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Brooks: New Buffs Eye New Outcome Against Bulldogs

Sep 13, 2013

BOULDER – New season, new team, new attitude, new game . . .

At least that’s the preferred mindset of the Colorado Buffaloes entering Saturday’s rematch with the team – Fresno State – that dealt them perhaps the ultimate embarrassment in a thoroughly embarrassing 2012 football season.

It ended 69-14, and given the ease in which they scored their 55 first-half points, it was not hard to imagine the Bulldogs reaching triple digits if first-year Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter hadn’t succumbed to sportsmanship or possibly pity.

But like CU’s returning players, DeRuyter also recognizes that the 2013 Buffs don’t look the same. The former Air Force defensive coordinator calls Mike MacIntyre’s first CU team “totally different . . . one that’s energized and one that’s playing very, very efficiently. It’ll be very apparent that it’s a totally different team.”

The Buffs hope so, and through two wins thus far in the MacIntyre era CU has made its mark with resolve. The new Buffs have made the last quarter their statement quarter, scoring 18 fourth-quarter points to defeat Colorado State (41-27) and 21 fourth-quarter points six days later to defeat Central Arkansas (38-24). The old Buffs would have rolled.

But Fresno State, also unbeaten (2-0) and perched just outside the Top 25 in the AP and USA Today weekly polls, is a notch (or several) above CU’s first two opponents. The Bulldogs feature one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in fifth-year senior Derek Carr, who played only the first half against the Buffs last September but produced 300 passing yards and five touchdowns.

Pressuring Carr, who has been sacked only once in two games, and disrupting his up-tempo offense is critical for the Buffs. So, said MacIntyre, is dealing with Fresno State’s overall speed and surer tackling by his defense: “We have to be able to do certain things to negate them being able to catch the ball and run. We have to be able to harass the quarterback, the same things you always do, and we have to be able to tackle in open space and know your leverages.”

In wins against Rutgers (52-51 OT) and Cal Poly (41-25), Carr is averaging 330 passing yards and has thrown for eight touchdowns (one interception). If he’s near the top of CU’s Saturday concerns, Buffs QB Connor Wood has DeRuyter’s attention.

“I’m concerned about Wood,” DeRuyter said. “He’s much improved. He’s much more accurate. You can see that he’s much more comfortable in this scheme . . . we’re looking at a totally different team than we played a year ago.”

Through his first two games, Wood is averaging 370 passing yards and has six passing TDs. Wood said his tape study of Fresno State shows, “They blitz a lot. They are complex up front. They try to fool quarterbacks with their defensive schemes. Coach DeRuyter and Coach (Nick) Toth (defensive coordinator) do a great job over there.”

Wood’s top target has been Paul Richardson, who leads the nation in receiving with 21 catches for 417 yards – a 19.9-yard average – and four TDs. Richardson said the Bulldogs “do a great job of disguising their coverages. They have a great defense. They stay to true to who they are, though. They run cover three, they run cover nine, they run quarters and they disguise it well. They disguise their cover two the best, but I think if we game plan the way we’ve been doing the past few days we should be solid and confident going into that game.”

CU hopes to run the ball more effectively than in its first two games. The Buffs are averaging 96.5 ground yards, but the Bulldogs are allowing 183.5 rushing yards a game. An improved run game would ease the pressure on Wood and help keep Carr and his offense off the field.

If MacIntyre’s team wins Saturday, it would mark CU’s first 3-0 start since 2008. It also would offer authentication of at least the start of a turn in the program. Still, MacIntyre isn’t viewing this game as a gauge: “I look at every game as a measuring stick, I really do,” he said. “I think this is a very good football team and we have to play very well and hopefully come out on the top end of it.”

CU running back Donta Abron echoed his coach: “For me personally I feel like every game is big. It doesn’t matter; any day you can lose. This one’s big, as well as week one and week two.”

And as for entering Folsom Field Saturday seeking revenge, Buffs running back Christian Powell said the more important factor is gaining respect.

“You go out there and play – that’s how you earn respect,” Powell said. “You perform on Saturdays; that’s what we have to do to get respect. You can’t help but have last season (against the Bulldogs) in the back of your mind. But this is a new team, a new season.”

New outcome? It’s up to the Buffs to make it happen on Saturday.

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU