October 23rd

Injury update

The offensive line and running back corps continue to dominate the injury report. Along the offensive line, Bryce Givens is still out, but not due to injury. Givens did not play against Kansas, but is available this weekend against Kansas State. However, according to offensive line coach Denver Johnson, Ryan Miller, who started in place of Givens at right tackle against Wyoming and Kansas State (yes, both of the Buffs’ wins), will continue to start at right tackle “for the immediate future”.

At center, Mike Iltis will return to the starting lineup this weekend after missing parts of the past three games with an Achilles tendon injury and a concussion. Keenan Stevens started the past three games in place of Iltis, and did start against Kansas. Stevens, though, played only the first 18 plays against the Jayhawks, with Iltis playing the final 50 plays. Is the lack of continuity a problem? “No”, said Iltis. “It’s building confidence as a group as the season goes not necessarily the personnel in there”.

Offensive line coach Denver Johnson agrees. “We’ve been getting better incrementally,” said Johnson. “We took another step forward (against Kansas). The trick is not to slide back – keep ratcheting this thing forward and not go backwards.”

The running backs are also dinged up. We know about Darrell Scott, who underwent knee surgery Thursday, and will be out two-to-three weeks. Also on the injury report this week are running backs Brian Lockridge, who is listed as “probable”  with a shoulder bruise, and Rodney Stewart, also listed as “probable” with what is described as a “rolled ankle”.

Also on the injury report this week are safety Anthony Perkins, listed as “day-to-day” with a rib contusion, and linebacker Douglas Rippy, probable with a sprained knee.

The only other player listed is offensive guard Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner, still listed as “week-to-week”. As the Buffs are now entering the second half of the 2009 season, here’s hoping that MTM decides to take a red-shirt season, and come back full strength – and for a full season – in 2010.

October 21st

Darrell Scott goes under the knife

Darrell Scott underwent arthroscopic surgery knee surgery on Thursday, and will not be making the trip to Manhattan for the game against Kansas State. Scott has been hobbled since injuring his knee during a kickoff return during the Toledo game. “They’re just going to clean some stuff,” said Dan Hawkins. “They’re not taking anything out.” There is no set date for Scott’s return, though it is not considered serious enough to keep Scott out for a significant period of time – best guess: up to three weeks …

October 20th

Okay, let’s dare to dream …

Flashback to two months ago – two weeks before the opener against Colorado State. The Buffs were getting ready for the “ten wins, no excuses” 2009 season.  Cautious optimism reigned. Buff fans took a look at the conference schedule, and noted that the Big 12 North favorites all had to come to Boulder. All of the Big 12 North teams had flaws.

Maybe, just maybe, the losing would come to an end in 2009.

Then, the wheels fell off, and the Buffs found themselves in the “Bottom Ten” after losses to CSU and Toledo.

At the time, even the most gung-ho Buff fan would have probably conceded that the Buffs would not carry the day in Austin. If you had offered most Colorado fans the identical score of the 2008 Texas game, 38-14, they most likely would have taken it. If you had offered those same fans a 38-14 loss to Texas, but a win over Kansas, they would have jumped at the chance.

Well, that’s where we’re at.

It’s hard to erase the memories of the CSU disappointment and the Toledo debacle. However, since week two, the Buffs have actually held pretty true to predicted form. An easy win over Wyoming, followed by a “close, but no cigar” effort against West Virginia, a loss at Texas, and a home win against Kansas. In truth, the most surprising game of the last four is the win over Kansas. With Tyler Hansen now installed at quarterback, it is not an irrational idea that the Buffs can play out the remainder of the 2009 season the way Buff fans expected them to two months ago.

So, for the sake of argument, let’s make the case for “Colorado Buffaloes: 2009 Big 12 North Champions”:

If the Buffs to win the North, it is only because the other candidates are equally flawed, and/or have a tougher remaining schedule.

Let’s start with Kansas. The Jayhawks, with a loss to Colorado already on the books, still has three games against the Big 12 South. This year’s opponents? #25 Oklahoma at home; #21 Texas Tech and #3 Texas on the road. Yikes. Plus, there are also games against Nebraska and Missouri. The only “easy” game left on the schedule? On the road, against in-state rival – and current Big 12 North leader – Kansas State. A 5-3 conference record would be a significant achievement.

Okay, what about Nebraska, the other favorite to win the North. The Cornhuskers are, like Kansas and Colorado, 1-1 in Big 12 play. Nebraska will probably take over the Big 12 North lead over the next two weeks, with games against Iowa State and Baylor. Then, things get tougher, as the Cornhuskers face Oklahoma, Kansas on the road, Kansas State, and at Colorado. Not bad, but after the 31-10 home loss to Texas Tech, and the possible change at quarterback, questions are being raised …

Then there is Missouri. The two time defending Big 12 North champions are in an 0-2 hole to start Big 12 play, losing to Nebraska and Oklahoma State. This weekend, Missouri takes on #2 Texas in a “make or break” game for the Tigers. Want to place $$ on Missouri taking out the Longhorns? If they do, they are back in the race, otherwise …

For argument’s sake, as the North is truly a free-for-all, we should also include Iowa State. The Cyclones are 1-2 in Big 12 play, and are on the road in Lincoln this weekend. There are also games against Oklahoma State and at Missouri. For Iowa State to contend, they would have to take two out of three of those games. Iowa State may get two more wins this season, and qualify for a bowl. That in and of itself would be a major accomplishment, but the North title is probably out of reach in 2009.

