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One of the things that’s distinctly different about the Colorado Buffaloes' game this week from last week is the fact that they’ll be facing a legitimate dual-threat quarterback.
Arizona Wildcats' signal caller Brandon Dawkins ranks eighth in the Pac-12 in rushing yards, despite the fact that the Wildcats have played one less game than most other teams due to their bye week.
He also ranks fourth in yards per attempt with 6.6 YPA. Just like Louisville’s Lamar Jackson or any other pro-style quarterback in college football, Dawkins is a legitimate threat to take off everytime he touches the ball.
The difference in quarterback strengths is something that’s forced the Buffs to gameplan differently.
“You’re playing different with your ins than you did with Josh Rosen. With Josh Rosen, you’re trying to rush up field and move him off his spot,” Mike MacIntyre said. “You’re playing more pass percentages, and you’re more coverage emphasis. In this situation, you have to be more run emphasis as you rush.
“If you get to wide out of your lanes he’ll pull it down and go, and before you know it he’s 20 yards down the field. You’re a little more rush conscious, you can’t do as many pass rush moves. In the NFL, they just put them back and get in a track stance and go, if you do it against this guy, get above him, he’ll take off running. You have to see him better.”
One of the major differences between college football and the NFL is the varying abilities of the opposing quarterback from week-to-week. One week you can have a precision pocket passer like UCLA’s Josh Rosen, while the next you can have a Michael Vick-esque run first quarterback who loves to make plays with his feet like Arizona’s Brandon Dawkins. Being that MacIntyre has coached at both the collegiate and professional level, he’s noticed the major differences in game planning between games.
“That’s the difference in college football and pro football,” MacIntyre said. “Pro football is basically the same, similar types of offenses all the time. They’re not going to run their quarterback because if he does get hurt, that’s million of dollars and they don’t have a guy behind him that can do it - usually. You’re very cookie cutter in the NFL, in college every week you’re is something totally different.”
Arizona’s explosive rushing attack doesn’t end at the quarterback position. The Wildcats running back tandem of JJ Taylor and Nick Wilson have also looked good. The dynamic duo has averaged a pedestrian 4.87 yards a carry, while each bringing a slightly different unique element to the Wildcats offense. Taylor is a small back who can squeeze through tight holes, while using his size and shifty ability to escape would-be tacklers.
Wilson is more of a short yardage bruiser, who can also line up as a receiver out of the backfield. Both tailbacks serve to compliment Dawkins while keep opposing defenses honest with their different strong points. The Wildcats success running the ball plays into one of the Buffs biggest weaknesses as a team: stopping the run.
Although the Buffs rank 6th in the Pac-12 in rushing defense, they’ve struggled against tough competition. Two weeks ago, Myles Gaskin had a career night on Folsom Field when he ran for 202 yards on the ground. Last week, Sosa Jamabo averaged 5.8 YPC over 21 carries, and had several long runs including a 16 yarder.
If the Buffs want to remain a contender they are going to have to do a better job of stopping the run. Period. Doing so starts up front on the defensive line where plugging the gaps and getting pressure upfront gets instrumentally more important as the season progresses. Coach MacIntyre stressed the importance of winning battles in the trenches, and getting enough penetration on the lines.
“I hope we can [stop the run],” MacIntyre said. “Part of their rushing attack is their quarterback getting outside, so the d-line won’t have much to do with that part of it, but the inside running game, if they can get the running back started, they’ll have a huge part of that. They’ve got to be able to clog up the B-gaps, and stay on the tackles when they run the stretch plays.”
-One of the hot topics of discussion today was MacIntyre’s father-son relationship with Jay. MacIntyre said he sets aside some time during the week to have that connection with him, and the rest of the time it’s strictly a player-coach relationship.
-Offensive Lineman Isaac Miller has done a good job playing at both tackle positions in limited game action and at practice. MacIntyre is unsure if he’ll be in the starting lineup come Saturday.
-MacIntyre is also pleased with the progress of Laviska Shenault, who had his first long reception of the season last week. MacIntyre says Shenault is really starting to come around both on special teams and offense.