During its 45-28 loss to Michigan last Saturday, the Colorado football team was doomed by its special teams.

The Buffaloes were also hurt by Michigan's big plays on offense, particularly when the Wolverines were able to get to the outside and down the sidelines.

"Our edge setter, Derek McCartney, went out, so that hurt us a little bit there," CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "They hurt us on a couple toss sweeps."

The Wolverines also hurt the Buffs on screen passes to the edge, particularly a 45-yarder to receiver Amara Darboh just before the half. Darboh broke a couple CU tackles and raced down the sideline for a go-ahead touchdown.

Given Michigan's success and the fact that Oregon has some of the best speed in the Pac-12 conference, MacIntyre fully knows the Buffs (2-1) have their hands full on Saturday when they visit the Ducks (2-1).

"I'm definitely, for sure, 100 percent that Oregon is going to attack us outside more, so we've got to sure that up," he said. "They'll do it a little different (than Michigan). They'll try to stretch the field with us."

MacIntyre specifically mentioned Oregon running backs Royce Freeman, Taj Griffin, Tony Brooks-James and Kani Benoit as being dangerous speedsters.

Freeman, Griffin and Benoit combined for 304 rushing yards against the Buffs last season when the teams met in Boulder.


Losing McCartney to a season-ending knee injury won't help, but the Buffs feel they are better equipped to handle Oregon's speed than they have been in the past.

"I feel confident in it," MacIntyre said. "If you let them get started they get rolling, so we have to keep from them getting started too quick."

The Buffs will lead on outside linebackers Jimmie Gilbert, NJ Falo, Christian Shaver and Terran Hasselbach to set the edge this week. They could also lean on junior inside linebacker Addison Gillam more. Gillam, one of the fastest linebackers on the team, dealt with cramps against Michigan and didn't play as much expected, but MacIntyre said, "He'll play more this week."

Speed, of course, has been the key to Oregon's success over the years. The Ducks are one of the best teams in the country at running up-tempo. With CU now running a more up-tempo offense, that could help the defense be better prepared for the Ducks.

"I would think both of our teams defensively won't really have a problem with the speed of the game," MacIntyre said. "Now it's just going to be who executes the best."

That's really the key, as far as CU defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt is concerned. He believes the Buffs are better on defense, but can they perform against an explosive offense like Oregon.

"That's the thing, how do we measure up?" Leavitt said. "How good are we? All the work we've put in, when is it going to come to fruition?

"We need to be confident because of who we are and what we've built and what we've done. We just need to be confident in what we're trying to execute and the players we have."

Liufau progressing

Quarterback Sefo Liufau continues to improve in his recovery from a sprained ankle, but the Buffs still aren't sure if the senior will start against the Ducks.

"I am encouraged, but it's still going to be a game time (decision)," MacIntyre said. "You never know how it'll recover after tonight. Every day he's made a little bit of progress.

"He was better than he was (Tuesday) and moving around better."

MacIntyre said Liufau's sprain, suffered early in the third quarter against Michigan was "in between" a high sprain and a low sprain. Liufau has practiced a bit the past two days, however.

Redshirt freshman Steven Montez continues to take a good chunk of the first-team reps in preparation for potentially making his first collegiate start.


MacIntyre said the battle for kicking duties continues between Chris Graham and Davis Price. "I think that'll be another game-type of (decision)," he said. ... Leavitt said Gillam is not a candidate to move to outside linebacker and replace McCartney. "We need him inside," Leavitt said.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.