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Sunday Afternoon Quarterback

Side NoteI only post this twice a year, so, if you are not interested, my apologies … Just to let you know, I do send out email updates to anyone who is interested. I send out emails twice a week during the season – once during the week, when the “T.I.P.S.” preview is posted, and then again on Sundays, when the game essay goes up. The emails detail the current postings at CU at the Game, and let you know what additional postings are forthcoming. (During the off-season, the emails go out once a week, just to let you know what you may have missed that week in the world of CU athletics). The service is free, and your email address will not be shared with anyone else. If interested, just drop me a note: “Stuart, I would like to be on your email update list”, and send it to cuatthegame@gmail.com.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming … 

… Game One … Colorado 52, Colorado State 31 … Game Story can be found here … Essay for the game: “It’s just the beginning of our programcan be found here

— CU rushing offense v. CSU rushing defense —

By the numbers … The Buffs ran for 243 yards on 40 carries (a 6.1 yards per carry average) and four touchdowns … Sophomore running back Alex Fontenot, who had 11 carries for 43 yards in all of 2018, had 19 carries for 125 yards and three touchdowns … Freshman Jaren Mangham had 11 carries for 40 yards and a score … Steven Montez (five carries for 39 yards) and Laviska Shenault (three carries for 35 yards) contributed timely carries as Buffs gained 11 first downs rushing.

Grade: A – … This is a Buff team which ran for an average of 143.0 yards per game in 2018, 100th in the nation. Considering the Buffs came into the game with no upperclassmen – and a number of questions – in the backfield, a strong effort on the ground was a very positive sign. The offensive line did not create holes up the middle, but the Buff backs were able to make plays in space. That being said, the Buffs had 40 rushing attempts against CSU last year as well, going for 258 yards and two touchdowns. To show that a power rushing attack has come to Boulder under Mel Tucker & Co., the Buffs will have to have similar production against better defenses.

— CU passing offense v. CSU passing defense —

By the numbers … Steven Montez completed 13-of-20 passes for 232 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. For the second consecutive year, Montez was not sacked once by the Ram defense.

Grade: B … It’s hard to complain about a passing game which has two touchdowns, no interceptions, and no sacks of the quarterback (with only one holding call). Still, if Colorado is to be successful going forward, the offense has to put the ball into the hands of its playmakers. Six touches for Laviska Shenault (three receptions; three rushes)? Perhaps the Buff coaches were keeping some of its plans to use Shenault under wraps until the Nebraska game, but the game was close for three quarters, and goal No. 1 is to win the game. Steven Montez, a fifth-year senior and a three-year starter, continues to make frustrating plays – both physically and mentally.

— CU rushing defense v. CSU rushing offense —

By the numbers … Colorado State finished with 131 yards rushing on 31 attempts (a 4.2 yard average). Dante Wright led the Rams with 59 yards on only three carries (including a 41 yard touchdown). Marvin Kinsey, Jr., was the bell cow, with 12 carries, but those 12 carries netted only 41 yards.

Grade: B … Overall, a solid effort, as the Rams were not able to sustain a rushing attack consistently during the game. That being said, other than the two sacks late in the game (and a snap over quarterback Collin Hill’s head, which cost the Rams 16 yards), the Buffs were not able to dominate the line of scrimmage. Colorado State averaged only 105 yards rushing per game last year (124th nationally), and had a true freshman starting at guard. The numbers were not huge for Colorado State, but then again, the Rams weren’t trying to play smash mouth football.

— CU passing defense v. CSU passing offense — 

By the numbers … Colorado State quarterback Collin Hill went 31-for-47 for 374 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Hill was also sacked twice, with the first sack bringing about CSU’s only punt of the game; the second bringing a fumble which was returned nine yards by Mustafa Johnson for a touchdown.

Grade: C- … For three-and-a-half quarters, the Colorado State offense had its way with the Buff defense. Two interceptions by Mikial Onu, and a fumble by Ram Marvin Kinsey, Jr., on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter were the only times the Rams were stopped on offense until late in the game. The Rams put together scoring drives of six plays, 11 plays, seven plays, 11 plays, and six plays as the CU defense couldn’t find a way to get the CSU offense off of the field. The Rams had 78 offensive plays (to 60 for the Buffs), and 32:55 – 27:05 advantage in time of possession. There were times when the CU defense looked confused on defense, and it seemed that CSU receivers were wide open underneath all night.

— CU special teams — 

By the numbers … James Stefanou and Alex Kinney, long-time starters for the Buffs, had good nights. Alex Kinney averaged 49.0 yards on four punts, including a 63-yarder in the fourth quarter which pinned the Rams down inside their five (and led to a sack/fumble touchdown a few plays later). James Stefanou hit a 41-yard field goal, and all three of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. Davis Price, meanwhile, had six kickoffs, with only two going for touchbacks. K.D Nixon had CU’s only kickoff return (32 yards) and punt return (six yards) on the night.

