Sunday Colorado Football Notes

Inside, notes from following Sunday's football practice, including insight as to why Thaddaeus Washington didn't play more vs. Missouri, and how defensive coordinator Ron Collins thought the Buffs' defense did against the Tigers' spread offense.

• Coming on the heels of playing Georgia, who plays a smash-mouth style of football, it took the Buffs a quarter to get used to defending Missouri's spread look. But Colorado defensive coordinator Ron Collins was pleased with the way his unit adjusted after the Tigers' first two drives for touchdowns.

The Buffs will face similar offenses the next two games, as Baylor and Texas Tech play them exclusively. Their next two opponents, Oklahoma and Kansas, have that look as part of their offense.

"What happened on Saturday is going to help us down the road," Collins said.

Junior cornerback Terrence Wheatley said at first, players were trying to do too much before they eventually settled down.

"Once you adjust, you've just got to make sure that you stay in your gaps," he said. "Even though things are a lot wider, you can't panic and say, ‘It looks like there's 20 guys on the field. I've got to be Superman.' That's what we kind of did the first couple series. Once we calmed down we figured out it's not as complex as everybody thinks it is."

However, teams like Missouri and Texas Tech, programs who've used that offense for several years, often get into shootouts. In other words, the best defense is often a good offense when you play against the spread.

"It's tough because when you go against a team like that … you hope you get your offense going a little more," head coach Dan Hawkins said.

"We're learning," Hawkins said of the CU pass defense in general. "It's not the strongest part of our defense. But we're not giving up a bunch of explosion plays, which is good. But when you're 0-5, it's not like you're jumping up and down about any phase of your program.

• It appeared on Saturday that playing against that offense meant CU would keep senior inside linebacker Thaddaeus Washington on the bench, using an extra defensive back in his place. But, apparently, that's not the case.

Washington, the team's leading tackler through its first four games (21 tackles), didn't start at Missouri, and played sparingly. Though he wouldn't go into specifics, Hawkins hinted that the decision to sit Washington, a team captain, so much was for disciplinary reasons or perhaps as motivation.

Asked why Washington didn't play more, Hawkins replied, "We're learning things. We're laying a foundation with principals and philosophies and ways to operate."

Hawkins then said Washington wasn't sitting because of the particular offense CU was facing, and that he expected Washington to see more action vs. Baylor.

Asked if Washington would continue to sit against such offenses, Collins said, "I hope not. Thaddaeus is a guy who needs to get more reps. It was just kind of an anomaly what happened on Saturday. We plan on playing him more."

• Coaches like not only what junior Lionel Harris did in the game Saturday, including some big hits, but what he's been doing in practice. Expect his snaps to continue to increase. That's even if sophomore Ryan Walters is cleared to play vs. Baylor. Walters suffered a stinger in the loss to Missouri and is listed day to day.

• Terrence Wheatley couldn't sleep Saturday night so he decided to watch a tape of the loss at Missouri. He's replayed the interception that was ruled an incompletion several times and — like many Buff fans who watched the replay on TV — still can't figure out why the play wasn't an interception. But he's not going to lose any more sleep over it. "That's the way it goes," he said. "But I'll go out and get two more picks to make up for it."

• Wheatley is a fourth-year junior and has been around the team through a lot of ups and downs. He said the players remain "pretty upbeat still. We're on a losing streak, but you can't get down on yourself and pout and moan and just wish things would get better. You've got to keep pushing through, you've got to keep a positive attitude. If you're going to be negative about everything, you might as well not even play."

• Hawkins met with members of the freshman class on by himself after Sunday's practice. He declined to share the content of the visit, just saying they had a talk.

Hugh Charles had 87 yards rushing on 13 carries vs. Missouri. But the junior didn't get any carries in the fourth quarter. That was due to two things, according to Hawkins. Charles was getting "a little worn out" by then, and they were using more passing formations, in which Byron Ellis plays running back because he's better in pass protection.

• While the Colorado offense has shown progress the past two games, it's been in the form of yardage, but not points. CU continues to get bogged down inside the red zone. Asked about how to fix that, Hawkins said Sunday it's about players making plays. The fixes "are all right there on tape," he said. "We had a ball bounce off of Tyson (DeVree's) face mask and we don't make an open throw to Dusty. It's no mystery. There's no magic there. It's a case of guys continuing to get confidence, to get experience, to have that sort of feeling down there that they can make a play.

"And to go through it. How many balls did Tyson catch last year? (None). How many balls did Danny Goettsch catch last year? (None). Sometimes you've got to work through some stuff. There's no easy way around that. It's putting guys in the fire and living through it and learning through it and hanging in there.

"I believe in those guys. I like those guys. We just have to keep coming."

• Colorado has not exactly lit it up on special teams this season, a surprise to many as Hawkins' Boise State teams had a reputation for good special teams play. Hawkins said, like other aspects of the team, it's a matter of continuing to work at it and eliminate mistakes. Against Missouri, the most obvious mistakes were punter Matthew DiLallo's fumble of a snap and the punt coverage team doing a poor job of covering on a later punt.

Of DiLallo, a redshirt freshman, Hawkins said, "It's a matter of getting Matt more experience and getting him more comfortable. Getting him past the freshman jitters."

• Other than Walters' stinger, the other injury coming out of Saturday's game CU reported is Walter Boye-Doe, who is probable for Baylor with a lower leg contusion.

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