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2013 Rocky Mountain Showdown Preview: How We Arrived?

Discussion in 'Colorado Football Message Board' started by absinthe, Sep 1, 2013.

  1. absinthe

    absinthe Ambitious but rubbish. Club Member Junta Member

    Dec 1, 2006
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    By: Mat Smith

    #CUGameday! Alas, Kickoff of the 2013-2014 campaign is upon us for the Colorado Buffaloes Football program. They open their season on Sunday afternoon at 4pm MT at Sports Authority Field at Mile High for the 2013 Rocky Mountain Showdown against in-state rival, Colorado State. CU owns a sizeable 61-21-2 edge in the series over CSU. Last season was statistically the worst season in University of Colorado Football history. Yes, the Buffs finished 1-11 overall, 1-8 in Pac 12 Conference play last season. They allowed their opponents 46 points per game on average, nearly the highest number in the entire country. This is a team that did not win a single home game all season, a team that allowed their opponents on average nearly 500 yards a game, a team outscored by their opponents by an unthinkable 338 points, 552-214 total. For a program nestled beneath the Flatirons in Boulder, the Buffs had literally hit rock bottom.

    As both a fan base and a program, we approach the commencement of the CU Football season with a new found intention and direction of optimistic leadership, born from the trials and contrast of the last 7 seasons. It was the tale of two teams with great tradition struggling to find the consistency and stability to assert themselves as national competitors. Though it is just the beginning, both schools now appear to be on the correct path to re-establishing a seemingly lost winning tradition. There is more anticipation, more excitement, more attention, more storylines; it is everything the rivalry has desperately needed for the last seven years. The Showdown is once again, a Show. It is the 85th meeting all-time between the two schools and for a series with such familiarity, it promises to be a contest unlike any we have seen in recent history.
    CU fired former head coach Dan Hawkins just three games before the end of the 2010 season and named Brian Cabral, linebacker’s coach at the University of Colorado since 1990, interim head coach. CU began its search for a new leader in the offseason and was said to be looking for someone within the Buffalo “Family”. Possibly someone who personally experienced success on the field during their career as a Buff and could help guide them back to their once esteemed status. When the decision was finally made, CU greats Jon Embree and Eric Bieniemy were hired as head coach and offensive coordinator to the lead the Buffs into tomorrow and out of the Dan Hawkins era.
    Fast-forward one year to the beginning of the 2012 season, the Buffs were coming off a three win 2011 campaign in Embree’s somewhat disappointing first year on the job at Colorado. Any momentum the Buffs had from the year before dissipated after a slew of injuries hit the team, including to star WR Paul Richardson who tore his ACL during the final week of spring practices. CU would also have to deal with the loss of outgoing seniors including their leading passer, rusher and receiver (QB Tyler Hansen, RB Rodney Stewart and WR Toney Clemons). Any hope the Buffs had for an improvement on the previous season’s three wins began to slowly slip away.

    A season that Buff fans expected to be difficult in the ever-so competitive Pac 12 Conference, started out as well as it could have when Kansas transfer, QB Jordan Webb, shined in the first half of his Colorado debut in last year’s Rocky Mountain Showdown going 15 for 23 for 125 yards and two touchdowns. However, the Buffs went into the locker room at halftime and when they came out they would never reach that level of execution on both offense and defense at the same time again, the rest of the season. The Rams forced a stop on the opening series of the second half and marched 89 yards in eight plays to go ahead 16-14 with 8:37 left in the third quarter. The teams would exchange field goals and Colorado State would seal the game on a field goal coming with 2:56 to play. Ultimately, CSU’s defense stopped Colorado on a 4th and 2 and the Rams won 22-17, took victorious claim to last year’s bragging rights, and hoisted the Centennial Cup.

    Just one year ago today before the disappointment that was the 2012 campaign began, Jon Embree was the Head Coach and Mike Bohn was the Athletic Director at the University of Colorado. CU had a starting quarterback with plenty of experience, a tested newcomer with 21 overall appearances and 19 career starts. After losing their top two leading receivers, their next statistically best WR was freshman Keenan Canty who had totaled 161 yards receiving on 14 receptions. It is interesting to think about how much change a year can bring. Former head coach Jon Embree was fired in November of 2012 and just a month later Mike MacIntyre was hired. Mike Bohn “resigned” in late May and Rick George was named athletic director in the middle of July. Colorado has arguably the deepest, most talented receiving core it has had in a decade. They return soon-to-be national star, Paul Richardson who despite missing all of last season is Colorado’s 21st all-time leading receiver. However, Junior QB Connor Wood, the starting quarterback, has five career appearances and just one career start. Coach Mac attempts to be the 2nd coach since 1931 to win his debut as Head Coach of the Buffaloes.

