Preview: Buffs look to knock off Washington in Pac-12 title game rematch

Scott Hood, Staff Writer
CU Sports Nation

Pac-12 Network Video Preview

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What: No. 6 Washington (3-0) at Colorado (3-0)

Where: Folsom Field (50,183), Boulder, CO

When: Saturday, 8 p.m. MT

TV/Radio: FS1 (Tim Brando, Spencer Tillman and Holly Sonders); Westwood One Radio Network (Ted Emrich and Derek Rackley); Colorado IMG Sports Network (Mark Johnson and Gary Barnett).

The Colorado Buffaloes begin their seventh year of Pac-12 Conference play by hosting the defending league champion and No. 6 (Coaches) ranked Washington Huskies at Folsom Feld.

SERIES HISTORY: Washington has won seven straight games in the series to take a 10-5-1 all-time lead. The Huskies lead 4-1 in Boulder, 4-3-1 in Seattle and 2-1 in neutral site games (2 bowl games + 2016 Pac-12 championship game). Colorado has not beaten Washington since they joined the Pac-12. The Buffs last win over UW came in the 1996 Holiday Bowl (33-21).

QUARTERBACK DUEL: Saturday night’s matchup features two quarterback off to solid starts. CU redshirt sophomore Steven Montez is seventh in passing yards per game (286.0 ypg) and seventh in passing efficiency (153.3) with 6 TD passes and 3 INT. Washington’s Jake Browning, the 2016 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, is just ninth in passing yards per game (266.0) in the Pac-12, but ranks No. 1 in passing efficiency with 8 TD passes and 1 INT. He has also been durable, starting 26 of the past 27 UW games.

“(Browning) is a quarterback who understands how to manage a game in close situations,” Mike MacIntyre said. “With Steven, I never have to worry about the stage being too big. He’s ready to go. In the last six quarters, he has taken a step in the right direction. He’s sitting in the pocket, looking downfield, stepping up, making throws. He’s not just trying to run around. He’s making plays with his eyes downfield. Saturday night, he is going to play against a really good defense that will challenge him.”

Brown’s best qualities are is decision-making in the pocket, pinpoint accuracy and ability to minimize mistakes, Colorado CB Isaiah Oliver said.

“His decisions make him a great quarterback,” Oliver said. “He rarely makes a bad decision. He put the ball where it’s supposed to be, where only his receivers can get it. So, he doesn’t commit a lot of turnovers. We have to play great defense, lock on the receivers and hope he makes a mistake.”

ELITE RUNNING BACKS: Besides the quarterbacks, Saturday night will also feature two of the best running backs in the Pac-12. Colorado’s Phillip Lindsay is third in the Pac-12 in rushing with 126.0 yards per game. He is also fourth on the NCAA’s active list for most career all-purpose yards with 4,065 (Oregon’s Royce Freeman is No. 1). Lindsay has scored at least one touchdown in 14 of his last 18 games dating back to the 2015 season finale at Utah.

Washington RB Myles Gaskin isn’t ranked currently among the top 12 running backs in terms of rushing yardage per game, by the remains a dangerous runner. He has rushed for over 1,300 yards in each of the past two season and has 27 career rushing touchdowns. In three games this season, Gaskins has 153 rushing yards, averaging 6.38 yards per carry. When he fumbled last week against Fresno State, it was the first fumble by a UW running back since 2015.

OLIVER’S TWIST: Colorado DB Isaiah Oliver has played like one of the top cornerbacks in the Pac-12 so far this season. According to CU, opposing quarterbacks have targeted the receiver Oliver is covering 30 times in three games with just 11 completions. However, the number of targets has dropped from 15 against Colorado State to 8 (Texas State) to 7 (Northern Colorado).

Oliver’s 36.7 completion rate against is one of the best figures in the Pac-12. Last season, Oliver had a 43.1 completion percentage against, second best among Pac-12 returning CBs. Oliver is second among active Pac-12 defensive backs in passes defended with 28.

Oliver will likely be assigned to cover UW WR Dante Pettis, who leads the Huskies with 12 receptions for 209 yards in addition to being arguably the Pac-12’s most dangerous kick returner. Pettis caught three TD passes and threw a 39-yard pass in last week’s easy win over Fresno State.

