CU looks to put a U-turn on their 2006 campaign
Immature. Inconsistent. Mistake-prone. The CU football team is growing tired of all the phrases being used to describe their play thus far in the season.
As the team prepares for its sixth game of the season against Big 12 foe Baylor (2-3, 1-0 Big 12), the Buffs (0-5, 0-1 Big 12) know that if they are to put a U-turn on their 2006 campaign it must start this weekend.
“We have to (get it turned around). There is no better week than right now,” said junior QB Bernard Jackson. “We just have to go out and play hard and fast.”
Coming off losses against Arizona State, Georgia and Missouri, many believe CU’s game this weekend against the Bears represents the team’s best chance to grab that elusive first win of the season. If history is any indication, those people might be right. CU is 5-2 all-time against Baylor at home and has won the last three meetings between the two teams at Folsom Field. Despite history being in their favor, the Buffs are not taking the Bears for granted.
“We’re focused, you can’t overlook” Baylor, said junior cornerback Terrence Wheatley. “We’ve shown there is no bad team in NCAA. Every team is good, everybody has good players like we do, so hopefully we can step up to the plate and get a win for everybody.”
It certainly has appeared in the past couple of weeks that CU is prepared to get that first win under its belt. Since Coach Dan Hawkins committed to Bernard Jackson as his QB, the team’s offense has made great strides. In fact, in Jackson’s first start of the season against Colorado State, the CU offense gained a measly 146 yards of total offense. Three weeks later – against one of the country’s top defenses in Missouri – the Jackson-led Buffs gained 373 yards of total offense. Coach Hawkins has taken notice of Jackson’s improved play.
“Nobody has worked harder at trying to increase his knowledge and awareness of what’s going on than (Jackson). I give him full credit for that. He is busting his fanny learning,” Hawkins said at his weekly press conference at the Dal Ward Center.
While the improvement of CU’s offense is noticeable, the team is still struggling to put points on the board. CU currently ranks 114th in the country in scoring. In addition to the team’s scoring woes is the fact that Baylor will throw a defense at the Buffs they have not seen this season. The Bears employ a 4-2-5 system that is unique and Hawkins says he expects them to be very aggressive.
“They are a pressure group. They are a very aggressive team, they play hard, they bring a lot of pressure and their DB’s are good on the back end,” Hawkins said at the press conference.
There are numerous questions that surround a team when it is 0-5 and the case is no different with CU. Against Missouri, the Buffs defense was meticulously poked and prodded by QB Chase Daniel and the Tiger offense. Daniel completed over 60 percent of his passes for an average of 11 yards per attempt on his way to a four-touchdown performance. This is a cause for concern for CU because they will face a Baylor offense that does a lot of the same things. Despite Daniel’s success against the CU secondary, the players feel a lot more comfortable facing a similar offense for the second week in a row.
Baylor “likes to go four and five wide like Missouri, so you don’t really freak out as much when you see it. You’ve seen it before so you should know what they’re going to do and you won’t panic as much,” Wheatley said.
One effect of facing teams that employ spread attacks is the necessity of more defensive backs on the field. One player who saw increased action against Missouri is cornerback Cha’pelle Brown. Brown, a true freshman cornerback from La Puente, Calif., is one of the defensive backs that figures to play a prominent role in how well CU handles the multiple wide receiver sets it will see against the Bears.
“The good thing about it is we’ve already seen it once, so now I get accustomed to what everybody else is doing and I feel more familiar with what I’m doing,” Brown said.
The secondary for the Buffs might want that increased comfort level because Baylor doesn’t bother running the ball very much. The Bears average only 27 yards rushing per game, which is easily last among all 119 Division I football teams in the country. To offset their paltry running game, the Bears throw for 281.4 yards per game, which is good enough for 13th in the country.
“We’re expecting a lot of action once again. Missouri threw it up a lot and Baylor’s going to be more of the same. They are a vertical team and they’re going to throw it down the field, so the game is on us again,” Wheatley said.
While Wheatley believes he and his teammates in the secondary should be busy, he also believes they are ready for the challenge.
“You gotta love it. You didn’t come to a big-time school to watch people run the ball. You want to be tested and this is more fun for us going against a team like” Baylor, Wheatley said.
Maybe even more important than any offensive or defensive scheme for the Buffs is their psyche. The team is now on a nine-game losing streak dating back to November of last season. It is the longest losing streak the program has suffered since a 10-game skid occurred during the 1963-64 seasons. Although he knows that any losing streak like that is hard to overcome, Hawkins is not worried about the mental state of his team.
The players “know that we’re digging and fighting and clawing and that we believe in them and are looking for solutions,” Hawkins said at the press conference. Their attitudes “have been great.”