So far this season, the Colorado offensive line has done a great job of protecting its quarterbacks.
The Buffs have been sacked just eight times – an average of 1.6 per game, the third-fewest in the Pac-12. Half of those came against Michigan on Sept. 17.
CU’s line could face a tough challenge on Saturday, though, as the Buffs (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) visit Southern California (2-3, 1-2).
Last week in a victory against Arizona State, USC blitzed more than it has all season, racked up three sacks and put pressure on Sun Devils quarterbacks all night.
“(USC’s) Clancy Pendergast is an excellent defensive coordinator,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “I know Clancy pretty well. Last week he did a lot of blitzing, brought a lot of safety blitzes. It kind of reminded me of the days with the Dallas Cowboys and Mike Zimmer, because he worked for Mike Zimmer and so did I. That’s how we know each other. He was bringing safety blitzes from the boundary a tremendous amount, which is a Zimmer trademark.
“That was the first time they’ve done that that much. I expect us to see some of those types of blitzes in this game.”
Last week, the Buffs didn’t allow any sacks, and CU co-offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren was encouraged by that performance.
“I thought that was probably their most full effort as a group,” Lindgren said of the offensive line. “I thought the guys put together a pretty good game. I thought we were able to run the ball well and we did some good things in pass protection.”
Aside from the offensive line, the Buffs will need their running backs to do a good job in picking up blitzes. Junior Phillip Lindsay may be CU’s best running back when it comes to pass protection, so his job will be key against the Trojans.
After 10 consecutive losing seasons, CU has become a national story with its 4-1 start. The Buffs are garnering attention from ESPN and other media outlets, who view them as one of most surprising teams in the country.
USC head coach Clay Helton is not surprised, however. His Trojans struggled to win in Boulder last year, 27-24, and he’s seen the Buffs getting better.
“We saw it coming,” Helton said this week on USC’s Trojans Live show. “We could see it last year. They were losing close game after close game. We were one of them. I remember walking away from that game saying, ‘Wow they’re doing it the right way.’ They’re recruiting quality athletes, bringing them in and really developing them. Coach MacIntyre did that at San Jose State, now he’s at Colorado. I thought it was a great hire. He’s doing it again. He’s got some older kids that have grown up. They’re an older bunch and they’re a bunch that has grown up under him.”
While the Buffs are off to a host start and getting more attention and respect, they know they still have a lot of respect to gain and earn.
“We have respect to earn from everybody, honestly,” receiver Shay Fields said. “This is our first time being ranked so we just have to go out and prove that we are a ranked team. Some teams don’t respect so we just have to make them believers.”
Quarterback Sefo Liufau agrees, but said the self-confidence in the CU locker room is a big deal.
“We have a lot of respect to earn and go take from a lot of people, not just in the Pac-12,” Liufau said. “Since we haven’t been so strong throughout the years, this is kind of the first year, a lot of people probably still don’t believe it, which is fine. I think we believe it within this team, which is the most important thing.”
- CU is averaging 9.77 yards per pass attempt (eighth in the country). The last time the Buffs averaged as many as 8 yards per attempts was in 1996 (8.56).
- The Buffs are seeking their second consecutive conference road win. They haven’t done that since 2004 (at Kansas, at Nebraska).
- Historically, hitting the 30-point mark has meant almost sure victory for CU. The Buffs are 312-23-1 when scoring 30 or more points, including 4-0 this season.
- Lindsay needs just 118 rushing yards to become the 29th player in CU history to reach 1,500 for his career. Lindsay currently ranks 32nd, with 1,382 yards.
- CU is wearing gray helmets and pants and white jerseys today. It’ll be the second time they’ve worn that combination, the first coming in the 2015 opener at Hawaii.
- Kickers Diego Gonzalez (25 points), Davis Price (11 points) and Chris Graham (10 points) have all made their mark on this season. It’s the first time since 1991 that three different kickers have scored for the Buffs, and the first time since 1987 that three kickers have scored in double digits.
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.