On this week’s episode of the Pac-12 Apostles Podcast, George Wrighster and Ralph Amsden get deep into the weeds on the recruiting of some of the Pac-12’s schools, especially University of Arizona (trending up!) and University of Washington (trending down!). Washington governor Jay Inslee has said that all state employees must be fully vaccinated by mid-October- what will Wazzu Head Coach Nick Rolovich do? George interviews UCLA Head Coach Chip Kelly, and the guys go through every Pac-12 Team and set baseline expectations for the season.
Some of Chip Kelly’s quotes from his interview with George Wrighster:
On Going From Under Armour to Jordan Brand:
“I think it’s the best sports footwear and apparel company out there… You can just see the silhouette of the Jordan brand and you know what you’re getting into. I know our players love it…”
On Recruiting Through the Pandemic:
“Our class that we signed in December of 2020, some of them enrolled early, but 11 of them showed up here on June 21st, and it was really the first time for most of those guys that we had ever seen them face to face because for the last 18 months everything had been done online… It was different. Usually you want to see kids in person, you want to see them practice, maybe play another sport… but all those things were out the window.
The whole camp circuit was off in the year of 2020 and we weren’t allowed to go to camps and see any kids either. It was all about off of film, a lot of schools played, but there are some high schools, New Mexico, Hawaii, they didn’t play football, so you don’t have any tape from a kid after his sophomore year, so you have to project him. In the NCAA, we gave everybody the year back, but in high school, they didn’t give them the year back… That was just part of the process you had to deal with.”
On Teams Offering Non-Committable Scholarships:
“Our word is our bond. So if we offer you, it’s committable. I don’t understand ‘we’re going to offer you but it’s not a committable offer.’ Then my answer would be, ‘then it’s not an offer.’
We’re not making reservations for dinner, you’re dealing with young men’s lives. I don’t think it’s fair to offer a young man, and then tell him it’s not a committable one, because I don’t know what message you’re sending them- ‘You can trust me, but not in everything I say,’ so our word is our bond.
The other thing for us is we have a great school here academically and not everybody can get in, so we wouldn’t offer a kid if we didn’t have a transcript in hand that we could show to our admissions office to see if… if this young man is an admit-able athlete… In most cases we need at least 5 or 6 semesters of high school work for our admissions office to be able to tell us if the kid’s an admit-able student athlete. In the rush of some people offering 8th graders and freshmen, my response all the time is ‘the kid doesn’t even have a transcript, how do you know if he’s an admit-able student?’
We want to make sure we get the right kids and the right fit here. Kids that are about books, and kids that are about ball… they understand that if they get an offer from us, it’s a committable offer, and it’s not a reservation for dinner, it’s actually a scholarship one.”
On How UCLA Evaluates Talent:
“We’re not governed by someone else’s opinion… we don’t offer a kid because of his ranking. Those guys work really hard at it, but I don’t know if recruiting rankings have all the information, the academics and the character background things that maybe schools have…I don’t think that’s any different than the NFL Draft… you always see a guy in the Draft that everybody thought is a sure first round pick and he drops to the sixth or the seventh, well it may have been medical, or it may have been a character issue that the public is unaware of...
There’s more to the evaluation and offer than ‘he has a really good highlight tape, there’s a lot more to it than that when you’re projecting who’s going to be a power five guy.”
On UCLA’s Chance to Win the Pac-12 South
“We don’t talk about that. It goes back to our mindset of ‘if we are talking about that, then we got too far ahead of ourselves.’ This team has to be good enough to have a really good Monday, and not get caught up in it, and it’s hard, it’s a lot easier said than done because of a lot of talk, and we do have a lot of players back, and a lot of depth, and a lot of returning experience. But I think if you get caught up in that, then you lose sight of what you need to do, and what you need to do is come to work every single day… it would be kind of disingenuous of me to answer questions like that and talk about predictions and things like that because that’s not something that governs how we work…”
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On this episode of the Pac-12 Apostles Podcast, USC Head Coach Clay Helton talks with George Wrighster about USC’s high expectations, and why he minds his own business when it comes to NIL deals. George and Ralph Amsden get into how BYU’s corporate walk-on scholarships will help make the rich even more rich, and which Pac-12 schools might benefit the most. ASU has put two more assistant coaches on paid leave, George and Ralph recap the entire ASU saga, and discuss whether Baylor’s lack of a punishment from the NCAA gives Sun Devil fans a legitimate gripe. The Pac-12 has announced its forfeit policy, and Wazzu head coach Nick Rolovich gave a non-answer when asked how it affects the conference. The guys discuss ESPN’s in depth story about former Wazzu Head Coach Paul Wulff’s 41-year quest to find answers regarding the disappearance of his mother, Delores. Finally, George and Ralph give their Pac-12 Breakout player candidates, answer listener questions, and react to other news and happenings around the conference.
Breakdown (2 hours, 40 minutes)
BYU Corporate Walk-On Scholarships Change the Game (11:15)
Should ASU’s fan base be outraged over Baylor’s slap on the wrist? An update on the coaching suspensions in Tempe (29:00)
The Pac-12 puts out its forfeit policy, our analysis (53:45)
An Interview with USC Head Coach Clay Helton (1:01:30)
Analysis of the Clay Helton interview, and the state of USC (1:24:18)
George and Ralph select the four players they expect to become breakout stars in the Pac-12 in 2021 (2:01:20)
Hot topics and listener questions (2:11:05)
You can listen to Pac-12 Apostles on iTunes or Spotify, or by clicking play on the iHeartRadio widget below:
Some of Clay Helton’s quotes from his interview with George Wrighster:
On championship expectations at USC:
“We all came here to win national championships. Any time you’re at a place that has eleven of them, and has those types of goals, it’s exciting. There’s a standard of excellence at USC that runs 125 years, and so each and every year you know coming into it that a Pac-12 championship opens the door to the playoff… You understand exactly what this place is and the standard that it is, it’s National Championships, and we welcome that. That’s why we fight like heck every day for the ability to get there.”
On dealing with criticism from the media and fans:
“For me, the way I’ve always handled things is this, I’ve always believed that a coaches job is to win games, to graduate our players, and to provide them a great college experience. The media’s job is to report and to give opinion, and if you’re winning games you get great reports, and if you’re losing games, it’s probably going the other way. The last portion is the fans. They bring the passion to the game, and if you’re winning it’s probably good passion, and if you’re losing it’s probably bad passion… To be able to grow numb to it, you understand that you don’t sit in this chair unless you have thick skin. You don’t worry about other people’s opinions, and you don’t worry about any negativity… your job is to help your young men win football games, help them win a championship, and that’s a full-time job. If your focus isn’t on that, you’re not doing your job, and you’re not helping your kids. I’ve never worried about outside noise, and I’ve never worried about the expectations, because I welcome them…”
On rebounding in the 2021 recruiting rankings:
“Two years ago, there was not a ton of attrition on our football team, we could only sign 13 men. So that brings you down. You don’t get a full class… you’re not going to be ranked extremely high. Plus, we decided to focus on the trenches and focus on our big men and a lot of time when you sign 11 of the 13 and they’re big men, it’s not a very sexy class. But we invested in the trenches..’
