at Folsom Field • Sept. 3 • 1:30 p.m. (MT) • TBS
Head Coach: Sonny Lubick (13th year)
2004 Record: 4-7
Last year's game: CU 27, CSU 24 in Boulder
The Rams like to establish the run game and then stretch the field with the vertical passing game. Quarterback Justin Holland, given time to pass, throws with great accuracy. Receiver David Anderson is a veteran player who has hurt the Buffs the past two seasons.
CSU heads into the game without an obvious workhorse at running back, but with four players who could emerge as the go-to guy as the season progresses. UCLA transfer Speedster Nnamdi Ohaeri went from No. 5 to No. 1 on the depth chart this month, while bruiser Kyle Bell and slasher Gartrell Johnson have been impressive in camp. Veteran Jimmy Green could play B-back (the fullback position in CSU's new two-back look), with 6-0, 249-pound Tristan Walker seeing time as a blocking back, as well.
The key to the Rams' running game will be its offensive line, where CSU returns four starters from last season.
Player to watch: At 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, H-back Kory Sperry is a talented and rangy receiver who came on strong in the second half of 2004.
Matchup to Watch: CSU tackles Mike Brisiel and Clint Oldenburg vs. Colorado defensive end Abraham Wright. Brisiel is a wily veteran, Oldenburg, a converted H-back with good athleticism. Wright has talked all preseason about his goal of getting to opposing quarterbacks this fall. Saturday is his first chance to back that up.
CU defensive end Abraham Wright.
KEYS for COLORADO
Stop the run/pressure Holland
Last year, the Buffs held Colorado State to just 44 yards on the ground. CSU responded by torching Colorado's young secondary through the air for 403 yards. However, if CU can slow CSU's run game again, it will be difficult for the Rams to find as much success in the passing game this time around because CU's defensive backs are much improved over last September.
As the saying goes, sometimes the best pass defense is a good pass rush. Colorado must pressure Holland Saturday and force him into poor decisions. The quarterback threw 10 interceptions in six games before missing the rest of the season with an injury.
CSU's defense took a blow last week when tests revealed safety Ben Stratton had torn an ACL and would miss the season. His absence leaves only junior cornerbacks Robert Herbert and Brandon Cathy as players with significant experience in the CSU secondary, and Cathy may not even start, as he's listed behind Herbert. CSU's safeties — Travis Garcia, Miles Kochevar and Lukas Davis — have 10 career starts between them.
Last year's starting linebacker Luke Adkins is also out for Saturday's game, while senior Courtney Jones will man the middle spot. Experience is a question up front as well.
Poor defensive play under then-first year defensive coordinator Steve Stanard was one reason CSU struggled to a 4-7 record last season. Stanard, and his troops, were embarassed and spent the offseason dedicating themselves to getting better. No matter their intentions, the CSU defense heads into Saturday's game with big question marks
Player to watch: Jahmal Hall, all 6-0, 183 pounds of him, is undersized for an outside linebacker. But the senior makes up for it with good quickness, and he had 10 tackles vs. the Buffs in '04.
Matchup to Watch: Colorado tight end Joe Klopfenstein vs. the CSU safeties. Klopfenstein has the speed to get downfield in a hurry and the strength to fight off most teams' safeties in man coverage. You can bet the CU offensive brain trust has taken note that Stratton is out.
KEYS for COLORADO
Establish control of the line of scrimmage
CU starting tailback Hugh Charles has the speed to break the big one at any time. If the Buffs can grab control of the line of scrimmage, that will eventually give Charles the opportunity to show off his speed.
Senior Kevin Mark and sophomore Jimmie Kaylor replace graduated Mike Babcock at placekicker and punter, respectively.
Returning CSU Statistical Leaders
Passing: Justin Holland, 197-121-1,622, 10 INT, 6 TD
Rushing: Jimmy Green, 132-436/3.3, 3 TD
Receiving: David Anderson, 57-940/16.5, 2 TD
Kickoff returns: Damon Morton, 22-391/17.8, 0TD
Punt returns: David Anderson, 20-69/3.5, 0TD
Punting: Jim Kaylor, 4-172/43.0
Tackles: Ben Stratton, 88
Tackles for loss: Terrance Carter, 7-34
Sacks: Tyson Smith, 2 SCKS
Interceptions: Luke Adkins, 2-106/53.0, 2 TD