There is definitely a sense of underachievement. Very few Colorado fans believed the Buffs were going to be capable of qualifying for a bowl this year, but people did expect a few more victories at this point. And the truth is, CU should have won at least two more games. The Buffs were up by 3 in overtime against Cal and allowed the Bears to convert a first down when it was first-and-30. CU also led Washington State by 10 with 5 minutes left in the game and gave up a 90 yard drive and a 77 yard drive and lost in the final minute.
The Buffaloes had some close losses to Cal and Washington State early in the year, but since then all of their losses have been blowouts. Do you feel the team has digressed in recent weeks and if so why?
You could say it has, but you also have to take all the injuries into account. This is quickly becoming the most injury plagued team in the modern era at CU, according to CU sports information office. In the last 25 years of CU football, only the 2008 team suffered more attrition to this point in the season than the current Buffs. CU has lost a total of 70 games from players who were either in the two-deep or played prominent roles on special teams at the start of the season.
Against Oregon last week, the Buffs were without six starters and 11 regulars in its two deep, including tailback Rodney Stewart, the team's leading rusher, wide receiver Paul Richardson, the leading receiver and Douglas Rippy, the leading tackler. Then starting quarterback Tyler Hansen was knocked out of the game in the first half with a concussion.
The secondary has been hardest hit. I should mention that coach Embree suspended five key defenders earlier this season, including four defensive backs. Those suspensions for team rules violations along with a gaggle of injuries to defensive backs have led coaches to raid the offense twice for help. Senior wide receiver Jason Espinoza has started two games at cornerback and last week after two practices at the position, true freshman running back D.D. Goodson started as the nickel back in CU's defense against Oregon. Both players will play on the defensive side against the Sun Devils.
Needless to say, injuries have been a huge factor, but it's also accurate to say that beating Stanford, Washington or Oregon was going to be a hefty challenge for this team even at full strength.
How do you feel Head Coach Jon Embree has been able to keep the team focused as they go through such a rough season? What do you like about his as a coach?
It seems like he has done a decent job of that. I think when he suspended those five players a month ago; it really got the attention of the players and fans. It sent a message that he was willing to enforce his rules even to the detriment of the team on game days. I've seen no sign of quit in this team even though it has been mauled three weeks running.
What I like about Embree is his honesty and willingness to answer any question. That's uncommon from coaches in this era and at this level. He's a straight shooter and it already has earned him some criticism from some fans and players' parents. I believe that criticism is ridiculous because everything he has said has been the truth.
What are Colorado's key injuries right now that can impact Saturday's game?
Quarterback Tyler Hansen might be out with a concussion. That would mean redshirt freshman Nick Hirschman would make his first college start. CU will also be without Rodney Stewart and most likely Paul Richardson once again. Starting strong safety Anthony Perkins will probably miss this game. He was another casualty in the first half against Oregon. He has a badly sprained ankle. There are plenty of other older injuries as well.
What players should ASU be looking out for in this game?
Hmmmm. Well redshirt freshman running back Tony Jones is capable of making some plays and true freshman running back Malcolm Creer saw the first action of his career last week. Tight end Ryan Deehan has been a valuable weapon at times for this team. Senior wide receiver Toney Clemons has really underachieved. He's capable of making big plays and has done that at times. Defensively, linebacker Jon Major can be a force and defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe leads the team with 41/2 sacks.
What was the perception of the Pac-12 from Colorado's standpoint before they joined and now that they are part of the conference what is their perception now?
The perception was that it's a strong league in a region better suited to Colorado and its alumni base than the Big 12. CU fans, players, coaches and administrators were really excited about joining the league. I'd say all that remains the same today.
What will it take for Colorado to build a rivalry with Utah?
Both schools feel like this is sort of being forced on them because they are pitted against each other on the rivalry weekend at the end of the season. If a rivalry does eventually form there it will be because of one or more events that cause bad blood or hurt feelings between the programs and school. It could be as simple as one team knocking the other out of the south division race one year or maybe one team preventing the other from becoming bowl eligible.
Having talked with both coach Embree and coach Whittingham about this, I can say that neither coach is interested in forcing this to become a rivalry. Both men say that rivalries will develop within the conference over the long haul.
Out of all the freshmen Colorado is playing this year, which one do you feel will be the best as a senior?
That's a great question. I guess I would have to go with cornerback Greg Henderson just because he has earned the most playing time this season of all the freshmen. He earned the starting job at one cornerback spot in fall camp. I'll go with him.
Can you tell us how freshman quarterback John Schrock is looking?
Schrock is the third string quarterback, but might go into this game as the backup if Hansen can't play. He's a smart kid with a decent arm and good feel for the game at this level considering he is so young. He has a long way to go, but he has all the tools to be a player for this program down the road, maybe even the starter at some point.
Colorado has struggled on defense giving up 500+ yards and over 48 point per game the last three games. What do you think ASU will need to do to continue exposing this defense?
Show up. This defense is just too decimated by injuries right now to stop the caliber of opponents it is facing each week. When do Colorado fans realistically feel Embree will have the team competing for PAC 12 South Champ?
Within the next two years fans here expect the program to be competitive once again, which means not getting smoked by 30 points each week. Probably 4-5 years before it will be in position to win the division and compete for a conference title. It could happen sooner. There are some very strong recruiters on this coaching staff, including Embree.