“Last year we had the availability to sign a full load. We actually signed 27 young men, both freshmen, as well as I thought we did a tremendous job in the transfer portal of addressing some immediate needs because of having seven young men leave for the NFL early off last year’s team…”
“All of the sudden you get increased numbers with increased resources, a great work ethic, and don’t forget about the production on the field. You go undefeated in the regular season last fall and be able to show your product- that produced a top 10 class…”
On potential recruiting rule-breaking within the conference during the pandemic:
“As far as being a head coach… one of our major responsibilities is to provide a culture of compliance… I’m very fortunate to be at USC for 12 years and to watch a guy named Dave Roberts, who did a tremendous job here compliance-wise, of setting up an organization that I believe is elite and lives as an example on a day-to-day basis, and I think that’s our responsibility across the board as far as coaches, is not only to win, but to win the right way. To remember that we all have last names, and representing your last name… is an important thing. But also to teach young people that doing the right thing is not always easy, but it’s always right. Our job is, as coaches, to have that culture of compliance and make sure things are right… so when you do hoist that trophy up, and that’s going to be my favorite time in life, that you hold that trophy up and you know, ‘man we just won a national championship, and we did it the right way.’ That’s a special thing, and I think that’s a responsibility of all coaches across the country.”
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The Pac-12 Apostles Podcast is back, but how much longer will the Pac-12 be the Pac-12? George Wrighster and Ralph Amsden discuss whether or not it’s wise to bring on any Big 12 teams. George interviews Stanford head coach David Shaw, and asks him some questions that he thought Shaw might not be prepared to answer- but as usual, Shaw has thoughtful opinions, rebuttals, and defenses for any and all of George’s inquiries. Last, George and Ralph discuss the Pac-12 preseason media poll and all-conference honors that came out of Media Day (read Ralph’s in-depth recap here).
You can listen to Pac-12 Apostles on iTunes or Spotify, or by clicking play on the iHeartRadio widget below:
Some of David Shaw’s quotes from his interview with George Wrighster:
On going into this season vs going into last season facing Covid-19 concerns:
“We’re much better than we were last year. I think we’re more informed. We’ve got a bunch of guys vaccinated… We made it through last year without a single positive test on our team… and now with the Delta variant or whatever else comes our way, we just have to operate within the boundaries that we have…”
On teams within the conference that offer 300+ scholarships to a single recruiting class:
“That’s what we have been able to do really well. Our players that we recruit respect us, partially because of our process and our honesty. We will offer the number of scholarships that we have. We don’t over-offer… So many of (potential recruits) look at that and initially of course they’re offended, but then they’re like ‘how many of these offers do I have that aren’t really committable offers? …I may have 20 offers, but really that might be 8 truly committable offers.’
So they’re not really offers. Back in the old days we called those ‘noffers,’ like, non-offers.
There’s an integrity that we believe in. There’s a process- I call it ‘The Gameshow.’ We don’t play The Gameshow, like ‘who’s going to take this first, you get an offer and you get an offer, but it doesn’t really matter because the first three guys come.’ That makes no sense to me. So we operate with integrity and honesty, and we’re very up front about out process, and our student athletes that we recruit and their parents really appreciate that.”
On the high volume of graduate transfers out of the Stanford program:
“We haven’t had a single undergraduate transfer in my entire tenure… Now, I have an open philosophy with our guys where I say ‘Hey, you know what? If you’re going to be a fifth-year senior… but you find a better situation out there for you? Not only are you allowed (to transfer) by NCAA rules, but I’m going to help you.’ So I’ll make calls for these guys. I’ll say, ‘Hey, don’t be a backup for me as a fifth-year senior if there’s a place where you can start…’
I think coaches should be encouraging that, because these guys have given themselves to us for four years, and graduated, and as a college graduate, I should not be able to tell this guy what to do, he should be able to do what’s best for himself.“
On Potential Conference Realignment:
“I think it’s all going to eventually settle down… I do think as far as the conference is concerned, we have a lot of natural rivalries that I’d hate to see get broken up, in particular the California schools. The four of us are very intrigued about our long history of playing against each other in every sport… I’d hate to see those things break up. I think we’ve got a great rivalry with both Oregon and Washington, you’d hate to see those rivalries go away.
I’m sure some program is going to look to do what’s best for them, and we’ll see what happens, but by in large I think the conference should pretty much remain the same. The only question I have is who’s going to look to join our conference. That’s what’s going to be interesting…”
On Being Quoted in Pete Thamel’s Article on Arizona State’s Potential Recruiting Violations
“I back what I said. I still believe it. We were coming out of pretty much the most difficult coaching season for all of us… We had an extended dead period, which means none of us could bring people on campus. We had a Covid situation, a national health emergency, so we were really not supposed to be bringing people on campus. We were supposed to try to keep ourselves and our student athletes safe. As you said, it was an open secret, it wasn’t that people didn’t know. They did something wrong, they got caught, and they’re in the middle of an NCAA investigation. I’m not saying what’s going to happen from that, but I let my feelings be known that I felt offended. Especially me being on multiple committees, for our conference, for the NCAA, and trying to help set these rules so that we could all be on the same page and no one could have a clear advantage. For that to be pretty blatantly violated, I felt upset and I still feel the same way today.”
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Reggie Bush gave his 2005 Heisman trophy back in 2012 following several years of NCAA investigations into the allegations that sports agent Lloyd Lake and business partner Michael Michaels gave Bush gifts that included hotel stays, a rent-free home for his family, and a limousine ride and suit for the 2005 Heisman Trophy ceremony.
Lake had expectations that Bush would return the favor by being his meal ticket, and when that didn’t happen, Lake sued Bush for $300,000 and cooperated with the NCAA investigation.
Now that the NCAA has relented on the idea, though they were forced to do so, that players are able to capitalize on their Name, Image and Likeness while in school, and make money off their notoriety, Reggie Bush wants his Heisman Trophy back.
But at UnafraidShow, we know exactly who that trophy belongs to:
Reggie Bush doesn’t need to be in physical possession of the Heisman Trophy for us to acknowledge who it belongs to. His 2,218 yards from scrimmage, and 9.4 yards per touch that season electrified college football fans everywhere, and fueled an undefeated Pac-10 season that capped off 23-consecutive conference wins.
The trophy is not only his, but because of the NCAA contending that it isn’t his, much like with the Baseball Hall of Fame keeping Pete Rose on the outside looking in, the first name we’re going to think of every time we hear the word Heisman is Reginald Alfred Bush Jr.
Here are his highlights to remind you of exactly what the NCAA is trying to make you forget:
Here are some of the better takes out in the Twittersphere:
The 2021 Pac-12 Media Day took place in Hollywood, California on Tuesday, July 27th, and the comments of new commissioner George Kliavkoff, as well as all 12 head coaches were streamed on Pac-12.com.
With last year’s media day being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this was the first time many of the Pac-12’s players and coaches have been able to gather in one place since the 2019 offseason.
Here were my takeaways from an interesting day of interviews:
The Media Picks Oregon and USC (As Usual)
For the fourth time since the formation of the Pac-12, the media picked both Oregon to win the North Division, and USC to win the South Division. Here are the results of the media poll:
1. Oregon (38)
1. USC (27)
2. Washington (2)
2. Utah (6)
3. Arizona State (6)
4. UCLA (1)
5. Oregon State
6. Washington State
If history has taught us anything, it’s that the majority of any conference’s media members have a fairly decent handle on the team they cover… and not much else. So for the Pac-12 media to roll with last year’s Pac-12 Title Game representatives is no surprise. My personal Pac-12 picks look a little different than the media poll:
1. Arizona State
4. Washington State
6. Oregon State
I’m sure George Wrighster will hate this, but if I picked Oregon to go undefeated he’d probably find a way to criticize me for saying Oregon wouldn’t hold every opponent scoreless, so if he’s going to be mad anyway, I might as well pick his rival school to win the Pac-12 North. As far as the South, while I know Arizona State is embroiled in scandal, I’m always a huge believer in returning talent, and almost the entire Sun Devil roster returns, along with some transfer portal upgrades at tight end and on the offensive line.
