Colorado Buffaloes Struggle to Find Offense, Fall 20-6

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Colorado Buffaloes Struggle to Find Offense, Fall 20-6
(Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

October 24th @ Kansas State, Kansas State 20, Colorado 6

Colorado drove 71 yards on its first drive of the game against Kansas State, taking a 6-3 first quarter lead. The remainder of the game, however, the Buffaloes' offense generated only 173 yards, turning the ball over four times in falling to the Wildcats, 20-6.

The Buffs wasted an outstanding effort from their defense on the afternoon, as the Kansas State offense was held in check for most of the game.

Mistakes and penalties, however, continued to plague the Buffs, with Colorado falling to 2-5 on the 2009 season.

The morning start (11:30 CT) seemed to favor the home team, as Kansas State took the opening kickoff and moved smartly down the field. After only five plays, the Wildcats had a 1st-and-10 at the Colorado 12-yard line. The Buffs’ defense stiffened, though, and Kansas State was forced to settle for a Josh Cherry 25-yard field goal.

The Buffs responded in kind with their first drive, converting two third downs in pushing the ball to the Kansas State 23-yard line. From there, the drive chart went as follows:

Rodney Stewart, rush for three yards; 2nd-and-7 at the KSU 20-yard line;

Rodney Stewart, rush for nine yards; 1st-and-10 at the KSU 11-yard line;

Rodney Stewart, rush for eight yards; 2nd-and-2 at the KSU three yard line;

Rodney Stewart, rush for one yard; 3rd-and-1 at the KSU two yard line;

Rodney Stewart, rush for two yards touchdown, Colorado.

It appeared as if the Colorado offense had a great game plan for Kansas State, and that the Buffs’ offense, with a 13 play, 71-yard drive, was ready to build on the momentum of the Kansas game. Even after Aric Goodman missed his first extra point of the season, the Buffs and their fans had to be confident that their first road win in two years was within their grasp.

Then, the next 50 minutes were played.

The teams traded punts, with Kansas State taking over at its 42-yard line near the end of the first quarter. This time, the Colorado defense offered no resistance.

The Wildcats did not face a third down on the drive, with Daniel Thomas taking the ball in from the four-yard line to give Kansas State a lead they would not relinquish. The score was 10-6 in favor of Kansas State with 13:19 to play in the first half.

Little did the 42,019 in attendance for the KSU homecoming realize at the time that the Wildcat defense would not require any further assistance on the day.

Matters went from bad to worse for Colorado a few moments later.

After a holding penalty pushed the Buffs back to their 15-yard line, quarterback Tyler Hansen fumbled and the Wildcats recovering at the Colorado 13-yard line.

An eight yard run gave Kansas State a 2nd-and-2 at the CU five-yard line and a touchdown seemed imminent.

Still, the Buffs held.

Defensive lineman Will Pericak caught KSU quarterback for a five yard loss on the next play, and, after an in-completion on third down, Kansas State was forced to settle for a field goal.

13-6, Kansas State, but the Buffs had remained within a touchdown after giving up a turnover in the red zone. There was still cause for hope in the Buff Nation.

That would last for only a few more minutes.

The Colorado defense forced a three-and-out by the KSU offense the next two possessions, and was not rewarded.

On 4th-and-10 on the second possession, Kansas State punter kicked the ball to the Colorado 23-yard line, where Jason Espinoza fumbled.

Set up at the Colorado 20-yard line, Kansas State needed only four plays to score. Assisted by an offsides penalty by defensive lineman Curtis Cunningham on third-and-two at the Colorado 12 which gave KSU a first down, quarterback Grant Gregory scored on a five yard run with 1:11 left before halftime.

Cody Hawkins, who had been replaced at quarterback by Tyler Hansen, and who did not play against Kansas, came in to run the two minute drill. Hawkins, though, was intercepted at the Kansas State 46 with eight seconds remaining before half.

