Initial observations from the CU Buffs’ 42-6 loss to the Oregon Ducks in head coach Deion Sanders’ Pac-12 debut at Autzen Stadium on Saturday in Eugene, Ore.
Running on empty: The Buffs’ first nine plays of the game? Eight passes, one run (the latter for one yard). Clearly, offensive coordinator Sean Lewis does not trust CU’s run game, and it’s hard to blame him. Shedeur Sanders is special. That much we knew after three weeks. But the offensive line? That’s a work in progress — as evidenced by the Ducks’ seven sacks. Right now, the Buffs offense is way too one-dimensional. While that might work against the likes of TCU, Nebraska and CSU, it falls to pieces against college football’s upper echelon. Until CU can threaten defenses with a run game that churns out 4-5 yards per carry, there’s only so much its star quarterback can do.
Faked out: In a game where the Buffs were 21-point underdogs, somehow it was the Ducks who were taking the biggest risks. Fourth-and-short at the CU 30-yard line on their second drive? The Ducks converted. A fake punt inside Oregon’s 20-yard line on their third? Drive extended, with a TD soon thereafter. This was the sort of aggression the Buffs needed to bring from the first snap. Instead, on their first incursion into Oregon territory in the first quarter, they opted to punt on fourth-and-8 at the Ducks 38. One team played not to lose. The other like it needed to win. That it wasn’t the Buffs meant there was zero chance they were getting out of Eugene with a “W.”
It’s personal … again: The Buffs aren’t sneaking up anybody, ever again. Not after Big Noon Kickoff showed up three weeks in a row and College Gameday brought all those celebrities to Boulder. Lil’ Wayne? The Rock? 60 Minutes? Everyone is focused on the Buffs, including their opponents. Oregon coach Dan Lanning’s pregame speech to his Ducks, captured by ESPN, no doubt revealed the id of teams across the country: “Rooted in substance, not flash,” Lanning said. “… They’re fighting for clicks, we’re fighting for wins. There’s a difference, right? This game ain’t going to be played in Hollywood, it’s gonna be played on grass.” Get ready for more of that, CU.
Back to the drawing board: This is the humbling everyone thought they saw coming in Week 1 against TCU. It’s the blowout all the Coach Prime haters have been craving since he first brought his “Louis” to Boulder last winter. That it happened with two-way star Travis Hunter unable to suit up is immaterial. But that it didn’t happen until now — in Week 4 at 10th-ranked Oregon — remains a significant achievement. How the Buffs respond next week against another elite team (USC) at Folsom Field will say something about how this season is going to go. The Buffs still have so many things to play for. But lay another egg against USC, and things get uncomfortable.
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