BOULDER — While several debatable topics sprouted from last season’s Colorado-Colorado State season opener, one thing remained undisputed: The Buffaloes did not muster much of a pass rush.
Much is being made this week about the ability of CU’s cornerbacks to cover CSU’s receivers, especially David Anderson. But first things first. If CSU quarterback Justin Holland is able to study the field Saturday without much pressure — like a year ago when CU recorded just one sack — he’ll probably enjoy another big day.
“That’s going to be a big factor,” CU defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz said. “He’s a veteran quarterback who knows how to get rid of the ball. They’ll utilize some maximum pro-
tection schemes where they’ll block a lot of people. We didn’t have a good plan for that last year. We feel like we’re better prepared for it, but it still doesn’t mean it’s easy.”
Said CU defensive tackle James Garee: “We didn’t do a good job of getting a push last year. It was our fault. We just didn’t do it.”
Holland threw for two touchdowns and 403 yards in last year’s game, and moved CSU at will in the second half, throwin for 335 yards after halftime. Anderson caught nine passes for 156 yards.
While CSU returns four starting offensive linemen in addition to Holland and Anderson, there are some differences on CU’s side. Abraham Wright has assumed Garee’s starting spot at rush end, and Garee has moved inside to tackle. Bill Inge enters his first game as CU’s defensive line coach, but did arrive before spring drills.
Craig Bray took over the defensive backs last June, leaving little time to implement his techniques. That was a factor in the 2004 opener. Hankwitz does not expect having a new coach on the defensive line to hinder CU in its opener.
“I don’t think that’ll be a problem at all,” he said.
Wright, who got in for 17 plays against CSU in 2004, said getting to Holland is a major point of emphasis.
“If you look at last year ... a lot of that had to do with play-action, they do that really good,” he said. “Once you know it’s pass, like coach Hankwitz says, you get off your man, make your move and get to the quarterback. And last year we were young and sometimes you play that run so much — and they play-action a lot — you get caught up. He (Holland) is a gunslinger.
“I plan on hitting him quite a few times. We have to. We can’t afford to let him sit back there and get comfortable. Last year coming back from 17-0, he was just slinging it.”
Wright said Inge stresses specific moves and techniques. Wright, as well as Garee and CU’s other starting defensive end, Alex Ligon, said having Inge in Boulder for spring drills enabled the players to adjust to the new coach.
CU’s biggest adjustment might be familiarity with Hankwitz’s schemes. He’s in his second stint in Boulder, but the 2004 opener was also his first game as CU’s defensive coordinator since 1994. Hankwitz said little has changed in CU’s defense from last fall. He also said the defensive linemen “are doing the same things they did a year ago.”
CSU can also boast about more experience and greater familiarity with its schemes. Dan Hammerschmidt enters his fifth season coordinating the Rams’ offense. But for Wright, looking back at where he and his linemates were a year ago, the difference is remarkable.
“As much as they have their guys coming back, I think I’ve improved 10,000 times,” Wright said. “I watched film. I was young and that was my first Division I game. All that’s old to me now. The best thing we can do is play football, because we’ve just improved, all of us.
“You go back and look at last year’s film and I don’t want to say it was embarrassing, but, man, I’m so much better than that. One thing I know we’re going to do is pass rush. We’re going to get to the edges, we’re going to blitz and scheme.
“Our coaches are serious about sacking him and hitting him.”
Katrina concerns: Hurricane Katrina remains a large concern for Buffaloes who are from the Gulf Coast region.
Freshman wide receiver Reggie Joseph, who’s from La Place, La., said he finally spoke with his father at 6 a.m. Wednesday. Joseph said his father said things are well enough that he’ll try to travel to Boulder for Saturday’s game.
Joseph’s home has structural damage to the roof and a fence blew away, but it missed the flooding since it lies on the opposite side of New Orleans from where one of the main levees broke.
Linebacker Thaddaeus Washington (Marrero, La.) is uncertain about the condition of his house, but said his family is all right. “That’s the most important part,” he said.
Washington’s parents left Marrero for Mississippi, he said, and are still unable to return. He said he had an uncle who rode the storm out.
“It’s been a challenge to really try to stay focused on school and football,” he said. “Now I don’t have to think about anybody drowning or something like that. It’s a relief. So now I’m focused on what I have to do here.”
Extra points: CU reported as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, that 725 tickets remained for Saturday’s game (1:30 p.m., TBS). ... Junior safety Dominique Brooks (high ankle sprain) did not practice Wednesday, head coach Gary Barnett said. Brooks is not expected to play. Barnett said there was no other injury news to report .... Barnett called Wednesday’s practice as good as CU has had on a Wednesday. “It feels like we’re almost there.” ... Barnett said CU cannot simply worry about stopping Anderson Saturday. “They have a whole bevy of receivers out there,” he said. “You can’t just focus on him, that’s part of what makes him so good, the fact he has other good people around him. They do a good job of getting him the ball down the field.”