at Folsom Field • Oct. 9 • 1:30 p.m. (MT) • ABC
Head Coach: Les Miles (4th year)
2004 Record: 4-0
Through four games, the Cowboys have rushed 236 times, and passed just 47 times. Though Fr.-R quarterback Donovan Woods attempted more passes (14) in OSU's win over Iowa State last week than he had in any of previous three games. Though the Cowboys won't go away from their run game, Donovan may throw between 12-18 passes Saturday as he continues to become more comfortable in that aspect of the game.
One of the keys to OSU's success on the ground, where they're averaging 297 yards per game (2nd in Big 12/4th in country), is 6-1, 260-pound junior fullback Shawn Willis. With a full head of steam coming at opponents from the backfield, he's like an extra offensive lineman in the run game.
Willis blocks for the league's second-leading rusher, junior Vernand Morency. He's averaging 6.8 yards a pop, and has already rushed for 704 yards this season. He runs behind a deceptively quick offensive line, led by 6-3, 330-pound senior guard Sam Mayes. Veteran tight end Billy Bajema also plays a vital role in the Oklahoma State running game as a blocker.
When Woods does pass, he likes to look for his brother, D'Juan Woods, who leads the Cowboys with eight receptions. Three of those have led to touchdowns.
Player to watch: Morency is the kind of back that combines compact size and decent speed, along with good vision and the strength to break tackles.
KEYS for COLORADO
'This is a Thaddaeus Washington kind of game'
CU knows the Cowboys will line up and try and run at them. The Buffs' defensive line isn't particularly big, but it is perhaps the best line that OSU will have faced to date.
However, the CU linebackers will key how successful the Buffs are at slowing Oklahoma State's running game.
Linebacker Thaddaeus Washington could play a big role in Saturday's game vs. Oklahoma State.
Photo: Buffalo Sports News
Sophomore LB Thaddaeus Washington had his best, most consistent game of the season vs. Missouri last week. He's the Buffs' best run stuffer at linebacker. His size and hitting ability means he matches up well with the OSU run game. Expect TWash to see the field earlier this Saturday, and if he proves effective, expect him to stay in the game longer.
His position coach Brian Cabral on Wednesday said: "This is a Thaddaeus Washington kind of game. We're going to need him to play well."
And the entire Colorado linebacking crew will have to bring it's A game if CU is to have success slowing OSU.
Cabral said, "Anytime you got a team that dares you to stop them, you like that kind of challenge. It's a linebacker kind of a game. If a linebacker doesn't get excited about a game like this, then you've got to question whether or not he really wants to be a linebacker."
Don't get burned on the pass play
With so much attention being put on stopping the run game, the Colorado corners can't get sucked into coming up and helping out there before it's necessary. CU DB coach Craig Bray has been harping on that fact in practice this week.
"Some people say you've got it easy this week, but I say it's a tough one because they run, and run, and run and then they play-action or bootleg or something," Bray said. "You get focused on the run and then you forget to look at your keys. It's scary.
Our practice has to emphasize the run so we don't get as much practice in the pass game. It's something we're talking about as a secondary. The thing is you never lose your focus. The key is to get them into third down and then we'll have an idea."
It seems like the corners have been paying attention.
"You've just got to read your keys and expect that they throw the ball every down," Terrence Wheatley said. "You've just got to expect it. We'll cover the run when we're needed, but most of the time, we'll be in pass coverage."
Oklahoma State runs CU's worst nightmare — a 4-2-5 defense. Not only was that system a failure at Colorado the past two seasons, but, more importantly, Colorado has had trouble finding success against teams that play with that kind of look, ever since the 2001 season.
The Cowboys are fast and physical. They are big up the middle — at DT and LB, and smaller on the edges. But OSU is a sideline-to-sideline type of defense, and holes or creases don't last long.
True freshman DE Nathan Peterson enrolled at OSU in January and benefited from participating in spring ball. He's been disruptive for the OSU defense with 5 TFL and 3 sacks.
Oklahoma State linebacker Paul Duren leads the Cowboys in tackles (22).
Junior LB Paul Duren gets his name called often on Saturdays. The third-year starter leads OSU with 22 tackles.
The status of senior cornerback Darrent Williams is up in the air after suffering a broken arm vs. Iowa State. Reports out of Stillwater have been conflicting, but it seems most likely that he won't play in Boulder this Saturday.
Overall, the most impressive thing about the Oklahoma State defense is that it's forced 14 turnovers through four games. Combine that with the fact that the Cowboys have given up just one take-away, and OSU has an amazing plus-13 turnover ratio at this point.
Turnovers played a big part of OSU's 36-7 win at home vs. Iowa State. The two teams went into the second quarter in a scoreless tie. But turnovers helped OSU explode before the half. Oklahoma State scored 23 points, while moving the ball just 70 yards in the second quarter, thanks to three ISU turnovers and two good OSU punt returns.
Player to watch: Junior SS Vernon Grant is an anchor on the OSU defense. He's forced a fumble, picked off two passes and has 14 tackles through four games.
KEYS for COLORADO
Control the line of scrimmage
Colorado's woes on offense this season have come because the offensive line has been outplayed. Both the Washington State and Missouri front seven won the battle of the trenches, and the CU offense struggled as a result.
If Colorado can't open some holes, it won't matter if it's Bobby Purify or Lawrence Vickers (or someone else) toting the rock this week.
However, this may be a week that the Colorado offense looks to the air more than expected, since the 4-2-5 defense is designed to defend the run, even though it employs five defensive backs.
Will he or won't he? Punt returner is first in the Big 12 (third in nation) in return average with 27.7 yards, plus a touchdown, on nine returns. But it's unclear whether Williams will play Saturday. If Williams is on the bench, freshman Prentiss Elliott will return punts. Colorado was in on Elliott, from Tulsa, last year but backed off him late. Elliot had a 32-yard punt return to set up an OSU touchdown against the Cyclones.
OSU STATISTICAL LEADERS
Passing: Donovan Woods, 18-41/331, 1 INT, 4 TD
Rushing: Vernand Morency, 104-704/6.8, 6 TD
Receiving: D'Juan Woods, 8-120/15.0, 3 TD
Kickoff returns: Robert Jones, 5-85/17.0
Punt returns: Darrent Williams, 9-249/27.7, 1 TD
Punting: Cole Farden, 18-765/42.0
Tackles: Paul Duren, 16 UT, 6 AT, 22 TCKLS
Tackles for loss: Nathan Peterson, 5 TFL
Sacks: Nathan Peterson, 3 SCKS
Interceptions: Vernon Grant, 2 INT