Finally, there is division-leading Kansas State. The Wildcats are 2-1 in Big 12 play, having knocked off Iowa State and Texas A&M; losing to Texas Tech. To say it’s hard to get a read on KSU is an understatement. Kansas State followed up a 66-14 loss to Texas Tech with a 62-14 win over Texas A&M. Folks, that’s a 52-point loss followed by a 48-point win – a 100-point turnaround in one week. The Wildcats do have road games against Oklahoma and Nebraska to prove the turnaround is legitimate, but they do get the other contenders at home …

… including this weekend.

Let’s take a walk through a hypothetical second half of the 2009 season for the Buffs.

It either starts, or comes to a quick end, this weekend. A win over the Wildcats gives the Buffs a Sunflower State sweep, and a leg up on the Big 12 North race. After Kansas State, Colorado returns home to face a Missouri team which, barring an upset win over Texas, will be on a three-game losing streak, and, more importantly, 0-3 in Big 12 play. The Buffs were routed in Columbia last season. If Kansas State can have a 100-point turnaround in one week, why can’t the Buffs do the same in a year?

After Missouri, the Buffs face Texas A&M and Iowa State. If Colorado is the team that they were projected to be two months ago, these are the two most winnable games on the schedule. Wins over the Aggies and Cyclones would give the Buffs a 5-1 Big 12 record. A likely loss to Oklahoma State (on the road, five days after the Iowa State game) could very well set up a de facto Big 12 North championship game against Nebraska, in Boulder, Thanksgiving weekend.

Unlikely? Improbable? Yep.

For the record, I’m still stuck on the memory of my long drive to Columbus from Toledo the morning after the Rocket assault. I can’t get the memory of that complete meltdown out of my head. Nor can I ignore the fact that it has now been almost exactly two … full … seasons since the Buffs won a game on the road.

A win on Saturday, and all of the above comes into play. Colorado will be a team to reckon with in the Big 12 North race.

A loss on Saturday, and we go back to the Dan Hawkins’ countdown …

October 19th

A tip of the hat to two Buffs

As the Buffs and their fans bask in the glow of the win over Kansas (was your work day just a little bit better today?), I’d like to give out a shout to two Buffs who have been maligned this season.

First, let’s hear it for kicker Aric Goodman. I received a text Saturday that Goodman was suffering from an abdominal strain, and might not be able to play against Kansas. Not only did he play, but Goodman was successful on both of his field goal attempts. Okay, the first kick, from 45 yards out, bounced in off right upright, but hey, it went in, tying the score in the second quarter. What’s more, Goodman had seven kickoffs, all of which made it to the endzone. Five went for touchbacks, with only two being returned (one to the 16; one to the 25).  For his efforts, Goodman was honored for the second time this season as the national kickoff specialist of the week by the College Football Performance Awards. All in all, for a kicker that none of us had much confidence in at the beginning of the season, a pretty good night! …

Second, a high-five for quarterback Cody Hawkins. If you watched the game, you know that Cody was there for Tyler Hansen all night. He was there to talk strategy; he was there to celebrate Tyler’s successes (which was better – the leap frog or the matador?). The cynic might say that Cody was doing it for show, that he didn’t want the cameras to catch him pouting. Even if that were true, then you would have to give credit to Cody for recognizing that his reactions would be captured on television. Personally, I think Cody’s reactions were genuine. I believe he is the consummate teammate, and was Tyler’s biggest fan on the sidelines …

In other news …

Rodney Stewart became the first Colorado player to be honored as the Big 12 Player of the Week. Speedy, who had 108 yards and two touchdowns against Kansas, shared the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors with Oklahoma State wide receiver Hubert Anyiam. On Saturday, Stewart became the 49th player in Colorado history to post 1,000 career rushing yards … (Last season, cornerback Cha’pelle Brown was the Defensive Player of the week after his interception return for a touchdown beat Eastern Washington, and kicker Aric Goodman was the Special Teams Player of the Week for his game-winning field goal in overtime against West Virginia) …

The Colorado/Missouri game has been picked up for television, but it is the 11:30 a.m. game on Fox Sports Net. The good news is that the game represents the eighth straight game regionally or nationally televised game (with Oklahoma State and Nebraska already scheduled for national coverage, the Buffs will be on television for at least ten games this season). The bad news is that the game is on Halloween, and would have been a great candidate for this season’s “Blackout” game. The game still might be chosen, but it won’t have the same look in the morning as it would have at night …

Big 12 quarterback shuffle … Nebraska, on the heels of a 31-10 loss to Texas Tech at home, may see a change at quarterback. Starter Zac Lee was ineffective against the Red Raiders, so freshman Cody Green was inserted. Head coach Bo Pelini said today that the decision as to which player would start against Iowa State Saturday would be a “game-time” decision. “We’ll see how it goes and how they practice and how they perform,” said Pelini. “There’s a lot of variable. A lot of things could happen.” … Texas quarterback Colt McCoy said he will play against Missouri Saturday, despite a bruised right thumb which will likely lose its nail. “It’s sore, but it’s not going to keep me out,” said McCoy. “It’s football.” … Oklahoma will be without quarterback Sam Bradford this Saturday against Kansas, and perhaps beyond. Saturday against Texas, Bradford re-injured the same shoulder which has kept him out for much of the season. “I think the fair thing to say is right now, he’s not going to play this week,” said Sooner head coach Bob Stoops. “I just assumed everyone understood that. From there, the path hasn’t been determined yet.”

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