“I see that they're trying to get him the ball a lot more,” Oliver said of Pettis. “Last year, they also had John Ross so it was a little more of spreading the ball around, trying to get them both touches. Now he's the number one guy, so he definitely is a threat. He has a lot of speed, good size. In my opinion, he’s one of the best receivers in the Pac-12.”

NOTES:

-- The Buffs are just outside the Top 25 of both major polls, so a victory Saturday night would likely propel CU into the top 25 in September for the first time in 14 years. Ranked as high as No. 6, Washington will be the highest ranked team

to visit Boulder since Oct. 5, 2013 when Oregon came in ranked No. 2.

-- Colorado is just two wins away from 700 all-time wins as the Buffs own a record of 698-494-36 (.583 winning percentage). The Buffaloes are 25th on the all-time wins list and 36th in all-time winning percentage (29th for those schools with 1,000 or more games played in Division I-A).

-- In his 28 seasons as a coach (head or assistant), pro or college, this is the first time Mike MacIntyre is part of a team that opened a season 3-0.

-- The defensive backfields for Colorado and Washington’s were two of the best in the country last season. Both schools had three players from their defensive backfield drafted. The starters or featured players returning in 2017 from those two defensive backfields are CU’s Isaiah Oliver and Afolabi Laguda and Washington’s Taylor Rapp.

-- Colorado’s defense is humming coming into Saturday night’s game when the other team has the ball on the Buffs side of the field. The CU defense has stiffened once the opponent reaches midfield. The opposition has run 50 plays in CU territory for 163 net yards, an average of 3.3 yards per play. The four times the opponent has crossed into the red zone, it has run nine plays for a net minus-2 yards and has just two field goals.

-- Here is Colorado’s injury report announced earlier this week:

OLB Shamar Hamilton (knee surgery) – OUT FOR SEASON

OL Jonathan Huckins (quad strain) - PROBABLE

WR Jaylon Jackson (fractured ankle/ligament damage – OUT FOR SEASON

TE Dylan Keeney (periodic back spasms) - OUT

S Ryan Moeller (shoulder stinger) - DAY-TO-DAY

OL Kolter Smith (heart palpitations, procedure in August) - OUT

COLORADO DEPTH CHART

OFFENSE

QB – Steven Montez (Noyer)

RB – Phillip Lindsay (Adkins)

Z WR – Shay Fields (Winfree)

X WR – Bryce Bobo (Shenault)

H WR – Devin Ross (Nixon)

Y WR – Jay MacIntyre (Walker)(Utilized when in 4 wide set)

TE/HB – George Frazier (Bounds)

LT – Jeremy Irwin (Kaiser)

LG – Gerrard Kough (Tonz)

C – Tim Lynott (Pursell)

RG – Aaron Haigler (Lynott)

RT – Josh Kaiser (Haigler)

DEFENSE

LDE – Leo Jackson (Franke)

NT – Javier Edwards (Franke OR Tuiloma)

RDE – Jase Franke OR George Frazier (Mulumba) *

OLB – Derek McCartney (Sparaco)

JACK – Drew Lewis (Landman)

MIKE – Rick Gamboa (Jones)

OLB – Terran Hasselbach (Coleman)

BUFF – Ryan Moeller (Worthington)

CB – Isaiah Oliver (Wigley)

FS – Afolabi Laguda (Fisher)

SS – Evan Worthington (Moeller)

CB – Trey Udoffia (Blackmon)

* DE Chris Mulumba must sit out the first half of the Washington game after being ejected from the Northern Colorado win in the second half because of targeting. Under NCAA rules, he is required to sit out the first half of the next game.


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USA Today

WEEK 4 PAC-12 SCHEDULE (Sept. 22-23)

Fri., Sept. 22

Utah at Arizona, 8:30 p.m. (FS1)

Sat. Sept. 23

USC at California, 1:30 p.m. (ABC)

Nevada at Washington State, 4 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)

Washington at Colorado, 8 p.m. (FS1)

Oregon at Arizona State, 8 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)

UCLA at Stanford, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

(All Times Mountain)

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