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WSU Vs. Colorado Football Preview: Rotating Quarterbacks And The Buffaloes Offense

Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The Washington State Cougars face the Colorado Buffaloes on Saturday at 1 p.m. on FX for homecoming in Martin Stadium. The Buffaloes offense has struggled mightily so far against poor competition and that has played a key role in their 0-3 start.

Colorado is averaging just 4.24 yards per play. That's bad. It's currently the 120th worst in the country, and the Buffaloes have yet to play anything close to a BCS-level defense. The Cougs don't have a good defense, but so far the quality of the defense hasn't mattered much. CU has just played poorly.

Against FBS competition only, the numbers are even worse. Colorado has played two Mountain West teams - Colorado State and Fresno State - and combined to tally 528 yards on 141 offensive plays. That comes out to 3.7 yards per play.


The Buffaloes are currently going through a quarterback controversy, but not the type that WSU fans are dealing with. Mike Leach made a decision on a quarterback and stuck with it until an injury. Colorado head coach Jon Embree named a starter in fall camp, but is still trying to figure out who he wants to take most of the snaps.

Junior Jordan Webb won the starting quarterback job in camp after transferring from Kansas. Webb was able to transfer and play immediately because he had already completed his bachelor's degree and enrolled in a program at CU that Kansas does not have.

So far the results have been mixed for Webb. His accuracy has declined sharply, from 64 percent last year at Kansas to 50 percent through three games this season. He has reduced his interception rate, from throwing one every 23 attempts down to about every 40 attempts.

The quarterback situation got a little crazy against Fresno State. Webb started the game and led the first two drives. One ended with an interception, the next with a punt.

Connor Wood, a transfer from Texas, came in to replace Webb. Wood's drives ended punt, punt (FROM THE FRESNO 35, DOWN 28-0!), punt, and punt.

Webb came back in midway through the second and led the team to punt, TD!!!, and an interception for a touchdown.

Wood came back out for the start of the second half and went punt, interception for a touchdown, interception.

Embree went to his third-stringer eventually, in Nick Hirschman. At that point (which was midway through the third quarter with Fresno State up 62-7) the Buffaloes just ran the ball in an attempt to end the game as quickly as possible (Coug fans know that situation all too well).

Now it appears the Buffs will stick with a rotation at quarterback, so expect to see at least Webb and Wood on Saturday. Taking a look at Colorado blog Ralphie Report, it appears that CU fans favor the younger quarterback, Wood, to start.

Should be an interesting situation to follow this weekend.

Click the jump for receivers, running backs, and offensive line.


The receiving corps took a big hit in spring ball when Paul Richardson, the team's best playmaker, tore his ACL. The recovery period forced Richardson to sit out this season and redshirt.

With Richardson gone, Colorado is left with a young group of receivers. Freshman Nelson Spruce leads the unit with 13 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.

Tyler McCulloch are Gerald Thomas are the only other wide receivers with multiple catches. There are running backs with catches, but among the group of tight ends and wideouts, only three have more than one reception.

McCulloch and Thomas look like guys that will make bigger plays than Spruce. McCulloch has seven receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Thomas has six catches for 77 yards.

These guys should put up some better numbers against a suspect WSU secondary that has been burned repeatedly this season, even making UNLV look like an elite passing attack. If the Buffs are going to stay in this thing, it will likely be through the air.

Running Backs

Rodney Stewart got the bulk of the carries for Colorado a year ago, and with him gone, freshman Christian Powell has stepped in to fill the void.

Powell has carried the ball 46 times for 199 yards and three touchdowns. However, most of his damage was done against FCS Sacramento State, when he carried the ball 28 times for 147 yards and all three of those touchdowns. Against FBS competition, Powell has 45 yards on 18 carries.

Tony Jones began the season as the primary ball carrier, but after a disappointing performance against Colorado State, where he rushed for just 43 yards on 16 carries, he hasn't seen the field much.

Junior Josh Ford got some carries against Fresno State, rushing 10 times for 61 yards. However, that was likely a case of getting the backups some time in a blowout, as he only had one carry in the previous two games.

These backs appear to be having a difficult time getting things going on the ground, but as Washington State fans know all too well, sometimes it's not so much about the guys in the backfield as it is the big dudes up front.

Offensive Line

The same five guys have started all three games for Colorado on the offensive line in David Bakhtiari, Alex Lewis, Brad Cotner, Daniel Munyer, and Jack Harris. The numbers say these guys aren't doing the job, even against some pretty bad teams.

Running backs are averaging 3.9 yards per carry overall, but take out that game against Sacramento State, and that average drops to 3.3 yards per carry.

The most damning statistic for this line comes in sack percentage. Using a quick-and-dirty (although not exactly accurate, but close) method, diving sacks by sacks plus pass attempts, we can get an estimation of how often the quarterback gets sacked.

For Colorado this year, the quarterback has been sacked on about 11 percent of dropbacks. For reference on how bad that is, the historically awful 2008-2010 WSU teams combined to allow sacks just under 10 percent of the time.

That's a good sign for a WSU defense that likes to bring pressure, and for Travis Long, who has been feasting on some bad offensive lines in the non-conference schedule.

There's just no other way to put this: Colorado's offense is bad. Most of the success came against Sacramento State, a team that finished seventh in the Big Sky last year.

The WSU defense isn't the type that is going to stifle an offense, so Colorado should be able to do something against the Cougars. But with the lack of production coming out of almost every position, it's going to be difficult for the Buffaloes going forward.

Statistics came from and Colorado's official site. Stick with CougCenter all week long for the best coverage of WSU's homecoming game. Head to Ralphie Report for analysis from the other side.