There are bend-but-don't-break defenses.

Colorado's defense was just broken during the 69-14 loss at Fresno State.

The Buffs gave up nine plays of 20-plus yards, which accounted for a total of 419 yards (46.6 per) for the Bulldogs. That included one-play touchdown drives of 97, 94 and 60 yards.

By rule, Fresno State did have to kickoff after each score. And the CU offense was equally inept.

The Buffs had 10 drives end in punts, four drives end with interceptions, two garbage-time drives end in touchdowns, and the clock mercifully ran out to end the final drive.

After falling behind 35-0 in the first quarter and 55-7 by the intermission, head coach Jon Embree said that his team was not executing anything that had been worked on in practices leading up to the game.

Why not?

"This group of players, they are pleasers. That is one thing about this team, they are pleasers," Embree explained this week. "I think at times when you are that kind of person, you want to try and do it perfectly. You don't want to make a mistake, you don't want to do some stuff.

"And when you do that, you make mistakes and things arise. Part of it is relaxing and understanding, you don't play a perfect game and you still win. Understanding about focusing and getting in on the next play. That's probably our number one issue when it goes bad."

Embree said that during Thursday's practice he's going to remind his players that football is supposed to be fun.


"It's always been to me, if you won you had fun," said junior safety Parker Orms, who led Wheat Ridge High School to a state championship. "Football is a game and we have to have fun with it. We can't play so tight and tense like we have this season.

"There are guys out there who aren't having fun even if they make a play. They're kind of moping around or whatever. We can't do that at all."

The Buffs (0-3) didn't appear to be as excited for the Rocky Mountain Showdown as Colorado State, didn't appear to be fired up about running out behind Ralphie for the Folsom Field opener against Sacramento State, and acted like they had a plane to catch before the kickoff at Fresno State.

If CU doesn't play with emotion and intensity at Washington State on Saturday, the Pac-12 opener isn't going to be any more enjoyable than the painful non-conference portion of the schedule was.

"I think sometimes when we get down early in the game we can tighten up," said quarterback Connor Wood, who inherited a 21-0 deficit when he replaced starter Jordan Webb at Fresno State. "I think we've sometimes failed as a team to understand it's a long game and we can't get down if they score a touchdown or two touchdowns early. We've just got to fight back."

Through three games, CU's defense has allowed 17 plays of 20 yards or longer for a total of 640 yards (37.6 per snap). The other 187 plays have netted 789 yards (4.2 per).

Webb has engineered 30 drives for the CU offense, guiding the team to seven touchdowns and one field goal. The Buffs have gained 651 yards on the 152 snaps the Kansas transfer has taken (4.28 yards per play).

Wood has been on the field for eight drives and led CU to just 107 yards on 27 plays (3.96 yards per play).

Nick Hirschman was the quarterback of record for one of the Buffs' touchdowns at Fresno State. The third-string signal caller took 24 snaps and was 1-for-3 passing for 41 yards; CU gained a total of 112 yards on those plays (4.67 per).

"Clearly what we're doing on the field isn't enough," left tackle David Bakhtiari said. "We're not executing the way we should be on all phases of the game. In order to do that, we all need to step up. It shouldn't be pinpointing one leader. It's all of us together collectively need to step up.

"Guys need to take pride out there."

Through three games, CU ranks 107th nationally in both passing defense (287.3 yards per game) and total defense (476.3 yards per game).

There is a chance defensive coordinator Greg Brown could be getting some more help soon. Embree said there is a chance sophomore cornerback Greg Henderson (ankle) will come back this week, and senior linebacker Doug Rippy (knee) is planning to play on Sept. 29 against UCLA. Starting free safety Ray Polk (ankle) is expected to get out of a walking boot this week to begin rehab.

The Buffs have been using true freshmen Kenneth Crawley, Marques Mosley and Yuri Wright in the defensive backfield.

"What are we going to be like with Yuri Wright, Kenneth Crawley and Marques Mosley as juniors?" Embree wondered aloud this week. "It will be something. Those guys have been great."

That might bode well for 2014, but the growing pains made it difficult to watch CU at Bulldog Stadium.

Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is moving from the press box to the sideline this week. Quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer will be helping with the play-calling.

The Buffs plan to use both Webb and Wood again. They combined to complete 10-of-27 passes for 132 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions against Fresno State.

"Jordan Webb has been in this offense seven, eight weeks. He's a young player in our offense," Scherer said. "Plus the other two guys are truly young players. Yeah, he has game experience, but he doesn't know this offense. So he's growing with it, and our other quarterbacks are, too."

The coaching staff plans to keep simplifying the game plans until this team can start executing.

"Really right now, it is about playing better from the mistake and assignment standpoint," Embree said. "So adding new schemes and wrinkles will just make it worse. So we will continue to streamline and to get it to where we can play fast and better from a mistake standpoint."

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