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Being that the Huskies had several key players depart for the NFL from last year’s roster, they’re a much different team this time around than they were a year ago. In spite of the notable departures (explosive playmaker John Ross on offense, and Sidney Jones, Budda Baker, Randall Goforth, Elijah Qualls and Budda Baker on defense), head coach Mike MacIntyre still believes this this is a better team than they were a year ago.
“I think they’re just more polished in what they’re doing,” MacIntyre said. “They’ve got good receivers - of course they lost John Ross, but they have number five [Andre Baccellia] who can fly. [Dante] Pettis to me has really gone to a different level - even in the receiving area. You’ve got [Myles] Gaskin at running back, tight ends, quarterback, they’re just more polished a year later. Defensively, their linebacking core is excellent.”
One of things that stuck out about Saturday’s victory against the UNC Bears was the fact that the Buffs had two players ejected for personal foul targeting penalties. Safety Afolabi Laguda was ejected in the 2nd quarter following a hit on wide receiver Hakeem Deggs, and defensive lineman Chris Mulumba was ejected in the 4th quarter after laying out quarterback Jacob Knipp.
Being that the targeting penalties hurt the team in multiple facets of the game - they’re of the 15-yard variation, and typically warrant an automatic ejection, both of which can change the momentum and dynamic of a game, MacIntyre stressed the importance of coaching players up, and trying to make sure they improved in that area.
“You keep teaching them, and working with how they target,” MacIntyre said. “It’s hard - a receiver ducks, a quarterback throws and follows through and comes down, but we have to keep targeting lower and keep working on that. It’s something that happens from time-to-time, you just don’t want it to. You show them on film, about getting an extra step on the quarterback and things like that.”
Despite the fact that Saturday’s ejection was the third of the targeting variation of Laguda’s career (the first coming two seasons against UMass, and the second coming against Washington State last year) that isn’t going to change his aggressive mentality and mindset when he lowers his shoulders to make a play.
“It’s football, we’re just playing fast, and I’m not going to just let a guy catch the ball,” Laguda said. “I don’t really care too much for the targeting. I care for the safety of the other guy, but they know it’s not intentional. He’s [Hakeem Deggs] a great player over there on the other side, I’m just trying to do my job, play fast, and play physical.”
One of the things inevitably motivating Laguda, and the rest of the defensive backs group is the fact that they let up 41 points to the Huskies in last year’s Pac-12 championship game. Despite the stigma and hyde surrounding last year’s huge loss, he feels the team is focused on going forward, playing their best, and toning out the critics. Ultimately, Laguda feels they’ve ultimately moved on from the past.
“The fire was lit regardless, people were doubting us coming into this season, and we’re still getting doubted,” Laguda said. “We’re just going to come out and play our game, last year was last year, a lot of those guys who were on the field last year aren’t even in this program anymore, they’ve moved on. So we’ve got to move on from last year, Washington’s got a new team and they aren’t worried about last year. It’s in the past.”
One common theme so far has been a somewhat lack of execution on offense for Colorado. Although it’s no secret the Buffs are loaded with talent and firepower on that side of the football, they haven’t reached their full potential and performed to the best of their ability thus far.
Despite the fact the defense has been able to consistently control the field position, time of possession, and allowed the offense to put points on the board, it feels like this group is just scratching the surface in terms of their ceiling.
“Just practicing full speed, practicing hard - Going through every practice rep like it’s a rep on Folsom, I think that’s going to be key for us this week and hopefully we can go out there and execute that.”
-MacIntyre would not comment on whether or not the team would punt the ball away from special teams sensation Dante Pettis - who recently broke NFL deep ball phenomenon, and former Cal Bears standout DeSean Jackson’s collegiate punt return touchdown record.
-MacIntyre was pleased with the team’s physicality on Saturday, despite the fact that he thinks they could be smarter in their tackling.
-Despite his aggressive nature, Laguda still feels he can do more to work on and improve his tackling technique. He also feels there isn’t a distinct difference in the talent level between the three non-power five teams to start the season, and their conference opponents.
-MacIntyre says he isn’t worried about the vulnerability the Buffs have shown with the deep ball thus far this season. He wants to make sure his DB’s are ready as teams continue to take shots down the field.
-Laguda says he doesn’t feel their is a big difference between this year’s team and last season's squad. He attributes the talent level and attitude of the team to the consistently high expectations for Colorado football.
-Montez says he’s happy to have offensive lineman Jeremy Irwin and tight end George Frazier back on the field with the team. In addition to their skillet, he feels they bring a leadership factor to the table.
-Montez feels that Tim Lynott did a good job in his first opportunity at center. With the talent the Buffs have at offensive line, Montez feels confident no matter who is back their protecting him.