Coming off of a 51-6 blowout via USC last Saturday, it’s tough for CU football fans to be optimistic. With the Buffs on the road this weekend facing No. 2 ranked Oregon, a game that CU lost last year 45-2, it’s nearly impossible. Though there seems to be very little hope for the remainder of the 2012 football season, head coach Jon Embree was able to see the silver lining in it all on Tuesday at his weekly press conference in the Dal Ward Athletic Center.
“I feel good about where they [the team] are considering the circumstances. How we practiced yesterday and what we will do today, we will see what the energy and the tempo is,” Embree said.
The circumstances Embree ostensibly was talking about are the facts that CU has been outscored 72-177 this season in Pac-12 play, the 18 turnovers committed in seven games, and that they’ve lost 19 straight road games against ranked teams. Even with the unlikely odds, Embree remained optimistic.
“Getting ready for Oregon, obviously we know the challenges they present, especially offensively,” Embree said. “It is without a doubt going to be a great challenge, but one we are looking forward to.”
Oregon is coming into Saturday’s match with the fourth ranked rushing offense, eighth ranked total offense, and No. 2 ranked scoring offense in the NCAA—averaging 51 points per game. In comparison, CU has been averaging 18.7 points per game, and rushing 109.7 yards to Oregon’s 317.1.
“Their’s is just a whole other level. One is the speed that they have at their skill positions; it is unlike any other programs that we have seen that run it. The speed at which they go, and run plays,” Embree said. “They just play at a different tempo.”
Offense is only half of the equation. Embree seemed particularly impressed with the Duck’s defense, saying they seemed stronger than previous years. Stronger than last year, where the defense held the Buffs to only 230 yards of total offense, and zero touchdowns.
“But I think the thing that is the most impressive about Oregon, after watching all of their games, is their defense,” said Embree. “I think their defense is outstanding, they have a tremendous personnel, their linebackers have great size and range, they all can run, they are violent when they tackle you.”
Embree isn’t the only one with high hopes for Saturday’s bout. The players, too, seem desperately optimistic.
“My freshman year of high school we were 1-6,” said freshman tight end Vincent Hobbs. “Then we went to districts and went undefeated. It hit us and everything changed and we went three games into the playoffs. It just goes to show anything can happen.”
The any-given-Sunday attitude is necessary for the Buffs, and with their track record, likely their only hope against a foe like Oregon. And that’s not to undermine CU, it’s simply empirical evidence. Jon Embree and his Buffaloes are going to be taking away more from these next few games than notches in the wins and losses columns, it will be a chance for the players to test their mettle and for the dangerously young team to gain experience against high caliber competition.
“That is my mindset and focus,” said Embree.”To continue that improvement so when you ask about disappointment and discouragement, I’m focused on the guys that are continuing to improve, that want to improve, and keep working hard, keep showing up, and keep doing it.”
Keeping your eyes closed this weekend may be the only way to keep from grinding your teeth to nubs, but for Embree and the men of the Buffaloes, this game — and on a bigger scale, this season — are just baby steps towards the team that the coaching staff and fan are looking for.
Watch the Buffs this Saturday, October 27th on the Pac-12 Network starting at 1 p.m. PST.
Contact CU Independent Sports Editor Ryan Sterner at Ryan.firstname.lastname@example.org.