Evaluating the Media’s All-Pac 12 Team
One advantage of covering high school football and recruiting is being able to make an educated guess on which players might be poised to have a breakout season rather than just relying on the previous year’s stats. Below are the Pac-12 media selections for the first and second teams headed into the 2021 season, and below that is my take:
First Team Offense
Second Team Offense
Kedon Slovis, USC
Jayden Daniels, Arizona State
Jarek Broussard, Colorado
CJ Verdell, Oregon
Max Borghi, Washington State
Rachaad White, Arizona State
Drake London, USC
Johnny Johnson III, Oregon
Kyle Philips, UCLA
Britain Covey, Utah
Cade Otton, Washington
Greg Dulcich, UCLA
Jaxson Kirkland, Washington
Nathan Eldridge, Oregon State
Abraham Lucas, Washington State
Sataoa Laumea, Utah
Dohnovan West, Arizona State
Michael Saffell, California*
Nick Ford, Utah
Kellen Diesch, Arizona State
Alex Forsyth, Oregon
Sean Rhyan, UCLA
First Team Defense
Second Team Defense
Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Tyler Johnson, Arizona State
Mika Tafua, Utah
Nick Figueroa, USC
Thomas Booker, Stanford
Tuli Tuipulotu, USC
Jermayne Lole, Arizona State
Terrance Lang, Colorado
Devin Lloyd, Utah
Noah Sewell, Oregon
Drake Jackson, USC
Edefuan Ulofoshio, Washington
Nate Landman, Colorado
Avery Roberts, Oregon State
Mykael Wright, Oregon
Isaiah Pola-Mao, USC
Trent McDuffie, Washington
Mekhi Blackmon, Colorado
Chase Lucas, Arizona State
Evan Fields, Arizona State
Chris Steele, USC
Verone McKinley III, Oregon
First Team Specialists
Second Team Specialists
Jadon Redding, Utah
Lucas Havrisik, Arizona
Michael Turk, Arizona State
Ben Griffiths, USC
Thomas Booker, Stanford
D.J. Taylor, Arizona State
Britain Covey, Utah
D.J. Taylor, Arizona State
As far as the preseason offensive first team, the only guarantees I see (pending a healthy season for all involved) are Kedon Slovis and Drake Jackson. That is the premier QB-to-WR connection in the Pac-12, and I don’t see anyone stopping them this year. One receiver that belongs on the first team, and I believe hell prove it this year, is Washington State’s Travell Harris. As far as the running back position, it would be unwise to doubt Colorado’s Jarek Broussard, but I have Arizona State winning the Pac-12 South on the strength of their running game. Perhaps Broussard will share first team honors with Rachaad White.
On the defensive end, many of the picks the media made are fairly obvious. Nate Landman, depending on his health, could potentially lead the entire country in tackles, and Kayvon Thibodeaux has a genuine shot at an average of at least one sack per game. The only head scratcher for me here is Chris Steele. Yes, he has a great pedigree, and yes, he plays for the celebrated Trojans, but he struggled mightily last year. I’d shift Isaiah Pola Mao into a spot on the first team, and consider giving some love to a very talented (but not always well-coached) Christian Roland-Wallace at Arizona.
The Debut of the Pac-12’s Savior (?) George Kliavkoff
George Kliavkoff had a low bar to clear after years and years of Larry Scott’s annual Media Day speeches touting the exploits of badminton and windsurfing while failing to address the pressing questions about network negotiations and distribution.
In my opinion, Kliavkoff cleared that bar and then some. He acknowledged the conference’s inconsistent past while outlining its future, a future that might include adding teams that currently exist in the Central Time Zone, in the fertile recruiting ground of Texas (hint, hint).
He wasn’t perfect in his responses- at one point upholding the idea that paying players from the revenue they are largely responsible for bringing in would ruin college football, but he was good. Here are some of the highlights:
On Playoff expansion
“The Pac-12 is in favor of CFP expansion. We believe allowing more teams and athletes to compete for a national championship is a win for the Pac-12 and for our football players. We appreciate the work that was done to push forward the initial 12-team proposal. There’s much about the proposal that we like, but the Pac-12 and the other conferences that were not part of the two-year process to create the proposal will need some time to collect feedback from our stakeholders and identify any issues that need addressing. As we identify these issues, we will work collaboratively with our CFP partners to recommend an expansion plan that increases access, takes into account the best interest of our student-athletes and also preserves the rich traditions of college football.”
On setting up a football working group
“Consistent with my meeting with our ADs in Las Vegas, I can confirm that every decision the conference makes related to football is on the table for discussion. We will look at our conference schedules, including the number of conference games that we play and the start time of each game. We will look at our non-conference schedule. We will evaluate whether having divisions does or does not make sense, and work collectively to keep our very best recruits in our markets and to market our league to recruits everywhere. The football working group will begin meeting immediately and provide regular updates and recommendations to me and our board.”
On Pac-12 Networks distribution
“I wish distribution was better, but some of our current and existing distribution contracts make it very difficult to expand distribution under the current model. I think we have to look forward to 2024 and set our fans’ expectations that that’s when we’ll be able to reset the distribution. I wish more people could see the incredibly high quality, good content that our network produces. But just being honest, the distribution is not where I would like it to be.”
On Pac-12 priorities
“I want to be 100 percent clear that going forward the Pac-12 Conference will make all of our football-related decisions with the combined goals of optimizing CFP invitations and winning national championship. This is a decision fully supported by all 12 of our athletic directors.”
Thoughts on the North Division
Cal’s Justin Wilcox led the day off, and with the news of star DL Brett Johnson out for the year with a hip injury, and starting OL Michael Saffell retiring, I was looking for any hint of excitement for the upcoming season. I feel like Wilcox delivered that excitement when he reminded the media that Chase Garbers is a very good quarterback:
“I think Chase is primed for a great season, I really do. He’s played a ton of football, he’s got a lot of different experiences, his comfort level at practice and within the scheme, he’s operating and confident – I think that just comes with age and time. I think that for all of us, it’s just the consistency in our performance. He’s had some great moments in great games like the rest of the team has, now it’s finding that consistency.”
I was also impressed with Wilcox’s take on the Name, Image and Likeness era:
“We have put together a program called GOLDEN which is centered around NIL for all our student-athletes. It’s a resource and provides guidance for them. In terms of education, contracts, negotiations, tax implications. We’ve had a number of players that have entered into agreements within NIL. I think it’s going to be months, maybe even years, before it sorts itself out. I think it’s long overdue. I’m in full support of it. With our location being in the Bay Area, there’s going to be a number of opportunities for the players on our team.”
Next up was Washington State’s Nick Rolovich, and the media response was almost either baffled or scornful, if not both. Rolovich elected to not get vaccinated, which meant he couldn’t attend Pac-12 Media Day in person. His press conference was zoomed in while the Hollywood media tried to get around his pre-written statement about keeping his reasoning private.
What was interesting is that Rolovich still touted the state of Washington’s high vaccination rate as well as encouraged his players to get vaccinated if they felt it was right for them.
Look, it’s possible that Nick Rolovich’s doctor advised him that a medical condition or medication may have negative interactions with the Covid-19 vaccine, and it’s even possible that Rolovich values his privacy enough to create a secondary inconvenience of ridicule in order to keep his justification a secret.
It’s also possible that Rolovich is among the large subsection of the population that it afraid of a Bill Gates microchip implant.
Third up was Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith. The most painful part of having Pac-12 Media Day in Los Angeles is that there are only a few coaches the LA media show any interest in, and a couple that they outright ignore. Smith has been that guy for years, and it was Gary Andersen before him. Oregon State just doesn’t move the needle for those Hollywood-types (even though there’s over 30 California athletes on his team that that could certainly find time to ask about).
