Graham and Price will compete for two separate jobs this week: place kicking and handling kickoffs. Ultimately, replacing Gonzalez as a place kicker may not be that difficult for the Buffs, but they might really miss him on kickoffs.
As a place kicker, Gonzalez never found consistency, making just 21 of 33 kicks (63.6 percent) during his career. He was especially erratic on longer kicks.
- From 32 yards or less: 14 of 16 (87.5 percent)
- From 33 yards or more: 7 of 17 (41.2 percent)
On kickoffs, however, Gonzalez could arguably have been the best in CU history at producing touchbacks, with 16 of his 19 kickoffs going for touchbacks (84.2 percent) this season. CU kickoff statistics go back to 1999, and nobody has come close to that number. The top five since 1999:
- 70.5 percent - Mason Crosby (2005)
- 70.3 percent - Crosby (2003)
- 69.5 percent - Crosby (2004)
- 60.9 percent - Crosby (2006)
- 55.7 percent - Will Oliver (2014)
Gonzalez averaged roughly 73 yards per kickoff this year, sending 13 of the 19 out of the back the end zone. He was on pace for 64 touchbacks, which would have shattered CU's single-season record (47 by Mitch Berger in 1992).
Graham was the kickoff specialist in 2015 and had just 17 touchbacks on 58 kickoffs. He averaged 61.1 yards per kick, sending just five out of the back of the end zone.
On Monday, Graham said he feels he's improved on his kickoffs since last season.
"I worked a ton in the offseason to just stay more upright, allowing my hips to get through the ball more and definitely get some more distance on it," he said. "I didn't feel like I had a great year kicking off last year. I thought I could have hit more touchbacks, so we'll see how it goes this year. I'm looking forward to getting more this year. I feel much better and more confident about my kickoffs, and field goals, for that matter."
Graham might feel more confident, but has not proven he has the leg strength to get more touchbacks. He handled four kickoffs during CU's 56-7 rout of Idaho State on Sept. 10 and none of them reached the end zone. He averaged 63.5 yards per kick and all four were returned.
Price may actually be the better option for the Buffs on kickoffs. Last year at Evergreen High School, 55 of his 63 kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Of course, high school kickoffs are from the 40-yard line instead of the 35, but Price sent several kicks to the back of the end zone.
Falo excited about return
Sophomore linebacker NJ Falo returns this week after being suspended the first three games for an off-the-field incident in the spring. He called it a "blessing" to be able to come back to the Buffs.
"It's kind of like an early birthday present or an early Christmas gift," he said. "That's how I feel. I'm blessed to be back. I'm excited more than ever, more than when I first got here, but I'm just happy to be back, get ready to be a part of this team and contribute."
Falo and running back Dino Gordon both pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary after they were accused of stealing items from a dorm room in April. They were both suspended from team activities over the summer.
"I feel like I've matured a lot more and becoming more of a man every day, learning from my mistakes," Falo said. "I'm always moving to see what's in the big picture, always moving forward to my future and doing what I can do."
Gordon remains suspended.
- Both teams will be banged up this week. In addition to Gonzalez, the Buffs lost starting outside linebacker Derek McCartney to a season-ending torn ACL last week. Oregon, meanwhile, had receiver Devon Allen (ACL) and left tackle Tyrell Crosby (foot) suffer season-ending injuries. On top of that, both teams are uncertain about the status of their top players on offense - Colorado QB Sefo Liufau (ankle) and Oregon running back Royce Freeman (leg).
- With the uncertain status of Liufau and Freeman, odds makers have yet to set a line for Saturday's game (as of Tuesday morning). Since joining the Pac-12, the Buffs have played 23 conference games on the road. They have been a double-digit underdog in 22 of those games, the only exception being last year's game at Oregon State. The Buffs were a 1-point underdog going to Corvallis and won, 17-13. CU has been favored just twice in 45 conference games since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.
- Graham has mixed emotions as he competes for the kicking job this week. "It's amazing I get that opportunity, but the way it comes about, (Gonzalez) is one of my best friends here. I hang out with him every day. We talk about every kick. He's still going to be around, but I'm sorry to have his season end like that."
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.