Preview – Washington
As was the case a few weeks ago, when Colorado played the other school from the state of Washington, the Buffs will be able to score.
Another truth: Washington’s offense will also score on the Buffs’ defense.
Which leads us to the reason they play the game: Which team can score the most points?
Washington will come at the Buffs with perhaps the most balanced offense the Buffs have seen to date, but also come into the game with a few question marks on defense.
The Buffs were not able to out-score the Washington State Cougars on October 1st. To defeat the Washington Huskies on October 15th, the Colorado offense will have to take advantage of opportunities as they are presented, and do so … on the road.
A road victory? It’s going to happen … someday. Will this be the weekend that the streak is broken?
Here are this week’s “T.I.P.S.” …
T – Talent
Though he is no Andrew Luck, Washington quarterback Keith Price has nothing to apologize for. The smallish sophomore (6’1″, 195-pounds) has already thrown 17 touchdown passes this fall. Even with Washington’s bye last weekend, Price’s total is still second in the country in that category, trailing only Baylor’s Robert Griffin III’s 19 scores (Tyler Hansen has 12 touchdown passes in six games for the Buffs). Price’s total, five games into the Huskies’ season, is already seventh on Washington’s all-time single season list for touchdown passes.
In throwing for at least three touchdowns in each of Washington’s first five games, Price is completing 68% of his passes, and is seventh in the nation in pass efficiency. The Colorado defense, meanwhile, has surrendered a Pac-12 worst 14 touchdown passes.
When Price goes back to pass, his favorite target is Jermaine Kearse. The senior wide receiver is second in career touchdown receptions (27) at Washington, trailing only to Mario Bailey (who Buff fans will remember from the 1989 and 1990 encounters with Washington). In Washington’s last game, a 31-14 rout of Utah in Salt Lake City, Kearse had seven receptions for 70 yards and a score. Last season, Kearse was second-team All-Pac-10 with 63 receptions for 1,006 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Okay. We get it. Stop Price and Kearse, and you stop the Huskies.
“Not so fast, my friend,” as ESPN analyst Lee Corso might say.
Washington has another potent weapon. This fall, junior tailback Chris Polk is well on his way to a third consecutive 1,000-yard season. As a freshman in 2009, Polk rushed for 1,113 yards, upping the total last season to 1,415, the second-highest total in Washington history. This year, has rushed for over 100 yards in four of the Huskies’ first five games, and is already second on the Washington all-time rushing list (behind only Napoleon Kaufman – 1991-94). His career rushing yards per game average is a sleek 99.1 yards per game, over ten yards per game better than any Washington Husky – ever (the CU record is 113.2 yards per game, by Rashaan Salaam, 1992-94).
Overall, the Washington offense has very consistent. The Huskies have yet to be held under 30 points in any game, but the season high is only ten points higher, coming in a 40-32 shootout with Hawai’i.
So, Washington is going to score on the Colorado defense.
The real question, then, becomes: Can the Colorado offense score on the Washington defense?
Yes – so long as the Buffs forget that they are playing on the road.
Despite a 4-1 record, the Washington defense, at least until the Utah game two weeks ago (a 31-14 victory) has failed to impress. The Huskies are 101st in the nation in total defense, giving up over 425 yards per game. The pass defense is rated 117th, with 323.0 yards per game surrendered to the opposition.
The Washington pass rush is not particularly adept (84th in sacks) or in forcing the issue at the line of scrimmage (110th in tackles for loss).
Whether Washington’s rating as the 23rd-best team against the rush can be attributed to a tough front seven … or to teams turning to the pass as any easier method for moving the ball … remains to be seen.
It will be up to the Colorado offense to devise a game plan which will replicate the success of the Huskies’ first five opponents.
So, as was the case with Washington State and Cal, look for both offenses to have success.
The team with a defense which shows up will be your victor.
I – Intangibles
Intangibles gets its own category for a reason other than it happens to be the “I” in “T.I.P.S.”.
We have to keep in mind that we are dealing with 19- and 20-year olds wearing the school colors. Emotion and confidence are a huge part of the game of college football.
And right now, Washington is playing with confidence; Colorado is not.
Both teams have played enough games to have plenty of game film with which to work. What will stand out to all of the players on both teams are two important facts:
Colorado lost to Hawai’i; Washington beat Hawai’i.
Colorado lost to California; Washington beat California.
Even more important of a psychological edge for the Huskies – and this harkens back to Jon Embree’s “When is enough, enough?” rant after the Washington State game – Washington players are finding ways to win.
Against Eastern Washington in the opener, the Huskies avoided what would have been an embarrassing loss when defensive back Desmond Trufant intercepted Eagle quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell in the end zone with 29 seconds left to preserve a 30-27 victory.
Against Hawai’i, it was again Desmond Trufant, running back a blocked extra point attempt for a two-point conversion after the Warriors had scored late to pull within six points, at 38-32.
Against Cal, Keith Price hit Chris Polk for a 70-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to turn a close 24-23 game into a Washington 31-23 victory.
Quite simpley, Washington had its chances to fold against Eastern Washington, Hawai’i, and Cal, but found ways to win.
Colorado, meanwhile, had its chances in the fourth quarter against Hawai’i, Cal, and Washington State, but did not find ways to pull out victories in any of those contests.
