Thu 10/1/09 7:30 PM
Auburn L 41-30
Wyoming W 24-0
Series: CU 1-0
First Meeting: 2008
Last Meeting: 2008
ACROSS THE BOARD
With this game, Colorado will have played on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday in its first four games of the season. That has to have some sort of effect on developing a routine.
ON THE RADAR
Television can be a tricky thing. It can skew perspective and magnify perceptions. However, after watching the Buffaloes play both Colorado State and Toledo, it certainly appeared as if they lacked the overall team speed of West Virginia. Is that the case, or was it just instances of sluggishness, and not an indicator of the team as a whole? West Virginia will certainly test that perception offensively.
Neither team has been particularly clean when it comes to penalties. Colorado has committed 24 infractions for a total of 246 yards, while West Virginia isn't far behind with 22 flags for 218 yards in losses. What the statistics don't show is additional lost yardage due to offensive gains nullified by flags, or second chances provided by defensive infractions. West Virginia has certainly been hurt by several inopportune offensive penalties this year, and must clean up its play in this area in order to maximize the benefits of good initial offensive and defensive play. There's nothing more demoralizing than getting a big offensive play wiped out by a penalty or giving an opposing offense new life after a stop.
RUSH AND RETURN
Due to injury and a deep contingent of tailbacks, sophomore Darrell Scott hasn't gotten the carries that he expected this year. In fact, he has as many kickoff returns (13) as he does carries from scrimmage. Scott has taken advantage of his chances in the kicking game, however, as he is averaging 26.3 yards per return this year. A highly-regarded recruit, Scott figures to have a breakout game in the backfield for the Buffs sometime soon.
Ironically, Scott replaced his uncle, Josh Smith, as one of Colorado's primary return specialists this year. Smith, a very talented return man, transferred to UCLA following last season.
In its two losses, Colorado gave up long touchdown drives on its opponents' opening possession, and did not score on its first try. In its win against Wyoming, the Buffs reversed that stat, driving 74 yards for a touchdown while holding the Cowboys to a three-and-out series.
Now, does this mean the first team to score in this week's game will get the win? Not necessarily. But it's a fun stat, and could be an indicator of the positive results that can come from a good start.
MAKING IT COUNT
Colorado has scored every time it has gotten into the red zone this year. On twelve trips inside opponents' 20-yard line, the Buffs have scored ten touchdowns and kicked two field goals. That's an outstanding TD to FG conversion rate, which is one of the important hidden metrics in red zone scoring.
West Virginia's defense, on the other hand, isn't faring as well in the red zone as it did a year ago. As has been pointed out several times before on this site, keeping an opponent out of the end zone from point blank range involves a combination of determination and luck. Last year, WVU had the perfect storm of turnovers and key stops to lead the nation in red zone defense. This year, while the Mountaineers are certainly playing just as had and arguably have at least the same talent level, the numbers haven't been so good. WVU has given up six touchdowns in nine red zone chances this year, to go along with two field goals.
NICE THURSDAY NIGHTS
The Mountaineers boast an undefeated 6-0 record when ESPN televises a Thursday night game in Morgantown. ESPN first came to Morgantown for a Thursday night matchup on Nov. 24, 1994, when WVU defeated Syracuse, 13-0. Ten seasons later, WVU hosted another nationally-televised Thursday night contest, beating Syracuse again, 27-6, on Oct. 21, 2004.
Since then, WVU has hosted four more Thursday night, ESPN broadcasts against Pitt (45-13/Nov. 24, 2005), Maryland (45-28/Sept. 14, 2006), Louisville (38-35/Nov. 8, 2007) and Auburn (34-17/Oct. 23, 2008).
KICKING UP A STORM
West Virginia's Scott Kozlowski has done an outstanding job punting the ball this year, averaging 48.4 yards per boot with a long of 63, and two kicks inside the twenty. He'll likely be challenged by Colorado punter Matt DiLallo, who has averaged 43 yards per kick, but has put five of his 15 boots inside opponents' 20-yard lines. He has also excelled under pressure, averaging more than 55 yards per kick against Wyoming when backed up inside his own 20. The battle for field position often begins with punt exchanges, and this face-off of long-range boomers could well be a telling factor in the game.