The Colorado Buffaloes started out the season with five consecutive wins and had Pac-12 title aspirations. Now with a 5-5 record and two games remaining on the schedule, CU just wants to secure a spot in the postseason.
The Buffaloes will attempt to finish off the season the right way at Folsom Field on Senior Day against Utah, the No. 21 team in the country. Colorado is not only facing a very talented team but will need to end their five game losing streak with pressure of Coach MacIntyre being on the bubble, sending the Seniors out on the right foot and a bowl berth at stake. Here are my three things to look at when the Utes come to Boulder.
Backups just as strong
Utah moved to 7-3 on the season when it defeated Oregon in a high scoring game last Saturday. What was impressive about the victory was Utah was without quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss, and still found a way to throw up 32 points and 494 yards of offense.
Huntley threw for 1788 yards on 150 completions for the season. He also completed 64 percent of his passes and had 12 touchdowns to go along with it but went down for the season with a broken collarbone leaving Utah with a void to fill. In his absence, Jason Shelley has stepped up for the Utes so far.
Shelley is coming off of his first career start at QB–a game in which he threw for 262 yards on 18-of-31 pass attempts.. He did not score through the air but he did run in two touchdowns that helped Utah’s running game and made their offense that much more dangerous. It will be up to the Buffs front seven to apply more pressure than he seen last week and force him into throwing some errant passes that could possibly cause turnovers.
Moss was fourth overall in the Pac-12 as he has rushed for 1092 yards on 179 carries. He is an explosive running back that can break into the open field for a huge play and with him going down with an injury it will be interesting to see if the backup can have another huge showing. Armand Shyne filled in for him and showed no regression as he rushed for 174 yards on 26 carries.
Utah has an offense that can get it going on the ground or also through the air. Their starters were strong and allowed the Utes to be one of the best teams in the country but the backups have played just as well and will be ready to keep their season going with another win. The Buffs will have to play to their strengths no matter who starts and attempt to rattle the inexperience newcomers if they want a chance in this one.
Get things going offensively
What Utah’s defense showcased against Oregon is they are are a unit that should be feared.
Last week they displayed just how dominant they could be when they held Oregon to only four yards of total offense in the first quarter.
Utah has a knack for getting behind the line of scrimmage and causing damage and are second in the Pac-12 in tackles for loss as they have recorded 73 TFL on the season. Last week the Utes tied their season high for tackles for a loss (12) and applied pressure all night on the Ducks Quarterback which means that Steven Montez will have to get things going and quickly.
Last week Montez could not do much of anything against Washington State. He was 25-for-35 for 199 yards and did not record a touchdown. Of those 199 yards,102 went to WR Laviska Shenault Jr. who returned after missing a few games with a toe injury.
Montez will have to get back to his effective and efficient ways as he was completely dominated for four quarters. He has been in a bit of a slump as of late and will have to bounce-back if the Buffs feel they have any chance at pulling the upset, it starts with No. 12
Keep Drives Alive
For the Buffaloes, it is about a complete change from what was shown last week. The defense tried for as long as they could but was on the field for essentially the entire game. The Buffs ran only 54 plays to Washington State’s 94 plays. Colorado’s defense was on the field for a total of 41:46 which is amazing when you take into account that the Buffaloes were without Linebacker Nate Landman who was ejected from the game and heading into the fourth quarter had only given up 17 points.
Offensively — the story of the game was third downs. The Buffs were unable to convert as they went 2-of-11 on third down conversions. They did not capitalize early in the game minus the 64-yard touchdown run from Travon McMillan in the first quarter which only made it difficult for MacIntyre to trust in his offense to go for it on fourth down even at times that seemed like it was the logical decision.
In Saturday’s game it gets no easier for Colorado as the Utes have held up on third downs all season long. In fact, they rank third in the Pac-12 in opponents third down percentage and those stops have led to the Utes offense being successful as a result.
For the Utes the Buffs defense will have to do a better job at limiting much of anything as Utah is okay with settling for field goals as seen against Oregon when Matt Gay set a school record for field goals made in a game. He went 6-for-6 and that included a season long 55-yard field goal. This means that every single time that the Utes gets pass the 50-yard line they are capable of putting points up on the board so not allowing the Utes much of anything and forcing turnovers will have to be a big part of the game plan.