Neil Walk, Contributing Editor
Minneapolis – Karl DurrellColorado Buffalo needs a confidence boost.
They aren’t the easiest place in the country to find this quick start. The team faces 0-2 Minnesota 2-0 on Saturday in a 1:30 p.m. game at Huntington Bank, and the Golden Gophers are set to get off to a great start like everyone else in the country.
While their opponents weren’t top-ranked FBS teams—New Mexico State and Western Illinois’s FCS—the Gophers hit some impressive numbers. They lead the nation in both overall attack (582 yards per game) and overall defense (only 142.5 allowed per game).
Meanwhile, Buffalo has yet to create anything like consistency in attack, averaging 255 yards and 11.5 points per game, near the bottom of the National Ranking.
Defensively, CU was able to keep games close to the third quarter, but ultimately scored 428 yards and 39.5 points per game.
There’s also this – Minnesota visited Boulder last season and came away with a 30-0 win, and Gopher has a long list of returning players who have been involved in that win.
But Dorrell and his players think they are ready to do much better. The question is, will it be enough for the Buffs to collect their first win and gain some momentum heading into the Pac-12 portion of the table?
Keys to this week’s game:
1. Don’t let opportunities slip away. While the Buffs eventually came out on the short end of some lopsided scores in the first two games, they got their chances.
In the opening match, they headed into the TCU’s red zone on their first ride of the night – and came out empty, only to collect a field goal for another ride deep into the Horned Frogs. And so, what would have been a comfortable lead at the end of the first half ended up falling 7-6 – and the TCU caught fire in the second half and pulled out.
Last week, after falling behind at 20-0, the Buffs had two solid chances to close the gap to 20-17 in the third quarter – and once again came up empty both times. One motive ended with a goal-line confusion; Another failed fourth conversion.
The CU margin for error is very poor. Colorado can’t let a chance blow go unanswered again.
2. Establish some offensive consistency early on. Somehow, somehow, the Buffs have to give their quarterback – whoever it is – a chance to succeed early on.
That means some quick opening short passes, a consistent running game and some first misses. Minnesota only allows seven primary touchdowns per game, but Colorado needs to shorten that game, picking up yards in bits and moving sticks.
3. Forcing the gophers to the third and longest. Minnesota averages 302 yards per game on the ground and 280 yards in the air. But if the Buffs are going to stop UM’s attack, they need to keep the match in check in 1st and 2nd down and have the Gophers take to the air in 3rd.
Minnesota QP Tanner Morgan, a sixth-year student, is not prone to mistakes. He had no objections this year, but he threw a nine last season. The Buffs – who have no quarterback sack or interception this year – need to change those numbers in a hurry on Saturday.
4. Win a spin battle. Despite three turnarounds last week, Colorado stayed within striking range until the third quarter against the Air Force because the defense forced three failures.
They need to win that fight this week. Nothing changes the look of a game like its turnover — and CU will need some momentum-changing moments on Saturday.
5. Play complementary soccer. This is more than just good play and good defense.
For Buffs, it means attacking that moves the sticks and keeps the defense off the field and puts pressure on the Gophers. For defense, that means producing some game-changing moments – sacks, big turns and pauses to give the attack some extra possession.
So far, Colorado has shown some good football. It’s time for amateurs to weave those moments into long stretches and give themselves some confidence.