Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Q&A Time: Colorado

We'll be employing the same format this week as last, in light of how much both interviewees taught us about the Cyclones. Though no amount of information could have prepared me for the 20-0 first half, I felt like it was a success all the same. Answer #1 this week will come from Neill Woelk, a sports columnist from the Boulder Daily Camera. You may remember him from this article, saying "Kansas fans will wonder where the magic has gone when Mangino's Marvels lose six games this year -- five more than last year. By November, order in Lawrence will be restored, which means KU fans will be looking forward to basketball season." Meanwhile, answer #2 will come from the fantastic bloggers over at The Ralphie Report. Thanks to both for taking the time and effort to educate us on the entity that is Colorado football.

1. My inclination is to say that Colorado is better on defense than offense, but statistically, they haven't been very good on either. Though 3-2 they're currently getting out-gained (354-326) and outscored (26.4-24.2). While some of that is attributable to the lopsided loss to Texas, what's your take? Offense or defense?

NW: Colorado is definitely better -- at least more consistent -- on defense. The Buffs have more experience on the defensive side of the ball, and have played better there all year. Some of the big numbers can indeed be attributed to the Texas game, and can also be attributed to the defense simply wearing down when the offense has been unable to move the ball.

RR: Defense is a lot better right now. The offense is doing nothing to help them out. For example, last week the Longhorns had a time of possession advantage of 13 minutes and the Buffs continue to turn the ball over in there own territory giving the Buffs defense no help. Special teams has been poor as well which is no help the defensive statistics. The defense has been a solid, not great but solid most of the year. They aren’t flashy but they are much more experienced than the offense. Linebackers Shaun Mohler, Jeff Smart and Brad Jones are all pretty good players and the Buffs were able to get good pressure last week. The defense is definitely the strength of this team…if there is one.

2. What one thing does Colorado do extremely well?

NW: Um ... Ralphie runs better than any mascot?

RR:We really don’t do anything extremely well other than get hurt. The Buffs have a ton of injuries on the offensive side of the ball and it is becoming a major issue. Before the injuries to the offensive line, I would have said the Buffs run the ball pretty well but Texas showed that is now stoppable. Yes, a sad answer but true.

3. What one thing do they do terribly?

NW: Special teams. The Buffs have already given up two kick returns for touchdowns, have allowed long punt returns, and kicker Aric Goodman has missed four consecutive field goals. (Ironically, all four after being awarded a scholarship following his game-winner in OT vs. West Virginia).

RR:Special teams. Our kicker has missed his last 4 field goals and the CU kickoff team has given up two touchdowns this year. WR Josh Smith has fumbled a couple times as well. On offense, we are having trouble establishing playmakers. WR Josh Smith is the Buffs only big play threat but the coaches don’t play him nearly enough. I am perplexed on this one as well. Coach Hawkins hasn’t had to answer this question yet but it would be the first one I would ask him.

4. Defensively, they've been better against the pass. Obviously Kansas has been operating with a nearly pass-only offense. How do you expect the Buffs to defend them?

NW: Last year, Reesing hurt Colorado with his legs. I believe the Buffs can defend the pass relatively well, but the question mark is whether they'll be able to keep Reesing under wraps if he leaves the pocket.

RR: I expect the Buffs to be very cautious in the way they handle Reesing and his ability to move in the pocket. You have to be very calculated in your blitz scheme against Reesing or he will beat you with his legs. The front four of the Buffs isn’t great at getting pressure on the quarterback so look for LB Brad Jones to be the primary pass rusher for CU this weekend. I feel the Buffs don’t need to worry about the Kansas running game or lack thereof. This could free up our linebackers to be more active in the passing game which I am excited to see. The last three teams we have played have really tried to pound the ball and the Buffs have responded pretty well giving up on 3.7 yards/carry against Texas. Pressure on Reesing and controlling his ability to scramble should be the Buffs priority in stopping Kansas.

5. Offensively, I would think they're a better running team than passing. But the stats or respective rankings don't back that up. What say you?

NW: Colorado has the chance to be a good running team, but a young and injured offensive line has hindered that development. Colorado has had to throw after being behind, and Hawkins' numbers don't portray a lot of consistency thus far. Even though the numbers don't back it up, I'd say Colorado is about even when it comes to throwing and running the ball.

