The same old issues were those that plagued the beleaguered Buffs once again on Nov. 4. And this time, if head coach Jon Embree’s squad doesn’t find some solutions, the CU faithful will witness a rough senior night on Nov. 12 at Folsom Field.
More than 50,000 fans were on hand to watch CU deliver another sorry performance riddled with the same thoughtless penalties, blocked field goals, injuries, shoddy red zone play and subpar secondary defense that have produced nine losses already this season. A career day for USC’s Matt Barkley did not help, as his six touchdown passes led to a 42-17 romp for the Trojans. Although the Buffs went into the second quarter of the game in a 7-7 deadlock, an inability to capitalize on scoring chances eliminated any chance Colorado had to stay in the game.
“We have to be better in the red zone,” Embree said. “We have to be consistent. It is amazing, the first drive was like, ‘Wow,’ and then you struggle and you come back in, you move it again, and then you stall out in the red zone.”
“All field goals do is make cheerleaders do three pushups and the band to play. You are not going to win. We have to get touchdowns so we can win.” Even when the Buffs had field goal opportunities, they could not convert.
Starting kicker Will Oliver had two field goals blocked before being replaced by Justin Castor in the fourth quarter.
“Like I said at the [post-game] press conference, we were just unfortunately not getting enough lift on the ball,” Embree said. “It wasn’t an issue of protection.”
More importantly, Barkley had his way with Colorado’s secondary, finishing 25 of 39 for 318 yards passing and only one interception.
The Buffs will need to plug up defensive holes as they look ahead to Saturday’s cellar-dweller showdown against Arizona, a team that is secondto- last in the Pac-12 (to the Buffs) but boasts a stellar quarterback in senior Nick Foles.
“One thing that jumps out to me is how accurate he is throwing the deep ball,” Embree said. “He throws the deep ball really well. … He will be another challenge for our secondary.” Injuries to an already banged-up defense won’t help the Buffs’ cause on Saturday, especially if Embree is being cautious about whom to play. Linebacker Brady Daigh should be able to play after injuring his wrist against USC, but Embree might not let strong safety Kyle Jefferson (concussion) return to help a defense that will be without six players already.
“I just get leery on concussion guys, saying they’re back,” Embree said. “Until they run around and are not afraid to hit, I don’t count on those guys. Sometimes they are back, and then the first play they hit somebody and they are out for the game.”
Despite the Buffs losing by 41, 28, 43, 34, and 25 points in their past five games, Embree is looking ahead to his 28 seniors finishing their careers on a high note.
“I feel for them, I do, but they can still win their final home game. They can still end the road losing streak,” he said. “I went to a bowl game my senior year, but I didn’t win my last game here at Folsom Field and that still kind of bothers me.
There is still some stuff out there for them, and I expect they will have a great effort on Saturday and do what we can do to get them to sing that fight song afterwards.”
And as senior night looms closer, what will Embree remember about his group of seniors, who have endured four losing seasons and coaching and conference transitions?
“The want-to in this group, the adversity that they have faced. They’ve played hurt; they’ve played beat-up. I will remember them as a group that really wanted to try and get things done and help set this program on the right path.”