Analysis: Despite win, concerns remain for Colorado football

On Friday night, the Colorado Buffaloes football team won its third straight Rocky Mountain Showdown against the Colorado State Rams, 17-3. There was a lot of pessimism on how the team would perform after an offseason with a lot of turnover. Instead, the team offered a mixed performance. Here are some key takeaways from the game.

Kicking

The running back by committee approach is something that has been utilized successfully by many teams. Colorado may have been the first school to implement the kicking by committee technique. The team has three placekickers on its roster, and all three saw a specific role. If it worked, it wouldn’t be a big deal.

But it’s a big deal.

Inefficiency on special teams was the bane of the Buffaloes last season. That trend is looking to continue in 2017 with the performance of the field goal unit. Freshman James Stefanou was given the first go and he made half of his two attempts.

The saying with quarterbacks is that if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have a quarterback. Colorado has three kickers. And with a very questionable interference penalty already drawn from the special teams unit, it’s not just the kicker than will hurt the Buffs.

Trey Udoffia

To say that redshirt freshman defensive back Trey Udoffia had big shoes to fill is a massive understatement. The secondary last season often became the savior for the team during its rise. With most of the starters departing, there were doubters who worried about how well the unit would do this year.

And a lot of those doubters appeared to be right with Udoffia’s early performance in the game. There was a sequence of the Rams running on 1st down, running on 2nd down and passing to junior wide receiver Olabisi Johnson on 3rd down. Udoffia was in charge of covering Johnson. Colorado State did this pattern three times in a row and got a first down each time.

Then, Udoffia stepped up. Rams senior quarterback Nick Stevens continued to test Udoffia. The corner finally stepped up and made Stevens pay. This culminated in an impressive performance overall for the freshman. Udoffia ended with two pass deflections and a crucial interception late in the game.

“He played great,” junior defensive back Isaiah Oliver said. “He got his confidence up after the first half and just kept playing great football.”

Udoffia seems to be the corner of the future. If he continues this performance, Colorado’s secondary doesn’t have much to worry about.

Confidence

The Rocky Mountain Showdown last year was a coming out party. Even though it was only CSU, as compared to any of the team’s Pac-12 opponents, the Buffs looked like a changed unit. They played a suffocating game wire to wire, which was more than they had done in 2015. Mentally, it was night and day.

This year, that’s not the case.

Last season, it was a celebration. This year, the team felt deflated. The team still won, and in some areas exceeded expectations. But a lot of talk after the game lingered on the shortcomings.

“There’s always some rust in the first game,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “We will find a way to fix that and move on to next week.”

While a nationally recognized program is likely to implement a week-to-week mentality, it seems different here. Colorado faltered the longer the game went on. If anything, the team is supposed to get better and more into a groove with time.

Instead, sophomore quarterback Steven Montez had trouble finding receivers. When he did find them, they had trouble getting meaningful yards. And senior running back Phillip Lindsay went from having a potentially historic performance to a pedestrian second half — something went wrong on that side of the ball.

“They’re a great defense,” Montez said of the Rams.

Colorado State is relatively one of the easier teams the Buffs will face. The Pac-12 is full of strong defensive units. With Washington, USC and Utah on the docket, this type of outlook can’t be promising.

Contact CU Independent Editor-in-Chief Jake Mauff at jacob.mauff@colorado.edu, and follow him on Twitter @jake_mauff.

Jake Mauff

Jake Mauff is the Editor-in-Chief and staff writer for the CU Independent. He enjoys biking, hiking and running in what little free time that he has, and he has interviewed a variety of interesting people including a presidential candidate. You can follow him on Twitter at @jake_mauff.

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