As Colorado licks their considerable wounds after a 52-24 shellacking at the hands of Washington, Oregon comes to Folsom Field with their innovative and dynamic offense operating at full force.
The Ducks are coming off a nationally televised, primetime 41-27 crushing of then- No. 18 Arizona State, without their speedy running back, LaMichael James. Chip Kelly, Oregon’s offensively inclined head coach, plugged Kenjon Barner into the starting lineup, and Barner did not disappoint, running for 171 yards.
“No disrespect to LaMichael — he’s a great back — but Oregon is at the point where they put in some guys like that, and they keep the production up,” CU Coach Jon Embree says.
“I believe they had almost the same amount of yardage [last week] as their average was. I think Barner had about 170 yards, and that is about what they average per game and LaMichael was averaging. Not a big drop off.”
James, who is expected to be back in action this weekend, is just part of an offense that emphasizes the utilization of the entire field. Oregon averages close to 50 points per game, good for first in the Pac-12 and third in the nation. The Ducks also put up 539 yards of offense per game. Those numbers are nearly unfathomable in video games, let alone real life.
“The thing that jumps out about them is their speed,” Embree says. “They have great speed at all of their skill positions. They do a tremendous job of making you defend the whole field, vertically and horizontally. They run essentially option football, and so you have to be assignment-conscious, and we have to be very disciplined on defense to limit big plays and try to force them into situations where we can have the upper hand on the defensive side.”
Saturday’s showdown against the Ducks is the third game in a four game stretch where the Buffs play likely the best four teams in the conference. After being systematically destroyed by both Stanford and Washington, CU is in the unfortunate position of being without three of its best players due to injury.
Linebacker Doug Rippy will miss the remainder of the season due to torn ligaments in his knee. Rippy’s cousin, running back Rodney Stewart, should be on the sidelines until November with a sprained knee. Both injuries were sustained Sunday in Seattle. Wide receiver Paul Richardson is also likely out with a sprained knee.
“Injuries are part of it, and I just figure that at some point it is going to even out for us,” Embree says. “Unfortunately, it will not be this year.
We are going to go out and compete. We are going to go out there and whoever is representing the University of Colorado on the field, do it to the best of your abilities. Play with great effort, and we’ll see what happens.”
Effort has never been questionable for the 2011 edition of the CU football program. However, the talent isn’t at the level it needs to be for the Buffs to compete with teams like Oregon and Stanford.
Only hard work by the staff on the recruiting trail will remedy what is a very apparent lack of ability. Saturday’s contest with Oregon should only reinforce this fact.