Hop's Defensive Grades – Colorado Game

Well, the defense looked dominating in the first quarter. The defense held the rope and limited the Buffs to 10 points in the first half. But wow, that second half was brutal. Just how brutal? How about 258 yards and 25 points. Is that brutal enough? Websider's David Sandhop grades the Aggie defense against the Buffalo's

Well, the defense looked dominating in the first quarter. The defense held the rope and limited the Buffs to 10 points in the first half. But wow, that second half was brutal. Just how brutal? How about 258 yards and 25 points. Is that brutal enough? It took Coach Hawkins and his staff about a half to figure out that A&M was selling out on pass plays bringing all of its pressure from the edge and that the Aggies didn't have the inside linebackers to stop anything up the middle, whether it was Tyler Hansen stepping up in the pocket and running, or it was Rodney Stewart on a delay counter rumbling virtually untouched up the middle of the field.

But with all the yards and all the points scored in the second half, the Aggies still had the Buffs where they wanted them on the last drive up by six points and Hansen facing a second and 25 after another A&M sack. However, an easy shuffle pass to Stewart up the middle for 10 yards set up a makeable third and 15, and that's when the wheels fell off when Markques Simas was inexplicably wide open 20 yards downfield and he took it another 20 yards for good measure. Wow, what a lousy time for a breakdown in coverage assignments. Then on the very next play Hansen found the big tight end who made an incredible one-handed grab for the winning score.

I think we all realize that the defense has some work to do, and an offensive explosion from a potent offense is a realistic possibly as the Aggies try to rebuild this defensive unit. However, I don't even the most optimistic Aggie fan felt that the Colorado Buffaloes could Blitzkrieg the Aggies for 258 yards and 25 points in one half of football.

Defensive Line B

The defensive line took control early as Tyler Hansen was sacked four times in CU's first two offensive series that forced two opening punts. The pressure came from off the edge, and there's no question that the Aggies sold out to the outside on passing plays. But what Hawkins and the Buffs figured out is that left the middle of the field wide open for either Hansen to step up in the pocket to scramble or run a misdirection play up the middle to Stewart who simply had to navigate through A&M's inside linebacker before seeing nothing but green. Stewart finished with 117 yards, and most of that came on several of these counter plays that took advantage of A&M's ends going all out on the edge leaving just a couple of bodies to be blocked in the middle. But that was by design, so you really can't fault the linemen. After all, they did register eight sacks and nine tackles for loss. That has to be some kind of post Wrecking Crew record. I thought Spencer Nealy had the defensive play of the game sniffing out a screen play and coming over from the backside to make the stop on a play that had the makings of a long gain. He's going to be a good one, and based on the speed he showed there, I think he can handle the strong side defensive end spot in the future if he can keep his weight down.

Linebacker F

I thought the linebacker unit as a whole had its worst game of the year. The run support between the tackles is the biggest weakness on defense. Kyle Mangan does a solid job in pass protection but he simply isn't comfortable in run support and doesn't play with the wreckless abandon needed at such a crucial position. He doesn't shed blockers and he's tentative to the ball carrier. I don't know if that's still inexperience, but we are in week nine of the season. Michael Hodges is a gamer and a fighter who seems to generally be an instinctive player, but at under 6-foot and 210 pounds, he is easily overpowered and many of his stops are 4-5 yards past the line of scrimmage. I also thought both Jonathan Stewart and Sean Porter had subpar days as well. After taking several sacks from off the edge in the first two series, Colorado realized that the middle of the field offered the best opportunity for success against the A&M defense, and they were right.

Defensive Back C

The secondary gave up 271 yards passing, but with the exception of the fatal third and 15 pass that found Markques Simas wide open for 45 yards, I thought the receivers were covered but Tyler Hansen made very good throws. Simas also had a 47 yarder that he grabbed despite Jordan Pugh right on his heels harassing him. Sometimes, the other team executes perfectly and there's not much you can do. I thought Pugh made up for that long pass with a nice break-up of a pass on third down in the red zone that forced a CU field goal. He also had the long interception that at the time resulted in an A&M field goal and what seemed like a safe 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. It was also good to see Jordan Peterson get a nice tackle for a loss.

Special Teams C

Cyrus Gray and his 99-yard kickoff return to regain the lead 14-10 in the first half is the only reason why this grade isn't an F. Well, Lionel Smith did get a great hit on the kickoff return following A&M's second half field goal that caused a fumble but that was about it. The punting is simply bad. There's no hang time and there's not much distance. Same can be said of the kickoffs, and that's where I'm baffled. Randy Bullock as a freshman had nice lift and carry on his kicks. He didn't boom them out of the end zone, but he did give the kick coverage team a chance to get down the field and make a play. As his sophomore year progresses, his kicks are getting shorter with less hang time. In the thin air of Boulder, kickers routinely benefit with extra yards on punts and kicks. On the last kickoff to Colorado, Bullock managed to kick the ball to the 12 yard-line on a line drive. That allowed the Buff's returner to take it out to the 39 yard line. Sorry, but in thin air of Colorado, a D-1 kicker should be able to reach the end zone consistently. Of Bullock's seven kickoffs, only one went for a touchback. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but starting a drive from the 40 yard line versus the 20 is huge. A&M must address both punting and kickoffs in the offseason.


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