Linebacker Play A Premium Against Colorado

In this day of innovative football and wide open offenses that try to do things differently, Colorado is a throwback. OSU head coach Mike Gundy described this Colorado team as a typical Gary Barnett team. In a phone interview on Tuesday, Barnett agreed with Gundy and said he really likes this team and the way they go about doing the things he and his staff want.

So what is a typical Barnett team? They run the ball with a power attack, power plays with a fullback leading the way, isolation plays, sweeps, and then plenty of play action passing to get the safeties and corners to bite on the run. Tight ends are typically stars for Barnett's Colorado teams and this edition has one of the best in Joe Klopfenstein.

There isn't a lot of mystery involved. Colorado takes a short play book and runs the plays over and over again. It's kind of like repeatedly getting beat over the head with a club. For an opposing defense that puts a premium on linebacker play. Last year in the 42-14 Oklahoma State win in Boulder Paul Duren had one of the best games of his career. He had two huge interceptions, the final one returned in zig-zag fashion for a 34-yard touchdown. Fellow senior Lawrence Pinson also found opportunities to make plays. Duren, Pinson, Pagitte McGee, Jamar Ransom and Rodrick Johnson will get plenty of opportunities on Saturday to make a difference because it is their time to step up.

"We need to make a lot of plays at linebacker this week," said Duren. "They throw a lot to Klopfenstein and (Quinn) Sypniewski. We are going to have to come up and make some big time plays."

"They are going to run the ball and they are going to pound on us from the start of the game to the end of the game," said linebacker coach Todd Bradford. "I think they ran 13 power plays against Miami. They are going to make linebackers play well in order for us to have a chance to win."

The value of the tight end for Colorado really comes in handy for the linebackers and the defense as a whole. Klopfenstein and Quinn Sypniewski can be tough to handle. But because they are usually in the center of the action they can provide the clues to being at the right place to make plays.

"At times it can be, but I also think they are in some ways predictable on offense because you can read their tight end," Duren said when speaking of the running game. "They have really good tight ends and Hugh Charles (tailback) is a really good player for them. Hugh Charles is going to be a star for them in the future."

Another important factor is that this season - with the change in defensive schemes - the Cowboys will have one more linebacker on the field much of the time. The more the merrier against the run, and even against the pass to the tight end.

"I think we can bring more people in the box than we did last year to stop their power," Duren said of the new 4-3 attacking defense the Cowboys have used with much success so far this season. "They run a lot of power and run it down your throat, and that can be big for us."

Bradford said, "In coverage we have different ways to get a safety on him if that is what we need to do or we can cover him with a linebacker. In the game our guys are going to have to take him on. They are always moving him around so usually he is taking guys on (blocking) on the run, so we need to do a good job of fitting where he's telling us the play is going."

The Cowboys also have a healthy respect for Colorado quarterback Joel Klatt. A former baseball player, Klatt is older and showed in the 23-3 loss to Miami that he is tough.

"He's tough. He's gritty," Duren said of Klatt. "He's been a three-year starter for them so he's done a lot of things right."

"Klatt is playing very well for them, doesn't make mistakes, knows where to thrown the ball, and knows how to get them out of bad plays into good plays for them," Bradford said of what he has seen on tape. "I think that our guys will have to be physical for us to do well in this game."

It's a character test for a group of primarily seniors at linebacker that have passed this kind of test before. This one could be really important because of the example it could set for a lot of younger teammates.

"We have great kids playing there and they play extremely hard, and have great character. I agree with that," Bradford said of his linebackers. "The reason that these kids have been successful in the Big 12 at this level is they all have great motors and they all have great work ethic, and they all try to do it the way you want them to do it every time."

And for Duren, it's the one-year anniversary of his first career touchdown as a Cowboy. Would he like to have a second? Silly question.

"I'd sure like to do it again," said the senior from Del City. "It would be big for us and would sure help us out a lot."

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