Game at a Glance
Matchup: Colorado Buffaloes (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) at No. 15 Washington State Cougars (6-1, 3-1)
Kickoff: 8:45 p.m. MDT
Where: Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. Capacity: 32,952; Turf: FieldTurf.
Radio: KOA (850 AM & 94.1 FM)
Odds: Washington State by 10
Coaches: Colorado — Mike MacIntyre, 5th season (24-34; 40-55 career); Washington State — Mike Leach, 6th season (35-35; 119-78 career)
Series: Colorado leads 6-4 (1-1 in Pullman)
Early in the season, the Colorado Buffaloes were having trouble getting their offense rolling, but the defense was shutting down the opposition.
Over the last few weeks, the defense hasn't been able to stop anybody, but the offense is scoring regularly.
"We still haven't put a full game together with offense and defense and special teams," senior running back Phillip Lindsay said.
That's partly why the Buffaloes (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) are swimming in mediocrity as they prepare for the final five games of the regular season, beginning Saturday with a visit to No. 15 Washington State (6-1, 3-1).
Although time is running out on the Buffs to find that complete game, they are confident it's still out there.
"We're excited (for this game)," senior outside linebacker Derek McCartney said. "We're here and getting better. Just ready to go."
Offensively, the Buffs have hit their stride a bit in the past few games, although not in the fashion many expected.
With a talented group of receivers and strong-armed young quarterback Steven Montez, the Buffs were projected to be a high-octane passing team.
Instead, they've become a grind-it-out running team, powered by the legs of Lindsay.
Lindsay has 505 yards in total offense (466 rushing, 39 receiving) over the past two games, accounting for 54 percent of the Buffs' production on his own. He's also scored five touchdowns in that stretch.
"We're going where our strengths are and he's done a great job for us running the football," head coach Mike MacIntyre said.
Led by Lindsay, the Buffs have become a ball control offense that has had 10 possessions of 10 plays or more in the past three games.
CU is one of just two teams in the country (along with Duke) that has had four scoring drives of 15 plays or more, and they've all come in the last three games.
While the Buffs would love to have the quick-strike touchdowns, their ability to put together long drives has been critical, and will continue to be as they go forward.
"It's important to be efficient," co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini said. "Whether it's scoring a bunch of points or whether it's ball control, you want to be efficient in whatever you're doing."
In theory, the ball control offense should help CU's struggling defense.
"It helps the defense to stay off the field and try to stay fresh," MacIntyre said.
Being fresh hasn't mattered, however.
CU's offense has had six touchdown drives of 10 plays or more in the past two games, but each time, the Buffs' rested defense gave up points (five touchdowns, one field goal) on the ensuing possession.
"When it comes down to it, it's just execution," linebacker Drew Lewis said. "It's always one person who makes a mistake, like playing front side when he should have played back side. That'll cause a 4- or 5-yard gain every time.
"Every day we're trying to finish plays off and we need to come together as a defense. Everyone needs to be able to finish a play."
While the Buffs played good defense early in the season, they are feeling the effects that come from losing eight starters and 10 major contributors from last year.
"Like everybody thought, we've had some tough times and some really good games," MacIntyre said. "I knew it would be a little bit of a growing experience when you've had eight of those guys that went to NFL teams last year."
Those players aren't coming back, however, so it's up to the Buffs to figure out how to get their current defenders to produce more good moments than bad.
"The whole thing is you've got to just keep working with them and keep maturing," MacIntyre said.
Until then, the Buffs continue their search for the complete game.
"In this sport, you're never going to be confident where you are, no matter how good you're doing or if something goes wrong," Lindsay said. "You can always work on something. As a unit, we're not going to always click at the same time.
"It's about clicking at the right times in the game."