September 6th

Finally, it’s the Buffs turn to play. Running out onto Folsom Field for the opener against the Rams, the Buff players will be well aware that their competition for the remainder of the 2009 season went 10-1 in the opening weekend, with only next week’s opponent, Toledo, losing in week one (the Big 12 overall also went 10-1, with only #3 Oklahoma’s 14-13 loss to #20 BYU keeping the conference from a perfect slate).

Still, there is reason to dissect the results. While it is true that some of this fall’s opponents fared better than expected this weekend, some did not fare as well …

Purdue 52, Toledo 31. If you are looking at the glass as half empty, you are concerned that senior Rocket quarterback Aaron Opelt passed for 423 yards and three touchdowns against the Boilermakers, and that star receiver Stephen Williams had 15 catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns. Lesson learned: If CSU’s Grant Stucker – he of the five passes in his career – has a good day against the Buffs, next Friday could be a long night indeed.

From the glass half full side, we have the 315 yards rushing posted by the Boilermakers (not to mention 220 yards through the air). Sophomore Ralph Bolden, who had all of 16 carries for 28 yards in his freshman season, had 21 carries for 234 yards and two touchdowns against Toledo. Purdue was able to rush out to a 21-0 lead against the Rockets, and, after Toledo had closed the gap to 21-14, scored the game’s next 24 points to put the game out of reach. Lesson learned: if Darrell Scott can post good numbers against CSU, he will be quite anxious to play against Toledo next weekend.

Teams which fared better than expected:

Missouri 37, Illinois 9.  The Illini were supposed to give the rebuilding Tigers a good game, but Missouri rolled to an easy win. Sophomore Blaine Gabbert helped ease the pain of losing Chase Daniel, throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for another, as Missouri put up 442 yards of total offense. Missouri will likely be undefeated entering Big 12 play against Nebraska on October 8th.

Texas A&M 41, New Mexico 6. The Aggies were favored to defeat the Lobos, but A&M beat New Mexico with surprising ease. Erasing some of the memories of the 18-15 loss to Arkansas State to open the 2008 season, Texas A&M had 606 yards of total offense, led by 349 yards passing by Jerrod Johnson. The only remaining test for the Aggies in non-conference play is an October 3rd game against Arkansas.

Teams which fared worse than expected:

Iowa State 34, North Dakota State 17. Yes, the Cyclones did snap a ten-game losing streak in the debut of head coach Paul Rhoads, but it did not come easy. Iowa State clung to a 24-17 lead late into the third quarter against a team which went 6-5 against 1-AA competition in 2008. We’ll see how the Cyclones fare against Iowa next weekend before proclaiming ISU a threat in the Big 12.

West Virginia 33, Liberty 20. The Mountaineers won their 10th straight game against FCS competition since 2000 (Ten games against the 1-AA in nine seasons!), but the West Virginia offense struggled to put the ball in the end zone. The Mountaineers had 438 yards of offense against the Flames (no, I didn’t know that before today, either) from the Big South Conference, but relied on four field goals by kicker Tyler Bitancurt to keep Liberty at bay. True tests for the Moutaineers are still come. Next week is a re-match with East Carolina, followed by a game against Auburn.

Kansas State 21, Massachusetts 17. That Kansas State opened with a patsy is not a surprise. Nor is it a surprise that the Wildcats defeated the Minutemen (yes, I did know that one). What was interesting about the result is that Kansas State does not appear to be immediately back to the form Bill Snyder had become accustomed to seeing. Kansas State scored 21 unanswered points in the second quarter to take a 21-3 lead, but had to hang on as UMass scored 14 points in just over a minute of play (including a blocked punt returned for a touchdown) to pull to within 21-17 with 14:01 left in the game. Massachusetts was not a particularly scary opponent, going 7-5 in the Colonial Athletic Association in 2008 (including tough losses to rivals Maine and New Hampshire). Kansas State does have to play UCLA in two weeks, so we’ll see how Snyder II fares then.

 Okay, enough preparation. We’ve been talking about today since last November. It’s time for some CU football!

CU at the Game!!!

 September 4th

Change on the Defensive line depth chart

The defensive tackle depth chart, released by CU on Tuesday, read as follows: Curtis Cunningham, soph; Taj Kaynor, senior; or Will Pericak, Fr.-RS.

Three days later, without explanation, Will Pericak is the starting defensive tackle for the Buffs. A year removed from changing over from tight end, Pericak will play – and start – in his first college game on Sunday. “I’ve gained a ton of weight,” said Pericak, who has bulked up to 285 pounds in the past year. “I’ve gotten tons of practice, and I feel pretty confident at D-tackle.”