In the second quarter, Kansas State had three first downs (one by penalty), went zero-for-three on third down attempts, and had one completion (for five yards) on five passing attempts...

…And out-scored Colorado, 17-0.

Halftime score: Kansas State 20, Colorado 6.

The Colorado offense, which spent most of the first half in neutral, went in reverse in the second half. The Buffs punted three times in the third quarter, after drives which culminated in 4th-and-16; 4th-and-11; and 4th-and-19. 

Only the play of the Colorado defense kept the game from becoming a rout. Between the two offenses, there were four first downs in the quarter, with 17 rushes netting a total of minus one yard. Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen was sacked four times; Kansas State quarterback was sacked twice.

The fourth quarter saw a little more offense, but still no further points. Kansas State twice drove inside the Colorado 40-yard line, but came away without a score. The Buffs gave the Wildcats a gift opportunity to score midway through the quarter, when punter Matt DiLallo was stopped at the Colorado 17-yard line on a fake punt. Cody Hawkins had three in-completions before DiLallo ran for eight yards on 4th-and-10.

Given the ball inside the Colorado red zone, Kansas State drove to the Colorado four yard line before quarterback Grant Gregory fumbled, with the ball recovered by senior linebacker Jeff Smart.

Down two scores with 6:37 to play, the Buffs took off of their longest drive of the season. Starting at the four, Colorado, with Cody Hawkins in for his third drive of the game, engineered a 16-play, 94-yard drive—and still didn’t score. Converting two 3rd-and-10s along the way, the Buffs got as far as the Kansas State two yard line, where Hawkins, on fourth-and-goal, threw an interception in the end zone.

 

Final Score: Kansas State 20, Colorado 6.

On the day, the Colorado offense was only able to generate 244 yards of total offense. That number, as bad as it sounds, was actually much worse. Take away the first and last drives of the game, and you have an offensive “attack” which generated, wait for it—79 yards .

 

Eleven drives totaling 79 yards.

None of the intermediate drives generated as many as 20 yards of offense; four ended with negative yardage. Three ended in turnovers; one on downs. None of the drives lasted more than six plays.

All that kept the loss from being an embarrassing rout was the play of the defense. The Buffs held the Wildcat offense—which scored 62 against Texas A&M the week before—to 284 yards of total offense. None of the Kansas State drives went ten plays. After the two scoring drives which gave Kansas State a 10-6 lead, the Wildcats were shut down. No drive gained even 40 yards; seven of the 11 drives gained 15 yards or less.

 

Here’s how the second half drive chart went for Kansas State: punt; punt; punt; punt; fumble; end of game.

Had the Buffs shown even a modicum of offense, the 20-6 loss could easily have been a victory.

It seems pretty clear that the Colorado offense, ranked as one of the worst in the nation coming into the game, continues to regress. Ranked 108th in the nation in rushing offense, at 94 yards per game, the Buffs posted 60 yards on 31 carries (including four sacks). Ranked 103rd in the nation in total offense, at 311.5 yards/game, the Buffs totaled 244.

Surely the head coach knows that its time for drastic measures.

Nope.

“Games can come down to four or five plays you have to make,” said Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins. “We never really got into any rhythm until the very last drive (which, in case you forgot, was led by Cody). K-State was very good in special teams and it helps when we turn it over.”

Four or five plays? The Buffs ran 68 plays, and put up 244 yards, less than four yards per play. Colorado ran for less than two yards a carry, and completed less than 50 percent of its passes. Rodney Stewart, the Buffs’ only real play-maker, ran the ball five straight times in the first drive, culminating in a touchdown. The remainder of the game, despite Colorado never being more than two scores down, Stewart had only 11 more touches.

Four or five plays? Maybe twenty-four or twenty-five…

 

More Game notes and locker room quotes have been posted, along with my essay on the game, “Road, Dreary Road", at www.cuatthegame.com

 

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