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The Colorado offensive line has struggled with false starts in the past two games.
Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer
The Colorado offensive line has struggled with false starts in the past two games.

Among the issues facing the Colorado football team – and there have been many in the past two weeks – is the high volume of false start penalties on offense.

The Buffaloes (3-4, 1-3 Pac-12) were hit with seven false start penalties in a 45-3 loss at Oregon on Oct. 11 and four more in last Saturday’s 41-10 loss at Washington State.

Center Tim Lynott said the opposing defenses have contributed to those flags. The Buffs use a clap cadence, meaning Lynott will snap the ball when quarterback Steven Montez signals with a clap. A lot of college teams use the clap, which is considered by some to be more effective than an oral cadence, especially in noisy stadiums on the road.

The last two weeks, however, have seen Oregon and Washington State mess that up for the Buffs.

“One of the linebackers will yell, ‘Move!’ and that pretty much tells the D-line to move whatever direction they need to,” Lynott said. “They try to do that to make (the offense) jump; that’s their main goal because they know we’re on a clap.

“Especially Oregon, with that loud crowd; that stadium is just loud overall. You’re (going) off the clap and you’re trying to get off the ball against some of the big guys and trying to get an advantage, but that happens and you just jump. It’s one of those things where you’ve just got to make sure you focus on Steven’s clap. At home, it’s a lot easier, obviously. You have the home advantage. It’s not too loud, so you’ll be fine for the most part.”

The Buffs return home on Friday to face Southern California (4-3, 3-1) at Folsom Field (7 p.m., TV: ESPN2), but fixing the false start issue is a priority, because it hasn’t simply been the last two games. On the season, that has been the Buffs’ most frequent penalty, by far, accounting for 18 of the 51 flags against them.

“Something we need to do is just make sure we focus on that in practice a little more and make sure that we have pretty much laser focus on that, making sure we focus in on Steven’s clap and on his voice so we don’t jump whenever those guys say ‘move,’” Lynott said. “A lot of teams have been doing it, but it’s an issue for us, so we need to get that figured out this week.”

‘Ghostbusters’ getting into games

Head coach Mel Tucker’s first full-time job in coaching came in 1999, when Terry Hoeppner hired him as defensive backs coach at Miami of Ohio. That year, Hoeppner used some extra practice time to give reps to the third- and fourth-stringers that weren’t getting much practice. Hoeppner called that group the “Ghostbusters,” and Tucker has carried that term with him.

This year, after most CU practices, the coaches work with the guys who aren’t playing much to give them some quality reps.

“We always took pride in the bottom part of the roster with some of those young guys,” Tucker said of his time with Hoeppner. “Every opportunity you get to get those guys some reps and coach them hard and try to get them better.

“You’ve got to get as many guys ready to play as possible because it’s never ending. You’re going to have injuries and it’s going to be competition, also, because we’re always evaluating who are the guys that give us the best chance.”

It’s paying off, as several players who have been “Ghostbusters” this season are now getting on the field in games. That group includes defensive backs KJ Trujillo, Tarik Luckett and Mark Perry, and linebackers Jamar Montgomery and Jash Allen. All five played last week against Washington State.

Montgomery, in particular, has used the “Ghostbuster” periods to improve. A junior college transfer, he played only six defensive snaps in the first six games combined (all in the opener), but has been named one of the team’s best scout players three times, including the last two weeks.

Against Washington State, Montgomery played 15 snaps on defense and was named the team’s special teams player of the week.

“He’s developed to the point where he’s getting some playing time,” Tucker said. “He gets in the game, does a good job on special teams and he made plays for us on defense.”


As of Wednesday afternoon, CU had sold roughly 45,000 tickets for Friday’s game and hopes to add another two or three thousand by kickoff. Colorado is one of only eight teams in the country averaging at least 100 percent of capacity for home games this season, including two sellouts. … CU has given up 41 plays of 20 yards or more this season, with 14 going for touchdowns. … The Buffs have slipped to last in the Pac-12 in scoring defense and total defense, allowing 34.9 points and 482.4 yards per game.

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