    CU’s Offense:

    The key for CU will be the play under center. With only one quarterback with NCAA Division 1 experience on the roster, Connor Wood will have to prove himself right from the start. Wood, who has thrown a total of 42 passes for CU, was ranked in the Top 15 for QB’s in his class coming out of high school and started his collegiate career at the University of Texas. After redshirting his freshman year, Connor transferred to CU and per the NCAA “transfer rule” had to sit out a year to gain eligibility for the 2012 season. His freshman year at Texas he was in the middle of a position battle and lost, then the unfortunate timing of the arrival of Webb disallowed him the starting spot last year during his Sophomore year of eligibility. It has been a humble learning experience to say the least. However, the time has come for Mr. Wood. He has displayed solid leadership and approached the opportunity with appreciation and determination. With good size for a QB at 6’4”, 225lbs, and solid fundamentals he has potential to develop into an above average quarterback if he can become consistent. The biggest criticism of Connor has been his lack of confidence and inability to recover after making mistakes. In the Spring and during Fall Camp, Coach Mac has implemented a more simplistic style of offense to allow Wood the opportunity to let the game flow and quit thinking so much. If he cannot improve within MacIntyre’s new system, don’t expect it to be long before a change is made. True freshman QB Sefo Liufau made headlines last week after he was named as Wood’s backup, ahead of the pair of sophomore quarterbacks, Jordan Gehrke and Stevie Joe Dorman. Sefo will almost certainly be the future of the program and it has become clear that he will get his chance if Wood cannot suffice. For a guy that lacks confidence, there is a lot of pressure on Connor as a Team Captain to maintain the team’s focus. If Connor can show up and operate the game as the upperclassman his eligibility status finally says he is, then the CSU Defensive Secondary may be in for a long night, especially if Wood and Richardson’s chemistry is truly all its built up to be.

    The Buffaloes enter the Showdown with far more talent at the skill positions than they have had over the last several years. Despite losing 12 players, they return 24 and gain more value than they actually lose. Scoring the ball should not be as difficult as it was for the team that struggled to find the end zone last season, averaging 17.8 points per game, ranking them 117th, close to last in the FBS. However, this season, Colorado’s offense has a favorable matchup with the defense of the Rams. Despite losing their best lineman to the NFL Draft, David Bakhtiari, CU’s Offensive Line outweighs CSU’s Defensive Line 1480lbs to 1105lbs. Colorado gave up 5 sacks to CSU in last year’s contest. Pass protection will be the name of the game for the Buffaloes facing a defense with 20 combined career sacks between the starters. If not to protect their quarterback than at least to give him time to throw, a luxury not afforded to Buffs QB’s last season. The Buffs are equipped with far more playmakers in the receiving core including Junior D.D. Goodson (moved from TB to WR), Junior-College Transfer Wesley Christensen, Freshmen Devin Ross and Jeff Thomas. With the return of Biletnikoff Award (outstanding receiver) National Watch List member, Paul Richardson and Sophomores Nelson Spruce and Tyler McCulloch, Wood now has eight legitimate targets at the WR position on offense compared to the four or five last season. At Tailback, Christian Powell returns after turning heads his true freshman year despite missing part of the season due to injury. Powell will shoulder the load with Junior speedster, Tony Jones. Josh Ford was displaying improved burst and explosiveness up until he suffered a high ankle sprain on August 11th and had surgery to aide his healing process, he’s projected to return in 4 to 6 weeks. CSU allowed opponents on average over 200 yards rushing per game last season so if the O-Line can get a solid push and open up some holes for the likes of Powell and Jones, CU may be in line for a solid day on the ground. In addition, this year with the return of P-Rich and the inclusion of the other weapons, you open up the Play-Action Fake possibilities within Coach Mac’s system by making the defense stop every facet of your game.