Smith says the Beavers have a four-way QB battle, and this is how he broke it down:
“(Tristan) should be healthy in August here to practice. I think he’s got a great skill set. Understands the scheme, good leader. He has won games for us.”
“We added Sam after spring ball and he’s a guy that’s has won games at quarterback in this league. Has a little bit different skill set, makes the game physical, moving his feet, big-time arm. We’re anxious to work with him coming in August.”
“Chance Nolan has started multiple games, we were really close the last couple of games with him as the starting quarterback. Counting on him making huge strides in his game from year one to year two.“
“Excited about Sam Vidlak. He had a great spring. He’s going to have an opportunity this August to go.“
David Shaw practically won the day by coming out and repeatedly saying he expects to compete for a conference championship. That attitude was certainly a surprise to many who have noted there’s been a slip in Stanford’s recruiting to go along with a difficulty in keeping their own non-NFL ready seniors around for graduate school.
But it was Shaw’s invocation of Nick Saban’s name in relation to his comments about Bryce Young and the NIL opportunities at Alabama that had the media talking:
The thing that David Shaw said that I appreciated most, however, was that early and late kickoffs don’t serve the student athletes:
Washington’s Jimmy Lake rocked the boat a bit when he announced that Dylan Morris is the presumed starter, but is also still competing for the QB job- other than that, Lake’s Pac-12 Media Day experience was more about being able to finally face the media as Washington’s head coach- something he didn’t get to do last year because of the pandemic.
I found his answer about recruiting outside the traditional Pac-12 footprint to be fascinating and worth considering for some of the teams in the conference that have put abundant amounts of energy into recruiting SEC and ACC country:
“I don’t think we need to do that. I think there’s always special cases where we can go outside of our footprint where there’s a connection. We’ve actually had players that are Washington football fans, their dream was to play at Washington. If there’s a special connection like that, for sure. But we feel there’s enough talent in the footprints that we currently recruit in to win the Pac-12 and be on that national stage, which we’ve been on. Now we just have to make sure we win those football games we’ve been in, those three New Year’s 6 games in a row that we went to for 2016 to 2018. We need to take that next step and win those football games. When we do that, there won’t be all this talk we need to go recruit way outside of our footprint, all those things. Again, I go back to the proof’s in the pudding of the best football in the world, the National Football League, loves our players. They love our players from our team. I go back to our recruiting department, our coaches selecting the right players and our strength and conditioning department making sure that they develop these players the right way. But there’s always going to be — what I never want to do is take my attention somewhere way far away and then miss out on the players that are right around us. We’ve been very, very successful with the players that are on our current footprint. But we never want to handcuff ourselves. If there is somebody that is outside our footprint and we have a special need, we will go get those guys, for sure.”
Last for the south, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, who immediately sung the praises of Anthony Brown, last year’s backup to Tyler Shough who was seemingly given the reigns during last year’s Fiesta Bowl:
“Anthony will start with the ones. He has earned that. He’s done a very good job from a performance standpoint, leadership performance, taking on (offensive coordinator and quarterbacks) coach (Joe) Moorhead’s offensive scheme. At the same time the freshmen behind him have done an excellent job as well. It merits them getting an opportunity to compete for that position as well. We will make that happen. I think technically and fundamentally the quarterback position never ceases, right?” Cristobal said. “You’re always looking for the next best thing to help you from a technical and fundamental standpoint. I think now after having done, having experienced coach Moorhead’s coaching style, sitting in meetings with him, reviewing film, then experiencing spring ball in the off-season with our players, a lot of the stuff that he takes home with him, he can apply to those training sessions as well. He’s done that. There’s always carryover when you do that. I think our players sense it, our team senses it. I think he’s poised to have a really big season. We’re excited for him.”
Cristobal lapped praise on incoming freshman QB Ty Thompson, and talked about building versatility amongst his offensive linemen, but the most interesting thing he said was in response to whether continued success in the Pac-12 had put a target on their backs:
“I never and we will never see ourselves as a program with a bullseye on us, a target on us. It’s never been that way, never will be that way. When we wake up in the morning, our feet hit the ground, we wake up with a hunger, drive, determination to make sure we’re always a hunter in a humble way, driven way.”
Thoughts on the South Division
Herm Edwards, fresh off the paid administrative leave announcement of TE coach Adam Breneman, called the NCAA investigation into recruiting improprieties a “review” and said it wasn’t a distraction to the team. Edwards announced, as Merton Hanks had reiterated before him, that no one would be answering questions about this “review,” but I’m disappointed that the Pac-12 media put zero effort into finding practical ways around that.
Either way, Herm was as smooth as ever, and found a way to say a lot about his team without talking about the things that were on everyone’s mind.
Of course, I’m picking Arizona State to have the best record in the Pac-12, so the quote I gravitated toward most was about the experienced secondary:
“I think we’ve got some gifted players back there, some talented guys that can play sticky defense, that can play man-to-man, cover guys. I think they’re excited about that. Three or four of them have played together now for two or three years. They’re very comfortable. The communication is what I like the most. Have to change certain things because of different looks or formations, motions. The communication with the secondary is much cleaner than it’s been. That’s important. You have to communicate. You have so many different elements back there, you all have to be on the same page. Chase (Lucas) is a prime example. You can just tell the way he walks around, the way he talks. He’s the team captain. It’s fun to watch him develop from the years I’ve been here to where he’s at right now. I’m excited for those guys.”
The one thing Herm said that confused me was that Arizona State’s offense was going to need to average in the high-30’s to give the Sun Devils a chance. Statistically, scoring in the high 30’s has mostly resulted in mediocrity, with a couple of notable outliers:
Kyle Wittingham has had to guide Utah through an awful year, followed by an awful offseason after the loss of star RB Ty Jordan to an accidental shooting. He addressed the loss of Jordan in his remarks:
“It was tough to deal with the Ty Jordan situation, still is. Fortunately, our administration is committed. We have a full department that’s committed, that’s dedicated to mental health and counselors that our players can talk to and visit with,” the coach responded. “We try to make it a point of emphasis to our players that it’s not a sign of weakness to seek mental health assistance. That’s part of life. It’s the same as being physically ill. If you need to get help, see somebody, there’s no shame or no stigma attached to that. I think our coaches, our assistant coaches, have done a really good job of conveying that to our players. Our players seem to do a really good job of taking advantage of the resources that we do have.”
Sometimes I listed to Wittingham speak and wonder what he could do with the type of talent that comes from coaching in a city that recruits itself. Don’t get me wrong, I love Salt Lake City, but put this man in Seattle or LA and I’m not sure anyone else wins the conference for the next decade. He’s a good and wise man, and seems to have a knack for developing football players.
Chip Kelly brought his modest, calm, no-nonsense demeanor in full on Tuesday, but I respect it. Any time he didn’t have the answer to a question, he said “I don’t know,” and then went into detail about exactly why he didn’t know. It wasn’t all boring, however. I thought he had some really insightful things to say about both his multi-year starter QB Dorian Thompson Robinson, as well as the benefits of being part of Jordan Brand.
Chip Kelly on DTR
“I think the beauty is having Dorian for four years. He didn’t get an opportunity to play in high school until his senior year. Played wide receiver as a junior because they had another quarterback that was a pretty good player. He came in, just kind of jumped in both feet. Every day Dorian is always striving to get better. He’s just a joy to coach. You love kids like that, that are thirsty for knowledge, have that kind of growth mindset that we always talk about. We want our players to have that. That’s what he has. I’m really excited to see where he is right now. I know he’s in the best shape of his life. He’s worked extremely hard in the weight room, on the field, throwing with receivers, organizing everything that goes on in the summer program, because the coaches aren’t allowed to be around them till this Friday. We have great expectations of him. Our expectations of him are no bigger than his expectations of himself. It’s all borne out of his work ethic. He’s got a great work ethic.”
