CU at Arizona: “T.I.P.S.” for the Buffs’ trip to Tucson

Colorado fans are used to seeing games involving the Buffs where there is a significant discrepancy in the records.

Colorado fans are used to seeing games involving the Buffs where the pundits are seeing a mismatch.

What Colorado fans are not used to seeing, however, are games involving the Buffs in which Colorado is seen as a solid road favorite.

Such is the case, however, this weekend, when the 3-0 Buffs travel to Tucson to play the Wildcats. Arizona is 0-3 on the season, and, counting back to last season, is enduring a school-record ten game losing streak.

That being said, the last time the Wildcats actually won a game … was last October 5th … a 35-31 victory … over … you guessed it … Colorado.

This Week’s “T.I.P.S” for CU at Arizona, Sat., 5:00 p.m., MT, FS1

T – Talent 

Kahlil Tate is no longer on the Arizona roster … trust me, I checked.

Tate, who single-handedly destroyed the Buffs the past three seasons, went undrafted this past spring, was signed as a free agent (wide receiver) by the Philadelphia Eagles, and was waived this past July.

Pretty sure he won’t be allowed to play against CU this weekend.

Tate’s heir apparent was Grant Gunnell, who actually started half of Arizona’s games last year. Gunnell started the first three games of this season, with 547 yards passing (six touchdowns, one interception), but he was injured on the first play from scrimmage in the 27-10 loss to UCLA. Gunnell suffered an apparent injury to his right shoulder, and his status for the CU game is uncertain.

Gennell was replaced by true freshman Will Plummer who, on his second series, led a touchdown drive to put the Wildcats up 7-0 with 10:05 left in the first quarter. But that was about it for the Arizona offense, as Plummer finished 17-of-34 for 151 yards with two interceptions while also running for 56 yards on 11 carries.

The passing attack – such as it is – has two wide receivers to keep an eye on. Stanley Berryhill has 18 catches for 193 yards and three touchdowns. Second choice for a player for CU to be wary of would be Tavian Cunningham, who has eight catches for 129 yards and a touchdown (which was a 75-yarder, so you know there is speed there to be respected).

If the Wildcats try to run the ball, they will rely heavily on Gary Brightwell. The senior leads the Wildcats with 49 carries for 224 yards. (It bears noting that quarterback Grant Gunnell had 20 carries in the first two games of the season, and that Plummer had 11 rushes against UCLA … This just in: CU needs to be prepared for a quarterback who can run).

As you might expect from a team which has opened the season with an 0-3 record, the overall production by the offense has been awful … Arizona is 97th in total offense (358.3 yds/game) and 102nd in scoring offense (22.3 pts/game).

And the story is not much brighter on the defensive side of the ball.

Arizona comes into the game against the Buffs with a defense which is 107th in total defense (460.0 yds/game) and 100th in scoring defense (35.0 pts/game). (For comparison’s sake, both of those rankings are about 90 spots lower than where the San Diego State defense was ranked).

Think Buff running back Jarek Broussard will be excited about this game? … UCLA’s Demetric Felton, who was held to 57 yards on ten carries by the Buffs, had 32 carries for 206 yards against Arizona.

But … that’s assuming that Broussard can get the ball out of Sam Noyer’s hands … Michael Lev of the Arizona Daily Star is reporting that junior cornerbacks McKenzie Barnes and Malik Hausman have opted out of the remainder of the 2020 season, adding to the growing list of UA defensive backs who have called it quits recently. (Not to mention All-Everything linebacker Colin Schooler, who, along with another three-year starter at linebacker, Tony Fields, left the team this past summer)

Barnes and Hausman are the fifth and sixth scholarship DBs to either opt out or leave the team in the past week. Sophomore corner Bobby Wolfe announced on Instagram Saturday night via Instagram that he was opting out, two days after junior safety Christian Young cited an ankle injury for wanting to skip the remainder of 2020.

True freshmen corners Khary Crump and Edric Whitley left the program earlier in the week before either ever appeared in a game.

Barring turnovers … or just plain old uninspired play (which has not been evident under Karl Dorrell’s leadership) it’s hard to see a scenario in which the CU offense is not going to have at least some measure of success against the Arizona defense.

I – Intangibles 

Is it possible for the Buffs to be overconfident?

It doesn’t seem likely. If we have learned anything about the Buffs under Karl Dorrell, is that they don’t flinch. In all three games, the Buffs have had the opportunity to succumb to the pressure of the moment, but in each game, they have risen to the challenge.

