Buffs Prepare For Cal Veteran QB Garbers
BOULDER — After giving up 22 plays of at least 20 yards in the first five games of the season, the Colorado Buffaloes' defense held Arizona to just two explosive plays in last weekend's 34-0 victory.
Arizona's biggest gains were a 23-yard run and a 23-yard pass.
The task of limiting those explosive plays will be a key for the 2-4 Buffs (1-2 Pac-12) again Saturday at Cal (1-5, 0-3).
The 1:30 p.m. game will be televised by the Pac-12 Network with KOA carrying the radio broadcast.
Bears veteran quarterback Chase Garbers, now in his fourth season as a starter, leads the Pac-12 in total offense (283.3 yards per game) and has 38 plays of at least 15 yards this season (31 passes, 7 rushes).
"Whenever you have a guy that's been a multi-year starter, they've seen most of the tricks of the trade," Dorrell said. "From what defenses present, they can find some weak links and do a number of things. That's always the challenge when you're playing against a guy that's a multi-year starter — you know he's going to find ways to get his skill players the football."
Garbers' favorite targets have been wideouts Kekoa Crawford (nine plays of at least 15 yards), Jeremiah Hunter (eight) and Trevon Clark (seven). All three are among the Pac-12's leaders in yards per reception, with Clark leading the group at 20.4 yards per catch.
"They're balanced," Dorrell said. "They do a good job of really spreading the ball on the perimeter. They try to attack you in some of the run game and the quarterback is pretty keen. If he sees an opening, he can get to a play he wants."
While the Bears have struggled this season — their only victory thus far came against Sacramento State — they have been in nearly every game. Four of their five losses have been by seven points or less, including a 31-24 overtime loss to Washington and a 24-17 loss to Oregon last week. The Bears had a chance to tie the Ducks late in the game, but came up short at the 2-yard line as time expired.
EXPLOSIVE PLAYS: While Colorado's offense no doubt had its best day of the season in last weekend's 34-0 blanking of Arizona, the Buffaloes had been showing signs of improvement over the last three games.
One area that took a big step forward came in explosive plays — those plays of 20 yards or longer.
In the first three games of the year, the Buffs had just five plays of at least 20 yards. But in the last three, they have put up eight explosive plays, including a season-high five against Arizona.
CU's longest play of the season is still a 65-yard pass from Brendon Lewis to tight end Brady Russell against Southern California. But against the Wildcats, they added a 62-yard touchdown pass from Lewis to Brenden Rice, a 43-yard pass from Lewis to Alex Fontenot, a 31-yard Lewis-to-Rice connection, and two passes from Lewis to Montana Lemonious-Craig covering 25 and 22 yards.
Defensively, the Buffs also had a solid day in limiting explosive plays. Arizona's longest plays were a 23-yard pass completion and a 23-yard run.
"The big thing was we limited explosive plays," said defensive end Carson Wells, who had four tackles for loss in the game. "That was a big stepping stone."
O-LINE CONTINUITY: After having four different starting offensive line combinations in the first four games, the Buffs have now had the same starting group the last three games: Jake Wiley at left tackle, Kary Kutsch at left guard, Colby Pursell at center, Casey Roddick at right guard and Frank Fillip at right tackle.
"I believe we played better last week," Dorrell said. "We want to continue to shore up our issues on that in terms of our offensive front and I believe we're going to play better now."
Fillip is finally rounding into shape after missing much of the spring and all of fall camp.
"He played much better last week," Dorrell said. "He's kind of starting to get into the groove."
Only two of CU's linemen — Wiley and Kutsch — have started every game this fall.