Chip Kelly on Jordan Brand
“It’s such an iconic brand and I think everybody wants to be associated with an iconic brand. But I’ve always been just a big fan of the product. I think sometimes that gets glossed over, what a good product it is. I had a chance to check things out with our equipment guy, seeing all the new stuff that came in and the prototype cleats that Jordan has, what that is going to provide with us, especially our big guys. We do have some really big guys on our team and the product itself will support those guys. Two-fold, I think it will help us in recruiting because everybody wants to be associated with it. But I think the product that we have is outstanding and I’m really excited to get these guys using it.”
I think it’s crazy how easy it is to forget that Karl Dorrell, to this day, has probably been around his team no more than a few dozen times. Colorado hired Dorrell last year, and Dorrell didn’t get to meet his team until the season was getting ready to kick off in the fall. This is basically his first offseason, and he’s got a lot of work ahead of him if he’s going to keep the Buffaloes on an upward trajectory. Offensively, he praised the potential of his wide receiver group:
“That group has skill. The receiver group has skill. We’re continually have to refine that skill where the talent is consistent. That’s the way I would say it. I’m a hard-ass receiver coach, though, right? I’ve done that most of my career. There’s definitely some really good talent in that group. It’s young, but it’s young. That’s the part that they have to grow and have a level of consistency that needs to be better than where it is.”
Dorrell also went into great detail to address the uncertainty at quarterback:
“It’s a two-man race between Brendon Lewis and J.T. Shrout. We think they’re both very qualified, capable players. If you remember what Brendon did in the bowl game, his first time playing college football end of the season in the bowl game, I would say he had a passing grade. He did really well. He did some positive things that I would say any first-year quarterback might have done poorly. He was able to do those things in a positive way. So that confidence from the bowl game has given him a great level of confidence going through the whole off-season, going through spring. He’s a completely different player now than where he was last fall. I would say with J.T. Shrout, being a kid that just transferred in, in a short period of time he digested our offense. He spent the overtime hours to do that to get himself a chance to compete. Both of those guys have great leadership qualities as well along with their physical talent. They have really good leadership qualities. All of our players offensively respond to both of them in a positive way. It’s not like they dislike one and like the other. Everybody on offense really thoroughly enjoy both of those guys under center. It’s a competition in that two-man race with those two. When will we make that determination? That will be somewhere in the middle of training camp, I would say. At least not until the first couple weeks. Trying to get all the information in. It’s going to be a day-by-day test, right? They’re going to be assessed on everything about how they run the offense, the mistakes they make, the plays that they do make, everything like that. We’re going to account for everything as we go through that process.”
Jedd Fisch pumped a shot of energy into the room just before the end of the day and it was a lot of fun to watch.
Only a couple of media members were able to get questions in, as it didn’t seem that there were many in the LA Media clamoring for content from the first year coach from Tucson. You’d figure he’d at least get a few UCLA-Rosen related questions from his last stint in the Pac-12 as an assistant, but no.
Fisch addressed a lot of what Arizona has done to rebuild pride in the program after the 70-7 loss to ASU that ended Kevin Sumlin’s tenure, but the most practical question has to do with the three-way QB battle to replace Grant Gunnell, and here’s what he had to say about that:
“The hardest position to evaluate without a football would be the quarterback position because you can’t ever see them throw. But we have had that two hours a week that we have the opportunity to meet with him. We’ve had two hours a week that we’ve been able to during that time also be able to do some drill work. We’ve been able to do some team runs and evaluate and watch how he is there. I love just to see how he interacts with his teammates. Jordan is doing good. We’ve got a nice 3-headed monster, Jordan, Gunner (Cruz) and Will (Plummer). We’d like to see one of them step up and be the guy. Right now we’ll go 33, 33, 33 for a 99-play practice. I would hope (McCloud is at a disadvantage by arriving after Plummer and Cruz had time with the playbook) because those other guys, if they didn’t get anything out of the coaching in the spring, we got major problems. I hope (Jordan McCloud) is at a major disadvantage, but unfortunately I feel like he’s just at a disadvantage. I’ll talk to Coach Dougherty about that later (laughs). I think he’s doing a great job of trying to catch up, trying to learn this thing quick from what I understand. But, yeah, I mean, it’s going to be hard because those guys took almost every single rep. Whoever moves the ball the best in every period we have- Who moves the football, who gets us down in the red zone, who scores touchdowns. We’ll have a lot of competitive practices. I believe we’re going to have a very good defense this year. Let’s see what we can do. See if we can move the ball. Whoever does that will be the starting quarterback.”
USC fans hate Clay Helton. They think he stands in the way of a return to greatness, and his Southern kindness in the face of their constant pressure makes the blood of Angelinos and Trojan faithful boil unlike anything I’ve ever seen. That’s why I had a good laugh when in response to a question about how they plan to have a good season since there have been “not that many over the last few years.”
Helton referenced the pressure to win as a privilege. It’s the exact type of thing that drives USC fans insane:
“I love USC because you know what the standard is? Championships. You can be at USC and win every game but one. If it’s the last one, it’s looked at as a bad season. That’s being at a special place. You can have an undefeated regular season and win a Pac-12 championship game and everybody is sad. That’s a special place to be. So when you’re at a place that’s won 11 national championships, you know the standard of excellence and you know what’s demanded. We welcome that. We welcome it as players, we welcome it as coaches. That’s why we all came to USC. Our job right now is to get back to that championship game and to win that game because we know when we win that game, it opens the doors to the Playoff and the national championship opportunities. That mentality I talked about earlier of going in to each and every game, trying to be 1-0, getting back to that championship game, winning that game, opening those doors, that’s what USC is about. Other programs may have other standards. It’s not what we’re about here. That’s the beauty of USC, is not only being in that championship game but winning it. That’s why we work so hard at what we do to be back there and to win it. Thanks for that question.”
The one thing I was most curious to hear about from Helton was the Name, Image and Likeness topic, being that USC is the most likely place those type of deals would occur in the Pac-12. Here’s what he had to say:
“Yeah, we’ve been living it, as you know. We’ve been living it for a while just being in the city of Los Angeles. You’re talking about the number one college media market in the country, the number two pro media market in the country. You’re talking about a city that is based on one-word names. I think of LeBron and Kobe, Snoop, JuJu. That’s part of being in Los Angeles, being in a championship city, a championship market. There’s an advantageous thing to that. I watched JuJu before name, image and likeness was even there, our university be proactive in helping him build his brand and build his platform that enabled him to walk into the NFL and have tremendous opportunities. I’m thankful for the resources USC has given because I think universities are going to have to do three things in this standpoint. We’ve lived it. We’ve been proactive as a university. I think one, you’re going to have to provide support, which our university has done with the merger of J1S, to be able to provide content, social media direction. I think you’re going to have to provide compliance of what’s right and wrong to do within it. Then I think you’re going to have to provide knowledge. In our merger with ALTIS, being able to say what’s a good decision or bad decision as you move forward. At the end of the day, like I tell our players, remember the most important thing, it’s great now in name, image and likeness that you have marketing teams that can do their job and be able to find you opportunities. But what’s your job as a student-athlete? Your job as a student-athlete is to get your degree, to be a master of your craft on and off the field when it comes to academics and athletics, and to put yourself in an extremely positive light of how you represent yourself, your family, your team, your university. If you focus on those three things, whether it’s your degree, mastering your craft on the field, how you present yourself on a day-to-day basis, I promise you opportunities are going to come out. I watched is with JuJu Smith-Schuster before there was name, image and likeness. I watched it with Michael Pittman, what he did at USC. If you concentrate on those three things, have the support, knowledge and compliance along with it like our university provides, you’re going to do great things. That’s why our kids come to USC.”
