“T.I.P.S.” for Fresno State

Before Colorado hits a wall of ranked teams in the 2012 schedule (the Pac-12 currently has five ranked teams, and the Buffs will face all five of them over a six week period beginning September 29th), the Buffs have two more chances to pick up victories against teams which share with the Buffs, at least on paper, a fairly equal talent base.

Fresno State is up first, with the game on the road Saturday night (6:00 MT kickoff on CBS-SN). The Bulldogs are 1-1 on the season, having taken care of business against a 1-AA team from the Big Sky Conference, Weber State (37-10), before falling on the road to No. 4 Oregon, 42-25.

Two weeks ago, many Buff fans looked at the Fresno State game as an opportunity to pick up a rare road victory, and a chance to build some momentum heading into Pac-12 play. Now, after two mind-numbing losses to Colorado State and Sacramento State, there are only few Buff faithful who give Colorado even a fighting chance at victory (in the latest CU at the Game poll, only 25% of the respondents are predicting a Buff victory).

What a difference two weeks make … Colorado is a 14-point underdog to Fresno State, a team which went 4-9 to close out the Pat Hill era last fall.

Still, the games go on, so let’s take a look at this week’s “T.I.P.S.” …

T- Talent

Fresno State senior running back Robbie Rouse continues to close in on the school rushing record that has stood since 1993, as he now only needs 79 yards to surpass Ron Rivers as the all-time leading rusher in Fresno State history. Rouse enters the game with 3,395 career rushing yards. Rivers had 3,473 yards from 1991-93. Last weekend at No. 4 Oregon, Rouse broke another school record. His 27 carries in the game gave him 665 for his career and moved him ahead of Michael Pittman (1993-97) for the most rushing attempts ever by a Bulldog. Rouse ran for 115 yards and one touchdown against the Ducks, giving him two 100-yard rushing days in as many games this season. Buff fans should anticipate hearing Rouse’s name early and often on Saturday night.

While Fresno State has a good rushing attack, it is the passing game which will have many Buff fans concerned. Last weekend, junior quarterback Derek Carr became the 13th Bulldog to throw for over 4,000 yards in a career, as he surpassed the milestone in the first quarter at Oregon last weekend. Carr has completed 68.1 percent of his 72 passes this season with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He has thrown for 532 yards, averaging 266.0 per game and over 10 yards per completion. Last season, Carr threw for over 3,500 yards, with 26 touchdowns to only nine interceptions.

Carr’s weapons? After becoming the first Bulldog freshman to ever have a 100-yard receiving day in his first career game, redshirt freshman Davante Adams backed up that record performance with another big game. Adams caught seven passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener at Weber State on September 1st. Last weekend at No. 4 Oregon, he hauled in 12 passes for 92 yards. Adams’ partner in crime is Isaiah Burse, who is right behind Adams in the Mountain West standings. Burse ranks second in both receptions (13) and receiving yards per game (81.5). Burse is coming off a seven catch performance at Oregon when he had 77 yards receiving and one touchdown, the fourth touchdown catch of his career. Burse also leads the Mountain West in all-purpose yardage with 352 yards through two games. He has returned six kickoffs for 156 yards, three punts for 27 yards and rushed two times for six yards in addition to his receiving total.

On defense, look for outside linebacker Tristan Okpalaugo, who had a big game last weekend at Oregon. The senior posted a career-high nine tackles, had four tackles for a loss, one sack and recovered a fumble. For his performance, Okpalaugo received honorable mention from the College Football Performance Awards for their national linebacker of the week award. Joining Okpalaugo on the Bulldog defensive unit is senior safety Phillip Thomas, who tied his career-high with nine tackles at No. 4 Oregon. Thomas had one sack in the game (the first of his career) that forced Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota to fumble the ball when the Ducks were in the red zone and the Bulldogs were able to recover. Thomas recovered a fumble as well in the third quarter, giving Fresno State the ball on the Oregon 12-yard line. Six of his nine tackles were unassisted and six of them came in the second half.

