CU opponent glance
Opponent: No. 15 USC Trojans
Game time: Saturday, 2:05 p.m. MT, at Folsom Field in Boulder
Coach: Clay Helton, 3rd season (24-9)
Record: 8-2, 6-1 Pac-12
Last week: Defeated Arizona at home, 49-35
Key players: WR Deontay Burnett, Jr. (63 catches, 832 yards, 8 TD); QB Sam Darnold, So. (222-of-349, 2,869 yards, 22 TD, 11 INT); DE Rasheem Green, Jr. (35 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 7.0 sacks); CB Jack Jones, So. (33 tackles, 4 INT, 7 PBU); RB Ronald Jones II, Jr. (159 att., 1,082 yards, 13 TD); OLB Uchenna Nwosu, Sr. (55 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 9 PBU); ILB Cameron Smith, Jr. (83 tackles, 8 TFL); S Marvell Tell III, Jr. (66 tackles, 2 INT); WR Tyler Vaughns, Fr. (41 catches, 537 yards, 4 TD).
Notable: USC needs to win one of its last two games (also Nov. 18 vs. UCLA) to win the Pac-12 South for the second time in the last three years. … The Trojans are seeking their first conference title since 2008. … USC is third in the Pac-12 in scoring (35.2 points per game) and second in total offense (492.4 yards per game). … USC has allowed 267 points this season (26.7), one more than Colorado (26.6). Of course, USC’s non-conference slate was more challenging than CU’s. … USC is last in the Pac-12 in red zone offense, scoring just 73.8 percent of the time (31 of 42), 24 touchdowns and seven field goals. … On the flip side, the Trojans are first in red zone defense, allowing scores just 70.3 percent of the time (26 of 37, 19 TD). … USC is 11-0 all-time against the Buffs, but the last two meetings have been decided by seven total points.
TEMPE, Ariz. — Many of Colorado’s problems on Saturday night in a 41-30 loss to Arizona State stemmed from uncommon mistakes.
Dropping touchdown passes, misfiring on wide open receivers and getting a punt blocked were all fairly correctible miscues that contributed to the latest disappointing loss for the Buffaloes (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12).
At the root of that defeat, however, was a problem that’s been all too common this season for CU, and it may not be a quick, easy fix.
The Buffaloes can’t stop the run, at least not with any type of consistency. They’ve had a few good moments in that department this season, but for the most part, CU’s run defense has been a glaring weakness for a team that is struggling to even reach bowl eligibility.
“I’ll just have to look at it on film and see,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said after Arizona State racked up 381 yards on the ground. “I saw a lot of missed tackles, I know that. I could see that out there. We worked on tackling low and the kids didn’t tackle low and they didn’t do like we ask them to do.”
Inside linebacker Rick Gamboa didn’t need to watch the film to know what was happening to the CU defense.
“I just think guys were trying to do a little too much,” he said. “Guys were getting out of their gaps, trying to make a play when all they had to do was do their job. Against a team like this, they’re just going to keep running the ball. As long as you stay in your gaps and do your job, we should be stout up front. When someone gets out of their gaps, that’s when long runs start happening.”
ASU came into the game ranked 107th nationally in rushing, with just 122 yards per game. After facing the Buffs, the Sun Devils have vaulted all the way up to 81st in the country.
Demario Richard rushed for 189 yards, which was more than double his previous season high of 93.
Manny Wilkins rushed for 95 yards, becoming the third Pac-12 quarterback to reach his season-high in rushing yards against CU; he had 51 yards for the season coming in.
Even freshman Eno Benjamin had a big night, rushing for 52 yards and his first career touchdown. He had 30 yards all season before Saturday.
“Those powerful running backs did some damage to us in the last part there,” MacIntyre said.
Yeah, they did, and it’s a sure bet that CU’s last two opponents — No. 15 USC and Utah — will look to do the same, because Pac-12 foes have exploited CU’s inexperienced defensive line all season:
• Washington’s Myles Gaskin shredded the Buffs for a career-high 202 yards in a 37-10 Huskies win.
• The Buffs held UCLA to just 95 yards on the ground, but tailback Soso Jamabo had 70 of those, his second-best total in his last 15 games.
• Arizona racked up 413 rushing yards, with Khalil Tate getting 327 of those on 14 carries. Tate set an NCAA single-game rushing record for a quarterback.
• Oregon State finished with 280 yards on the ground – nearly double its season average. Ryan Nall went for 172 yards and three touchdowns – both season highs.
• Washington State, which came into its matchup with CU ranking last in the country in rushing, more than doubled its average, with 194 yards. Quarterback Luke Falk had a career-high 41 yards. His second-best rushing game this season was 4 yards; and he’s been at zero or negative in eight of 10 games.
Saturday, it was ASU’s turn to take advantage of the Buffs, who got run over in the fourth quarter. After the game, MacIntyre suggested that staying in the rushing lanes could be a simple fix for the defensive line.
“They’ll see it on film and they’ll be better at it next week, and need to be,” he said.
They certainly need to be, but the Buffs have waited all year for it to actually happen, and they aren’t looking ahead to favorable matchups.
USC averages 201.2 yards per game on the ground and its 5.23 yards per carry ranks 21st nationally. Trojans tailback Ronald Jones II and quarterback Sam Darnold won’t be easy to stop.
Utah’s duo of running back Zack Moss (740 yards) and quarterback Tyler Huntley (381 yards) could have some fun against the Buffs, too.
“Some of (the defensive linemen) are new out there in those pressure situations and they’ve got to do exactly what we tell them to do or we’ll have this result again,” MacIntyre said. “So hopefully they will.”
To truly fix the run defense, the Buffs are likely going to need a strong offseason and better efforts in recruiting.
Until then, all they can do it hope.