The only beef I had with Clay Helton today was that it didn’t feel as if they had a legitimate Heisman candidate in Kedon Slovis, but it’s possible that’s more of a critique of the energy of the Pac-12 Media as a whole…
Winners and Losers
Three winners from today’s event are unquestionably commissioner George Kliavkoff, David Shaw and Jedd Fisch.
Kliavkoff impressed the local and national media with his comprehension and candor, while managing to impress the athletic directors and coaches even more. Everyone spoke about being excited about the direction and possibilities moving forward.
David Shaw’s enthusiasm for his program and courage to attack tough subjects with well thought out and articulated opinions really helped him stand out amongst a group of coaches that all have fairly dynamic personalities (expect for Chip Kelly).
Jedd Fisch came in on a hot streak of having impressed the Wildcat alumni and fan base with almost every move he’s made since his hire was roundly mocked, and he brought the same energy into his appearance at Media Day. If personality can help win games, we all might regret picking the Wildcats last in the Pac-12 South.
Three losers? Well, beyond the fairly obvious inclusion of Nick Rolovich for reasons that may or may not be outside his control, I’d have to add Merton Hanks, and the Big-12 Conference.
Merton Hanks, the Pac-12’s Senior Associate Commissioner, decided to take a serious break from the candor displayed by commissioner George Kliavkoff to let everybody know that they’ve completely invented their longstanding gripes with the way that Pac-12 football games are officiated:
Last on the list of losers, the Big 12. It’s bad enough that it was confirmed that Oklahoma and Texas are abondoning their conference to chase glory in the SEC, but when George Kliavkoff repeatedly mentioned that the Pac-12 would consider their options in the Central time zone, the Big 12 conference had to feel a brand new level of desperation to find a way to stay together as an entity.
The news of University of Texas and University of Oklahoma’s exploration of leaving the Big 12 rocked the college football world, especially with the news that their preferred destination is the SEC- the home of 11 of the last 15 National Champions. But what if the SEC wasn’t the only possible destination? What if the Pac-12 would actually be a better play?
Texas is no stranger to flirting with the possibility of conference hopping, but is the SEC the best home for them? The SEC is likely not as open to the idea of the Longhorn Network taking away from the overall shared pot of gold, and rival Texas A&M is certainly displeased with the idea of losing the exclusivity of being able to recruit as the state’s only SEC representative.
The Pac-12 would definitely be more open to the idea of acquiescing to some of the demands of Oklahoma and Texas, and the west coast is a fertile recruiting ground that the Sooners and Longhorns have both taken advantage of (see Heisman contenders Spencer Rattler and Bijan Robinson from the state of Arizona).
The Colorado Buffaloes came into their matchup with the Utah Utes with Pac-12 Championship aspirations. Injuries and poor scheming would contribute to the Buffs falling short to Utah 38-21 in the cold at Folsom Field.
Colorado Buffaloes Come Out Flat Against Utah With Chance at Pac-12 South Title
As an undefeated team, the Buffaloes were looking to get more national exposure. They got this by having a 10 a.m. game on national television. However, Utah looked like the team that was ready for the big stage.
Utah came into a game with a 1-2 record. They looked eager to get to .500 on their first series after they returned the opening kickoff to the 40-yard line. They went right down the field, and the Buffs found themselves in a quick 7-0 hole right away.
On offense, the Buffaloes came out throwing for some reason. It was an interesting decision to come out throwing in the cold. Jarek Broussard, who had 301 rushing yards last week against Arizona, has been the team MVP so far this season. He did not touch the football on the Buffs’ first two series.
Broussard finally got his first touch of the game on the third possession, a run that went for no gain. Sam Noyer fumbled two plays later. After last week, it was head-scratching why the Buffaloes were not taking a run-first approach. It has worked for them all season.
Noyer, Offense Get Going, Look Like They Will Have Halftime Momentum
Because the offense stagnated, the defense had to hold serve. They did just that, and the Buffaloes’ offense came to life. Sam Noyer found La’Vontae Shenault for 41 yards. The Buffs finally made it into Utah territory. Six plays later, Sam Noyer threw an absolute dime of a touchdown pass to wide receiver Maurice Bell. The Buffs were in a fight of a 7-7 ballgame.
The defense was still playing well, but linebacker Nate Landman was injured late in the second quarter. Landman has been the best linebacker in the nation this season. His leadership was sorely missed by the Buffs the rest of this game. Landman should still be considered for the Butkus award.
Colorado needed something to lift their spirits entering the locker room. It looked like they got that, as freshman Brenden Rice returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown with 1:30 remaining in the second quarter.
However, after Utah went three-and-out, the Buffaloes could have kneeled the football. They ran the football instead, which never turns out well. Jarek Broussard fumbled and the Utes recovered in Buffs territory. They were able to get enough yards to set up their kicker, Jadon Redding, for a field goal as time expired. Colorado still had a 14-10 lead, but it was a precarious lead at best.
Brenden Rice Gives Colorado Boost to Start Second Half, But Utah Takes Control
Brenden Rice was the MVP for the Buffs in this game. He took a screen pass for a 61-yard touchdown in the first offensive play of the second half. The Buffs led 21-10 and looked in control. However, the defense missed Nate Landman greatly in the second half. They could not stop Utah running back Ty Jordan and were having trouble defending Utah receivers in space. These trends were a recipe for disaster on defense, as Utah scored two straight touchdowns.
Up 24-21 against Colorado, Utah could have scored again. Despite not having Nate Landman, the Buffs defense was still playing with pride. They were able to get a fourth-and-goal stop. The offense punted on the next possession. However, the defense held Utah, and they could only muster a field goal. Colorado was roundly outplayed to this point in the second half, but they were only down 27-21.
Sam Noyer got injured on the next possession, but he was only out a few plays. It looked like he could be having his signature drive of the season. However, once the Buffs got into Utah territory, the Utes’ defense tightened. The Buffs were forced into a 4th-and-5 at the Utah 34. They called timeout to make sure they had their best play call. It did not look that way though, as Sam Noyer’s pass was batted down.
Utah’s Ty Jordan would get a 66-yard touchdown run on the next play, and the game was all but over. The Buffs would turn the ball over on downs a few more times as Utah would eventually widen their lead to 38-21. As the clock hit zero, the Buffs had to look at a result they were not expecting against the Utes: a 17-point loss.
Colorado Could Not Get Out of Their Way Against Utah
The Buffaloes could not get out of their own way in this game. They cannot do anything about injuries, but their scheming was bad in this game. In their wins this season, the Buffs have established the run early. It made zero sense that they went away from it. Because of this, Sam Noyer was put in tough positions throughout the game.
On defense, we could not defend against Utah’s skill players in space for the second consecutive season. Tyson Summer’s defensive game plan looked a lot like the same one employed in the Buffs’ 45-15 loss to Utah last year. People that do not know Colorado football will say it is because we do not have as good of athletes. Athletically, the Buffs have proven that they can play with anyone in the Pac-12. However, they did not show that ability on Saturday against the Utes.
Looking Ahead: Buffs Unsure of Opponent This Upcoming Week
The Buffaloes sit at 4-1. They are basically the alternate for the Pac-12 Championship next week if either Oregon or USC cannot field enough players to play. It makes no sense why the Pac-12 used divisions this season. However, the Buffs have been dealt a hand where they have to hope at this point. If they had beat Utah, the Pac-12 would have been put in a spot where they had to put the Buffs in the conference championship. Colorado simply did not hold their end of the bargain.
