Colorado at Washington – A Preview – “T.I.P.S.”


Here we go again.

Same song, different verse.

Colorado at Washington.

This weekend, Colorado will once again face an offense with a dynamic, mobile quarterback (Keith Price) and an elusive, record-setting running back (Bishop Sankey).

Once again, the Buffs will have an opportunity to show that they belong in the Pac-12, and show that CU has a defense which can keep their team in the game.

… And, once again, the odds-makers don’t believe the Buffs have a chance.  The line for the game opened at 26 points, and quickly moved up to 28.

Can Colorado contain Sankey, who ran for 241 yards the last time he was on the field?

Can the Buffs find a way to neutralize Keith Price, already the all-time leader in career touchdown passes at Washington?

Recent history suggests the answer to both of these questions is “no”. But these Buffs, much to their credit, have not given up on the season, and have not given up on themselves. They showed a spark and a fight against UCLA that Buff fans have been dying to see for some time.

Whether the Buffs can continue making progress, or will suffer a regression against Washington, remains to be seen (6:00 p.m., MT, Saturday, Pac-12 Networks).

To prepare you for the game, here are this week’s “T.I.P.S.”:

T – Talent

Senior quarterback Keith Price is only 6’1″, 202-pounds, but in this case size doesn’t matter. Price is a fixture in the Washington record books. His 70 career touchdown passes are already 15 more than any other quarterback in Husky history, and, with two more passing scores, Price will move into the top ten on the all-time Pac-12 list for career touchdown passes.

And, it has to be said, Price likes playing against Colorado.

Price has faced the Buffs in only two games in his career (2-of-42 games, or 4.7%), but has 13% of his career touchdown passes (9-of-70) against Colorado.

Yes, nine of Price’s 70 career touchdown passes have come against Colorado.

Price threw for four touchdowns and 257 yards in the 52-24 rout of the Buffs the last time the teams played in Seattle, and had a school-record tying five touchdown passes in last season’s 38-3 win in Boulder.

One of Price’s best weapons will not be available this Saturday, however. Junior wide receiver Kasen Williams, an honorable mention All-Pac-12 receiver in 2012, suffered a foot/leg injury v. Cal two weeks ago, undergoing surgery on October 29th. So, look for tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to have a number of passes thrown his way against the Buffs. A pre-season All-American, Seferian-Jenkins came into the season already the all-time school leader in receptions, yards, and touchdowns by a tight end.

The Colorado defense, however, cannot focus entirely on the Washington passing game, as running back Bishop Sankey is also an offensive record-setter. Third in the nation in rushing at 145.3 yards per game, Sankey rushed for a career-best 241 yards in the Huskies’ 41-17 rout of Cal two weeks ago. Sankey, who rushed for 1,439 last season, already has 1,162 yards rushing this year (over 100 yards more than all of CU’s running backs combined). The junior is fourth in the nation in touchdowns, with 12 on the season (CU, as a team, has eight rushing touchdowns).

While it will be difficult to contain the Washington offense – the Huskies have scored at least 24 points in every game this fall – the Buffs will also have a problem dealing with the Husky defense. Last season, when Bishop Sankey was going for 139 yards against the Buffs in Boulder, the Colorado offense generated 141 yards … that’s 141 yards of total offense for the entire game.

This season, Washington is second in the conference in pass defense, giving up only 214.5 yards per game through the air. Said coach MacIntyre: “Defensively, I’d say they’re one of the one or two most athletic defenses in the league when you watch them.  They’re big up front.  They have rangy outside linebackers.  They can also rush the passer.  Their corner, (Marcus) Peters, I think is the best in the league”.

Good luck, Buffs!

I – Intangibles

True freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau is no stranger to being the quarterback at Homecoming. Liufau was the Buff quarterback for CU’s Homecoming game against Arizona, and was the Buff quarterback for UCLA’s homecoming game last weekend.

And now Liufau will be at quarterback for the Buffs at yet another Homecoming.

Not Washington’s … his own.

A year ago, Liufau was a star quarterback for Bellarmine Prep school in nearby Tacoma, Washington, leading the Lions to a 12-2 record. Now, Liufau will be trying to lead the Buffs to victory in front of 72,500 hostile fans.

Okay, maybe 70,000 hostile fans, and about 2,500 CU fans, including many family and friends from his hometown, who will be on hand to cheer him on.

Liufau performed fairly well in front of 80,000 in the Rose Bowl last weekend, and will certainly want to make a good showing in front of the hometown fans this Saturday.

The question is: Will Liufau perform better in front of his extended Washington family – and against some of the players he played with and against in high school – or will the added pressure of wanting to make a good showing add to overthrows and poor decision making?

Hard to say. Liufau has handled the pressure well so far, but he is still a freshman.

As for the Huskies, they face a different kind of pressure on Saturday.

Head coach Steve Sarkisian came to Seattle in 2009 from USC, where he had been the offensive coordinator for a Trojan team which had gone to four straight Rose Bowls. Sarkisian took over a Washington team which had finished a woeful 0-12 in 2008. Sarkisian performed a minor miracle in guiding Washington to a 5-7 record his first year. The following year, Washington went 7-6 and earned a Holiday Bowl appearance.

Onward and upward!

The thing is, the Huskies have since plateaued. Washington followed the 7-6 record in 2010 with another 7-6 campaign in 2011 … and then another 7-6 record last season.

