It's tempting to point the finger at the offensive play calling in CU's loss. And there is no doubt that offensive coordinator Shawn Watson called some head-scratchers.
- Why bring Isaiah Crawford off the bench — a player who is under 200 pounds, and has only a handful of carries in his young career — and send him up the middle on a crucial 4th and 1 play?
- Why not utilize the middle of the field more in passing situations?
- Why fall into a predictable pattern of run/pass/pass, run/pass/pass?
- Why not try a shotgun formation to give QB Joel Klatt a little more time to survey the field in some situations?
However, more troubling was the fact that CU's offensive line got manhandled much of the game by Missouri's defensive front. Klatt had precious little time to throw, and after the first quarter and a half, Purify had precious few running lanes.
Missouri's effectiveness up front forced Colorado into predictability on offense.
Despite a good performance vs. North Texas, the jury is still out on how good this line can be.
2) Will Lawrence Vickers EVER get the ball in his hands as much as his talent warrants?
LV is four games into his junior season and remains the most underutilized player on the CU offense. He's a team player and has taken his role as V-back with maturity, especially considering the V-back has simply been a term for blocking fullback in the CU offense so far.
Vickers is one of the players on the offense that could be a playmaker if CU coaches would decide to put the ball in his hands. We saw it vs. North Texas when he caught several passes out of the backfield and ran well after the catch.
Against Missouri, Vickers subbed for Purify when Bobby went out with a shoulder injury. But he only got two carries, and Purify was ineffective when he re-entered the game.
Before it's too late, it's time to start giving Vickers the ball on a regular basis.
3) What happened to the running back rotation?
Vickers' situation brings up another issue. After earning a reputation as a team that has and uses three or four running backs, they have slowly moved away from that this season.
When the running game was most effective, in 2001 and 2002, Colorado always had a fresh back in the backfield. And the running backs' differing styles gave defenses a different look each time another one entered the game.
Purify is playing well, averaging over 100 yards per game through four games. But CU has two, possibly as many as four, capable running backs languishing on the bench or under the V-back label as Purify continues to carry the bulk of the load.
Most surprising is the lack of carries given to Daniel Jolly.
4) How did the CU defense do against Brad Smith?
Well enough to put the CU offense in a position to win. After Missouri's first offensive drive had the Buffs' D back on its heels, the defense made some adjustments and went into a bend-but-don't-break mode the rest of the game.
Of course, it didn't hurt that Missouri's field goal kicker missed three attempts.
But Smith looked as good as billed, and has clearly improved as a pocket passer. Still, CU came up with enough stops to keep the Missouri offense from putting on a dominating performance, and came up with a big turnover (J.J. Billingsley's forced fumble of Smith) when they needed to.
5) Where does this loss leave CU in the Big 12 North race?
No question the Buffs missed a BIG opportunity in Columbia. A win would have put them in the driver's seat in the North, especially with Kansas State's loss to TAMU.
But with the win, Missouri takes firm hold of that spot.
Interestingly, however, Missouri and CU's remaining schedule look very similar. Mizzou has difficult games at Texas and Nebraska, and gets Oklahoma State, Kansas and Kansas State at home. CU gets Texas, Oklahoma State and Kansas State, and travels to Nebraska, Kansas and Texas A&M.