Prepare your avocado toast and mimosas everyone! The Bears challenge the Buffs in Boulder at an 11 AM PT kickoff. Let’s take a look at the Colorado defense under coordinator D.J. Eliot.
2017 Defensive Highlights (To-Date)
Previous Opponents: Colorado State (17-3), Texas St. (37-3), Northern Colorado (41-21), Washington (10-37), UCLA (23-27), Arizona (42-45), Oregon St. (36-33), Washington St. (0-28)
Opponent Total Yards: 3,376 (1,825 pass, 1,551 rush)
Turnovers: 13 (+4 margin, 7 INT)
Opponent 3rd Down Efficiency: 48-113 (42.5%)
I would like to offer a heartfelt apology to Colorado fans for what washed over them last week in Pullman. Though the Buffs were held scoreless for the first time since November 2012 (against the junior university from across the Bay), the CU defense actually yielded their lowest total yards in conference play this season (although allowing 406 yards of offense is not necessarily commendable).
In conference games, the Colorado defense, at a minimum, has allowed 27 points and 400 yards. Despite some solid season performances by their leading tackler LB Drew Lewis (83 tackles, 7 QBP) and DL Leo Jackson III (5.5 TFL), the Buffs’ defense has looked inconsistent and vulnerable to the opposing team’s strengths. What I am trying to say is that it appears in 2017 when Pac-12 opponents face off against CU, their best traits tend to shine. For example, Khalil Tate and the Wildcat rushing attack dropped 413 yards rushing on the Buffalo while Josh Rosen connected for 372 yards against the team from Boulder in the Rose Bowl.
In certain drives, the Colorado D has stepped up to make a necessary play, but overall, this Buffs team looks much different than 2016.
Keys to Cal’s Success
As mentioned above, when Pac-12 teams face the Colorado defense, their strengths appear to be amplified. So, what is our offensive prowess?
1. Balanced attack (weird to say after the Bear Raid) - Beau Baldwin was able to slowly grind down the Wazzu defense with his increased use of Vic Enwere, allowing Ross Bowers more freedom to make some key looks downfield. If the Bears can accomplish a similar rhythm on Saturday in Boulder, they should be able to put up effective scoring drives.
2. Clutch receiver corps - Barring the two-point conversion attempt in 2OT against UofA, the Cal receivers have done a stand-up job pulling down the ball to give us key yardage in 3rd down scenarios. Whether it has been the go-to Kanawai Noa, Vic Wharton III, or even key grabs by Jordan Veasy, the Bears’ receivers have outperformed expectations, especially after the loss of D-Rob for the season.
3. Matty Ice - Just put us in range (which was extended to 52 yards against Arizona). Even if Bowers and company just can’t seem to punch it in to the end zone, I will forever trust in Anderson. Yes, he has had a few odd misses this season, but that solid 52-yarder restored all confidence. Put the ball anywhere near the 30 and we have a shot to score.
This has been a tale of two seasons for Colorado and Cal. Last year, the Buffs defied all expectations and gave Pac-12 fans across the west a feel-good team for which to root for against the entrenched perennial powerhouses. After a 10-win season and a trip to the Pac-12 championship game, the Colorado base had every reason to expect much from their squad under Mike MacIntyre. Conversely, the Bears floundered their way to a 5-win campaign, resulting in the exit of the Dykes regime and a program in need of a culture shift. In comes Justin Wilcox and his staff of experienced coordinators and Cal downs opponents from the ACC, SEC, and a top-10 conference foe. Yes, we might not be a top-25 team this year, but the whispers of “trust the process” permeate the air in Memorial Stadium.