The move may cause some consternation amongst Buff fans. After all, Pericak was a tight end in high school, and he has apparently beaten out two players who were on the field last fall. I wouldn’t read too much into it, though. All three of the Buffs’ defensive tackles are going to see playing time, as defensive line coach Romeo Bandison searches for a group which can compete against Big 12 competition.

Games to keep an eye on this weekend

First, a disclaimer for those of you new to CU at the Game. I am a firm believer in the saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. While the Buffs won the national championship in 1990 playing the most difficult schedule in the nation, that’s not how it’s done anymore (at least for teams playing in the BCS conferences). I have no problem with the Buffs playing great teams – I just don’t want them to be playing great the week they are on the Buffs’ schedule. Think there are any commentators out there giving the Buffs a break for losing two starting offensive linemen the week of the Florida State game? Nope. It’s just an “L” on the record.  Think anyone remembers that CSU got to a bowl-worthy 6-6 on the heels of a 23-20 escape over Sacramento State? Nope.

Give me a broken down team the week we play them – let them get healthy and dominant against other teams.

Toward that end, here are a few games to keep an eye on as we wait (im)patiently for the Rocky Mountain Showdown:

Toledo at Purdue. The Rockets will be playing in West Lafayette Saturday, and the results of that game will give Colorado fans a decent look as to what to expect next Friday. The Boilermakers went 4-8 last season, with one signature win (over Michigan – ironically, the Wolverines were one of the Rockets’ three victims in 2008). Both teams have new coaches, so there will be a number of teams looking at the film from this game.

#13 Georgia at #9 Oklahoma State. Are the Cowboys as good as everyone is saying? Oklahoma State, with returning stars at quarterback (Zac Robinson), wide receiver (Dez Bryant), and running back (Kendall Hunter), are the darlings of the media, ranked in the top ten even though OSU is considered only the third best team in the Big 12 South. Losses of other key players (starting cornerback Perrish Cox received driving while suspended this week – playing status uncertain; tight end Jamal Mosley quit the team; middle linebacker Orie Lemon perhaps out for the season with a torn knee ligament) will test the mettle of the Cowboys in this marquee match-up.

New Mexico at Texas A&M. Are the Aggies as bad as everyone is saying? Texas A&M opened last season with an 18-14 loss to Arkansas State, and never recovered, going 4-8 (see also, Colorado, loss to Montana State, 2006). Texas A&M did beat New Mexico, 28-22, the following week last season. The Lobos also went 4-8 in 2008, and likely believe they let one get away last year. The final score of this game will be of interest to Buff fans, as the Texas A&M game is one of those games circled as a “W” on the calendar.

Missouri v. Illinois (at St. Louis). The Tigers outlasted the Illini, 52-42, last season, and 40-34 in 2007. Much has been written about the loss of key players in Columbia, and it will be interesting to see how Missouri fares in one of the few openers in the Big 12 against a quality opponent. Illinois only went 5-7 last season – but then again, so did the Buffs, and CU fans are already believing the Halloween game against the Tigers is winnable. If Illinois can give Missouri a game, it will bode well for the Buffs’ chances.

Buffs quietly drop two from the roster

It was almost an afterthought. On page 12 of the Game Notes for this week’s game against CSU, there is a one paragraph story – “Davis Hangs ’em Up”. Kicker Jameson Davis, who last year fought through injuries to be the Buffs’ kickoff man (and even tried several field goal attempts – going 1-3 – when Aric Goodman struggled), decided to end his football career. It had been anticipated that a healthy Davis would compete with Goodman for the placekicking job, but Davis’ surgically repaired knee never fully recovered.

Also gone, with little fanfare, is quarterback/athlete Josh Moten. Remember back at the start of fall camp, when the qualifications of Andre Simmons and Josh Moten were the hot topics of conversation?  The “Simmons watch” became a daily reason to sift through the internet for stories, while all that was said about Moten was that the Buffs were waiting for NCAA clearance on Moten, and that the California prep star could practice the first two weeks while awaiting final say. Now, Moten has been lumped in with defensive tackle Edward Nuckols and offensive lineman Shaun Simon (the stories for both received much more play than Moten’s) as players who must first attend junior college before they can become Buffs.

 

 

 

September 2nd

Dave Plati Game Notes – CU Injury report

You really can’t consider yourself a Buff fanatic unless you are willing to digest Associate AD/Media Relations Director Dave Plati’s Game Notes. Before the internet reached saturation levels, Dave’s Game Notes were my bible. Here is the link to the CU Game Notes: http://www.cubuffs.com/fls/600/gameday/csu09/cunotes.pdf?DB_OEM_ID=600

With Dave, of course, there are always a few tidbits which I didn’t know. This week:

The Buffs are 10-for-10 in the red zone in the three season openers under Dan Hawkins (of course, it would have helped if CU had a few more red zone opportunities against Montana State, but I digress);

CU opponents made 20-for-24 field goals in 2008, and 61-of-79 (77 percent) over the past four seasons.

