Colorado vs. Arizona – A Preview … Your “T.I.P.S.” for Homecoming Weekend

For the first time this season, the Buff players had a Sunday off.

With a late night/early Sunday morning return from Tempe, the Sunday practice/Monday off routine was flipped, with the team given Sunday off to rest up from the humbling 48-23 defeat by Arizona State.

The team still got together, however, with a players-only meeting, called by sophomore captain Phillip Lindsay. The players met before Sunday’s 6:00 p.m. dinner.

“I think that a lot of good things were said,” quarterback Sefo Liufau told cubuffs.com. “It was run by players, brought up by players. The coaches can only do so much for us. They can give us all the right techniques, all the right plays but you know it’s up to us to go out there and execute. And so, ultimately we came out with a better feeling and better understanding of what needs to be done.”

Defensive end Derek McCartney said the meeting was constructive because it allowed the team’s leaders to “step up” and voice their concern over the Buffs’ past two performances as well as optimism that with seven games remaining the season is by no means lost.

“I think sometimes when things start going the way you don’t want, guys put their heads down,” McCartney said. “Getting together was really good.”

After the loss to Hawai’i, the team reportedly was angry – upset that they let a winnable game get away.

Angry enough, apparently, to then go on a three-game winning streak for the first time in eight years.

After the mauling by Arizona State, the team is again reportedly angry.

Let’s see where that gets them this Saturday against Arizona (7:00 p.m., FS1).

Here are your “T.I.P.S.” for Homecoming Weekend

 

T – Talent

Three weeks ago, Arizona lost at home to UCLA, 56-30.

Two weeks ago, Arizona lost on the road to Stanford, 55-17.

Last weekend, Arizona thumped Oregon State, 44-7.

The difference?

Anu Solomon was back at quarterback for the Wildcats.

Against the Beavers, with Solomon back in the lineup after suffering a concussion during the UCLA game, the Wildcats churned out 644 yards of total offense. For the year, Solomon has completed 63.4% of his passes, going for 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Last season against the Buffs as a true freshman, Solomon threw for 211 yards and ran for 105 more in leading Arizona to a 38-20 win.

The leading rusher for the Wildcats is Nick Wilson, who already has 683 rushing yards (CU’s leading rusher, Phillip Lindsay, has less than half that total), and eight touchdowns. Focus on Wilson, and you have to deal with Jared Baker, who ran for a career-high 123 yards against Oregon State, and Orlando Bradford, who scored the first three rushing touchdowns of his career last week.

When Arizona decides to throw the ball – which isn’t as often as most Pac-12 teams – Johnny Jackson, a former defensive back, leads the team with 22 catches for 328 yards.

Overall, Arizona is 7th in the nation in scoring (42.3 ppg.), 7th in rushing (298.5 ypg.) and 9th in total offense (530.2).

Sigh.

So, Arizona has a mobile quarterback, runs the ball well, and scores in bunches … and CU will be without linebackers Addison Gillam, Kenneth Olugbode, and Ryan Severson.

Yikes.

Now, Arizona does have some issues of their own at the linebacker position. All-American linebacker Scooby Wright will not play against Colorado, and the Wildcats have had a turnstile in the their lineup … in the first six games, five different Wildcats have started at middle linebacker.

It appears that sustaining drives is the best strategy for defeating Arizona. The Wildcats are giving up 30.5 points per game, are 107th in the nation in third down conversion defense, and 123rd in red zone scoring percentage defense.

Hang on to the ball, sustain drives, and score when the opportunities present themselves.

Simple enough game plan …

 

I – Intangibles

As noted, above, the team got together for a players-only meeting on Sunday, with the Buffs, and perhaps the program under Mike MacIntyre, at a crossroads.

Head coach Mike MacIntyre and his staff have made great strides in their 2 1/2 years in Boulder.

Everyone can see it; everyone acknowledges the progress.

The team has more talent than it did three years ago under Jon Embree. The team is more competitive than it was three years ago as well.

That’s not the biggest problem.

The Buffs cleared an important hurdle in the win over Colorado State. Not only did the Buffs fight back for a win, but they did so against a rival. It was a significant victory.

So too were the UMass and Nicholls games, but in a different way. The Buffs needed to show that they could dominate an inferior opponent, and put a game away instead of playing down to the level of their opposition.

Important wins, yes. But now it’s time for the Buffs to clear a different hurdle.

Witness:

Colorado is 8-2 in non-conference games under Mike MacIntyre.

Colorado is 1-19 in Pac-12 games under Mike MacIntyre.

