The Colorado Buffaloes are 3-3 at the official midway point of their football season. Does any other regular season in sports fly by so fast?
We've seen plenty for CU fans to be excited about in the first six games this fall and still plenty of the same old problems. Yet, entering Saturday's homecoming game against Arizona, the Buffs have an opportunity to get to the postseason for the first time since 2007 if they can win three more games in the second half.
Some believe the idea is farfetched based on how the Buffs have remained uncompetitive in the Pac-12 Conference and others, including the coaches and players, believe it's an attainable goal. We'll begin to find out Saturday night.
This week seemed like an appropriate time to catch up with CU offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren, who is in his first season in the Pac-12 Conference, and defensive coordinator Kent Baer, who is in his 19th season in the Pac-12, including 18 during a 21-season period from 1987-2007. During that time, he served as defensive coordinator at Cal, Arizona State, Stanford and Washington.
We'll start on the offensive side of the ball where CU now has true freshman Sefo Liufau playing quarterback and learning from Lindgren, who also played the position at Idaho (2001-2003).
Buffzone: Last year at San Jose State, your offense put up almost 6,000 yards of total offense. As a coach has been difficult at all coming back to earth this season?
Lindgren: Anywhere you're at I think any coach wants to experience success move the ball a lot and score a lot of points. I think this year I think we've been trying to build on the successes that we've had every week. We're working towards it I guess would be the best thing to say.
Buffzone: What are the keys to success for Sefo Liufau going forward the rest of the year and into the future?
Lindgren: I think the number one thing for him is taking care of the football. That's what we're telling him. The last game he did a great job. He had no turnovers and at the quarterback position the first five games, we turned the ball over too many times. We had interceptions, we fumbled in the pocket and that's something we really emphasize in our room. The next thing is just making the plays when they're available. If we've got an open guy, we need to be able to make the throw. Earlier in the season, we missed some opportunities like that particularly on third down. We've been really working on it as a whole offense just converting third downs and doing a better job with that. The last two weeks we've been 50 percent of better, which has helped us stay on the field and helped us sustain drives.
Buffzone: Obviously you're not happy settling for field goals in the red zone instead of scoring touchdowns. Have you been able to put your finger on what is causing you to have to settle for field goals so often?
Lindgren: I think the No. 1 thing when you get down in the red zone is you've got to be able to run the ball. We've got to be able to run the ball better when we get down there and when people get in the box. We've got to do a better job up front, we've got to run harder and the quarterback has to get us sometimes into the right run. There is a lot of things that go into it, but I think that is the No. 1 thing when you talk about scoring in the red zone is running the ball. Then it's a matter of guys making plays and winning one-on-one battles on the perimeter. We've got to get down there more, too.
Buffzone: At the midway point of the season, how do you feel about what your offense has done and what do you hope it is able to do in the second half?
Lindgren: The No. 1 thing is we've got to stay on the field longer I think. Our third-down percentage for the first six has been kind of low and we've been putting ourselves in too many third-and-long situations. That goes back to first down. So I think staying on the field, keeping our defense on the sideline cause they're seeing a lot of really powerful offenses, that's a key for us. And I think it's taking care of the football, not turning it over and putting our guys in bad situations. I want to see just more consistency at all positions as far as execution of the things that we're doing. In the first six games it's been sometimes we've got 10 guys doing it right and one guy that is getting beat or one guy making a mistake or something is just a little bit off.
Buffzone: When defenses are successful in taking Paul Richardson away, what needs to happen in your offense to replace that element?
Lindgren: Well, other guys have to step up and I thought Nelson Spruce has done a pretty good job and we've got to get him more balls and other guys need to step up. I think we've got to be able to run the football. Last week against Charleston Southern I thought we did a nice job. We really wanted to emphasize the run and I thought we were better up front. I thought we ran the ball pretty good and that was good to see, but I think the other guys have to step up and make plays.
Buffzone: You only two players in your entire offense who have made 20 starts or more and those two guys -- Daniel Munyer and Gus Handler -- are right at 20 starts. How does that overall lack of experience affect your offense?
Lindgren: I mean, any time you've got guys with experience, it's huge especially at this level. The guys that are used to executing under fire and executing under that kind of pressure and in that environment I think is key. Then just being in different situations in a football game, you can simulate it as much as you want on the practice field, but when you get out there and guys got to realize and know down and distance and where we're at and what the score is in the game and how that plays into what we're trying to do. I think when you get experienced players, they've been through it and they've learned from it and that's huge. Hopefully we're building that with some of the young guys that we've got playing.