Colorado vs. Oregon State – A Preview – The “T.I.P.S.” for the Buffs and Beavers

Colorado fans suffered mixed emotions as Cal Bear kicker James Langford ended the double-overtime thriller in Berkeley with his a 34-yard field goal.

Disappointment, frustration, and perhaps a little anger surged through the veins of the Buff faithful.

Yet at the same time the Buff Nation experienced excitement, hope, and even some anticipation of better days to come.

At Tuesday’s press conference, held in anticipation of this weekend’s game against Oregon State (2:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks), CU head coach Mike MacIntyre was asked about his team developing a hatred for losing. MacIntyre responded that “it goes in steps. You can’t jump from one to 10 overnight. You wish you could, but you can’t. I think it’s a building process with our team and I definitely think that they’re taking steps in the right direction. We just want to be on the other end of the score more often than we are.”

Junior receiver Nelson Spruce said when he and the other Buffs captains spoke to the team Tuesday morning, he mentioned “learning to win.” He added that in his four seasons at CU, “I’ve never seen a team play like this . . . I said we’re right on the brink and just have to keep working.”

Buff fans are getting interested in Colorado football again. Despite the loss, there is a renewed spring to their step.

Records are being broken (positive records, for a change!). Progress is being made.

But will it continue?

Last fall Colorado, after a forced three week layover due to flooding in Boulder, took a 2-0 record to Corvallis to take on an Oregon State team which had lost at home to Eastern Washington in the season opener. The Buffs were brimming with new confidence under their new head coach, having already doubled their win total from 2012.

The result?

A 44-17 demolition. The Buffs were only down 17-3 at halftime, but a 21-0 run by the Beavers in the third quarter ended any hope for potential drama at the end. Sean Mannion went 28-for-54 for 414 yards and six touchdowns. Meanwhile, Colorado mustered only 300 total yards of offense. Oregon State was comfortably ahead, 38-3, before the Buffs scored two fourth quarter consolation touchdowns to make the final a bit more respectable.

So, what will it be this weekend?

Will Colorado continue its upward climb, serving notice the rest of the Pac-12 that the Buffs are not to be taken lightly, that Colorado will be competitive in most – if not every – conference game this fall?

Or will Colorado come crashing back to reality, with two games against the Los Angeles teams left to look forward to in what will likely become an 0-fer-October?

Here are this week’s “T.I.P.S.” to help you sort it out …

T – Talent

The Oregon State 2014 season begins and ends with senior quarterback Sean Mannion.

Mannion, with his 4,662 passing yards and 37 touchdowns last fall, could have been a high NFL draft pick this past April. Instead, he chose to return to Corvallis for his senior season. While the Beavers are 3-1 so far in 2014, the results have been somewhat mixed for their star quarterback. Against USC last weekend, Mannion went 15-for-32 for 123 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions as the Beavers fell to the Trojans, 35-10.

But even before that, Mannion only had four touchdowns (offset by two interceptions) against mediocre competition in Portland State, Hawai’i, and San Diego State.

Put another way … If you had been told a month ago that one of the two starting quarterbacks in this weekend’s game had 17 touchdowns and six interceptions, while the other had four touchdowns and four interceptions, which numbers would you have assigned to Sean Mannion, and which would you have assigned to Sefo Liufau?


Part of Mannion’s problems stem from the absence of Brandin Cooks, who took his 128 catches and 16 touchdowns to the NFL. But those who remained haven’t been able to stay healthy. Victor Bolden was the heir apparent to Cooks, but he dislocated a finger against San Diego State and didn’t play against USC. Also missing was Bolden’s backup, Rahmel Dockery, also injured last week. Dockery will be back to play against the Buffs, while Bolden’s status remains undetermined.

The lack of production from the receivers has placed a greater need for production from the running game, but, so far, that hasn’t worked out. Oregon State is 11th in the Pac-12 in rushing, with only 123.8 yards per game (Colorado, far from a juggernaut in rushing, is averaging 163.0 per game). Storm Woods (46 carries for 273 yards and two touchdowns) and Terron Ward (47 carries for 241 yards and four touchdowns) have been splitting the carries for the Beavers.