    CU’s Defense:

    The Buffaloes struggled quite a bit during the 2012 campaign due to the overwhelming youth on defense. Under Head Coach Mike MacIntyre, Colorado will switch to a 4-3 defensive scheme starting this year. As it relates to the Defensive Backs, the graduation of Ray Polk at the Free Safety position will be the only hole to fill. Nine out of the 12 defensive backs were underclassmen including five freshmen, combining for three interceptions from three different players, of those the Buffs only return 2 of the 3 (FS Marques Mosley and FS Jered Bell, losing graduating Senior LB Jon Major.) Sophomore CB Kenneth Crawley and Junior CB Greg Henderson will start and get the assignment of covering starting Freshman WR Rashard Higgins and returning Junior WR Charles Lovett. True Freshman CB Chidobe Awuzie impressed Coach Mac and Defensive Coordinator Kent Baer enough to the point where he will start the season as the nickel back when in the formation. He has good hands and ball-hawking ability, and will eventually help contribute to the Buffs lowly INT total from 2012. Junior FS Jered Bell won the Free Safety competition over Sophomore FS/KR Marques Mosley, and Senior SS Parker Orms returns to lead a far deeper, more experienced Secondary in 2013. In a statement you would’ve never heard me say last year, I give CU’s secondary the edge in this matchup because the overall talent and depth at the position far outweighs that of the Rams WR’s. The Rams have yet to declare a starting quarterback. Junior QB Garrett Grayson started last year against the Buffs and went 14 for 21 for 173 yards and two touchdowns. Colorado State Head Coach Jim McElwain could elect to go with Grayson, who finished last season with 946 yards and seven touchdowns. Or he could elect to choose Sophomore QB Conner Smith who finished last season with 1022 yards and six touchdowns. Smith is more of a pocket passer while Grayson can use his feet to move the pocket and scramble away from the pressure when necessary.

    Where Colorado State truly provides matchup problems for the Buffs is at the Tight End position. Returning is Senior leading receiver last season is TE Crockett Gillmore and Redshirt Junior TE Kivon Cartwright who had combined for 93 receptions for 1,104 yards and nine touchdowns. After the departure to graduating Senior MLB Doug Rippy, the Buffs have big shoes to fill at LB. The man trying to do so is true Freshman MLB Addison Gillam beating out Junior LB Brady Daigh for the spot. Gillam joins Butkus Award (top linebacker) National Award watch list member, ILB Derrick Webb. Senior OLB Paul Vigo joins Webb and Gillam who will have the responsibility of covering Colorado State’s biggest weapons. Covering these big bodies of CSU in the middle of the field will be tough for a somewhat thin linebacking core. In goal line or redzone situations expect CSU to look to #10 and #86 (Gillmore and Cartwright) and I’m sure they’ll be open at least once or twice. Where Colorado truly struggles is stopping the run. Senior DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe returns to lead a Defensive line that lost four-year starter and Heart of the Buffalo award winner, Will Perciak to graduation last season. Sophomore DT Josh Tupou has the opportunity to step up and assert himself on the interior of Colorado’s defensive line as he has bulked up to 310lbs. At the heart of CSU O-Line is Redshirt Senior Center Weston Richburg, on the preseason Rimington Award (most outstanding center) National Award watch list anchors a veteran offensive line. The Buffaloes front four will have their work cut out for them as the average CSU O-Line Starter is 6’4”, 303 lbs. The Rams Offensive Line outweighs the Buffaloes Defensive Line 1580lbs to 1100lbs. CU’s inability to stop the run last year led to some eye-popping statistical games for opposing running backs, but that’s what happens when you allow your opponents on average 226 yards per game or 5.9 yards per carry. During Head Coach Jim McElwain’s debut as a rookie head coach, CSU rushed the ball 44 times for 125 yards on their way to setting up five scoring drives. The returning backfield tandem of Sophomore TB Donnell Alexander and Senior TB Chris Nwoke will provide the Buffaloes with problems all afternoon especially with their ability to use the Tight Ends as much as CSU’s offense does. The Rams averaged 128.8 yards per game on the ground in 2012, found their stride near the end of the season, and averaged 189.3 yards per game in their final five games. No matter what happens, the matchup with CSU’s offense will prepare a defensive unit for a year in the Pac-12 that will bring talent far better than that from Fort Collins onto the field, it will be nice to prepare with this game.

    CU’s Pass Offense v. CSU’s Pass Defense = Advantage CU.

