Losing your season opener is never a good thing, losing your opener to a rival is even worse and losing to a rival that many consider inferior is a sin.
The Colorado Buffaloes did all three today as they fell to their “little brother” rival Colorado State 22-17. It was CSU head coach Jim McElwain’s debut for the Rams after coming over from Alabama and it was a memorable win.
Here are 5 observations of the Buffaloes’ performance:
The offensive line has a long way to go.
One of the disappointments from today’s game was the performance of the offensive line. They were unable to get any type of surge in the running game, which in turn halted any type of run that the Buffs tried to throw out there.
Usually if they are weak in one area they are better in another but that was not the case today either. They were weak in the running game but they were equally bad in their pass protection. Jordan Webb was constantly under pressure and was sacked five times. Even when he wasn’t sacked he was still being flushed out of the pocket and being forced to get rid of the ball earlier than he wanted to.
The guys overall just had a tough time sustaining their blocks and struggled with their slide protection. If CU wants to be effective on offense at all this season the play has to improve up front first.
The young players impressed.
On offense it was freshman wide receiver Gerald Thomas making some nice plays. He had a spell late in the first quarter where he ran and caught for two consecutive first downs and made some guys miss in the open field. He finished the day with 3 rec 29 yds and one rush for 17 yards. Not necessarily eye-popping but he played well.
On defense Kenneth Crawley was given the start at corner and he lived up to the billing. He was constantly in the face of the receivers and was solid in his pass defense. The freshman finished the afternoon with 7 tackles and was constantly in the right place at the right time. He did have a hiccup in his special teams role but other than that he proved his worth.
The other young guys like safety Marques Mosley and Yuri Wright didn’t see much time but when they did get into the game they were solid. At one point Mosley, Wright and Crawley were all on the field in CU’s nickel package and it was one of the best formations that the Buffs were in all day. Youth will be the flavor of the year for CU so expect to see these guys on the field all season.
Jordan Webb’s debut was solid.
The Kansas transfer was making his first start for the Buffs after winning the quarterback competition during fall camp. In his debut he didn’t overly impress but it wasn’t necessarily his fault. Webb was forced to throw a bunch due to the running game’s ineffectiveness and finished the day 22-41, 187 yards and 2 TDs. The receivers didn’t help him out on a few throws by dropping easily catchable balls and he didn’t have that much time to throw either. He got roughed up and was dealing with a nagging leg injury that he suffered on a hit in the second half. The injury hampered some of his throws and they became weaker as the game went on.
Overall I thought he did an ok job in his debut but there is certainly room for improvement. He has the potential to be a good quarterback for the Buffs he just needs a little bit of support to get that done. Be patient with him.
The running game was once again a no-show
Last season CU’s running attack was one of the worst in the Pac 12 and there was an emphasis placed on improving that aspect during spring and fall camps. After one game it seems that the running game is right back where it started.
The Buffs were only able to manage a measly 58 yards on the ground and never really posed much of a threat. Running between the tackles was not working but I never saw them try any stretch plays or tosses to change it up. Tony Jones is quick so it would have made sense to try and get him on the perimeter but it never happened. Due to lack of push up front Jones was getting hit frequently at the line of scrimmage and eventually had to leave the game after getting nicked up.
D.D. Goodson and Malcom Creer filled in effectively with Creer breaking off the longest run of the day from a back, which was still only 10 yards. In his post game press conference head coach Jon Embree emphasized that the running game has to get better in a hurry and it’s something that is once again a concern and needs work. Hopefully the Buffs can get back to work and quickly turn this weakness into a strength.
Turnovers and mistakes doomed the Buffs.
Colorado fumbled the ball four times, losing two of them, which led to 14 CSU points. The Rams were able to take advantage of every CU mistake and that’s the reason they won this game.
The game changed right before half time when Goodson muffed a punt that CSU capitalized on the very next play to get within 14-9. The Rams took that momentum into the half and never looked back. Colorado was constantly making mistakes that led to plays breaking down and a loss of yards. At times the Buffs just looked sloppy, granted the team is very young and the guys need some time to develop but it was still a rough afternoon.
It was a painful loss for Colorado that hoped to start off quick in the easy part of their schedule. However, that was not the case but now all they can do is get back to work and try to fix all their issues in preparation for their home opener next Saturday against Sacramento State.