Colorado Buffaloes head football coach Dan Hawkins was a man of few words Sunday.
“Let’s hope so,” Hawkins said when asked if CU’s defense has built upon its shutout of the Wyoming Cowboys on Sept. 19 at Folsom Field.
“We’ll see,” Hawkins said when asked if the 1-2 Buffs will be able to stop junior running back Noel Devine and the high-powered West Virginia Mountaineers offense Thursday night.
Buffs fans can only hope Hawkins’ actions will speak louder than words when the fourth-year coach, who is 14-26 at CU, leads his troops onto Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W. Va., to face one of the country’s most prolific offenses.
The game will be nationally televised on ESPN with kickoff set for 5:45 p.m. MST.
“They can do it all,” Hawkins said of the 2-1 Mountaineers, who are averaging 32.7 points per game compared to the Buffs’ 26.3, which is 10th in the Big 12 Conference.
WVU has churned out 1,456 yards of total offense in three contests. Devine, a 5-foot-8-inch, 176-pound sparkplug, has carried the ball 51 times for 320 yards. He averaged 8.5 yards per carry in a 41-30 loss to the Auburn Tigers on Sept. 19.
The Mountaineers’ rushing attack is averaging 192.3 yards per game and 293 passing yards, both second in the Big East Conference.
Senior quarterback Jarrett Brown, who has passed for 798 yards, is third in the conference behind Cincinnati Bearcats senior Tony Pike (1,223 yards) and Syracuse Orange senior Greg Paulus (888). However, both Pike and Paulus have played one more game than Brown. Brown’s 151.2 quarterback rating is fourth in the Big East.
With Brown being another threat the Mountaineers have, how will the Colorado defense contain him?
“It’s going to be a tremendous challenge,” said Greg Brown, fourth-year CU defensive passing game coordinator and secondary coach. “This is a great group here. They’ve done the impossible, which is replace Pat White with another standout quarterback, and he is. He’s as big as a moose, fast and he has a tremendous arm.”
So how do the Buffs, who squeaked past the Mountaineers 17-14 in overtime last year in Boulder, begin to prepare to contain WVU’s spread offense approach?
“If the refs would allow us to have 13 on the field, that might be a start,” Brown said. “That might help us. There’s so much speed out there. They’re just one heck of a group.”
Junior cornerback Jimmy Smith, who leads the Buffs with 19 unassisted tackles, acknowledged the Mountaineers’ offensive prowess.
“This is definitely going to be the fastest team we’ve played,” Smith said. “As long as we take care of our assignments and just play our game, I think we’ll be alright.”
In going 0-2 to begin the season, the Buffs surrendered 1,000 yards of total offense. CU’s wounds appeared to be patched up when it allowed just 230 yards in a 24-0 win over the Cowboys.
The shutout win might not serve as an accurate barometer because UW is eighth out of nine teams in the Mountain West Conference in scoring at 17.2 points per game. The Cowboys were also unable to manufacture an offensive touchdown against the Texas Longhorns on Sept. 12.
“We’re heading in the right direction, but by no means have we arrived,” Brown said. “We just took one step versus Wyoming, but there are many, many more steps to take to get to where we want to be.”
Seeing how West Virginia hasn’t had any trouble generating points, one would imagine the Buffs will need to score heavily. The numbers don’t look good, though. CU is 11th in the Big 12 in rushing yards per game (91.7) and eighth in passing yards (251).
“It’s just going to be one of those deals where we’re going to have to play lights out,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a tough fight.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Alex K.W. Schultz at Alexander.email@example.com.