It sounds terrible to say and hasn’t been much fun to watch, but another week has passed and the Colorado Buffaloes have suffered another defeat, this time in the desert to the Arizona Wildcats. Fans, leadership and writers alike have expressed their frustration with the team and the way it has played, and that talk only seems primed to escalate with a bye week coming this week.
But right now, let’s take a step back from Karl Dorrell and Rick George’s hot seat chatter to analyze this Week 5 game itself.
Here’s what we learned from the Buffs’ performance on Saturday night:
The opening drive was impressive
The Buffaloes looked dynamic and had the Wildcats on their heels during the first drive of the game, resulting in the first opening drive touchdown of the season. CU went 70 yards on ning plays and capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by Owen McCown. Colorado was able to mix in the run and even pulled out a rarely used screen play to Charlie Offerdahl to grab a big chunk of yardage. Coaches should see what worked from this drive and mix more of this into future games, especially that running back screen game.
I'm at a loss with the defense
It may be hard to believe given CU’s struggles on offense for the better part of two years, but the Buffs’ defense is the weak link of the team. Arizona was able to roll to 673 total yards, the fourth-most ever given up in program history. It has gotten to a point where the 178 yards rushing and the 5.2 yards per rush that Arizona posted is a vast improvement from what the defense has given up so far this year.
Players are out of position, leaving big gaps in the run game, and the defensive backs are a step behind receivers in the passing game. Karl Dorrell addressed this after the game:
“I’m not ever blaming the players. I’m not going to ever do that. It’s always on our staff as coaches. And we really have paid a lot of attention, trying to do the right things with our people. It’s just
been, it hasn’t been the right things. You know, we’re going to
continue to fight to try to find the right way to do this.”
Play calling got worse after that first drive
As I noted above, the play calling on the first offensive drive was great and gave yours truly a bit of hope to start the game. But this was quickly undone by a streak of plays in the second and third quarters.
CU started by running the ball twice to Anthony Hankerson and gained 21 yards against a defense that allowed over 300-yards rushing last week — that was good. Then, the offensive coaches proceeded to call 16 passes on the next 19 plays to see a 13-7 game become a 33-13 blowout. It was frustrating because the rushing attack seemed to be the best it had been all year, but the coaches went away from it when it mattered the most.
Coaches have started to empty the bench
More and more first-timers are hitting the field for the Buffaloes, some due to injury, but more to get players time to grow and learn. The running backs room has been turned over for youngsters like Anthony Hankerson and Charlie Offerdahl. Receivers such as Jordyn Tyson, Chase Sowell and Ty Robinson have taken snaps from older receivers. Louis Pasarello got some snaps at tight end with Erik Olsen getting his first start — both due to Brady Russell’s injury. Plus, Van Wells and Gerad Christian-Lichtenhan started on the O-line.
On defense, Marvin Ham got his first official start, while Simeon Harris and Aaron Austin played a lot of defensive snaps as well. Look for this trend to continue as coaches look toward the future.
Changes are needed
Something has to change to right the ship here. CU has made the change at QB, but the next steps may be a little bigger. Pac-12 analyst Jon Wilner floated the idea of making a switch to the defensive coordinator position, and the talk has gotten so loud that it has made it up to the president of the university.
I will voice my full opinion in another post this week, but a quick fix is not going to make a difference in the grand scheme of all things Colorado football. A makeover seems to be needed from the top to make this thing work.