What is keeping Oregon State fans hopeful for a December bowl date has been the play of its defense. The Beavers are second only to Stanford in total defense in the conference, giving up only 306.5 yards and 21.5 points per game. Oregon State is loaded with experienced talent, exemplified by the two starting safeties, Tyrequek Zimmerman and Ryan Murphy, who have both started 30 consecutive games. The starting linebackers? The most inexperienced of the group has started 17 straight games, with the other two at 30 and 24 straight starts, respectively.

Oh, and a name you don’t want to hear called on Saturday? Obum Gwacham. The senior defensive end is 12th in the nation in sacks so far this fall.

Buffs fans have seen the Colorado offense post over 400 total yards in each of the last four games, a feat not accomplished by the Buffs since 2001.

It will be telling if Colorado can run the streak to five straight this Saturday.

I – Intangibles

There was a great deal of speculation last week as to whether California would allow a heart-breaking last second loss to Arizona to carryover to their game against Colorado. The Bears had given up 36 fourth quarter points, and had lost on a Hail Mary on the game’s last play.

Would the hangover be too great to overcome?

Well, the Bears did allow the Buffs to race out to a 21-7 first quarter lead (after out-scoring their opponents, 56-0, in the first quarter of their first three games), and allowed the Buffs to twice come back from touchdown deficits in the second half to tie the game. Yet, in the end, the Bears were able to overcome any lasting demons from the previous weekend, and emerged with a victory.

Can Colorado follow suit?

As was the case in Berkeley last weekend, the Buff coaches and players are saying all the right things.

“Yeah, I think they’ve focused,” said coach MacIntyre of his team. “I think they’ve come out ready to practice, they’re doing everything we ask. We just have to keep working hard. So, I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen, yes.”

“It’s already subsided,” said quarterback Sefo Liufau of the loss to California. “The team is looking forward to playing Oregon State this week and looking forward to preparing and playing a great defense and a great team overall. We’re definitely putting the game behind us and preparing for the next game.”

We’ll see how it all plays out come Saturday afternoon.

On the other sideline, there are also questions of encroaching self doubt. The Beavers traveled to Los Angeles last weekend to take on USC. Oregon State was 3-0 on the season, with expected victories over Portland State, Hawai’i, and San Diego State. There was some reason for hope taking on the Trojans, as USC in its last game had been humbled by Boston College.

In the end, a string of losses to USC in the Coliseum, dating back to 1960, was extended. The Beavers lost, 35-10, with the only touchdown for Oregon State coming on a 97-yard kickoff return. Sean Mannion had an un-Mannion-like 123 yards, and the Beavers struggled on both offense and defense.

What will be the hangover for the Beavers? Will Oregon State shake off the loss, and come to Boulder with a renewed sense of determination?

Or will the Beavers, the only team in the Pac-12 to open with two conference games on the road, have another difficult afternoon?

P – Preparation / Schedule

As noted, Oregon State is on the road for the second consecutive weekend, while Colorado returns home after a week on the road.

Next weekend, both teams have byes, though the schedule is a bit tighter for the Beavers.

Oregon State is off next Saturday, then will play at home a week from Thursday, in a home game against Utah to be broadcast nationally by Fox.

Colorado, meanwhile, has a full two week break, sitting out next weekend before heading to Los Angeles to face USC.

Both teams have played Hawai’i this season, and both emerged victorious. The two games against the Rainbow Warriors were at the same time similar and very different.

Oregon State traveled to Honolulu (as the Buffs will do next fall) to take on the Rainbow Warriors, and raced out to 38-7 third quarter lead before Hawai’i closed with 23 fourth quarter points to make it a nervous finish for the Beavers. Meanwhile Colorado, getting Hawai’i at home, had a 21-6 lead at halftime. While the Rainbow Warriors never got back within a score of the Buffs, it was still a nervous second half, as the Buffs were shutout in the final two quarters in a 21-12 win.

The difference between the two teams so far in 2014 is that Colorado lost to its other Mountain West opponent, Colorado State, while Oregon State defeated its other Mountain West opponent, San Diego State.

Had those outcomes been reversed, it would be the Buff fans still talking about bowl bids, not the Beaver fans.

S – Statistics

Want a ridiculous number? Try 48.

Any guesses as to what the number 48 represents?

The longest run by a Buff this season? The numbers of penalties called on the Buffs in the first five games? The longest field goal of 2014? The most pass completions in a game?