Despite losing to Utah, this season for the Buffaloes has been a resounding success. They have succeeded basically every outside expectation this season. The Buffs will play in a bowl game for the first time in four years. More recruits are starting to realize that Boulder is a pretty nice place to play college football and to get their education. No matter who the Buffs play next week, there is no question that Karl Dorrell will have his players ready to play.
Colorado Buffaloes fans’ excitement for the season should be turned up after their game VS Arizona. The Buffs improved to 4-0 after last Saturday’s win against the Arizona Wildcats. The 24-13 saw the Buffaloes obtain spot number 21 in both the AP Poll and the College Football Playoff Rankings. The Karl Dorrell era has started off better than anyone could have predicted.
Colorado Did Not Look Like 21st-Ranked Team At First VS Arizona
However, the game on Saturday did not start off great for the Buffaloes. The past three seasons, the Buffaloes lost to Arizona due in large part to the Wildcats running all over the Buffaloes’ defense. Arizona’s speed has been a killer for the Buffaloes’ chances in games against them in years past.
Arizona running back Gary Brightwell, a senior, scored to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead. The Wildcats were able to capitalize on the Buffaloes playing undisciplined football. Buffs quarterback Sam Noyer had a huge run in the first half that would have given the Buffs a first down after a third-and-13. Down 10-0 after a Wildcats field goal, the Buffaloes also were not taking care of the football. Freshman wide receiver La’Vontae Shenault also fumbled later on in the first. Undisciplined football and this turnover contributed to the Buffaloes staring at their first multi-score deficit of the 2020 season. Early in the second quarter, Arizona capitalized on Shenault’s fumble and got another field goal. 13-0, Wildcats.
The game did not start out the way Karl Dorrell would have hoped. In his postgame comments, he said there was no panic on the sideline. He saw being down 13-0 as an opportunity to problem solve and find adjustments.
The offensive play-calling early on in the game for the Buffaloes was also questionable. La’Vontae Shenault’s fumble was the same exact play call as the first play of the game. The Buffaloes were predictable, as they were running screens that were simply not working. They needed to switch to more of a ball-control or run-based attack to slow the game down.
Jarek Broussard Starts March Towards 300-Yard Rushing Performance
The Buffaloes switched to a run-based attack, but it wasn’t a ball-control running attack. It was better. Jarek Broussard started his journey towards a 300-yard rushing performance. His two big runs in the second quarter set up two touchdown drives. True freshman Ashaad Clayton would wind up having two rushing touchdowns in the second quarter. All of a sudden, the Buffaloes had found a winning formula against the Wildcats. Colorado took a 14-13 lead into the halftime locker room.
Jarek Broussard has had to wear a knee brace the entire season. In Dorrell’s opinion, that is why Broussard did not score three touchdowns on three big runs he had in the game. Despite that, Dorrell stated that no one on the team is surprised by Broussard’s production.
Despite Broussard’s great running, the Buffaloes were still in a dogfight against the Wildcats due in part to the play of Sam Noyer. He would have two second half interceptions that kept the game close. Noyer’s legs were helping out the Buffaloes, however. A 55-yard run by Noyer set up his only touchdown of the game, giving the Buffaloes a 21-13 lead.
Chance Lytle Suffers Gruesome Leg Injury
Noyer may have scored on this play, but it came with a cost. Junior left guard Chance Lytle was lost for the season, as he injured his left leg on the play. It will be interesting to see how the offensive line situation develops, as Dorrell mentioned senior guard Kary Kutsch was not able to play due to COVID-19 protocol.
Despite Mistakes, Colorado Showed Mental Fortitude VS Arizona
The downfield passing game did not work at all for the Buffaloes in this game. Sam Noyer threw another interception with 9:19 left in regulation, and it was not his best throw to say the least. Noyer and Dorrell got into a sideline yelling match after the play. However, Dorrell stated in his postgame comments he will not let mistakes slide.
“If I see something wrong, I’m going to address it right away,” Dorrell said.
Having this mindset is great for a young team. Dorrell has told them that none of these altercations are personal. This mindset can help contribute to the team figuring out how to problem solve, as they did during this game.
Up 21-13, the Buffaloes’ defense was bending considerably. However, they did not break. Even when Arizona’s run game was still giving the Buffs’ defense problems, they got an interception. When the secondary was playing undisciplined, they forced Arizona into fourth down situations they could not convert. Mekhi Blackmon forced a huge pass breakup on a fourth and goal late in the game. Arizona could have tied the game there, but the fifth-ranked Pac-12 cornerback, according to Pro Football Focus, was able to break the pass up.
Jarek Broussard, Nate Landman Stars of Game In Victory
Once the offense got the football back, Jarek Broussard had one last long run in him. An 85-yard run got him to 301 rushing yards total for the game. He had this performance on the 4th anniversary of Buffs’ Heisman Trophy running back Rashaan Salaam’s passing. Broussard actually has more rushing yards through the first four games this season than Salaam had in that season, per CU Sports Information.
Despite Broussard’s huge run, the Buffaloes could only muster a field goal. That would be enough for this game, however. Nate Landman got a sack on the last drive to go along with 10 tackles. Landman is a frontrunner for the Butkus Award as the best linebacker in college football. Landman has simply been a game-wrecker for the Buffs’ opponents this season.
Colorado 4-0 And Ranked 21st After Win VS Arizona
4-0 is a huge accomplishment for Karl Dorrell and the Buffaloes. They are 21st in the newest AP Poll, and they are being considered in the College Football Playoff rankings.
The Buffaloes have a chance to play for the Pac-12 title, but they do not control their own destiny despite being undefeated. They need USC, who has played one more conference game than the Buffs, to lose to UCLA this weekend along with a Buffs win against Utah on Friday. Colorado has not beat Utah since 2016, and the past three games with the Utes have not been competitive. Despite that, there is a new mindset with this Buffs team under Dorrell. They have stayed composed throughout the season. They needed a more composed mindset after their wildly inconsistent play last year under Mel Tucker.
Colorado should be able to continue their composed and consistent play this Friday against Utah. However, the Buffs will need help from UCLA to make the Pac-12 Championship. Expect Buffs fans to wear black and gold on Friday, then wear blue and gold on Saturday. Nonetheless, excitement for the 2020 Colorado Buffaloes has been turned up.
Through their first two games of the 2020 college football season, the Colorado Buffaloes offense carried them. The Buffs bucked that trend, however, as they relied on a strong defensive performance. Because of this performance, they were able to win 20-10 victory against San Diego State on Saturday at Folsom Field.
Colorado Buffaloes Use Ball Control Offense to Take Lead
A few days ago, the Buffaloes were prepping for a huge Pac-12 South matchup against the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Coliseum. USC could not play this week, as they are dealing with COVID-19 cases within their program. Despite the Buffaloes not being able to play Pac-12 competition for the second straight week, they were ready to play the Aztecs.
After SDSU went three-and-out on their first possession, the Buffaloes were able to use an effective run game on a 16-play march. Sophomore running back Jarek Broussard had two big runs of 19 and 16 yards to set the Buffs up for success on the drive. Colorado was able to use a good mix of running and passing to get into the red zone. Despite that, the Aztecs were able to force the Buffs into a 4th-and-goal at the one-yard line. On 4th-and goal, Sam Noyer was able to run the football in for a touchdown on a quarterback sweep. CU got the extra point and went up 7-0.
That first touchdown drive took the Buffaloes 6:05. Their second touchdown drive in the second quarter took 7:09. They showed that they can play a ball-control style of game and capitalize on opportunities. Shortening the game comes with its risks, but the Buffs were able to take advantage of their opportunities.
