The game of football is said to be won in the trenches. The battles up front on the offensive and defensive line often dictate the success or failure of a play.
Colorado head coach Jon Embree understands that and has emphasized to his team that they have to focus on gaining the ‘ugly yards’ in order to succeed. After the Fresno State debacle Embree held a meeting to band the troops together and he spoke about winning the battle up front.
“One of the things I talked to the players about in the meeting was about this thing called, ‘ugly yards,’ it was kind of a motto we had around here when we were struggling” Embree said during Tuesday’s press luncheon. “Basically, it was about how to get four yards, every time you are up, and one of the things we did when we were in the huddle is, you always looked at the chains to see if you got your four yards and if you didn’t, you just tried to get four in that play and not do anything special.”
One of the many adjustments the Buffs made for the Washington State game was to huddle on most offensive plays instead of utilizing the no-huddle approach like they did against Fresno. That way each player would know their assignment and be able to focus on just the single play.
Embree went on to explain why they went back to huddling, “So that was part of the thing about huddling, just so that they could get together and be with each other; look in each other’s eyes, see what the chains are, ‘Did we do it?,’ if not let’s do it this play.”
He did go on to say that they won’t totally abandon the no-huddle approach they will just use it at different parts of the game instead of all four quarters. They still have some things to work on with the no-huddle and he said once they become more efficient at it they will continue to use it more and more moving forward.
The four yards or the ‘ugly yards’ approach worked wonders for the Buffs as they were able to move the ball consistently down the field against the Cougars. They racked up a season high 531 total yards, 186 coming on the ground.
Colorado has a solid change of pace at running back with the quick and shifty Tony Jones and the bruising, in-between the tackles runner Christian Powell. Powell is the perfect back for gaining the ugly yards. Even when there seems to be no opening for him to run through, he makes one and scraps for those positive yards.
Focusing on making the little plays is exactly what Colorado needed to do. They’re not a flashy team, yes they have some speed but they mostly want to play physical. Embree getting the players to focus on that is what helped them win on Saturday. It simplified the game for them and they executed well for the first time all season.
The win on Saturday wasn’t pretty and it was winning the ‘ugly yards’ that propelled Colorado to their first win of the season.
David LaRose is one of the featured College Football writers for Rant Sports covering the Pac 12 and the University of Colorado.