Until the Buffs start winning Pac-12 conference games, all the goodwill built up by MacIntyre and his staff will stand for little. Until the Buffs start winning Pac-12 conference games, no one will believe that the Buffs are truly back on the road to respectability.

The last seven games of CU’s season include road games against UCLA and Utah … the Buffs will be double-digit underdogs in both. The two remaining home games after Arizona are against Stanford and USC, two other teams which have spent much of the 2015 season in the Top 25.

It’s not that the Buffs won’t get to play these games if they don’t defeat Arizona this weekend and Oregon State on the road next weekend …

… It’s just that no one will be paying much attention.

The Buffs will be back to being the Buffs.

“I think for the most part we’re more, I guess, angry,” said Liufau. “It’s not even about proving it to other people now, it’s proving it to ourselves, and proving to ourselves that we can go out there and we can play, and we can beat these teams.”

So, yes, Virginia, this weekend’s game against the Wildcats is that important.

 

P – Preparation / Schedule

Kickoff for this Saturday’s game is 7:00 p.m., marking the first time since 2010 when the Buffs have played three straight night games.

Kickoff for next Saturday’s game against Oregon State is set for 8:30 p.m., MT, marking the first time … ever … that the Buffs have played four straight games at night.

Not a big deal, except that the Buffs are 3-0 in games which kickoff in the afternoon; 0-3 in games which kickoff in the p.m.

Just sayin’ …

Last weekend was supposed to be a classic “trap game” for Arizona State, with the Colorado game sandwiched between games against USC and UCLA on one end of the ASU schedule and Utah and Oregon on the other. The Sun Devils were supposed to take the Buffs too lightly, and be ripe for an upset.

That didn’t work out so well.

Now the Buffs are taking on a team which is the easiest part of their schedule. Arizona took down Oregon State last week, has Colorado this week (the two worst teams in the league) before taking on the Washington schools (who looked to be easy marks before posting upsets last weekend).

So this is “pad your won/loss record” week for Arizona, and the Wildcats have no reason to be looking past Colorado for next week’s home game against Washington State.

Logic didn’t work out for the Buffs last weekend.

Perhaps reverse logic will work this week.

 

S – Statistics

So, Colorado will be playing this weekend with three freshmen handling much of the linebacker duties:

– Grant Watanabe will playing his first downs as a Colorado Buffalo.

– N. J. Falo has been in for 38 snaps this fall.

– Rick Gamboa, the “veteran” of the three freshmen, has started the last four games since Addison Gillam went down.

This trio will be going up against an offense which:

– is 4th in the nation in yards per carry, at 6.54 per rush;

– has produced 54 rushing plays of over 10 yards in its first six games of the season, the third-highest total in the nation;

– has four offensive plays of over 70 yards, more than any other team in the country.

Sounds like the Arizona offense against the Colorado defense is going to be a mismatch. How is this all going to work out for the Buffs?

Well, the best bet would be out-score the Wildcats. Even after the 44-7 win over Oregon State, Arizona is 75th in the nation or worse in rushing defense, passing defense, total defense and scoring defense.

Score. Score. Then Score again.

Other stats of note:

– Arizona is 4-0 this season when forcing a turnover … Colorado had three turnovers against Oregon; two against Arizona State;

– Colorado, once upon a time, won 16 straight Homecoming games (1984-99). The Buffs come into this weekend having lost seven straight Homecoming games;

– In the last three games against the Buffs (all victories), Arizona has averaged 377 yards rushing per game;

– Colorado, once upon a time, owned Arizona. While winless in the all-time series against Arizona State, the Buffs were undefeated against Arizona. The Buffs won the first 12 games in the series, but have gone 1-4 since.

And the ugly stat of the week:

– Arizona is 1st in the nation in punt returns … Colorado is 109th.

 

Prediction … The Buffs seem to get teams when they are at their best … or at least the Buffs tend to bring out their best.

Colorado didn’t get to play the Oregon team which had been humbled by Utah the week before.

Colorado didn’t get to play the Arizona State team which had been humbled by USC two weeks earlier.

Here’s guessing that – barring an injury to Anu Solomon – Colorado won’t get to play the Arizona team which had its hat handed to it by UCLA (56-30) and Stanford (55-17).

Logic tells us that Colorado won’t win this game. To stop the read-option, you have to have excellent linebacker play. Colorado is going to go up against Anu Solomon with three linebackers who may be great in 2017 and ’18, but who are being forced into the fray in 2015.

The weather will be nice Saturday night. The Homecoming crowd will be around 40,000, and will be hopeful of an upset.