On the injury list, there were the expected (MTM and Nick Kasa out for the next month or more), but there was also offensive tackle Matt Bahr (questionable – ankle) and linebacker Michael Sipili (questionable – knee). Running backs Demetrius Sumler (full go – neck strain) and Rodney Stewart (probable – thigh) were also on the list.

At cubuffs.com, there is also a weekley link to the opponent’s Game Notes.  Here is the link to the CSU Game Notes: http://www.cubuffs.com/fls/600/gameday/csu09/csunotes.pdf?DB_OEM_ID=600 One CSU note that jumped out at me. In discussing the renewal of the Invesco Series, there was this: “As part of the agreement, the 2010 game will move to Invesco Field at Mile High, and remain in Denver every season through 2019. In 2020, the contest will move to Ft. Collins.”

“Will move to Ft. Collins …”? Did I miss a meeting?

Compare the CU press release from earlier this week – “the next 10 games in their football series known as the Rocky Mountain Showdown beginning in 2010 will be played at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver.”  Funny that the CU press release didn’t mention the 11th game in the series …

Stay tuned. Best guess? The 2020 game in Ft. Collins will go the way of the 2010 game – it ain’t gonna happen. CSU will negotiate it away in order to keep the Buffs playing in Denver …

September  1st

5th Commitment slated to play cornerback

On Monday, Zach Craig  of Spring Branch, Texas, became the fifth known commitment of the CU 2010 recruiting class. Craig is 6’2″, 175, with his height a definite plus (amongst the current CU defensive backs, only junior Jimmy Smith and freshman Deji Olatoye are listed at 6’2″). Craig’s bio also shows that he is clocked at 4.4 in the 40 yard dash, which, if true, would speak for itself.

With that resume, you would think that Craig was a highly sought after prospect, and Craig was named as one of the five top defensive backs at the Rivals.com Ultimate 100 Camp in July. Still, the list of interested schools is not spectacular. Craig only had offers from CU, Colorado State, and Texas-San Antonio. It is true that he had interest from other Big 12 schools, including Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas, and Kansas State, but no other known offers.

The commitment from Craig is the fifth from this year’s class. If you are wondering if the Buffs are lagging behind the rest of the Big 12 in early commitment – again – you would be correct.  Iowa State (with 4) and Nebraska (with 5) are the only other schools in the conference with less than 10 commitments (Rivals shows Kansas State with six commitments, but Scout has the Wildcats up to ten). Still, Colorado is ahead of last year’s pace, when the Buffs entered the regular season with only three commitments.

Tyler Hansen to Start Sunday?

Sophomore quarteraback Tyler Hansen will be the Buffs’ starting quarterback against Colorado State – if Kyle Ringo’s “gut feeling” is correct. In his column for the Daily Camera Tuesday, Ringo cites Hansen’s steady progress and greater upside for his hunch that Hansen will be the starter.

Ringo also has the Buffs pegged for an 8-4 season and in the running for the Big 12 North, and also speculates that the CU rushing game will be strong (over 2,000 yards total) but divided sufficiently to deny any one runner a 1,000-yard season; that Aric Goodman will be significantly better at connecting on field goals; and that the Buffs will be better on the plus/minus with respect to turnover ratio.

We’ll see … I’ll agree with the 8-4, and the improvement in rushing and field goal percentage (Goodman won’t be given the opportunity to go 5-for-14 again). As for Hansen starting? Well, Ringo has access that we don’t, and he has seen more practices than almost any non-Buff – but I’m not buying. I still see Hawkins as the starter (but I would have no problem with being wrong. I just want the “W”!!).

August 31st

CU/CSU game slated for Denver for the next ten seasons.

Enjoy the Rams running out onto your home field this Sunday, because it won’t happen again until at least 2021. It was announced today that Colorado and Colorado State have agreed to play the next ten seasons at Invesco Field in Denver. “The players thoroughly enjoy playing in one of the finest NFL stadiums and the atmosphere is like opening your season in a bowl game,” said CU Athletic Director Mike Bohn.

As many of you know, my main objection to the series being played in Denver is not the where, but the when (see this week’s preview). Eight of the ten games will be season openers for the Buffs, giving their “we’ve got nothing to lose” rivals all of fall practice to gear up for Colorado game. (Imagine, if you will, the Buffs’ basketball team getting to play the Kansas Jayhawks, in Denver, opening weekend in November. True, CU would lose most of those games, but would the Buffs have a better chance of springing the upset early? – Certainly a better chance than playing KU in January or February).

