“Wake me when it’s over”
A quick show of hands.
Let’s say the football gods stopped by your place Friday night, and offered you a 21-point Colorado victory over Colorado State - with the only condition that you not know the circumstances behind the win. Would you have jumped at the chance?
Yeah. Me, too.
Colorado entered the game against Colorado State with a host of unknowns. Could the offensive line, with three award candidates, dominate? How much would the new wide receivers contribute? Would the Buffs’ special teams, as they did for much of 2009, implode at just the wrong time? Would the Buffs’ fragile psyche be shattered if a few bad breaks hit them early?
Yes, the Buffs came away with a 21-point win, but Buff fans were left wondering whether Colorado was a much better team, or whether Colorado State was just that bad.
Tyler Hansen was not great, but he was effective, which was all Buff fans were hoping for. He did have a few scrambles for yardage, on plays when you just knew that Cody Hawkins would have taken a sack. By the same token, Hansen did miss several wide open receivers, take a bad sack, and the offense did have a number of dumb penalties. “We have to clean that up,” said Hansen. “That was a miscommunication between me and some of the other guys … Those are precious yards and you work for those yards and you need those yards.”
The offensive line produced 115 net yards rushing (up from 87.9 per game average in 2009), and allowed only two sacks. Still, the Buffs were up against a decimated Colorado State defensive line, and, except for one drive in the second quarter, failed to dominate. Tyler Hansen was on the run much more often than his true freshman counterpart, Pete Thomas. Speedy had only 16 carries on the day, giving way to Brian Lockridge (four carries, six yards) and Justin Torres (five carries, 26 yards) in the fourth quarter.
The receivers did well, but, again, did not shine. Steady Scotty McKnight led all receivers with six catches for 78 yards. Newcomers Toney Clemons (three catches, 25 yards), Travon Patterson (one catch for 17 yards and a touchdown), and Paul Richardson (one catch, 11 yards) showed flashes of potential, but did not have that breakthrough play Buff fans were hoping for.
The defensive front, had, like the rest of the team, had a game of positives and negatives. Holding a team, any team, to 49 yards rushing, is a good day. Conversely, the Buffs were up against an offensive line with four new starters, and produced only three sacks (all after the outcome of the game was decided). The line did, though, team up with the linebackers to have a great game overall. Colorado State went one-for-12 on third down, and failed to convert on two fourth down attempts.
The secondary was also a testament of contradictions. The Buffs produced three interceptions, and kept the Ram receivers in front of them all afternoon. A freshman quarterback, though, did complete 24-of-33 passes, a success rate which will hurt Colorado if it persists down the road.
Last season, Colorado gave up a total of 53 plays of over 20 yards. Against Colorado State, the Rams managed one 20-yard run (in the fourth quarter), and no passes over 20 yards. Hard to call that a bad day.
Overall, the special teams were very efficient against Colorado State. Efficient, though, is spectacular when compared to 2009. Aric Goodman made his only field goal attempt. Granted, it was an ideal situation – the Buffs were already up 14-0, the ball was in the middle of the field, and the kick was only eight yards longer than an extra point – but he did make it. Red-shirt freshman punter Zach Grossnickle had a 41.4 yard average, a notch better than the 38.6 yard average posted by senior Matt DiLallo in 2009. But, as it was Grossnickle’s first game, the numbers were more than adequate.
The return teams show great promise. Brian Lockridge had only one attempt at a kickoff return, but did take advantage of his one opportunity, going for 34 yards. Travon Patterson had four punt returns for 46 yards. That’s a 11.5 yard average, a hefty increase over the 3.3 yard average from 2009. Buff fans have reason to be excited about punt returns again, perhaps for the first time since Jeremy Bloom took the field.
Two of the Buff returns, though, were negated by penalties.
Did you say penalties?
Remember back in fall camp, back say, a week ago, when Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins was talking about how well the Buffs had done with penalties this fall? Out of three scrimmages, two of which were closed to the public, the Buffs ran over 350 plays, and generated fewer than ten penalties.
Against Colorado State, in 118 total plays, Colorado had ten penalties for 104 yards. Asked how he was planning to address penalties, Dan Hawkins responded, “Running, running, and more running. We’ll be on that.”
Buff fans certainly hope so. California will be a much stiffer test than Colorado State. Ten penalties will almost surely kill any Buff chances at victory.
The Buffs have had a long winter. It’s been almost ten months since the last victory. It’s been almost a year since the last time Buff fans could enjoy a fourth quarter, knowing the victory was in hand.
A 21-point victory is hard to scoff at, particularly for a team coming off a 3-9 season in which the Buffs registered all of one win each month.
Still, Buff fans have to be a bit uncomfortable as the team heads off to Berkeley.
If the football gods want to pay me a visit on Friday night, offering me a four-point victory over Cal, with the only stipulation that I not know how the victory was obtained, I’ll be ready with my answer:
“Wake me when it’s over”.