And the Buffs are as mad as hell, and aren’t going to take it anymore.

“I’m very confident, I’m 100 percent sure it’s going to happen,” Phillip Lindsay told BSN Denver when asked about the Buffs’ chances this weekend. “We’re ready, we’re a team that’s mad, we’re pissed off, we have a chip on our shoulder and we need to go out there and show it.”

It’s going to take some lucky bounces and some turnovers, but I’m going with my heart over my head …

Colorado 38, Arizona 35.

—–

 

10 Replies to “CU v. Arizona – A Preview”

  1. The wildcats ran for 368 yards last week against Oregon State.To many things going against the buffs in this one.

    ARIZONA 51 COLORADO 27

    GO BUFFS!!!!

  2. Some thoughts:
    Linebackers: 2 1/2 years ago a new linebacker jumped on to the scene and made a huge splash and showed us a preview of what the buffs can become. We may see the continuation with these two new freshman……
    Sefo: I don’t know how many of you listened to the post game comments from Sefo during the 850 radio show but how can you not love that kid. He pours his heart and soul into what he is doing, he accepts responsibility straight faced and busts his butt. He is tougher than nails and given every chance to point at someone else he never takes it. For a kid he is truly amazing. I can see why the coaches love him. On the other hand he may have actually hit the limit of his abilities….. This may be who he is. I have seen it before where quarterbacks just hit a ceiling and are never able to push through it. It is intangible, it only appears in games when the bullets are for real and the quarterback is not wearing a red jersey and some quarterbacks have “It” and some never seem to. It doesn’t mean they can’t win games and do just fine, but they are not going to be the ones who can put a team on their shoulders and win just to win. Small things seem to happen, that become big things and get in the way and the game seems to trickle through their fingers. Sefo is still young, I think he has been hurt the last 2 games and that makes a difference. There is still a chance he takes the next step. The kid is a really amazing person from what I can tell and I truly hope he does. I think you have to give him the next 2 games. We have seen glimpses of Gerhke and Apsay. I don’t think Gerhke has it either yet. If we don’t win with Sefo in the next two games I say give Apsay a shot and see if you have a difference maker there. There are recievers that are open on a lot of plays that sefo is just not finding. I have seen a lot of other Pac 12 quarterbacks running for their lives and still finding recievers down field. Sefo either needs to start finding them or we need to find out what we have in the cupboard and getting ready for next year.
    Lindgren: Run the friggin ball. I realize Adkins is your best pure runner and I get that he is out. Lindsey continues to get better at identifying the holes and he is a tornado once he gets into the second line. Running plays do not always go for 5 yards so as soon as he gets stopped for a loss you can’t just give up on the run those defensive guys are on scholarship too. I really do not know what you were thinking through the first 3 series at ASU. If Sefo is checking to the pass play you need to get him to check to the run more often. He is missing opportunities there. It is your job to help Sefo learn the skills of finding that wide receiver down the field when he is scrambling or how to transition from his first read to his next read faster We know Sefo is willing to work you need to figure out a way to teach it to him.

    This is the game….. At home where we play better. Against a team that has weaknesses….. Buffs 37 Arizona 35.

    1. Thinking much the same thoughts as Rob. Although I think if Sefo connected on the short-quick passes of those first 3 drives vs. ASU, it would have greatly opened up the running game.

      Wildcat teams under Rodriguez have been inconsistent, but always seem to hit on all cylinders vs the Buffs. They will yet again, but improved Buffs will keep it closer. 36-30 wildcats. Hope I’m wrong.