I – Intangibles

Want to know why Colorado is looking for someone other than Jordan Webb to play quarterback this Saturday? …. Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter is no stranger of Webb, as he faced him in each of the past two seasons when both were at different schools. Webb was the starting quarterback at Kansas in 2010 and 2011, the same years DeRuyter was the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M. DeRuyter’s attacking 3-4 defense’s had the upper hand in the first two meetings, holding Webb to 28-of-45 passing for 223 yards and three interceptions against only one touchdown in two games.

In 2010, Texas A&M knocked two Jayhawk quarterbacks out of the game with injuries in a 45-10 victory. Webb was 9-of-18 passing for 90 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown before exiting in the second quarter with a shoulder injury. Then last year in Texas A&M’s 61-7 win over Kansas, Webb was 19-of-27 passing against the Aggies for 133 yards and he threw one interception with no touchdowns. DeRuyter’s defense sacked Webb six times in that game.


Want another factoid to chew on? Fresno State, as we all know, has been a giant-killer over the years (including a victory over Colorado in 2001, the season the Buffs went on to win their sole Big 12 championship). Fresno State’s 12 wins over BCS schools since 2003 are the third most in the country, trailing only Navy (18) and BYU (13).

Any intangibles in the Buffs’ favor?

It may sounds strange, but the Buffs can actually play loose this weekend. The coaches’ quotes after the two opening season losses were sprinkled with comments about the young Buffs playing tight, playing not to make mistakes. With two “must wins” to start the season, Buff players did not make plays when opportunities presented themselves, playing not to lose instead of playing to win.

Now, though not for the reasons any Buff or their fans would have liked, the CU players have been released from expectations. Colorado is a two-touchdown underdog to a team which lost last November to Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State and San Diego State. You can’t get much lower than that in terms of trying to meet expectations.

So, the Buffs will have the opportunity this weekend to take some chances, and, hopefully, in taking some chances, make some plays.

P – Preparation / Schedule

In terms of the schedule, there is not much of an advantage for either team heading into Saturday night’s contest. Fresno State was on the road last weekend, but only traveled as far as Eugene to take on the Ducks. Meanwhile, Colorado played at home, and will be on the road for the first time this season.

Next weekend, both teams will be on the road. Fresno State will take on Tulsa, while Colorado will play in Pullman, Washington, for the first-time ever (before you send me an email … CU has played two “road” games against Washington State, but one was in Spokane; the other in Seattle). Both of next week’s opponents for Fresno State and Colorado are sitting at 1-1, and neither are traditional rivals, so neither Colorado nor Fresno State has any real reason to lose any focus on this Saturday’s game.

Fresno State cannot be expected to be intimidated by playing back-to-back games against BCS conference schools, either, as they have “been there, done that” for years. Saturday’s game against the Buffs will be the fifth time in the last 20 years that the Bulldogs faced Pac-12 schools in back-to-back games, and the ninth time they have played two or more Pac-12 teams in the same season.

The Bulldogs also seemingly came away from Eugene unscathed in the injury department, with no new injuries reported. Colorado, meanwhile, continues to lose key personnel. Linebacker Doug Rippy (sprained knee) is listed as “doubtful” for the game Saturday, while center Gus Handler (ankle) was listed as “day-to-day” on Tuesday, but moved to “out” on Wednesday. Injured starters from week one are also making only slow progress. Safety Ray Polk is “out” again this weekend with a high ankle sprain, while cornerback Greg Henderson is listed as “questionable” (Tuesday) or “doubtful” (Wednesday), as he recovers from the ankle sprain he suffered against Colorado State.

S – Statistics

One facet of the game which will likely decide if Colorado will still be playing for a victory in the fourth quarter … turnovers.

Unfortunately, Fresno State is one of just seven teams in the nation which has yet to turn the ball over so far this season. Meanwhile, the Colorado defense has generated exactly one turnover in two games. One contributor to Colorado’s 3-10 record in 2011: the Buffs forced only 15 turnovers in 13 games. Picking up more fumbles and interceptions was to be a large part of the game plan for success this fall, but, at least so far, not so much. Colorado will have to reverse both its own and Fresno State’s recent history with regards to turnovers if the game Saturday is to be competitive.