    WR Paul Richardson returns to the football field, a year and half after he underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL. Junior-College Transfer WR Wesley Christensen will surprise a lot of people this season, don’t be surprised if he plays a key role in the offense while he’s under the radar.
    MATCHUP TO WATCH: Senior LT Jack Harris v. Senior DE Shaquil Barrett.
    END OF THE DAY: Hard to see P-Rich not eclipsing the 100 yard mark with at least one touchdown if Connor Wood is up to the challenge of bringing home the Centennial Cup

    CU’s Rush Offense v. CSU’s Run Defense = Advantage CU.

    TB Christian Powell is a great athlete and great runner, he’s more of a power back than the majority of tailback’s you see today. He will improve on a great freshman season last year. Junior TB Tony Jones has improved his quickness and speed many were hoping he would last year and will certainly play a bigger role at the outset of the 2013-2014 season.
    MATCHUP TO WATCH: Sophomore TB Christain Powell v. Redshirt Sophomore OLB Cory James.
    END OF THE DAY: Between the two of the them they combine for 120 yards and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Powell end up in the end zone once or twice. In goal line situations you are grateful for a guy like that.

    CSU’s Pass Offense v. CU’s Pass Defense = Advantage CSU.

    Despite the fact that CU’s secondary is markedly improved over where it was last year, CSU’s two leading receivers are potentially NFL-caliber Tight Ends. The Buffs will have a hard time keeping track of these big bodies. TE Crocket Gillmore will have a very good game against a team that will struggle covering large TE’s all year long. Depending upon which QB gets the start, and I’m inclined to say Grayson might, the Rams will have the strategic upper hand because they have made Colorado have to prepare for both. Colorado will need to find a way to pressure the passer to disrupt the flow of CSU’s offense.
    MATCHUP TO WATCH: MLB Addison Gillam v. QB TBA.
    END OF THE DAY: CSU will find a way to use the TE-LB mismatches to their advantage and find their way into the end zone at least once or twice.

    CSU’s Rush Offense v. CU’s Rush Defense = Advantage CSU.

    They combined for 44 carries and 125 yards on the ground in the 2012 Rocky Mountain Showdown, Sophomore TB Donnell Alexander and Senior TB Chris Nwoke will have a sure impact. I am interested to see what CU’s smaller defensive line will be able to do against the Giants of Fort Collins otherwise known as Colorado State’s offensive line. I foresee Nwoke having a more significant impact this season in the running game for the Rams than Alexander will.
    MATCHUP TO WATCH: Sophomore DT Josh Tupou v. Redshirt Senior C Weston Richburg.
    END OF THE DAY: Nwoke and Alexander will find a way to run around Colorado. Expect CSU to rush for at least 130 yards if the CSU offensive line can block like they should be able to. One or two rushing touchdowns will be expected.

    CU’s Special Teams v. CSU’s Special Teams = Advantage CU.

    Junior Punter Darragh O’Neill was statistically a Top 10 punter in the nation last year, given he punted the ball 76 times last season compared to their opponents who punted the ball 46 times. O’Neill is on the preseason Ray Guy Award (most outstanding punter) National watch list. KR Marques Mosley’s 26.1 yard per kickoff return average was second in the Pac 12 and 20th in the NCAA. Mosley returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the last game of the year on the road against Utah. The Punt Return man is a bit of a question mark, as the season draws on, a candidate will be solidified. Placekicker Will Oliver had a very efficient sophomore season going 6 for 8 for FG’s.
    MATCHUP TO WATCH: KR Marques Mosley v. CSU’s Kickoff Special Teams Unit
    END OF THE DAY: If CU has to punt, it will be up to P Darragh O’Neill to pin CSU deep in their own territory and pick up from where he left off last year as one of the nation’s leading punters.

    As Ralphie leads the team out onto the field, the running of Ralphie, the eternal beacon of hope marks a new era for Colorado Football. Player of the Game: Paul Richardson with between 7 to 11 catches for between 130 to 150 yards and 2 touchdowns in his epic return to action as Colorado hoists the Centennial Cup in a 27-24 victory over Colorado State.

    AND IN THE INFAMOUS WORDS OF BRUCE BUFFER… http://youtu.be/ilpiYHKbSAw?t=25s

    Mat Smith is the Senior Sports Correspondent and Voice of the Colorado Buffaloes for KVCU. Mat is a featured writer for Allbuffs.com. Catch him as the Host of News Underground on KVCU Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday’s from 6-7pm MT!
    Follow Mat Smith on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RealMatSmith
    Like Mat Smith on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheMatSmith

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