If Colorado was 4-2 heading into the weekend, and Washington was 2-3, do you think that the Huskies would be made 16-point favorites?
Neither do I.
P – Preparation / Schedule
For the second of three games this season, Colorado is facing a team coming off of a bye week.
Two weeks ago, Washington looked good in taking down Utah in Salt Lake City, 31-14, using five turnovers to turn a 10-7 game at halftime into a second half rout.
This past weekend, the Huskies were able to heal up, watching Colorado get its hat handed to it, 48-7, by Stanford.
But there may have been a silver lining for the Buffs in the rout in Palo Alto.
For while the Washington players were witnessing the methodical beat down of the Buffs, they also had an eye on the team which was administering the punishment – Stanford.
Next weekend, should both Washington and Stanford prevail, the two teams – both undefeated in Pac-12 play – will face off in a North division showdown for supremacy. While most observers see the Oregon/Stanford game on November 12th as the de facto Pac-12 title game, next weekend’s game between Washington and Stanford in Palo Alto will serve as a lithmus test for the Huskies, trying to prove that they are all the way back, and should be considered as a contender for the Pac-12 North title.
So, if the Washington players were being honest with themselves as they watched the Stanford/Colorado game, they would have to admit that they were not paying much attention to the team being thumped, instead watching the team doing the thumping.
Small advantage – Colorado – which doesn’t have the option (or the right) to look past any team.
There is one measure of preparation which bears watching Saturday afternoon … how well prepared the Colorado offense is to play the first quarter.
Colorado, in its first six games, has been out-scored in the first quarter 40-6.
Let’s try that one again. In the first quarter of six games – the Buffs have fallen behind by a mark of 40-6.
Meanwhile, the first quarter has been the best of the four for Washington, as the Huskies have posted a 56-34 advantage.
It may turn out that those watching the Colorado/Washington game on Saturday will already have a good idea how the game will turn out by the time the teams switch fields after the first 15 minutes of play.
S – Statistics
- Colorado is even on turnovers for the season, while Washington is a plus-four, good enough to rank 15th in the nation in that category;
- Colorado and Washington haven’t played since 1999/2000, when the Huskies, with former Buff head coach Rick Neuheisel on the other sideline, took both games;
- Overall, the series is tied, 5-5-1, with the tie coming in 1957 (a 6-6 deadlock in Seattle). The teams first met in 1915, but then didn’t play again until 1953. The first game of the series played in Boulder came in 1959;
- Colorado and Washington have met twice in bowl games, with the Huskies taking the 1985 Freedom Bowl, 20-17 (with Jon Embree scoring the final touchdown in that game, on a fake punt pass from punter Barry Helton. Sadly enough, that 31-yard score held the record as the longest scoring pass for the Buffs in a bowl game until 1991), and the Buffs taking care of business in the 1996 Holiday Bowl (the Buffs fell behind, 14-0, before storming back for a 33-21 victory);
- Midway through the 2011 season, 30 players have seen action for the first time in a Colorado uniform. Even though seven games still remain to be played, the 30 player total is already tied for the most new players to see action in a season since before 1984;
- Colorado has seen 13 true freshmen take the field so far this fall, also the highest total since before 1984. In the past 30 years, only three times – 1984; 2000; and 2002 – have the Buffs put out onto the field more than ten true freshmen in a season;
- Colorado is in triple digits in seven statistical categories – 109th in rushing offense; 108th in pass efficiency defense; 100th in scoring defense; 104th in third down conversion (Defense); 116th in both kickoff returns and kickoff return defense; and 112th in red zone scoring percentage (Defense);
- Washington is in triple digits in three statistical categories – 117th in pass defense; 101st in total defense; and 114th in third down conversion (Defense);
- Seattle is as far north as Colorado has ever played a football game;
- Colorado and Washington have both been playing football for 122 seasons. Colorado has 672 all-time victories, but Washington is right on the Buffs’ heels, with 667 (counting the Buffs’ one win, and the four posted so far this season by Washington);
- With wide receiver Paul Richardson out for the next two-to-three weeks, it is likely that Rodney Stewart will take over as the Buffs’ leading receiver (Richardson has 29 catches, to 26 for Speedy; 474 yards receiving for Richardson to 417 for Stewart). When Stewart takes over the lead for receiving, he will become the Buffs’ leader in rushes, rushing yards, receptions, receiving yards, all-purpose yards, punt returns; punt return yards; kickoff returns, and kickoff return yardage. The only category Stewart does not lead is scoring. Speedy has only one touchdown on the year, a rushing touchdown against Washington State (Richardson has six touchdowns);
- Colorado has had five goal-to-go situations in 2011, while the opposition has had 16 such opportunities;
- Colorado has had six plays of over 40 yards in 2011 (to only two for the opposition). Three of the six plays went for touchdowns (passes from Tyler Hansen to Paul Richardson – twice – and to Toney Clemons), while the other three were all non-scoring plays, and all involved Rodney Stewart (two pass receptions; one run);
- Despite failing to earn a sack against Stanford (only the second time in the past 38 games in which the Buffs have been held without a sack), Colorado remains in the top ten nationally in sacks, with 18 in six games (Washington has eight sacks in five games).
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