Hopes were high when Washington opened this season with a 38-6 domination of then No. 19 Boise State. Three games later, after a 31-13 takedown of Arizona, the Huskies were 4-0 and  ranked No. 15 in the nation. Hopes ran high that Washington would break through against the top two teams in the Pac-12 North, and compete for a conference championship. Washington did hang tough against Stanford (31-28) and Oregon (45-24), but lost both games. The Huskies then lost their third straight game, a humbling 53-24 loss to Arizona State, to fall to 4-3, ending their hopes of a Pac-12 North title.

Washington has since rebounded with an easy 41-17 win over Cal, but the Huskies, who are looking to jump off of the 7-6 treadmill, are still only 5-3 (2-3 in Pac-12 play). Tough road games against UCLA and Oregon State follow the games against the Buffs, with the finale being an always tough rivalry game against Washington State.

Another 7-6 record is not out of the question, and could be weighing on the minds of the coaches and players. As a result, it would be reasonable to assume that the Huskies are looking past their game this weekend against Colorado – and forward to their road trips to Los Angeles and Corvallis – as a way to salvage a season which started out with so much promise.

Which leads us to …

P – Preparation / Schedule

Washington had last week off. The Huskies were in a unique position to watch the Colorado/UCLA game last weekend … and scout both teams at the same time.

After facing the Buffs, the Huskies are off to Los Angeles to face the Bruins.

Washington hasn’t defeated UCLA in the Rose Bowl since 1995, and the 5-3 Huskies – already assuming a 6-3 record and bowl eligibility will be earned this weekend – will be looking for a signature win over the Bruins to make a statement to the rest of the conference that they are more than just another 7-6 team.

Adding urgency to the need to look past Colorado and focus on UCLA is that the Huskies will have a short week to prepare.

Next weekend’s Washington/UCLA game will be played on Friday night, before a national television audience on ESPN2. Being a short week, and a travel week at that, Husky players and coaches would be forgiven if some of this week’s preparation was spent on the Bruins.

That being said, it could also be argued that the Buffs have a reason to look past the Huskies this week.

Not because the game will be easy – the Buffs are, after all, a four-touchdown underdog – but rather because next week’s opponent is Cal. The Bears, currently 1-8, are coming to Boulder after facing USC this weekend. Assuming a 1-9 record, with the only victory a 37-30 win over Portland State from the Big Sky Conference, CU players might be forgiven for looking past Washington, and looking forward to playing Cal, a team which, at least on paper, represents the Buffs best chance at a Pac-12 victory this season.

Between the two teams, it would seem far more likely that Washington will suffer, as UCLA coach Jim Mora called his Bruins efforts against CU, a “hangover”.

If the Huskies want to keep it conservative, and reserve new plays and formations they worked on during the bye week for their big game against UCLA next weekend, keeping it vanilla against Colorado …

… that would be fine with me.

S – Statistics

Last weekend, we started focusing in on the positive stats, rather than dwelling on how many categories CU is ranked 100th or worse nationally.

We’ll continue with that new tradition in a moment, but there are a couple of game stats worth noting first:

– Washington is 14th in the nation in total offense, gaining over 500 yards per game. So the Huskies will be able to move the ball, with the key being to try and force longer drives, and field goals instead of touchdowns;

– One thing Washington is bad at is kickoff return yardage defense. The Huskies are 111th nationally in this category, so, assuming from the above stat that CU will have several kickoff returns during the game, this might be an area which the Buffs might hope to exploit;

– Washington is 78th in the nation in rushing defense, and 97th in time of possession. So the game plan from the UCLA game, including running the ball effectively and holding onto the ball for 36 minutes of game clock, will be the goal against Washington as well.

Paul Richardson watch

– With only 16 yards receiving against Washington, Richardson will become just the 7th Buff to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in a season … Countdown to single season record: 165 (school record: 1,149, Charles E. Johnson, 1992);

– With his next touchdown reception, Richardson will move into a tie for second on the single season list, with 9 … Countdown to single season record: 3 (school record: 11, Derek McCoy, 2003);

– With his next reception, Richardson will move into sole possession of fifth place on the single season list, with 58 … Countdown to single season record: 21 (school record: 78, D.J. Hackett, 2003).

Addison Gillam watch …

– Gillam has 81 tackles on the season. Barring injury, he will set the single season record for a freshman this weekend … Countdown to freshman single season record: 4 (school record: 85, Matt Russell, 1993).

Chidera Uzo-Diribe watch

– Diribe has forced five fumbles this season, and has ten in his career. With his next forced fumble, he will tie Brian Cabral (1974-77) and Barry Remington (1982-86) for the all-time record (11). With two more forced fumbles, Uzo-Diribe will tie Jashon Sykes (1999) for the single season record (7).

Running back watch …

– Last weekend, Christian Powell became the 50th player in Colorado history to rush for over 1,000 yards in his career. Powell now has 1,067 yards rushing, good enough for 44th on the all-time list.

– Up next: Tony Jones. With 807 yards rushing in his career, Jones is 57th on the all-time rushing yardage list … Countdown to becoming the 51st Buff with 1,000 career rushing yards: 193.

It’s never easy when you are at the bottom of a conference. Every game is a challenge. Every game is seemingly played uphill.

Next week, the Buffs will face off against the Cal Bears for the – at least for this season – coveted 11th place spot in the conference.

A good showing against Washington will go a long ways toward instilling confidence that the Buffs will be able to finish the 2013 season on a high note.


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