Pac-12 Networks preview: Colorado
This post is the first in a series of 12 as we visit each Pac-12 school on the Pac-12 Networks Football Training Camp tour. Check Pac-12.com the day of each school's Football Training Camp stop for a quick season preview ahead of that night's show.
The Colorado Buffaloes travel to the house that John Elway built on Friday, Aug. 29 for their annual meeting with in-state rival Colorado State. When the two teams arrive in Denver, the Rams will see that the Buffs are coming into the 2014 season in phenomenal shape. Not only did head coach Mike MacIntyre lose 55 pounds this offseason, but the Buffs return 15 starters from a 2013 team that showed tremendous improvement and growth on both sides of the ball. If the #BuffDaddies can get off to a good start at the Rocky Mountain Showdown then the Boulder faithful will be feeling that “Rocky Mountain High.” Here we #GoBuffs!
- The Buffs made significant progress across the board in 2013, improving in 29 major statistical categories while becoming a much more disciplined team. Colorado set a record for the fewest fumbles in a season with just 14 – losing only nine – just one year after losing 15 of their 29 fumbles. The Buffaloes also dramatically cut down on penalties, committing just 52 (19th in penalties per game in FBS), the fewest since 1985 and ending the season with just 10 over the final four games, a 50-year program low for that long of a span.
- Colorado has to be excited for the return of seven starters on the offensive side of the ball as well as many other playmakers. Quarterback Sefo Liufau enters his first full season as the starting quarterback after becoming just the sixth true freshman to ever start a game at QB for Colorado and just the third freshman to lead the Buffaloes in single-season passing, joining Craig Ochs (2000, also a true frosh) and Cody Hawkins (2007, a redshirt freshman). Liufau will miss his go-to receiver Paul Richardson, who broke or tied 29 school records while in Boulder. Richardson and his 83 receptions, 1,343 yards, and 10 TDs from 2013 are now in Seattle with the Seahawks so wide receivers Nelson Spruce (55 receptions), D.D. Goodson (22 receptions) and Tyler McCulloch (14 receptions) will have to fill the void in 2014. The Buffs' running game comes back fully intact with tailbacks Christian Powell (562 yards), Michael Adkins II (535 yards) and Tony Jones (249 yards) carrying the ball behind returning linemen Kaiwi Crabb, Daniel Munyer and Stephane Nembot. This season when people mention the Buffs' running game, fans won’t think that they’re referring to Ralphie.
- On the defensive side of the ball, the Buffs return eight starters, including seven of their top 10 tacklers from a year ago. They’ll have to replace defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe, who led the squad in sacks each of the last two years. Luckily for Colorado, it found a tackling machine last year in inside linebacker Addison Gillam. In 2013 Gillam became the first freshman to ever lead CU in tackles since the stat was first tracked in 1964. He set seven school records for a freshman, including most tackles in a season and in a game, with 119 and 18 respectively. To gauge how big an impact Gillam has made in such a short time, how about the fact that he and fellow true sophomore Sefo Liufau were selected by the team to be team captains. This marks the first time in Colorado football history that sophomores have been named team captains.
- Believe it or not, in just under six weeks it’s going to be the 20th anniversary of the Miracle at Michigan. On Sept. 24, 1994 Colorado went to “The Big House” in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where it trailed the Wolverines 26-21 with six seconds and 64 yards to go. Head coach Bill McCartney and offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel (ever heard of him?) called the play “Rocket Left” and what happened next was one of the greatest plays in football history. It can best be described as in…wait for it…credible.
Colorado’s mascot is, of course, Ralphie. There have been a few versions of Ralphie since she was introduced back in 1966. Which number Ralphie are we on now?
Tweet me the answer @RyanMcGrady and I’ll applaud your math skillz.
(Credit: Colorado Sports Information Department. Much respect to David Plati and Curtis Snyder, who are legends.)