Other stats of note …

– Colorado hasn’t won consecutive road games since 2004 (at Kansas and Nebraska).

– The Buffs have yet to throw an interception, which is only the ninth time that CU has opened a season that way since such record keeping began in 1946.

– Punter Darragh O’Neill continues to be a bright spot for the Buffs. O’Neill is ranked 16th nationally in punting, with a 45.58 average per kick. Overall, Colorado is ranked 13th in net punting.

– Colorado and Fresno State are tied for 71st nationally in scoring defense. Both teams have surrendered 52 points in two games this season.

– A stat to keep an eye on Saturday night. Colorado is 113th nationally in sacks allowed, having given up eight so far. Meanwhile, Fresno State is ranked 14th in the country in sacks, having found the opposing quarterback seven times in the first two games (including three against Oregon quarterbacks, who are a touch faster than whichever CU quarterback is on the field this weekend).

– Fresno State is 11-5 all-time at home against Pac-12 teams.

Will Colorado come out and play with heart … and do so for more than a quarter or two? Recall that the Buffs, despite their record, led 14-3 and 14-0 in their first two games.

What if the Fresno State game does not start out well as the first two games?

That’s a scary thought …

Fresno State 34, Colorado 17

5 Replies to ““T.I.P.S.” for CU/Fresno State”

  1. Anyone hear who the captains are for this week?
    Or did they decide no one was really worthy?
    Could they just send out a true freshman by himself in Christian Powell or is he still too sore?
    Go Buffs…do something

  2. Adam, it’s nice to know I’m not the Lone Ranger. From the sound of it, Carr can pick us apart if we go ‘scheme’ and zone with our DB’s playing soft and giving their receivers a cushion…. for C—-t’s sake, a fast DB can keep up with a receiver, even if that receiver is experienced…. if the DB is there while the ball is in the air, it can create enuff’ confusion to break or take the receiver’s concentration off the ball and his route. Sure, we might get burned a couple of times, but that’s better than getting picked apart like a lizard on a chicken farm 7-10-12-15 yds at a time while the opposition keeps the ball, the chains and clock moving and we sit back letting our defense wear down and the opposition dominate the clock….. like it has…. (almost a 2 to 1 ratio at one time in the last game)…. all because we ALLOWED the other team to play pitch and catch. Holy Cr-p Batman….. we can do better than that. Let’s be the ones moving the ball 7-10-12 yds at a time and watch their defense wear down…. but to do that, you have to have a QB who can be accurate up to 10-15 yds down field….and a coach intelligent enuff’ to recognize the obvious. Being facetious, but anyone know a good Lingerie QB who can do that? Bring ‘er on…. At least it would be fun watching the ship sink.

  3. While we may end up getting smoked if we employ Buffaloboy’s strategy, I like it. Yuri Wright was a big-time player at Don Bosco Prep and although Bosco’s base is here in NJ their kids log more travel miles during football season than a lot of college outfits. I would let him/Crawley sink or swim in man coverage. All during his HS years here one thing that no one ever wrote about Wright was that he lacked confidence. Even if he gets torched Saturday night, I don’t think it will impact him long-term.

  4. Intangible: Does the DC have enuff b-lls to let the inexperienced DB’s go for “man coverage” with their speed and athleticism and look like a good coat of paint on the receivers, or does he try to apply a defensive scheme that only more experienced DB’s have with zone coverages, etc. I would say “Here I am… try and beat me” because I have confidence with our inexperienced DB’s speed and athleticism.

    1. We already know that playing soft and giving their receivers doesn’t work. What’s the worst that can happen by playing tight? We could get burned a few more and lose by a greater margin but who cares? We already lost to Sacramento State so we aren’t expected to do well with Fresno State. Play them tight and see what they can do.

      We should heed Einstein’s advice and try something new. “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

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