In advance of this weekend's suddenly important game with Colorado, we have traded Q&As with the folks over at The Ralphie Report. We may do another set of questions, so if there's something you're dying to know about the Buffs, leave a comment and I'll ask them.
BOTC: The Buffaloes have almost seemed to be a different team the last two weeks. Is it just Tyler Hanson, or is there something else at work here?
TRR: The last two weeks' success can directly be related to the defense's play. Through the first four games of the year, Colorado's defense gave up 205 yards a game on the ground. The last two weeks against arguably the two preseason favorites to play in the Big 12 championship: 19 yards per game. Reesing had some success and so did McCoy in the passing game but they will get theres. The Buffs have successfully made the last two teams one dimensional. Another big reason for the turnaround is the Buffs defense has forced turnovers deep in their opponents' territory leading to 21 points the last two weeks. The defense has been pretty opportunistic.
Having Tyler Hansen in there last week was also a big improvement. We don't win that game without the scrambling ability of Hansen. He made plays that were dead. Yes, he has to improve and protect the ball a little better (two turnovers) but for his third career start, he was exceptional extending plays and making the defense account for him.
BOTC: For the second straight year, Darrell Scott has been the international man of mystery. Last year, we heard it was because he was out of shape and got hurt. What's the reason this year?
TRR: Rodney Stewart just looks like the better back again. Darrell Scott has had some injuries again this year which have slowed him down a little but I expect Stewart will still get the nod for the year as long as he is producing. It doesn't mean Darrell Scott can't have an impact on games. He has been great returning kicks and is a threat in the passing game out of the backfied. I think the Buffs could still try and get him 5 - 10 carries but the way Stewart is running, it will be hard to take him off the field.
BOTC: What's the mood like in Boulder right now? Can Dan Hawkins win the fans back, or are they so far gone that pretty much nothing can get them back in his corner?
TRR: The mood is probably like it is in Manhattan...very cautious. We would be crazy to start drinking the Kool-Aid after one win over Kansas but it is sure nice to get something positive going heading into a managable remainining conference schedule. The heat is still not off Dan Hawkins, though. This is still a team that has won only 2 games this year, worst in the Big 12 conference, and lost to Toledo and Colorado State. Are they getting better? Yes, but getting his team to play hard with a good game plan every week, not just selectively, is still something that remains to be seen. Can Dan Hawkins get off the hot seat? Ask me after the season.
BOTC: Last week's win over KU was a big shot in the arm. Are Buffs fans looking at that as a turning point, or is the attitude more like "well, that will be one nice memory of the good ship Titanic"?
TRR: I think the boat is back to floating but the motor isn't working yet. The sinking ship was a defense that gave up 624 yards to Toledo in week 2 and an offense against Texas that only accounted for 127 yards while giving up 21 non-offensive points to the Longhorns.
Enter in a defense that has improved the last two weeks and an offense under Tyler Hansen that seems to have added some life to a stagnant squad. It was one solid game but this team still lacks explosiveness on the offensive side of the ball at wide receiver, commits too many turnovers and penalties, and has shown that they need to make better halftime adjustments. The Buffs almost blew a 21 point lead last week and against Texas, they had the first half lead and didn't score a point in the second half. This team still needs to get better in many areas but I think for the time being, some holes might be patched.
BOTC: Name one thing -- other than scoring more points -- that Colorado has to do to win the game Saturday.
TRR: Limit the mental mistakes. Colorado had 20 penalties against Texas and some crucial first down false starts against Kansas. The Buffs also turned the ball over three times last week. Luckily they were able to hold Kansas to only six points off of those turnovers but they are playing with fire when they lose the turnover battle. Especially on the road, turnover margin is increasingly important.
Thanks to TRR. Check in over there for my answers to their questions, and leave a question for them (and please don't ask about hippies).