Grade: B+ … No glaring errors, though there was a penalty on CU’s only punt return, and the Rams did have 80 yards on two punt returns and three kickoff returns. Alex Kinney was solid on the night, as was James Stefanou, but Davis Price needs to get more than one-third of his kickoffs into the end zone.

Overall Grade: B+ … Usually, it’s left to teams used to nine- and ten-win seasons to be frustrated over a 21-point victory. Taken in a vacuum, it’s hard to argue with a 52-point evening (the third-highest opening game total, and the most in the first game of the season since 1954), and a 21-point victory over a rival. Still, those that were up to midnight on Friday night know that this was a dogfight. The Buffs were down twice in the second quarter, and were up only 24-21 at the half (I don’t know if you heard about the Buff fan who bet $20,000 on the Buffs at minus-12.5 points. It turned out okay, but I’ll bet he was sweating bullets at the break).

Coach Tucker put it best … “Sometimes, getting a win is not enough,” Tucker said after the game. “There are things we have to improve on. We have to get better. … We’ve got a ways to go until we’re the football team we want to have, and I think that’s obvious — but that’s why they call us coaches.”

Pac-12 Power Rankings

Note … These are my subjective Power Rankings, which will be updated every Sunday. (Please feel free to post your own rankings in the comments section) …

1. Washington … Pac-12 media prediction: 2nd in the Pac-12 North

This weekend … Defeated Eastern Washington, 47-14. The Eagles have been known for giving Pac-12 North teams troubles (see: Washington State; Oregon), but the Huskies had no trouble with one of the best teams from the FCS. Jacob Eason, the highly-rated quarterback transfer from Georgia, went 27-for-36 for 349 yards and four touchdowns in his Washington debut. Overall, the Huskies had 570 yards of total offense, while holding Eastern Washington to 274 total yards.

Up next … California

2. Utah … Pac-12 media prediction: Pac-12 Champion

This weekend … Defeated BYU, 30-12 (Thursday). It was a 9-6 game at the half, with the only touchdown coming on a pick-six by the Utah defense. In the second half, the Utes pulled away for their ninth-straight win in the Holy War. As expected, the Utah defense led the way, generating three turnovers while holding the BYU offense to 104 yards of total offense in just 18 plays. Zach Moss ran for 187 yards and a touchdown for the biggest offensive effort for either team.

Up next … Northern Illinois

3. Washington State … Pac-12 media prediction: 4th in the Pac-12 North

This weekend … Defeated New Mexico State, 58-7. The Cougars weren’t supposed to have much difficulty with New Mexico State … and they didn’t.  Senior quarterback Anthony Gordon, who beat out transfer Gabe Gubrud for the job, completed his first 15 passes, threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns in the first half, and No. 23 Washington State rolled past New Mexico State. (How bad are the Aggies? They play Alabama this weekend, and are 54.5-point underdogs). There will be another easy tuneup for Washington State and Gordon this weekend before the Cougars have to travel Houston to take on the other Cougars.

Up next … Northern Colorado

4. Oregon … Pac-12 media prediction: Pac-12 North Champion

This weekend … Lost to No. 16 Auburn, 27-21. Oregon scored on its first possession of the game, and led Auburn for the next 55 minutes. The Tigers, though, scored with nine seconds remaining to beat the Ducks, 27-21. In a game where Oregon was supposed to carry the banner for the the conference, the come-from-ahead loss left the Pac-12 with another season of “they ain’t worthy of competing for a national title”. Oregon is a very good team, but it remains to be seen how the Ducks respond. Four of their next five games are at home, with a road game at Stanford as their only real test before their battle with Washington on October 19th.

Up next … Nevada

5. Stanford … Pac-12 media prediction: 3rd in the Pac-12 North

This weekend … Defeated Northwestern, 17-7. Star quarterback K.J. Costello completed 16 of 20 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown pass to Michael Wilson to lead No. 25 Stanford over Northwestern. Costello’s day ended early when he was hit with a forearm to the facemask while sliding on a scramble by Earnest Brown IV with just two seconds remaining in the first half. Costello didn’t return, and the Cardinal defense made the lead hold up. Next week’s game v. USC may prove to be a battle of backup quarterbacks (see below).

