We have an old friend with us today at Hustle Belt, as Jack Barsch of the Ralphie Report is in to answer some pressing questions about the Minutemen vs. the Buffaloes. Last year the Minutemen held a lead in the third, only to cough it up and find themselves down by a field goal as time expired. Will history repeat? Jack will try to figure it out.
Hustle Belt: The Buffaloes are coming off of a bad loss to Hawaii. What happened?
Ralphie Report: *sigh* A lot of things happened, almost none of them good. The Buffs went into the Islands and shot themselves in the foot. Though I surprised myself with how well I accepted this loss. It's not like CU went out there and got straight outplayed by the Rainbow Warriors, something that happened in 2011. Turnovers were rampant, poor special teams play plagued the team, and the offense sputtered in the 3rd and 4th quarters. The Buffs lost that game to no one but themselves, and while that may infuriate other fans more than just a straight loss, it gives me hope. There were multiple egregious, unacceptable errors in that game, and CU still lost by 8, and it would've been less without the guest appearance by the PAC-12 refs. I refuse to re-watch that game, as it was sloppy and dirty from both sides, but I'm not quite ready to give up on the season. One thing is clear, though- A 0-2 start with this non-conference schedule (no offense, UMass), is absolutely unacceptable, and I think Coach MacIntyre realizes this. The next three games are vitally important not only for this season, but for his job.
Do the Minutemen have any hope of containing Nelson Spruce, who went for 10 catches, 145 yards and two touchdowns in the last meeting?
If CU calls another offensive game like last week, UMass should be able to limit his impact on the game. No one can totally take him out, but you can most definitely make his catches inconsequential. Spruce essentially only made sideline catches last Thursday, and the ones he did make usually didn't go for firsts and none went for touchdowns. Now, UMass's timing might be terrible. Spruce isn't one to be down for long, and a breakout game is going to happen at some point. The Minutemen might just be the hapless victim. Of course, he needs a quarterback to get him the ball, and Sefo Liufau himself admitted he wasn't great last game. If Liufau gets his rhythm, UMass will see a lot of Number 22 running away from them. I will say this, bracket coverage seems to work well for him, but that leaves the other weapons in this offense some really nice chances. Pick your poison.
How do the Buffaloes win this game?
By being the team we know they can be. Jim Leavitt has had an immediate impact on the defense, and we know that this offense can do great thing. Just like last year, they just need to put it together. The defense that the Minutemen threw all over is long gone, and the two interceptions last game prove that. Leavitt has this unit attacking, now it's the offense's turn to get back to form. I'm expecting a big day on the ground, and superfrosh Patrck Carr should get some carries. It's time to turn the horses loose and go. The Buffs win if they play loose and fast, like they're capable of, and they DON'T TURN THE BALL OVER.
How do the Buffaloes lose this game?
By being the same old team from the last 10 years. CU has seemed to find a way to give the game away, even when they weren't good enough to have the game in the first place. The Hawaii game seemed like more of the same, which was extra cruel given all the off-season talk of a different team in 2015. Time will tell whether or not it was an isolated incident, and this UMass game is a nice litmus test. No offense to the Minutemen, but a PAC-12 team should demolish a visiting WAC squad. This game could send the Buffs back on track or send them fully off the rails. If the latter happens, it won't happen because of inferior physical talent, though Tajae Sharpe and Randall Jette dominated last year. It will happen because of silly mistakes and execution errors.
What's your prediction?
I think the Buffs squeak one out against a dangerous Minutemen squad. A very experienced team coming to town isn't great, but I just can't believe that Coach Mac lets this team drop two in a row.