RR:Lets go back to the things the Buffs do terribly again. The Buffs could run the ball decently when they had G Max Tuioti-Mariner and OT Ryan Miller but since their injuries, they have had trouble running the ball, especially against Texas. RB Rodney Stewart has been good while RB Darrell Scott has been injured most of the season. If the Buffs can get some confidence and movement up front, Stewart is a capable running back. The CU passing game is putrid. It starts with Cody Hawkins not being able to make plays with any consistency. If he plays poorly again, Kansas will load the box and it will be a long day for the Buffs. You will know the passing game is clicking if the Buffs can get WR Scotty McKnight involved. McKnight was CU’s most consistent receiver last year but he has disappeared this year. It is a sad statement but this Buffs team will go the way Cody Hawkins goes. Based on that statement, the Buffs are lucky they are not 1 – 4.

6. On that same note, it seems pretty apparent that Cody Hawkins has not improved much, if at all, since last year. How do you feel about him? Is the key to disrupting him getting pressure, as his 39% completion rate last week would suggest? Pass rushing is not a strength for Kansas, but with the CU line so banged up, would this concern you?

NW: C. Hawkins has indeed struggled this year. Part of it is due to him "pressing" too much to make big plays. Another factor is an inexperienced offensive line and an inexperienced backfield. If the Buffs were playing Boulder High School this week, the pass rush against Hawkins would probably be a concern.

RR:I was a big supporter of Cody Hawkins coming into the year because I thought he had a knack of making plays with less around him. He is a great human being, a great kid and has a great set of priorities. It pains me to say, though, that he has regressed since last year. I am now a believer that the Buffs need to start working backup QB Matt Ballenger into the rotation to see if he gives this team a jump start. He isn’t making the throws he needs to make or has made in the past. He seems very rushed with this new spread offense and is playing with little fire and confidence. Hawkins was a very fiery player last year and that isn’t the case this year. Of course the injuries on the offensive line don’t help but a division one quarterback needs to make a play once or twice in a game that makes you go, “he has it.” Cody isn’t making those plays right now. I expect Kansas to load up the box and make Cody and the banged up offensive line beat them. Kansas should press on the corners against our slower receivers and blitz like it is out of style.

7. Defensively, we know & fear Hypolite. We're also pretty familiar with Cha'ppelle Brown, Maurice Lucas, Ryan Walters and Brad Jones. Who else should we know about heading into this game?

NW: Brandon Nicolas is having a very solid season at nose guard and linebacker Shaun Mohler is a difference-maker there. Mohler has a chance to become another of the long list of very good linebackers from Colorado.

RR:LB Shaun Mohler is turning into the best player the Buffs have on defense. He makes tackles all over the field. I have loved this kid the day he stepped on the field. He played at a JUCO last year and had to take 18 credits this summer just to qualify for CU and he did it because all he wanted to do was play football for the Buffs. A little harder to get into CU than JUCO KSU.

8. Switching gears for a quick moment, what is your favorite thing about Boulder? Lawrence (if you've been)? Are you making the trip this year?

NW: Boulder: the mountains, the weather and the plethora of outdoor activities at your doorstep. Lawrence: Allen Fieldhouse..

RR: I have never been to Lawrence and unfortunately, I won’t be making it to the game. The road game this year will probably be at Nebraska. My favorite thing about Boulder is its setting. It is a town with a lot to do. It is close to Denver, close to skiing in the mountains. It is definitely a great college town and a true destination for most visiting team’s fans.
9. Finish this sentence: Colorado will win if...

NW: the Buffs establish a running game, control the clock and force a couple of turnovers.

RR: The quarterback makes plays and doesn’t hurt the team with turnovers and inconsistency. (Note the use of quarterback and not Cody Hawkins…just someone needs to get it done.)

10. And finally, what's your final score?

NW: Ah, what the heck ... all my friends in Kansas already love me ... Colorado 29, Kansas 22.

RR: Right now I am thinking 30 – 14 Kansas but I may change that as the week moves forward. I am trying to make a list of how Colorado can possibly win this game.

Thanks again to both interview subjects. We appreciate the time and effort. Be sure to check out both sources for additional information throughout the week.

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