      1. I will say that Sefo missed that one throw to the tight end on that first series it would have been a really good gain. I think my issue is this. The 2 series not a single run. On the third series we run Lindsey. First run for 9 yards and the second for 8 yards. Sefo hits the tight end for a big gain and then Lindsey runs 15 for a touch down. A really nice successful drive ends in a touchdown and brings us back into the game. So perhaps we thought the passing game was there when it really wasn’t or maybe Sefo is just not seeing what lindgren saw. But what drives me absolutely friggin bananas is what happens on drive 4. We make an awesome defensive play get an interception and here is the series:
        play 1: Last series they started under center so this series they decide to try and start from shot gun. WHY! They never even got close to slowing you down last series from under center, and the one pass play you ran the play action actually worked! Don’t get me wrong you have to mix some stuff up but at least have them stop you 1 time before you try and get creative. At least once. You went from a strength to something they are good at. The blocking scheme for the stretch play is roughly the same but the path for the running back is now much different and it gives the defense a better angle. It also communicates the direction of the run more. Arizona is an aggressive team and if you are moving east west and not north south you are playing into their game. I will say the penalty here is a bit crap. The tackle is a little farther back than he should be but just barely.
        Play 2. So lindgren seems to have forgotten that his last three running plays went for 30 yards and so 15 yards or more lindgren calls a pass, asu being who they are call a blitz. I still would have liked to see a run here. With Sefo under center. They have not slowed that play down. Pre snap Sefo has bobo double covered up top. He reads the blitz from that side and tries to make a throw. He a little under duress here but what bothers me is the routes. I can’t see the full tree but what I can see is that bobo runs a 10 yard turn out. This is not a great hot route. The ball leaves Sefo hand in 3 seconds or so. That hot route should be out in 2. Then on top of that Sefo has at least 2 receivers running go patterns. He would have been better off just throwing it up to one of the go routes. Heck the slot receiver is so wide open at 5 yards that if Sefo hits him in stride he may make the first down.
        Play 3. Shuttle pass. Again our guys are moving east west and just playing into asu defense. 2nd issue. I like lee I think he has some skills. Lindsey is your hot hand he has 30 yards in 4 carries. Why do you bring someone in who has not played yet. Why try and be tricky here run the ball run it straight at them until they stop you…. And stay with the hot hand.
        One more thing here. I see how you drew up the play lindgren and if Callahan makes that block lee may have run for a bit. But let’s be honest here Callahan and our other guards don’t make that block very often. They are just not that great at pulling yet. Not against great athletes. You need to realize this and change your approach. Let them block straight forward. Put a hat on a hat and see what the runner can do going downhill.
        Play 4: option. Sefo makes as good a read as he can but again you have your running backs moving east west and frankly they are not good enough versus this defense. The end parks himself between Sefo and Lindsey and waits. Once Sefo commits the end crashes down and makes the tackle. I hate this play for multiplereasons. 1. Your runners are moving east west instead of downhill because of the nature of the option read. 2. This is a slow play and asu is faster than us. The end should have just committed fully to Lindsey because there are 2 more guys to tackle Sefo before he gets 15 yards.3. Lastly you have pulling guards again and guess what the guard runs all the way through the line never even making a block. Adjust your scheme. You should know this. I gaurentee your opponents do.
        Next series
        Play 1 guess what we prove that cu does not go with the hot hand because guess what we have Powell in now. Powell is not Lindsey. I love Powell and I think he is a great kid and I believe that once a defense is wore down powells style is very very effective. But Powell does not have the same vision for holes and he cannot ,are the same cuts. You need to put Powell in after you have a defense on the field for at least 8 or more plays.probably 10 or more is better, when the defensive line and linebackers have there hands on there hip you put Powell in the game. Until then Lindsey or Adkins. But on the bright side you go under center again and run the running play. Now here is where you tell me “see we ran it and they stopped us”. My answer is well sorta. 1 Powell is not Lindsey. Just watch the run Lindsey hits the line at full speed like the Tasmanian devil he is. Powell tries to make a cut into the hole but he looses so much speed he ends up grinding . That said he still makes 3 yards. They didn’t really stop you here they just limited you to less than 4-5. So what do you do?
        Play 2. Back to shot gun and pass. Sefo makes a horrible read here and throws to lee. If he throws a short pass to Lindsey he may get a 1st down. Not sure why his first read of the two backs is lee here as spruce is 1:1 on a slant. His first read should be spruce on the slant if the man stays with him his second read is Lindsey. Even if lee catches the bad pass he has to make a great move on an athlete for any yards. Lindsey is 5 yards down the field before he makes contact.
        Play 3. Pass again. At some point Sefo needs to throw the ball downfield and ask his receivers to go get it. He seems to only throw the deep ball when they are wide open. This still should have been a run, but if it needed to be a pass at least a play action off of a run fake.
        This is coaching.
        Put you kids in a position to win by putting them in a place where they can succeed.

  3. I like it Stuart! Not sure if it will happen or not, but I think we’re gonna be fired up this week and gonna make it a good game. Head says 38-27 UA, Heart says 33-30 CU.

  4. My heart says CU 31 AU 28. Given that I feel this is the game of the season and a must win, I’m not even going to provide a “head” bet, the downside from a loss will simply be big. Buffs have to find a way to win this one. Go Buffs!!!

  5. Thanks,as always,for the TIPS Stuart. If the Buffs score more than 33 they leave us all with a Homecoming smile. Buffs-34 wild-kittens-31

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