Bad Play Helped San Diego State Stay in the Game
However, one bad play can change the trajectory of the game when a team plays a ball-control style game. This bad play happened for the Buffaloes, as Sam Noyer threw his second interception of the season. San Diego State junior cornerback Darren Hall returned the interception 57 yards for a touchdown. The Buffs had dominated play, but only had a 14-7 lead.
The Buffaloes had to punt on their subsequent possession, giving the ball back to San Diego State. SDSU was able to drive down the field and kick a 48-yard field goal before halftime. The Buffaloes were the better team in the first half by far. Yet, they only had a four-point lead to show for it.
The defense came to play against the Aztecs. San Diego State had seven three-and-outs and turned the ball over on downs once. In total, the Buffaloes defense held SDSU to 155 total yards on offense.
Buffaloes Able To Make Field Goals In Second Half, Aztecs Do Not
After the teams traded three-and-outs to start the second half, the Buffs had their third 10+-play drive of the game. This time, they would only manage a field goal, however. With not having many days to prepare for the Aztecs, being able to control time of possession was huge for the Buffaloes. They let the game be in their hands. The Buffaloes played like the favorites, even though San Diego State was able to stay in it.
The only real chance the Aztecs had in the second half was due to an error by the Buffsf. Senior linebacker Akil Jones was flagged for roughing the passer, and San Diego State was in field goal range early in the fourth quarter. However, sophomore Mark Perry came up with a huge block of a 50-yard field goal by Aztec kicker Matt Araiza.
Following the field goal miss, the Buffaloes took the ball 44 yards in nine plays. Jarek Broussard’s 26-yard run on this drive was a huge step towards winning the game. Evan Price’s 41-yard field goal gave the Buffaloes the two-possession lead at 20-10.
This lead was plenty for a defense who did not allow SDSU to score a touchdown all game. Colorado’s defense did not break as they forced SDSU into another field goal attempt. This time, Matt Araiza’s 44-yard kick went wide right.
The offense struggled to keep the football the rest of the game, but the defense stepped up. They forced SDSU to turn the football over on downs. On the last Aztec drive, the defense finally forced a turnover as junior safety Curtis Appleton II picked off SDSU quarterback Jordan Brookshire. The Buffaloes added another game into the win column as they have started out 3-0.
2020 Colorado Buffaloes Attain Bowl Eligibility
Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker beat a top-10 team on Saturday in the Spartans’ victory against Northwestern. He did not accomplish that feat in Boulder. Additionally, Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell has officially led the Buffs to bowl eligibility in his first year on the job. Tucker was unable to accomplish that feat during his time in Boulder in 2019.
Colorado Buffaloes fans should be ecstatic that despite the challenges that Dorrell has faced in 2020, he was able to lead this team to bowl eligibility. The Buffaloes still have plenty of work to do, and Dorrell talked about that in his postgame comments. In his introductory press conference in March, Dorrell talked about how he was going to be in Boulder “for the long haul”. He is taking that approach to the season also. There is still work to be done.
A Word on Targeting in College Football
Early in the game, there was a targeting call on Buffaloes cornerback Mekhi Blackmon that could have resulted in him being ejected from the game. Luckily, the referees overturned the call. However, the fact that a player can be ejected after their first unnecessary roughness hit is ridiculous. These plays are usually “bang-bang” or accidental. College players have limited opportunities to play in a college football game. It is ridiculous to punish them after they commit one accidental hit. The fact that Blackmon could have been ejected for a play where he was not leading with his head deliberately is very frustrating. It takes away from the game. The NCAA needs to do something about this rule because it is unfair to the players. It makes sense to eject players for repeated offenses, but they only get so many opportunities to put on a college uniform.
At 3-0, the Colorado Buffaloes take on the 0-3 Arizona Wildcats next week in Tucson in their fourth game of 2020. Colorado should be favored in this game. It is important for the Buffaloes to play a sound game and take care of business in a game they should win. They have a legitimate shot at making the Pac-12 championship game if they beat Arizona and Utah. Nonetheless, Buffaloes fans should be in a celebratory mood that the team has achieved bowl eligibility,
Whenever your quarterback is starting to get nicknames like “Noyer the Destroyer”, you know your team is in a good spot.
The Colorado Buffaloes have already exceeded outside expectations, as they improved to 2-0 on the season with a 35-32 victory over the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday. Even though the final score was closer than the game was for the majority of it, the Buffaloes were able to leave Stanford Stadium with the victory.
Optimism for Colorado Offense Is Great After 35-32 Win Over Stanford
Sam Noyer played well after throwing an interception in the first quarter. He had two touchdown passes to wide receivers Dimitri Stanley and Brenden Rice, and added two scores on the ground. With his receivers, Noyer has showed consistent timing and the ability to involve multiple players in the passing game.
Additionally, the Buffaloes were able to get a lot of their young talent involved on Saturday. The previously mentioned Brenden Rice, a true freshman who is the son of Jerry Rice, caught his first career touchdown in the third quarter. Redshirt freshman La’Vontae Shenault, related to NFL rookie receiver and former Buffs star Laviska Shenault Jr., also caught his first pass of his Buffs career. Freshman running back Ashaad Clayton also saw his first carries in a Buffaloes uniform.
Getting everyone involved on offense was great to see. Even though they were not able to get into rhythm right away, Dimitri Stanley’s 55-yard touchdown reception later in the first quarter jumpstarted the offense. After taking that 7-3 lead, Noyer would add a rush touchdown in the second quarter to extend it to 14-3.
Despite Absences From Top Offensive Weapons, Dimitri Stanley and Jarek Broussard Have Stepped Up
Dimitri Stanley had six receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown. He stepped up big time with the absence of wide receiver K.D. Nixon for the second consecutive week. Karl Dorrell called him a dynamic player. It is vitally important for Stanley to continue his good play if Nixon continues to be out. Sam Noyer called Stanley “fearless” and lauded him for being able to make plays of all sorts.
Another player that has come up huge with the absence of expected starter Alex Fontenot has been redshirt sophomore running back Jarek Broussard. He had 121 rushing yards and became the first CU Buffs running back since 2005 to have 100 or more rushing yards in the first two games of the season (per CU Sports Information).
Colorado Defense Lets Stanford Back Into Game Late
The defense was effective, forcing four Stanford 3-and-outs during the game. They were holding them to field goals until late in the third quarter. Stanford’s passing game led by senior quarterback Davis Mills started to gash the Buffaloes secondary.
The Buffaloes were able to take a 35-16 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter after a Jaren Mangham touchdown run. However, the Cardinal were able to score two touchdowns late. It is frustrating that the defense let the lead get down to three points near the end. They also let UCLA back in the game last week after leading by 28 points in the second quarter.
The run defense was great, holding the Cardinal offense to 70 yards on 21 carries. However, the secondary struggled late, and the Cardinal took advantage of it. Fourth quarter defensive strategy may have had something to do with the comeback, but the Buffaloes simply have not finished effectively despite their 2-0 start.
A 2-0 Start Is Great For A Buffaloes Team That Had No Outside Expectations
Karl Dorrell stated in his postgame comments that he wished the game finished more so on the Buffaloes’ terms. Despite the team not finishing the game on their terms necessarily, fans should be encouraged by what the Buffs have put on the field this season. “Noyer the Destroyer” has shown doubters that he can play well against Pac-12 competition. He has proven to be a threat as a running quarterback also. The Buffaloes have a ton of talent at the skill positions. Players have been able to show up when they are called upon on offense.
On defense, the Buffaloes have looked good in the early parts of games. If they are able to consistently play good defense, they can play with anyone in the Pac-12. Prognosticators projected the Buffaloes to not be anywhere close to 2-0 after the first two weeks. For Buffs fans, it feels great knowing that they have a good football team to watch in Boulder this season.