Up next: … at USC

6. USC … Pac-12 media prediction: 2nd in the Pac-12 South

This weekend … Defeated Fresno State, 31-23. The Trojans took a 31-10 lead into the fourth quarter, but then had to hang on to defeat the Bulldogs. Part of the problem for the Trojans was that their star quarterback J.T. Daniels went down with a knee injury in the second quarter. Daniels passed for 215 yards before getting hurt on a blitz 27 seconds before halftime. Update: J.T. Daniels is out for the season with a torn ACL.

Up next … Stanford

7. California … Pac-12 media prediction: 5th in the Pac-12 North

This weekend … Defeated Cal-Davis, 27-13. The Golden Bears fell behind 10-0 to the fighting Aggies of Cal-Davis, led by none other than Dan Hawkins. As with other teams led by Hawkins, however, Cal-Davis could not hold it together for 60 minutes, with Cal pulled away for a two touchdown victory. Christopher Brown, Jr. rushed for a career-high 197 yards, and the stout Cal defense did the rest (Cal-Davis’ lone touchdown drive covered 21 yards following a fumble by Cal on the opening kickoff).

Up next … at Washington

8. Arizona State … Pac-12 media prediction: 3rd in the Pac-12 South

This weekend … Defeated Kent State, 30-7 (Thurs.) Arizona State only led lowly Kent State, 10-0, at halftime, before pulling away in the second half. Freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels passed for a pair of touchdowns and ran for another in his Arizona State debut. The Sun Devils held the Golden Flashes to 200 total yards — 80 passing — and recovered two fumbles. Kent State, which went with two quarterbacks in juniors Woody Barrett and Dustin Crum, lost its sixth straight opener. ASU gets another easy game (v. Sacramento State) before the first test of the season, on the road against Michigan State.

Up next … Sacramento State

9. Colorado … Pac-12 media prediction: 6th in the Pac-12 South

This weekend … Defeated Colorado State, 52-31 (Friday). The Buffs posted the highest point total in an opener since 1954 (and the third-highest ever), but still left the final Rocky Mountain Showdown in Denver with mixed emotions. Colorado State went for 505 yards of total offense, but four turnovers kept the Rams from keeping it a game late. Alex Fontenot rushed for 125 yards and three touchdowns to lead the offense, while graduate transfer safety Mikial Onu had two interceptions to pace the defense.

Up next … Nebraska

10. Arizona … Pac-12 media prediction: 5th in the Pac-12 South

This weekend … Idle – lost to Hawai’i, 45-38, in Week Zero. Buff fans are all too familiar what can happen to a Pac-12 team when it travels to the islands to face the Rainbow Warriors. Kahlil Tate had a career-best 469 yards of total offense (361 yards passing; 108 yards rushing), but it was not enough to make up for Arizona’s deficiencies on defense. Hawai’i had 595 yards of offense … despite turning the ball over six times.

Up next … Northern Arizona

11. UCLA … Pac-12 media prediction: 4th in the Pac-12 South

This weekend … Lost to Cincinnati, 24-14 (Thursday). The Bruins lost to the Bearcats for the second year in a row, as Chip Kelly fell to 3-10 at the start of his second season in Westwood. UCLA generated only 218 yards of total offense, while surrendering 417 to Cincinnati. This was supposed to be the re-introduction of quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, but the sophomore went 8-for-26 passing for 156 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Thompson-Robinson also went backwards rushing, with ten carries for minus-20 yards … and two fumbles.

Up next … San Diego State

12. Oregon State … Pac-12 media prediction: 6th in the Pac-12 North

This weekend … Lost to Oklahoma State at home, 52-36. The Beavers actually looked good to start the game, scoring on a six-play, 70-yard drive on Oregon State’s first drive of the season. It was still a game against the Cowboys early in the second quarter, but a 10-10 tie turned into a 31-16 halftime advantage for Oklahoma State. The Beavers allowed 555 yards of offense, and didn’t put up much of a fight against an Oklahoma State team which finished 7-6 last season.

Up next … at Hawai’i.

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5 Replies to “Sunday Afternoon Quarterback”

  1. While I love your site and visit multiple times daily, this might be the first time I adamently disagree.
    Rush defense C, as they couldn’t contain the outside. And let’s face it, when CSU got behind the rush was gone.
    Pass attack D+, would be an F but a couple interceptions changed that

  2. I wouldn’t put it all at the feet of the secondary. The pass D begins with the D line and they were bad. The ram QB had all the time he needed until the Buff finally used a blitz.

      1. Most concerning was that Landman looked stiff and slow…not like his usual athletic self and therefore didn’t create any negative plays. Need him to be back to last year’s version quick.

  3. Tough to put in rankings based on playing sub par opponents in week one. the only thing you can really do is rank the bottom feeders, those who lost to sub par opponents like you have done here. I will say that 27-13 victory over Cal-D is not a good sign for Cal.

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