That being said, the Buffs have yet to face the true adversity of a deficit. Against Stanford, the Buffs trailed early. The Cardinal kicked a field goal with 11:45 remaining in the first quarter. The Buffs scored a touchdown late in the quarter (with 3:20 remaining) to take a 7-3 lead, a lead which they would never relinquish.

That’s it for CU deficits.

That’s the sum total of the time CU has trailed during the first three games of the 2020 season. In 180 minutes of game clock, the Buffs have trailed for 8:25 (while leading for over 158 minutes).

Arizona did take a 7-0 lead on UCLA (with backup quarterback Plummer at the helm) and, in its opener against USC, fought back four times to either tie or take the lead against the heavily favored Trojans.

Arizona also scorched the Washington defense for four fourth quarter touchdowns in Game Two. Granted, it was after the Wildcats fell behind the Huskies … 37-0 … but they did have a 27-point quarter.

Not much for the Wildcat faithful to hang their hats on, but 0-3 is 0-3.

Which leads us to …

P – Preparation / Schedule

The Wildcats have lost the last two games by considerable margins – 44-27 to Washington (in a game which, as noted, the Huskies led, 37-0), and 27-10 to UCLA (in a game which, after the Wildcats scored early to take a 7-0 lead, had the Bruins score the game’s next 20 points – all before halftime).

That being said, both of those games were on the road.

In the only game the Wildcats played at home … they actually played very well.

USC, a double-digit favorite, never had a two-score lead at anytime in the game, and trailed Arizona twice in the fourth quarter – 23-20 and 30-27 – before Kedon Slovis engineered a winning scoring drive in the final 95 seconds of the game.

Can the Wildcats reproduce that effort at home against Colorado?

Anything is possible.

Then there is this … Arizona is slated to play Arizona State at home in its regular season finale (before the Game Seven against a North Division team). With ASU not having played a game since the opener, there’s a chance that the Wildcats may be playing their final home game this weekend, giving some added incentive for the seniors to play well.

And this … Confidence is a fickle beast. The Wildcats may be riding a school-record worst ten-game losing streak, but their last win was against Colorado.

In fact, the Wildcats have won three in a row against the Buffs … 45-42, 42-34, and 35-30, with two of those games being played in Boulder.

Yes, all three of these games were Kahlil Tate specials.

But, for the players on the Arizona sideline, all they know is beating Colorado.

The Buff Nation may be ready to move on from being the bottom feeder of the Pac-12 South, and handing the title off to the Wildcats … but the Arizona players may not be so ready to assume the role.

S – Statistics 

Remember when I would use this space to list all of the national categories in which Colorado was ranked 100th or worse nationally?

That was so … 2019.

So, let’s check out some of the nasty Arizona stats which the Wildcat Nation is having to endure (and which are relevant to Saturday’s contest) …

— Zero … As in the number of turnovers generated by the Arizona defense in its first three games (while the UA offense has lost six – four fumbles; two interceptions);

— One … That would be the number of team sacks the Wildcats have posted this season (not surprisingly, that ranks 127 out of 127 FBS teams);

— Time of possession could work well for the Buffs. Colorado is currently 4th in the nation in time of possession (35:11), while Arizona is 111th (27:05). This speaks well to the concept of long, methodical drives for the CU offense, not only wearing down the Wildcat defense, but keeping the ball away from the Wildcat offense;

Nate Landman alert … Arizona is 120th in the country in sacks allowed, giving up 3.67 per game;

Jerek Broussard alert … Arizona is 117th nationally in rushing defense, giving up 229.0 yards per game;

— Colorado moved up (down?) considerably in the scoring defense category this past week. In the first two games, the Buffs surrendered an average of 37.0 points per game. With the 10 points allowed to San Diego State (and, yes, seven of those were by the offense), CU was able to shave nine points off of its average, down to 28.0 (tied for 55th nationally). Arizona, meanwhile, is giving up an average of 35.0 points per game (100th nationally).

Prediction … We’ve been on the short side of this type of discussion many times (too many times) over the past 15 years. A game where there is a strong road favorite, but based upon it being a road game for the favorite, the home team is given a fighting chance.

But at the end of the day, most of the time … the upset doesn’t happen. Most games like this, the team with the momentum and the confidence races out to an early lead and then holds off the underdog, with the result never really in doubt. Or the feisty underdog takes an early lead, only to have the favorite climb back and right the ship before the final gun (e.g., UCLA over Arizona last weekend, as well as Washington over Utah)

Arizona surprised UCLA last weekend by taking an early 7-0 lead – with a freshman quarterback thrown into the fray with no notice, no less. But … the touchdown came after Bruin head coach Chip Kelly, with no apparent concern for the consequences, went for it on fourth-and-one at his own 25-yard line on UCLA’s first possession of the game. The Wildcats held, leading to a touchdown drive of all of 23 yards.

After that, Arizona’s drive chart against UCLA went like this … punt; punt; downs (failed fourth down attempt at UA’s 44-yard line); punt; punt; punt; field goal; downs (fourth-and-goal attempt in the fourth quarter when down 20-10); interception; interception.

A grand total of 300 yards and 10 points against a defense which surrendered 525 yards and 48 points to Colorado.

Guess what I’m trying to say is that, at least on paper, there’s no reason for CU to lose this game. The Buff offense has a strong rushing attack, while the Wildcats are susceptible to the run. The UA offense has issues at quarterback, making it more difficult for the Wildcats to exploit CU’s most vulnerable unit, the defensive backfield.

The players on both sidelines are fully aware that Arizona has beaten Colorado three straight seasons.

That could play games with the Buffs’ minds psychologically if the Wildcats are staked to a big early lead … but I don’t see that happening.

I don’t want to jinx anything, but I am more confident about this game than I was last weekend against San Diego State.

Colorado 31, Arizona 14 … 

—–

10 Replies to ““T.I.P.S.” for CU at Arizona”

  1. just wondering if the AZ decimation at D back will tempt KD and/or Chev to open up he passing game a little more or will the terrible thought of losing to AZ be enough to keep their middle linebacker and D line making most of the tackles….again.
    Looks like La’Vontae is at least our 2nd best receiver. You have to know the comparison to his brother drives him. Make big bro 2nd in our memories La’Vontae. Gottspeed

    1. I wrote a reply regarding this weeks game/last weeks win responding to your (same ) question, regarding opening things up this week on the SDSU game thread, so I won’t post all of that again.

      But this is the week for them to really open it up with the WRs, which could lead to some great runs too.

  2. Honestly made me happy that you are confident…Noyer and the Oline need to have a bounce back game. Would love to see more chances for Davis (or Clayton/Stacks for that matter) and a traditional screen play or two. Defense shouldn’t give up more than 20, it’s on the offense to prove last week that last week was an anomaly.

  3. Hey Stu, you mentioned this on the pod cast but not above. I would put it into the intangibles. I have been really impressed with Dorrell’s approach to the game so far. His calm even demeanor seems to resonate with the team. With Mac you could sometimes see the panic, and with Mel you could sometime see the let down. Dorrell’s teams seem to play like they should. Take care of business, not panic when things turn south in a game, and not have to be hyped to play a lower quality opponent. I suspect Arizona will have a good moment or two where the momentum in the game shifts. Dorrell and team will just calmly go back to grinding it out and smother the Arizona hopes. CU 45 – AU 24, most of that scored in the second half as CU slows down its attack again.

    1. I’m leaning towards that type of score too, with a week to prepare & all of UofA’s DB deflections, CU should be able to duplicate their scoring in the first two PAC12 games. And if last weeks defense shows up, as Nate said, “they only gave up 3 points” 😉

      Then it’s going to be a long day for UofA, but as you said “Arizona will [probably] have a good moment or two”.

  4. Wednesday.
    This week with Recycle

    Same thing every Wednesday
    Next week with Compost

    Wow is it really December 22nd. Sheesh. Amazon here I come.

    62 to 36 sent the kornholers down the sheethole which the arrogant arsholes totally deserve.
    Glorious to watch those years. Even though the holerdogs had some wining seasons during that time they just couldn’t get (We are knebraska) over the hump. The move to the BIG sealed their fate.
    But like all kornseeds they tried to restart their growth
    33 to 28 crushed it again
    34 to 31 sealed it.

    This is the new Buffs. Owners of the Korn even with lousy HC’s
    Rolling Goldenly into the future with HC that finally was allowed to assume his roll (Scru u Scotty…you been beamed down)

    Gonna be cold here.

    The coming out of the phenomenal Kahlil Tate and the first of the Kahlil Tate specials was against the Buffs. No one really had ever heard of him. He replaced and injured QB I believe.

    Don’t let the ghost of Tate scare ya. Last couple of Buff HC’s had no powers.
    Buffs have a new HC who has his own sorcerers Magic

    Not worried………………..Not sorry

    Buffs win 42 24

    1. Using your on words………”Mein Gott”……..VK has moved from Boulder to Woody Creek, CO. Hunter Thompson has come alive again in the form of VK. Gonzo rambling discourse lives again. This season and this pandemic needs this kind of commentary, carry on VK.

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