As part of a preview for the game tomorrow, we asked each other questions about our respective teams. Below are Ralphie Report's answers to my questions about Colorado. For my answers to their questions, check out their site.
1. With no intent on trashing a student athlete, Colorado played some inspired football last weekend after Scott left the program. Has this team rallied around this adversity, or was this something else?
I think a few things contributed to the win last week:
First, I don't think Darrell Scott was holding this team back at all but I do think that Scott (or any player) leaving the team may have added to the Buffs playing a little better last week. Their is something to be said for the mentality of uniting when someone leaves the team and I know players rally around each other because they are out to prove they don't need players that leave the program to be successful, if that makes sense.
Second, I also think the players rallied around the student led demonstration of wearing powder blue shirts to display their displeasure of the coaching staff and the results on the field. The players took that as a shot against them as well.
Third, it was Tyler Hansen's fourth game as a starting quarterback this year and you could see that he is gaining confidence in the offense. Also, we saw the emergence of WR Markques Simas being featured in this offense. The Buffs added two playmakers to this offense, something that has been missing.
Finally, Texas A&M's defense is not very good which helps.
2. The past two weeks, Hansen has been sacked 8 times each, which is quite a bit. Are there serious pass protection issues, or is Hansen holding onto the ball too long?
Let's say that the pass protection has gotten so bad that the offensive line coach has counted the number of sacks the o-line is responsible for and the number of sacks the tight ends & running backs are responsible for. Of course, Hansen's mobility can sometimes lead to a sack here and there but nowhere near eight as it has been in the last two games. Part of the issue is the Buffs', until last last week, failed to put on film a downfield threat. That led teams to load the box against the run and attack the Buffs' offense from all angles. Hopefully that stops in subsequent weeks as Hansen and Simas developed a nice connection that led to big plays against A&M.
That being said, the offensive line has been a huge disappointment this year. Not only have they given up a lot of sacks, 36 in total, but the Colorado offense ranks 113th in the nation in rushing yards. They are missing blitz reads, are getting beat to the point of attack and at times, just look outmatched. If that wasn't enough, Colorado has been one of the most penalized teams in the nation. A bulk of those penalties stem from the offensive line. It's really a sad deal as we are starting to see players form (Hansen, Simas, Stewart, Geer) on the offensive side of the ball but Tyler Hansen is getting harrassed most of the game.
3. While the season has been a disappointment, is there anything that can salvage this season in the minds of the fans? Also, what is the biggest reason why CU has regressed (or at least remained the same) compared to last year?
Why CU has regressed from a year ago? Their is no great short answer to this question but I think you have to look at coaching in year four and the lack of player development. It is hard for Buff fans to name players who have gotten better under this coaching regime. It's a sad fact but the player's performance as a whole has been mediocre at best the past four years. Against Texas A&M, we saw some glimpses, against Kansas their was some signs but the fact that the coaches can't prepare this team to play consistently week in and week out is a major problem. Colorado continues to falter on the mental side of the game as well. They are once again at the bottom of the Big 12 in total penalties and turnovers, two categories that have a direct relationship to wins and losses. Bottom line, I believe this team is not very well prepared to play football week in and week out. I think that is very evident by the results on the field.
Anything we can salvage? Since the West Virginia game, the Buffs' defense has played pretty well, forcing turnovers and limiting the big plays. Sometimes they do play "bend but don't break" defense but for the most part, and considering the poor offensive play this year, CU's defense has done decent. Colorado returns all but two starters next year so I look for them to get better in 2010 as well. Offensively, we are seeing glimpses of Tyler Hansen progressing as a quarterback. Rodney Stewart is a solid running back and Markques Simas showed signs last week but we need to see more consistency. That doesn't look like it will happen unless the offensive line starts playing better.
4. What's your biggest concern about this game?
The fact that Colorado is playing on the road and Iowa State will be a motivated team. The Buffs under Dan Hawkins is 2 - 18 away from the state of Colorado, including a loss two years ago in Ames after the Buffs had a 21 - 0 lead in the first half. Players and coaches have cited multiple times that the Buffs' lose focus on the road and lack the required energy to win. I put that squarely on the coaches not keeping the team focused. It is embarrassing that the players aren't ready to play and many fans wonder why this "lack of energy" isn't getting fixed. It has been ten games since CU has last won on the road and this continues to be an excuse. Fix it!
5. Predictions. What does CU have to do to win, what does ISU have to do to win, and what do you think happens?
I think these two teams are pretty similar. To me their are three factors that will determine this game:
-The play in the trenches. Who wins the battle up front will go a long way in deciding this one.
-Win the turnover battle.
-Get ahead early. Both of these offenses are not explosive and both want to run the ball. Whoever can force the other team to play catchup football will be in good shape.
I want to pick the Buffs to win. This is a very winnable game but I have been fooled by winning performances before and I have to remember, this Colorado team has not proven they can win on the road or play with any consistency. Until they show me and show Buff nation that they are ready to grow up as a team and take the next step, it is only logical to say that Colorado will come up on the short end when they travel:
Iowa State 17, Colorado 14
Thanks again, and look forward to the game!