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Crossfire Q&A: Colorado

WIth the game in Boulder inching ever closer, our colleague irish1611 from The Ralphie Report took the time to answer a few questions for us. My spot over at The Ralphie Report can be found here.

RMN: The Missouri defense is expecting Tyler Hansen to start, and I know your community has been clamoring for Hawk to start and stick with him for awhile now. Is The Cody Hawkins Experiment™ finally done? And what expectations do you have for Hansen down the stretch?

TRR: Is the Cody Hawkins experiment done...honestly, no one really knows with this staff but if Tyler Hansen is pulled this weekend in Boulder, it will be an ugly scene. Implying that Tyler Hansen was incapable of running the two minute drill so Cody needed to be inserted was a pretty ridiculous event last week that made you wonder what this staff was thinking. I am sure as a quarterback that doesn't do any favors for Tyler Hansen mentally as the staff is pretty much saying we don't think you are capable for a full game, especially in pressure situations. Bottom line, no one knows and it isn't fair to either Cody or Tyler. What is the benefit for Cody? He comes in cold, trying to lead an offense a series here and a series there? Both of these quarterbacks don't offer enough to do what a team like Michigan does where they put Denard Robinson in for a wildcat like setting. The flip flopping at quarterback doesn't make sense so we hope it is done. Hopefully that doesn't sound vindictive against Cody Hawkins, it isn't his fault he is at the center of this, it is the coaches fault. He is just doing what he is told to do, he just hasn't been a successful quarterback.

As for expectations around Tyler Hansen, one thing we would like to see is more utilization of his feet and running ability. Against Kansas, he single handidly kept plays alive and ran for first downs. Against Kansas State, the staff kept him under wraps, didn't get him involved in the running game which led Kansas State to just tee up on him. Once again, we are seeing a coaching staff trying to mold the player to the scheme rather than trying to find the best scheme to fit the player. See the spread offense experiment last year. We didn't have the players to do that but the staff tried to force our players into the scheme. Last week, we saw Kansas State run the option, the wildcat and use a quarterback with half the athletic ability of Tyler Hansen in the running game and it was wildly successful. It was frustrating because their is a first hand look at getting the ball in your playmakers' hands and trying to exploit a defense creatively with it.

RMN: How has Colorado progressed since the brutal stretch of play to open the season? Was the Kansas win a sign of improvement, an aberration, or both?

TRR: Hopefully you meant the brutal stretch to open Big 12 play! The Buffs lost to Colorado State and Toledo to start the year. The improvement of this team has been on the defensive side of the ball. They held Texas down, Kansas got most of their yards in the second half but the Buffs defense forced two turnovers that led to 14 Buff points and against Kansas State, they held them to under 300 yards. So the defense has been pretty great down the stretch. The problem has been the offense and special teams. Against Texas and Kansas State, the Buffs' offense and special teams gave up at least 31 points. Yes, Texas scored three non-offensive touchdowns and against Kansas State, 10 points was a direct result of redzone turnovers by the special teams and offense. The big problem last week is the Buffs didn't cross the 50 yard line after the first drive of the game until the middle of the fourth quarter...which makes the defensive performance more amazing in that they were always backed up and playing in Kansas State territory.

Until the special teams and offense start to help the defense, this team will continue to lose games.

RMN: Earlier in the week, you guys noted Colorado's struggles in the second half of Big 12 games. To what do you attribute that decline?

TRR: Coaching, a lack of preparation and a failure to make second half adjustments equal to the opposition. The Buffs have scored one touchdown and ten total points in the second half the last three games To me, that is poor coaching resulting in a failure to execute. Colorado was beating Texas at half. The Buffs had a 21 point lead in the second quarter against Kansas and almost lost the game if it wasn't for a 3rd and 19 conversion on the game scoring drive in the fourth quarter. The Buffs are 2 - 18 on the road in the Dan Hawkins era because of the failure to get the team prepared and make adjustments. This could easily be a one win team right now.

RMN: What's the book on the CU defense so far in conference play? It seemed like K-State was able to pile up rushing yardage with ease and Kansas was able to move the ball pretty effectively through the air. Are the numbers telling or deceiving?

TRR: They are deceiving. Yes, Kansas got some pretty good yardage throwing in the second half but for the most part, the Buffs were solid against them, especially in the first half causing a few turnovers. To me, that is just Todd Reesing getting his and Dezmon Briscoe making unbelievable plays. Against Kansas State, the Buffs defense was only accountable for 10 points and for the most part, was playing with their back to the goaline all day because of poor special teams and offensive play. I think the defense has come to play after the West Virginia game, they are blitzing from multiple areas with the linebackers and for the most part, they have stopped the big play from occuring which plagued this unit earlier in the year. They have certainly made an improvement as the year has gone on. Trust me, they are getting zero help from anyone else on this team.

RMN: If you were an opposing coach, how would you attack the CU offense and defense? Is there a specific blueprint for success for beating the Buffs?

TRR: The Buffs usually beat themselves so a great gameplan might not be needed. Attacking the CU offense - first, if the Missouri offense can get a lead, the Buffs will abandon the running game. They have done it many times this year and it is easy to make these guys one dimensional. First things first is to stop the running game. Then it is all about keeping the defense multiple and confusing Tyler Hansen. He is still very young and very inexperienced. The more you can get him second guessing what he is seeing out there, the better it will be for the defense. Colorado is not very explosive on offense, to put it mildly, so I would put eight in the box and dare the Buffs to beat me deep.

As for the CU defense, I don't think it will be as easy to dismantle them but this coming from a team that has given up over 100 points to Missouri the past two years. Who knows. For the most part, the last three games (Kansas State had some early success), the run defense has been pretty stout. If I was Missouri, I would take my shots early down the field. Ray Polk, Ben Burney and Anthony Perkins have been doing pretty well at safety but all are pretty inexperienced back there and Texas did have some luck on double move routes getting behind the defense. The Buffs have been pretty solid against the intermediate passing game and have some relatively solid corners. They have kept the Buffs in a lot of games especially the last three. The defensive line has overacheived to expectations based on the strong play of true freshman Nate Bonsu, true freshman Forrest West and true sophomore Curtis Cunningham. Junior DE Marquez Herrod has played well also.