On one hand, Colorado head football coach Deion Sanders was impressed with the resiliency displayed by his team in last Saturday’s 43-35 double-overtime victory against Colorado State.
On the other hand, he doesn’t want them needing to use that resilience very often.
“Wonderful win,” Sanders said this week. “We didn’t attain it the way we desired, but a win is a win. You’re going to have those type of games, those type of contests throughout the season. The best thing to do is to be resilient when you’re not playing your best; to be resilient when your opponents are playing their butts off; and you’re able to come back and win the football game in the manner that we did. So we’re thankful, we’re appreciative. But now it’s on to the next chapter.”
CU was a 23.5-point favorite against the Rams last week, but the next chapter will be much more difficult. The 19th-ranked Buffs (3-0) will visit No. 10 Oregon (3-0) on Saturday (1:30 p.m., ABC) to kick off the Pac-12 portion of the schedule.
The Ducks are a 21.5-point favorite, and as good as the Buffs have been to this point, Sanders knows they have to be better to continue their winning streak.
“We don’t want to get to that point where we have to be resilient,” he said. “We want to get out to a great start. We have not played a complete game. We have not played a game where the offense, defense, as well as special teams has all shown up in the same manner.
“If the offense is playing well, the defense is hot garbage. If the defense is playing well, the offense is horrible. And special teams are not special. So we’ve got to put it all together to be able to defeat a team like Oregon in that manner. We’ve got to put it together.”
There are a few key points of emphasis for the Buffs heading into Pac-12 play.
Run the ball: Offensively, the Buffs have been led by dynamic junior Shedeur Sanders, who has been one of the nation’s best quarterbacks so far this season. Shedeur has thrown 10 touchdown passes and only one interception and he’s already led the Buffs to two fourth-quarter comeback wins.
What the Buffs haven’t done to this point, however, is run the ball well.
Freshman Dylan Edwards leads the Buffs with 136 yards and he’s averaged 5.4 yards per carry. As a team, however, CU is averaging just 2.0 yards per carry and has relied on Shedeur’s arm when needing plays in the clutch.
“We’re not running the ball,” Coach Prime said after the CSU game. “We can’t do something we can’t forcefully do. I mean, we’re not successful at running. … That’s just the straight attitude that we’re gonna run the ball and you’re not gonna stop it because that’s a darn attitude. We’ve got to develop that attitude sooner or later, and preferably more sooner than later.”
CU might get a boost from Alton McCaskill this week. The Houston transfer, who was the AAC freshman of the year in 2021, was finally healthy enough to take his non-contact jersey off this week.
Protect the quarterback: Shedeur Sanders has put up some big numbers through three games despite getting hit a lot.
Old Dominion is the only team in the country that’s given up more sacks than CU’s 16. Shedeur has been sacked 15 times and there have been numerous other times where he has been hit as he’s throwing the ball or pressured. The Buffs are hoping to limit those hits and sacks going forward.
Start faster: CU’s offense was impressive in a season-opening win at TCU, but it’s been slow out of the gates the past two weeks.
In Week 2 against Nebraska, the Buffs ended up winning 36-14, but punted on their first four possessions and took advantage of two Cornhuskers turnovers to get some points on the board on the next two possessions.
Against CSU, the Buffs had turnovers on their first two possessions and the offense found the end zone just once in the first 59 minutes. Shedeur’s late-game heroics rescued them for an overtime win.
“We just started slow, honestly, that’s all it was,” Shedeur said. “And we just can’t afford to keep doing it week by week. So we just got to look it up, look at the film, figure out what we keep doing wrong and what’s the solution and just be proactive with the call.”
Consistency on defense: CU is tied for the national lead with 10 takeaways and many of them have come at timely moments. But the Buffs have also given up a lot of points (30.3 per game) and yards (460.3 per game).
“We’re giving up too many yards, but I think those yards are attributed to the explosive plays and I don’t think we’ve done a very good job of playing sudden changes in the game,” Kelly said. “When things are going pretty good, you can take one series and it looks like, wow. And then something negative happens in the game, don’t play quite as good. You’ve got to be able to put the fire out when bad things happen and that’s just part of football.
“What I do like is, they play extremely hard and they never lose their composure.”
That’s been a trademark of the entire team to this point, which is a big reason why they are 3-0. But, they’ve gotten to 3-0 despite some plenty of room for improvement.
“Everyone just needs to do their jobs at all times,” safety Shilo Sanders said. “I mean, it’s football, and the name of the game is seeing who could make the least amount of mistakes. Whenever we just play a game where everyone does their job on defense and offense, then we’re going to be the dominant team that we need to be and I think that’s probably gonna happen this weekend for sure.”