Football preview: Colorado Buffaloes vs. Northern Colorado Bears

The Colorado Buffaloes football team had its first big victory of the season last Saturday with a commanding 37-3 win over the Texas State Bobcats of the Sun Belt conference.

This puts the Buffs at 2-0 to start the 2017 season, but despite their success execution problems on the offensive side of the field have been a problem. On Saturday, even though the Buffs outscored the Bobcats 23-3 in the second half, they only put up 14 points in the first. 

According to head coach Mike MacIntyre, who addressed the media following practice Monday morning, this is a problem the team can correct. Despite the Buffs’ early capitalization struggles during the first two weeks, there’s no secret that they’re loaded with talent and firepower on the offense. In other words, while execution logistics may be lacking, the talent is there and ready to fix early capitalization issues.

“Just keep [practicing], and we’ll eventually be on par and hit more of those plays,” MacIntyre said. “We hit two of them the other day, it’s 28-0 at halftime instead of 14-0, so it’s a whole new world. I thought when we came out in the second half we executed really well on par with everything.”

The Buffs’ 2017 is benefiting from the three opponents they face early in the season who are not parts of Power Five conferences. They attained victories over the first two, even if they looked slightly off while doing so. This week should yield similar results.

Also likely to help the Buffs continue their winning streak is Phillip Lindsay, who has carried a large part of the load on the field, averaging five yards per carry in the first two games. A candidate for the 2017 Doak Walker award, Lindsay is clearly a talented player.

Look for the Buffs to continue to pound the ball with Lindsay against the Bears on Saturday, allowing them to once again control the clock, pick up chunks of yardage and keep the opposing defense honest when establishing the run.

I see the Buffs formulating their whole offensive attack against the Bears around running the ball, forcing the respect of the defense. I also expect the dynamic wide receivers Shay Fields, Devin Ross and Bryce Bobo to build on their strong performances last Saturday.

In their opening game of the season, the Bears had a commanding and impressive 41-14 win over the College of Idaho Coyotes. In his first game back since suffering a devastating shoulder injury that ended his 2016 campaign, quarterback Jacob Knipp looked impressive in his season debut. He completed 17 of 27 passes for a total 238 yards.

Knipp – who broke Northern Colorado’s freshman passing records for touchdowns, completions and yards in 2015 – is a big-bodied quarterback who can stretch the field. At his disposal he has athletic wideouts Alex Wesley and Hakeem Deggs. Wesley can get physical with opposing defensive backs; Deggs is a speedster who has the ability to make plays in space and seems to have a built-in GPS for finding the open field. Deggs’ skill set led him to finish second in the FCS in kick return touchdowns in 2015.

Although the Bears have several shiny toys on the offensive side of the ball, they’re lacking that same type of firepower on defense. Last season, their secondary let up an astounding 329 yards and four touchdowns to the Colorado State Rams, not to mention 435 yards and five touchdowns to the Eastern Washington Eagles.

Both those teams were arguably the toughest competition the Bears faced in 2016. Needless to say, their defense has struggled mightily in the past when pitted against tough opponents. While they do have a winning record this season, their scheduled match against the Florida Gators, an SEC powerhouse, was cancelled because of Hurricane Irma. 

Overall, I see the Buffs coming out strong offensively and having their best performance yet. I believe CU will get off to a hot start early, with sophomore quarterback Steven Montez aggressively trying to stretch the field and exploit his wide receivers mismatch.

I also see junior defensive back Isaiah Oliver, who has been outstanding thus far, doing a excellent job containing the Bears top receivers. Although the Buffs have struggled to defend the run – most notably with Anthony Taylor’s 55-yard run to kick off last Saturday’s game against the Bobcats – the impressive linebacking core should perform well enough to improve their run defense.

I think the Bears will ultimately struggle to establish consistency on either side of the ball. They will struggle to stop the Buffs balanced attack on defense, and have difficulty moving the ball on offense.

Final Score: Colorado Buffaloes 35, UNC Bears, 14

Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer jack Stern at jack.stern@colorado.edu

Jack Stern

Jack Stern is a staff sports writer for the CU Independent. He is a know-it-all sports fan who soaks up anything sports related. His favorite sports are football, baseball, and basketball, but is always excited to learn about, and cover other sports. For story ideas, he can be contacted at jack.stern@colorado.edu or by phone at 718-938-5846.

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