be the starter.”
In place of Ray Polk at safety, the Buffs will play Parker Orms, a junior. If Orms is playing safety, that will move true freshman Marques Mosley up to the primary nickel back position.
Wright — and Crawley — could get tested a lot against Sacramento State. Hornets quarterback Garrett Safron threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns in a 49-19 loss to New Mexico State, although the Hornets spent most of the game trailing. A year ago, they averaged 176 yards through the air.
Regardless of how much Sacramento State throws it, Wright is hoping the nerves of playing in college are gone.
“I was comfortable (against CSU),” he said. “It felt good to be back there. I had the nerves at first, but those went away as soon as the first play was over. It felt good to be out there.”
There were only two players on the CU injury list after the game Saturday, both defensive backs.
Brown lost starting senior free safety Ray Polk at least for this week and has starting sophomore right corner Greg Henderson on the questionable list.
“Depth is now out the window, but that’s part of the deal,” Brown said. “We’re right back where we were losing two starters, right back to square one. We still need to get another recruiting class in next year with a number of quality DBs and get the numbers up.”
“You can’t really gauge it,” Polk said Monday, as he wore a walking boot on his left leg. “That’s why we have to go day by day. The more rehab I can get right now the better off I’ll be, in my opinion. I’m just staying in the training room as much as possible and trying to get this thing better.”
A senior, Polk has missed only three games during his career, including two last year with a concussion.
“I can’t afford to miss these games, on a personal level as well as I want to help out the team,” he said.
Parker Orms is set to start in Polk’s place.
“It means I’ve got to step up and be a starter now,” Orms said. “It sucks seeing Ray go down. He worked so hard being a leader of the DBs and the defense and the whole team. I just feel bad for him that he has to miss out at all.”
Orms went into the season as the starting nickelback. True freshman Marques Mosley will take over Orms’ spot, Embree said. Mosley and Orms both played a lot against CSU. Orms had four tackles and Mosley forced a fumble.
“We still have some guys back there that we feel good about,” Embree said.
A Few Positives from the CSU loss
Lost in the agony of the 22-17 loss to Colorado State in the Rocky Mountain Showdown were some positives, at least statistically.
– CU punter Darragh O’Neill had six punts for 284 yards, a 47.3 yard average. O’Neill’s efforts places him atop the Pac-12, and 8th in the nation.
– As a team, the Buffs’ 46.33 net punting average is second in the Pac-12, and 5th in the nation.
– Colorado ranked 115th in the nation in kickoff returns in 2011; after the first game, the Buffs are ranked 26th nationally.
– Colorado ranked 102nd in the nation in total defense in 2011; after the first game, the Buffs are ranked 37th.
– Defensive lineman Chidera Uzo-Diribe had two sacks against Colorado State, tying him for 3rd nationally in that category. Uzo-Diribe has three tackles for loss overall, tying him for 8th nationally (Linebacker Derrick Webb, with two tackles for loss, is tied for 29th).
– Wide receiver Nelson Spruce had eight catches for 64 yards and a touchdown against the Rams, with the eight catches putting him in a tie for 17th nationally.
– Freshman defensive back Kenneth Crawley is ranked 3rd in the Pac-12 in punt returns, and 27th nationally. (Crawley had 38 yards in punt returns against Colorado State. Last season, Rodney Stewart led the team in punt returns, with 22 yards … for the year!).
Recap of Sacramento State v. New Mexico State
The Buffs’ next opponent, Sacramento State, opened the 2012 season with a 49-19 road loss to New Mexico State.
The score indicates a rout, but the game was really a game in three acts … The Aggies raced out to a 28-3 lead late in the second quarter, but then the Hornets fought back. Thanks to a touchdown late in the first half (sound familiar, Buff fans), Sacramento State went on a 16-0 run to pull within 28-19 in the third quarter. With the game still very much in doubt, Sacramento State had the ball near midfield, but Hornet quarterback Garrett Safron fumbled the ball away while being pursued, and the Aggies turned the gift into a touchdown. On the Hornets’ next play from scrimmage, a pass to the flat was tipped and intercepted, leading to another score. The Aggies then upped the score to 49-19 with a touchdown in the last minute of play.
Sophomore quarterback Garrett Safron threw for a career high 318 yards and two touchdowns on 23-of-35 passing and the Hornets had three pass catchers — DeAndre Carter, Morris Norrise and T.J. Knowles — each tally more than 75 yards receiving. Junior running back Ezekial Graham led the Hornets with 46 rushing yards on 16 carries.
Safron’s passing total easily eclipsed his previous high of 130 which came last year against Northern Arizona. The Santa Monica, Calif., native also set career marks with completions and attempts. His effort was the first 300-yard performance by a Sacramento State quarterback since Jeff Fleming totalled 333 yards against NAU in 2010.
The sophomore was not the only Hornet to have a career night as Carter matched his best with four receptions and 81 yards. Knowles also set career highs with five grabs for 75 yards.
Defensively, Todd Davis amassed a team high 11 tackles to give him seven double-digit games since the start of last season. Robert Beale added a career high nine stops and Jeff Badger provided seven, including a pair of forced fumbles.
Manley, who was making his first start since injuring his knee in the third game of last year, was an effecient 14-of-22 for 367 yards and three touchdowns. Franklin was his favorite target, catching eight passes for 236 yards and two scores.
Note … This week’s “T.I.P.S.” for the CU/Sacramento State game will be posted Tuesday night …