There are two seasons when the CU/CSU Rocky Mountain Showdown will be played after the first game come in 2011 and 2015, when the Buffs open the season on the road against Hawaii. For travel reasons, Colorado wants/needs to open the season with the long road trip for the first game, pushing the CSU game to mid-September. Going with my theory above about opening against the Rams, it says right here that, regardless of prior season’s records, and regardless of the records going into the 2011 and 2015 games – Colorado will win both of those contests. Mark it down (actually, you don’t have to. Since everything at CU at the Game is archived, you can check out my predictions in two and six years).

Buffs release Depth Chart

The “pre-Colorado State” depth chart was released Monday. There were a few listings of note:

As expected, the quarterback position had an “OR” between Tyler Hansen and Cody Hawkins (with an “OR” also listed between freshmen Clark Evans and Seth Labato for third-string). “Both of those guys have done good jobs competing in camp,” said Dan Hawkins of Cody and Tyler. “It will be a tough choice, but we’ll be good to go with either one.”

The four running back candidates, Demetrius Sumler, Brian Lockridge, Darrell Scott, and Rodney Stewart were listed with an “AND” by each name. From all accounts, there will be little to be garnered from which player gets the first carry Sunday – it may be situational. Let’s say that the Rams fumble the opening kickoff back at their two-yard line (a nice thought). The Buffs will likely have either Sumler or Scott try and ram the  ball up the middle for the score, but that first carry may say little about the total number of carries each player will get over the course of the game – or season.

At wide receiver, junior Scotty McKnight, the only returning wide out with experience, is listed first, followed by Jason Espinoza, Ryan Maxwell, Andre Simmons, and true freshman Will Jefferson (Markques Simas is listed as “suspended”). According to the Dan Hawkins’ quote at cubuffs.com, though, former defensive back Anthony Wright is also “in the mix”, while Ryan Maxwell is listed amongst the “role players”.

Along the offensive line, the only question during fall camp was: “Who will start at left guard?”. The answer: sophomore Ethan Adkins. The other four positions: Nate Solder (LT), Mike Iltis (C), Ryan Miller (RG), and Bryce Givens (RT) have been known for since last spring. For the glass half-empty crowd: there are three new starters along the offensive line, with the other two (Miller and Solder), posting only 25 career starts between them. For the glass half-full contingent: Two staters from last season, tackle Matt Bahr and guard Blake Behrens, have been relegated to back up roles. “You can have all the experience in the world, but if you don’t have an offensive line that has good chemistry and cohesion, that experience doesn’t mean very much,”  center Mike Iltis told BuffStampede.com. “This year’s offensive line is very, very close.”

The questions about the defensive line will continue throughout the season, but the starters are now known. Listing a 4-3 front (the Buffs will also play a great deal of 3-4 alignments), junior Marquez Herrod and sophomore Lagrone Shields are listed at defensive end, with sophomore Curtis Cunningham getting the nod at defensive tackle and sophomore Eugene Goree listed as starter at nose tackle. True freshmen Nate Bonsu and Forrest West are also expected to receive extensive playing time. “In the D-line, you need about eight guys,” said Dan Hawkins. “Like in hockey, you just jump the board and keep rolling out there.”

The linebackers are deep, with seniors Jeff Smart and Marcus Burton, along with junior B.J. Beatty listed as those out on the field for the first snap of the season. “The whole group is coming around,” said Hawkins. “There’s a decent amount of guys who are seeing some action there.”

With all of the passing offenses the Buffs will see this fall, there will be a number of defensive backs who will see action (the first starting lineup may see three linemen, three linebackers, and five defensive backs). It is worthy of note that junior Jimmy Smith got the starting nod over senior Ben Burney at one of the corner spots. Anthony Perkins and Patrick Mahnke, as expected, are the starting safeties. “Both of our safeties have had pretty solid camps,” said Hawkins.

On special teams, incumbents Matt DiLallo and Aric Goodman held onto their positions, with Goodman also taking over the kickoff duties from Jameson Davis. Freshman Zach Grossnickle, who was much celebrated last February, is listed at third-string punter, behind Darrell Scott, and is a likely red-shirt candidate. Demetrius Sumler and Darrell Scott get the job of kickoff returners, with Jason Espinoza and Scotty McKnight taking on punt returns.

Overall, there were only a few true freshmen who made the depth chart. Defensive linemen Bonsu and West will likely lose the red-shirts this Sunday, as will wide receiver Will Jefferson (the late signee jumped past fellow freshmen Terdema Ussery and Jarrod Darden at the first scrimmage, and apparently never looked back). Otherwise, barring injury, most of the class of 2009 will be slated to red-shirt.

And that’s a good thing …

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