When I heard the news two and a half years ago that CU was joining the Pac-12, I was thrilled. Though I wasn't a fan of conference expansion, I was a bigger fan of getting to see my Bruins play here every other year. Kinda takes the sting out of exile. Jon, an editor from the excellent University of Colorado SBN blog, The Ralphie Report, was kind enough to answer some questions from us. Read on...
Bruins Nation: Just when everyone was pronouncing CU the worst team in the land, the Buffs had a great last second win at WSU. I thought that was a huge character statement about your guys. What was the difference from the first 3 games to the 4th?
Ralphie Report: Hopefully the loss to Fresno State was an extreme aberration that we won't have to see again this year (although with road games against USC and Oregon odds are strong that we will). The losses against CSU and Sacramento State were both close and came about because of a failure to execute and make appropriate second half adjustments. It was fantastic to see the Buffaloes continue to fight in the game against Wazzu and I have a feeling that the final drive will go down in Colorado lore. It will be interesting to see if that win instilled a new confidence in a team that had to have been struggling with it. Watching the game you could see a clear progression in the play of some of the true freshmen, but they'll need to pick up where they left off in order to compete with UCLA.
BN: Reading through your game threads the first 3 weeks was pretty tough, with all of that anger towards the coaching staff. What are the short and long term goals you want to see from CU and Coach Embree?
RR: Short term, meaning mostly just this season, I would just like to see the team continue to improve. We knew before the season started that this was going to be a tough year for the team with so much youth and inexperience but we did not expect to see an 0-3 start. The win last weekend was a huge step in the right direction, but I would like to see this team pull of one more win, against either UCLA or Arizona State, before they begin the USC, Oregon, Stanford gauntlet. I'd also like to see Jordan Webb continue to get better at leading this offense and take hold of the starter spot.
Long term, and I won't go further than next season, I want to see this team in a bowl game. Next year's squad MUST be significantly improved. On offense, Colorado will really only lose tight end Nick Kasa. On defense the Buffaloes will see Doug Rippy, Ray Polk, Jon Major and Will Pericak leave but the team has already played almost this entire season without Rippy and and Polk. If Embree fails to make a bowl game in year three and keep this program on an upward trajectory he could, and should, be in trouble.
BN: The Bruins offense put up big numbers in their first 3 games before struggling against a good OSU defense last week. What does CU need to do to slow down the Bruin spread offense?
RR: I had the UCLA game on my second tv last weekend but I wasn't paying close enough attention to really know how the Beaver defense attacked the Bruins. With Colorado's young secondary and a propensity to only rush 2-3 guys, the Buffs will have to put a significant amount of pressure on Hundley or he will pick them apart.
BN: Jordan Webb was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week, while the Bruins' pass defense got exposed by Oregon State. Does this matchup look good to you?
RR: While he had a poor third quarter, Jordan Webb was fantastic in the first and fourth quarters last weekend, especially on the well-chronicled game winning drive. Some of his struggles this year can be attributed to poor play-calling, but the coaches do seem to have figured out what he can do well and what he can't. If the Buffaloes can get the ground game going and use a fair amount of play action I expect him to have another decent game.
BN: Who are the key players the Bruins need to prepare for this Saturday? (don't worry, I won't tell Coach Mora)
RR: On offense, the Buffaloes only real playmakers (although Nick Kasa and his 70-yard touchdown reception would say differently) are running backs Christian Powell and Tony Jones (who had not had a good season until Wazzu) and wide receivers Nelson Spruce and Gerald Thomas. Spruce is a redshirt freshman who is beginning to turn into a great possession guy while Thomas is the only guy on this offense with true breakaway speed.
On defense, both defensive end Will Pericak and linebacker Paul Vigo had great times last week and have continued to improve each week. Pericak especially will be extremely important in keeping Hundley from getting comfortable.
Thanks again to Jon with The Ralphie Report. Stop by their outstanding site for all the best info on CU Football.