Colorado Football Notes

Inside, notes from the Colorado football program as the Buffs look forward to Saturday's game at Texas Tech (10 a.m. MDT/ABC).

• Heading into CU's game vs. Oklahoma, one area the Buffs needed to improve upon was in turnovers. They earned three and gave away two vs. OU and won the contest. A month later, as the Buffs prep to travel and play Texas Tech, turnovers are still a concern.

The Colorado coaches use a formula that involves situation, down and distance and the ultimate results of each offensive play to determine offensive efficiency. While Colorado's win over then-No. 3 OU back on Sept. 29 is the team's marquee victory this season, it wasn't the offense's most efficient game. In fact, head coach Dan Hawkins pointed out Tuesday, it was one of the worst. Offensive efficiency from that game ranks seventh among the team's eight games this year.

The difference in that game? Turnovers.

Hawkins contends his team has played fairly well on offense this season. But inopportune turnovers — especially interceptions — have made a big impact.

"The area where we have not been real good at when you look statistically is in interceptions lost and interceptions gained. We're probably twice as much on the interceptions and twice as low on the interceptions gained," Hawkins said.

CU quarterback Cody Hawkins has thrown 14 picks this game (though a handful of them have come from catchable balls tipped by CU receivers). Buffalo defenders have intercepted just six passes.

There's no secret formula to correcting the discrepancy.

"You just have to continue to work on that and through a process of getting better and a little bit of experience and guys having a little bit more savvy, you try to snap that," Dan Hawkins said.

• Cornerback and kick returner Terrence Wheatley nearly broke a big return vs. Kansas. He tried to turn the corner around the defense, but was collared and brought down hard at the last moment by a Jayhawk. The tackle would have drawn a flag in the league Wheatley is likely to be playing in next fall. It's an illegal tackle in the NFL.

Wheatley said the last-second tackle caught him by surprise. And if he had it his way, collar tackles would be penalized in the NCAA game, too.

• The Colorado coaching staff continues to use a lot of players at several positions. At least seven receivers, five tight ends, seven running backs and eight linemen have played on offense. On defense, nine linemen, eight linebackers and nine defensive backs have seen action. While some of those appearances have been brief, among those on both sides of the ball 43 players have made significant contributions through eight games.

That's nearly enough to field two entire lineups. Hawkins said he likes to use a lot of players because he believes each one possesses unique talents he wants them to exploit. While some positions require liberal substitutions (he said it's unlikely a running back can last an entire season these days carrying the ball 30 times a game), otherwise, using a lot of players is good for team chemistry, he said.

• Are the Buffs looking at a big picture? Not when it comes to this season, according to Hawkins. With the Buffs sitting at 4-4, they've got four games remaining. It takes six wins to become bowl eligible (and even that total doesn't guarantee a bowl invitation). Asked what a bowl game would mean to the program, Hawkins replied: "Right now, we are playing in the Red Raider Bowl in Lubbock. We're excited about it."

• Turns out the fake fumble/pass for a touchdown play Colorado ran successfully in the loss to Kansas was something Hawkins first heard about when he coached at Willamette. An opponent had run the play in previous years, and someone tipped him off to it. Boise State ran it once when Hawkins coached there, but the BSU quarterback overthrew the receiver.

When Hawkins — who has input on short yardage plays in the CU offense — was scouting Kansas, he saw how the KU safeties sometimes crept up in short-yardage situations. OC Mark Helfrich called for the play, and it worked to perfection.

• Quote of the Day: Senior Byron Ellis got his first touchdown of the season vs. the Jayhawks. Though he's carried just 21 times this fall, he's been on the field a lot, as he's the most dependable blocking tailback the Buffs have.

Ellis is a pre-med major and hopes to one day be a doctor. Asked about Ellis on Tuesday, Hawkins had high praise. He called Ellis smart, steady and dependable, and added he'd feel comfortable putting his life in the hands of the future doctor down the road.

"I've coached some guys over the years who were gonna be doctors, and I'm going, ‘No way he's operating on me,'" Hawkins said.

Not so, with Ellis. Hawkins said he was thinking the other day that if he were in a car crash and found himself on the operating table and Ellis was the surgeon he'd think he's "got a chance."

• Fullback Jake Behrens saw significant playing time the past two games — the first real playing time of the third-year sophomore's career. He's questionable for Saturday's game at TTU after tweaking his ankle on Sunday during a conditioning workout. Other than Behrens, the Buffs — at this point — are healthy going into the contest.

• Dan Hawkins called for a Purple Broom in the World Series. He's predicting the Rockies to sweep the Red Sox.


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