Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Jake Mauff at Jacob.Mauff@colorado.edu
The Colorado Buffaloes stayed close against USC last week, but couldn’t pull out the win. Now, the team will travel to Washington State this Saturday to take on the Cougars.
It was a heartbreaking loss in the last home game of the season for the Buffs, who saw a 17-6 half-time lead disappear against the Trojans.
It didn’t help that starting junior quarterback Sefo Liufau sustained an injury during the first half. Liufau had taken his fair share of hits this season, but Friday was his last of the season. He suffered a Lisfranc (foot) injury late in the first quarter.
From there, freshman quarterback Cade Apsay filled in admirably.
“As far as the quarterback is concerned, the offensive line has one job,” senior offensive tackle Stephane Nembot said. “Our job is to protect whoever is behind us.”
With a new face on offense, the defense will try to step up against Washington State, which runs a pass-first offense. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Luke Falk is leading the nation in passing yards with 4,067, and he’s second in passing touchdowns with 35.
Washington State won its game against UCLA last week with a clutch rally from Falk, who threw a touchdown pass with three seconds left. The win propelled Washington State into the AP poll at No. 24.
The Colorado defense will have its hands full. Against USC, the team allowed 204 passing yards from redshirt senior quarterback Cody Kessler. What killed Colorado against the Trojans was the three touchdown passes they allowed. They contained Kessler in the first half, and the team had the lead.
When opposing teams adjust, the Buffs fail to pick up the adjustments. This seems to be the case when other teams have depth at a position.
Compared to the season he was having, sophomore USC receiver Juju Smith-Schuster had a relatively tame game. He caught three passes for 66 yards and a touchdown. He was still the team’s leading receiver, but Kessler had enough pass-catchers to spread out his completions. In all, ten different receivers caught a pass against Colorado.
Colorado may see a similar situation this upcoming week. Thirteen players have caught a pass for the Cougars.
“It all goes back to their triggerman. He’s going to throw it to a lot of different guys,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “We’ve got to be able to disrupt the quarterback somehow, some way.”
They have their leading receiver in redshirt junior Gabe Marks, who’s coming off of a memorable play. On the Cougars’ final offensive play of last week’s game at UCLA, he made a diving touchdown catch, despite pass interference, that won the game.
Washington State does have a weak run game. It ranks last the country in rushing yards a game. This should be a shootout on the Cougars’ side.
Colorado was able to pick off Kessler last week, and he had five on the year beforehand. Falk is a different story. He has eight on the season going into this game. If Colorado can stop the passing game, the team has a very good chance of pulling off the win.
Right now, the Buffs are giving up 217.9 passing yards a game. That’s good for 57th in the nation, but that may not spell out good news for Colorado. Reversely, Washington State is ranked 65th defending against the pass.
This may be a game of rushing, however. Neither team is particularly great at stopping the run, as both teams are allowing over 200 yards a game. The Buffs are giving up 201.6 yards a game, while the Cougars give up an average of 206.3 yards a game.
“You always have to worry about the run,” senior defensive tackle Justin Solis said. “Our big emphasis this week is getting pressure on that quarterback and really trying to shut down their passing game.”
Kickoff this weekend is scheduled for Saturday at 8:45 p.m. (MST). The game will be aired on ESPN2.