If he wasn’t head coach at Arizona, Rich Rodriguez could easily be president of the Phillip Lindsay Fan Club.
Lindsay is the Pac-12’s fourth leading rusher entering Saturday’s key 6 p.m. contest at Folsom Field, averaging 21.8 carries and 105.8 yards per game. He has shown the ability to gain tough yards running between the tackles or utilizing his speed on the perimeter.
Who leads the Pac-12 in number of carries? Lindsay. In fact, he is one of just two Pac-12 running backs with more than 100 carries so far this season (Oregon’s Royce Freeman is the other with 103).
Rodriguez anticipates the Buffs will again lean on their senior workhorse running back to ignite the offense. He has 529 rushing yards through five games, putting him on pace to surpass 1,000 yards rushing as long as he stays healthy, as well as 13 receptions for 111 yards and one TD.
Lindsay has 19 or more carries in every game this season.
“I think (Lindsay) is one of the best backs in the country,” Rodriguez said earlier this week on the weekly Pac-12 coaches teleconference. “I’m a huge Philip Lindsay fan with the way he plays both with the ball and without the ball. He blocks and catches. he’s a big time player, in my opinion. Without question, he is one of the most valuable players in the Pac-12.”
Sixty-two (62) of Lindsay’s 109 rushing attempts have come on first down, so the Buffs like to feature him early in a series. He is averaging 5.2 yards on first down carries, including his 45-yard run against Colorado State, the longest offensive play from scrimmage for CU this season. Six of his 13 receptions have come on third down
Lindsay scored two touchdown in last Saturday’s loss at UCLA - one rushing and one receiving.
“You give him a little space, or if he needs a yard or two, he’ll get three or four (yards),” Rodriguez said. “You have to do a great job of knowing where he is, certainly if you’ve got him man-to-man. But you also have to do a great job wrapping up because he’ll run through a lot of tackles.”
Arizona will be well rested when they arrive in Boulder for Saturday’s key 6 p.m. contest at Folsom Field. While Colorado was facing UCLA at the Rose Bowl, the Wildcats enjoyed a bye week after a 2-2 start highlighted by victories over UTEP and Northern Arizona. The Wildcats lost close battles to Houston (19-16) and Utah (30-24).
Arizona has scored more than 60 points in both of their victories this season, a key reason they are fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring offense (41.2 ppg). However, Colorado has allowed more than 27 points just once in their first five games and currently sits fourth in the pac-12 in scoring defense (18.2). Nonetheless, the Buffs have allowed 64 points in the last two games, losses to Washington and UCLA.
“They are a very sound football team in all three phases,” Rodriguez said. “They have good players and they’re well-coached. You have to make plays to beat them. But you also have to make sure you don’t make a big mistake or have a poor play that costs you because they will take advantage of it. It’s going to be a tough environment. They have a great fan base that follows the. The stadium is right on top of you. Our young guys are going to have to grow up in a hurry.”
Because both teams are winless, the sense of urgency is high on both sides. Especially for the Buffs, who certainly don’t want to fall to 0-3 in the Pac-12, making any possible repeat divisional title virtually impossible.
Defensive back Evan Worthington may have summed it up best for the Buffs.
“The mood of this team is that we can't lose any more,” Worthington said earlier this week. “This is a big week for us, so we're just really fighting hard during practice. "We're definitely more motivated. You can tell at practice that everybody is locked in and ready to do everything we're supposed to do. We need to get this W, that's all we're thinking about right now."
MacIntyre explained any “sense of urgency” doesn’t begin on game day. Rather, it starts on the first snap of the first practice of the week. So far, the Buffs have done that, he said.
“A lot of our guys have played a lot football now and understand the sense of urgency and make sure that we're taking care of business,” MacIntyre said. “The only way you can do that is to take care of it during the week. You can't all of sudden get excited on Saturdays.
“That doesn't do anything. It's their work ethic and how they're preparing (that counts the most). Their sense of focus, understanding and hopefully their intensity level keeps rising as the games get more and more important. They understand what we want to do."