Close, but no (for the record, the answers to the above questions are: 55-by Christian Powell; 44; 47 yards-by Will Oliver against UMass: and 46 – by Sefo Liufau vs. Cal).

No, the 48 in this context is the number of individual school records which have already been tied or broken this season.

One more time … slowly … In the first five games of the 2014 season, CU players have tied or broken 48 school records! Sefo Liufau has been in on 22 of the new records; Nelson Spruce 16.

In addition, eight team records have been either tied or re-written … with all eight coming against Cal last weekend.

… Sorta makes you wish the Buffs had won the game …

Onto Oregon State …

–  Waive the white, er, yellow, flag … Colorado is 117th in the nation in penalty yardage, having 84.4 yards per game walked off in the wrong direction. Oregon State, however, is even worse at drawing the ire of the officials, with 94.5 yards per game in penalties (124th nationally).

Who’da ever believed … Oregon State, with NFL prospect Sean Mannion at quarterback, is averaging 256.5 yards passing per game (51st nationally). Colorado, with sophomore Sefo Liufau at the helm, is averaging 321.6 yards passing per game (19th).

Meet you in the backfield … Colorado had only 18 sacks in all of 2013. In five games this season, the Buffs already have 11 (60th nationally). Oregon State’s offensive line, meanwhile, has given up ten sacks in four games (93rd).

Irresistible force/Immovable object … Colorado is 19th in the nation in passing offense; Oregon State is 17th in the nation in passing defense. ‘Nuff said.

Time will tell … Oregon State is 8th in the nation in time of possession, holding the ball for 33:57 per game. Colorado is 11th in the country, at 33:40.

“Don’t look, Ethel!” … Oregon State is No. 1 in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging 32.5 yards per carry, including a 97-yard return for a score against USC. The Buffs, unfortunately, are 111th in kickoff return yardage defense, giving up 25.0 yards per return.

… Of course, if Oregon State has multiple opportunities for returns, it means the Buffs have scored on multiple occasions, which wouldn’t be all bad …


As always, your comments are welcome. Just click on the Comment icon, above.

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5 Replies to “CU vs. Oregon State – A Preview”

  1. What’s the story with Shane Callahan?has he logged any playing time this season? I think/hope cu is developing good oline depth.

    1. Excellent question – but I don’t have an answer.
      Callahan has yet to play this fall, even on special teams. He is a red-shirt sophomore (having used up his red-shirt season while at Auburn), so there is no incentive to “save” him for future years.
      That being said, he still has this year plus two more to get into the fray, and he did just get to Boulder in August. Perhaps he is still adjusting to CU’s system, and will see playing time as the season wears on …

  2. Hmmmmm Stuart, channeling Ray Stevens?

    Great analysis as always, and 48 records broken this season? Thank you for discussing that. Can’t believe how that slipped under the radar.

  3. On K/O coverage, we either seem to nail’em inside the 20 or allow a 30-40 yarder, but I was impressed with one particular K/O in the Cal game when Ryan Moeller went downfield like he was shot out of a rocket launcher and literally took the returner’s legs out from under him. ‘Twas surprised the guy got back up. (Way to go Ryan).

    Like you CJB, I think the running game is turning around. I know Tony looks like a different RB, but he says his effort hasn’t changed. I thought Michael Adkins would be the featured RB and I was really anticipating his production this fall but have been disappointed, although I know he has been injured…. can’t wait for his return to form as he even shined last year when the OL was under-developed.

    George Frazier has been a pleasant surprise. Don’t be alarmed by seeing him on Sundays on one side of the line or the other. I love the grit in Lindsay… mostly a baby beast, and D.D. is being utilized where he needs to be in the slot where he can be used in open space… dude is a burner. Also like Donovan Lee and the variety he brings to the mixture.

    And then, we have a 4.4 guy coming in next fall who had 6 TD’s in one game. Oh my !!! Coach MM must have a roaming microscope finding all these hidden talents. OR, he may have his own personal sleuth (or 2) scanning the entire country.

    One way or another, this year is exciting. As one DC comment said that we’re in the process of turning the corner and escaping the shadow of the past.


  4. I’m enjoying watching Tony Jones run the ball this year. I think he finally has an O-line that can create gaps for him, and once in the second level he is evasive with his quickness. The passing game has improved every weekend, but I would love to see a change-up game with some big rushing yards.

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