Colorado’s Defense Looks Great on Paper, But Video Tells a Different Story

Photo: Tony Harman – Colorado University Athletics

The Minnesota Gophers are 1-1 and coming off of an unimpressive 31-26 victory over the Miami (OH) Redhawks. That’s led many fans and media members to doubt PJ Fleck’s 2021 squad and it has made them (+2.5) underdogs vs the Colorado Buffaloes on Saturday.

On the other side of Folsom Field, which sits in the middle of Colorado University in Boulder, will be the Buffaloes. Karl Dorell‘s team is coming off of a 10-7, 4th quarter loss to Texas A&M, in a game the Buffaloes led for 45 of 60 minutes. It was an impressive defensive showing that many experts think will translate to a win over the Gophers this weekend.

Intrigued, I decided to watch that CO vs A&M game. And after further review, I’m unimpressed. Here’s why.

A&M’s Young QB and Gameplan OR Colorado’s Defense?

Kellen Mond was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the 3rd round of last year’s NFL Draft. That meant Texas A&M head coach, Jimbo Fisher, had to hand the keys to one of two underclassmen quarterbacks. He eventually turned to his redshirt freshman, Haynes King, who lasted less than five quarters. King left the game vs Colorado after the Aggies’ first drive.

His replacement, Zach Calzada, looked absolutely terrible for most of the game. He finished with a completion percentage under 50% (18/38) and it wasn’t for a lack of opportunities or open receivers. At one point late in the 3rd quarter, Calzada was 9/23 for 68 yards. He finished with 183.

The mistakes you see below from the first half only. He wasn’t anymore impressive for most of the back-half. You can watch for yourself, here.

Does Jimbo Fisher Hate His Running Backs?

While the Colorado defense was solid against the run, it was far from perfect. Yet, Fisher REFUSED to run the ball consistently, even when it worked. And it did work at times, as you saw in the highlights above. When it didn’t, swing passes and bubble screens did a fair amount of damage. But instead of challenging the Buffaloes at the line of scrimmage, A&M continued to pile their fate onto the arm of their 3rd-year Sophomore backup QB, 5-10 yards behind it.

And Zach Calzada rode the struggle bus, as the 10-7 final score obviously indicates, until late in the 4th quarter. Finally, he settled down and made two huge throws on the Aggies final drive of the game. Well, he looked pretty good the drive before, too until he dove and fumbled into the Buffaloes’ endzone for a Colorado touchback.

If there’s one thing I can promise you about Saturday, it’s that the Gophers will not rely on Tanner Morgan’s arm to win in Boulder, Colorado. They will pin their winning hopes on Trey Potts and (MAYBE) other running backs like Cam Wiley, Bryce Williams, Ky Thomas and Mar’Keise Irving. The Buffaloes will have to prove they can stop those guys on every single drive, which is not something they had to concern themselves with vs the Aggies, who handed the ball off to their running backs just 17 times, total.

We’ll Find Out Saturday

Don’t get me wrong, the Buffaloes have some very nice pieces on the defensive side of the ball, especially Mike Linebacker, Nate Landman, who was 1st Team All Pac-12 last season. You won’t miss his old school neckroll.

Who knows? Maybe they’re as good as advertised, which is one of the best in the country. And maybe this Colorado defense will be the first team in years to hold the Minnesota Gophers running backs down. But I doubt it. As for Tanner Morgan? He certainly has his faults but I’ve covered him for most of his career and he absolutely would’ve made the Buffaloes defense pay on a lot of the missed throws you saw in the first video of this blog.

The result looked good on paper vs A&M but they’ll have to play better on the field Saturday, if they’re going to hold the Gopher offense down. And if winning is the goal, Colorado will have to keep the Minnesota offense off the board. That’s because their backup quarterback Brenden Lewis, who will start vs Minnesota, isn’t very good and was determined to be the worst QB on the field last weekend. He succeeded, finishing 13/25 with 89 yards and an INT.

I expect the Minnesota Gophers to bounce back, beating Colorado and their overrated defense, 27-17 in Boulder.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan