Colorado Buffaloes scouting report
Head coach: Mike Sanford (interim), 1st season (1-1; 10-17 career)
This season: 1-6, 1-3 Pac-12
Last week: Lost at Oregon State, 42-9
5 Players to Watch
• PK Cole Becker: He has been reliable all season, as he has made seven of eight field goals overall, including 7-of-7 inside 50 yards. Since the 0-for-3 start to the 2021 season, Becker has made 21 of his last 25 field goal attempts.
• LB Josh Chandler-Semedo: Posted a season-high 11 tackles last week and has recorded at least one tackle for loss in five straight games. On the year, he has 55 tackles and a team-high 10.5 tackles for loss.
• WR RJ Sneed: Numbers are modest this season (12 catches for 89 yards), but the Baylor transfer appears to finally be over a foot injury that bothered him earlier in the year.
• QB JT Shrout: Set to make his second straight start and fourth of the season, it will be his first start at Folsom Field. Shrout has struggled on the road, but he played well in Boulder.
• S Tyrin Taylor: Settling into his new spot at safety, Taylor had an interception two weeks ago, but has recorded only three tackles in 111 snaps the past two games. Buffs may need him to have a bigger impact against the Sun Devils.
Colorado is offended
Turnovers, dropped passes and missed assignments continue to plague the Buffs, who have yet to figure out how to get the offense rolling consistently. CU has had some measure of success running the ball, but the passing game continues to struggle. “Just the throwing and catching the football to me is where we have to go win football games,” Sanford said. “There are opportunities there but we’ve got to make those plays.” This week, they’ll rely on junior JT Shrout to lead the offense again and hope he can play as well in a start as he has in relief appearances at Folsom Field.
Two weeks ago, the Buffs were a completely different-looking bunch on defense, as they dominated California in a 20-13 overtime win. Last week was a step back in the loss to Oregon State, but the Buffs feel that the change in scheme and attitude before the Cal game can help them get back on track this week. “Our new defense, we’ve been able to make more plays, we’ve been able to play more freely,” outside linebacker Guy Thomas said. Although last week wasn’t pretty overall, the Buffs have generated more pressure on the quarterback and more tackles for loss in the past two games.
Colorado special teams
Cole Becker continues to be a bright spot for the Buffs, as he has made 7-of-8 field goals this season. Last week was the first time this season Becker had kickoffs returned, but he’s been nearly perfect at Folsom Field in putting kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. Freshman walk-on punter Trent Carrizosa got off to a good start when he took over in game no. 4, but in the last two games, his average has dropped and opponent returns are up. CU has given up 206 punt return yards (most in the Pac-12), with 94 of those in the last two games.
How Colorado can win
Get JT Shrout and the passing game in rhythm early – and catch the ball. If the Buffs can get some momentum on offense early in the game, they can build some confidence, and perhaps a lead, and carry that through the night. The Buffs have been outscored 61-10 in the first quarter, making them play catch-up most of the year. It’s also been a rough quarter for ASU (outscored 51-23). A strong start is vital for CU.
• This will be the 107th homecoming game in CU history. The Buffs are 65-36-5 all-time on homecoming, including 4-1 in the last five.
• Kicker Cole Becker needs three points to reach 100 for his career; he has 97 through his first 19 games. Only 53 players in CU history have reached the 100-point mark and only nine have reached that mark by their 20th game.
• The Buffs have had 15 turnovers this season, which is the most for a CU team since 2018 (19) and more than double the amount from last year (seven).
• Receivers coach Phil McGeoghan believes senior RJ Sneed could be in for a strong finish to the season. “(Wednesday’s) practice was his best by far,” he said. “I do see more play speed, I see more confidence. I saw a lot of what I saw on film at Baylor this week. I think that his best football is still going to be ahead of him this year.”
• The Buffs have scored on 12 of 17 trips to the red zone, a rate of 70.6 percent. That is on pace to be among the worst rates CU has ever had in the red zone on offense. CU has eight touchdowns and four field goals in the red zone.