Colorado Surprises Many (But not our Chappy)
  By Dave Hershorin Managing Editor


September 3, 2003
This past weekend saw the emergence of a Colorado Buffalo team that has all the makings for future success. Their 42-35 victory over a strong, mature Colorado State team is proof that they are finally back. It has been quite a while since we felt the Buffaloes had any shot at challenging for their conference, and this year surely won't be a Big 12 crown for CU. But as long as Joel Klatt is their field general, this squad will offensively improve and assuredly be on par with the rest of the Big 12 powerhouses for scoring capability.

As we look back at these offensive bright spots, though, we must also realize how far the defense has to come to be on par with the other side of the ball. Giving up 585 yards is not going to get any team to that next level. Oh, shootouts may be won with such a porous stopping unit. But most major programs will literally have much bigger teams than the Rams, so the defensive abilities we prescribe for CU's future are a must.

Think about these numbers: 2002 saw CU allowing 170 ground-yards-per-game, but CSU got 246 last weekend; their 195 passing-yards-per-tilt in 2002 ranked the Buffaloes 34th for all I-A, but this number was eclipsed with the Ram's 339. They did hold CSU's sharp QB Bradlee Van Pelt to under 50%, but he got those yards on 40 attempts for an 8.5-yards average per pass (not per completion). Think of what Kansas State and Oklahoma will do, let alone the Mizzu and Florida State offenses, if the team doesn't tighten that D.

But the offensive weapons seemingly were broken until Klatt arrived as the starter. Last year was a fluke of sorts - head coach Gary Barnett's orchestration of so many marginal elements spoke more of his abilities as the team's glue than the players' determination(s) (talent was there, but not nearly self-fulfilled). The sophomore Klatt has taken a leadership role many outside the program didn't see going into the CSU game. Most, including myself, were so used to the Buffaloes' recent sputters that this level of unity took us by surprise. But be fooled no more - this clear-headed signal-caller has the physical and mental tools for success, at any level. He has that steady, assured swagger that doesn't offend, yet cannot be taught or missed. If he doesn't beat one of his conferences' big three (K-State, Nebraska, Oklahoma), I will be surprised.

They may not cover many spreads, but the Colorado Buffaloes will play competitively against all in 2003. They have to, as we here at rank the CU schedule the nations' fourth hardest for this campaign. Realize this now, though - just because they're only the sixth- or seventh-best Big 12 team doesn't preclude them from landing in many Top 25s by year's end. And if the defensive coaches can herd that back-seven to play as one…

…See 2004's results for any disbelievers.