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As the calendar turns over to November, Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders and the Colorado Buffaloes enter the toughest stretch of their 2023 season. The Oregon State Beavers will make the trip to Boulder to take on the Buffs for another Pac-12 After Dark game in the limelight on Saturday. Oregon State will be Colorado’s latest challenge in what has become one of the Pac-12’s strongest seasons ever. This weekend will be Colorado’s fifth top-25 matchup of the season and despite being underdogs once again on Saturday, the belief that Coach Prime has instilled in the Champions Center remains strong.
Saturday will be Colorado’s third game in the 8 p.m. time slot this season and the Buffs will be looking to avoid the struggles that they faced earlier in the season against Stanford and Colorado State in that same time slot. Coach Prime has stated his displeasure with the late kickoffs throughout the season and spoke about how Colorado can avoid another sluggish late-night performance on Saturday.
“We have different ways to keep their energy up and the guys that love this game, you have no problem with their energy being up it’s the guys that don’t love the game,” said Coach Prime. “We just have to minimize that and make sure we put the guys out there that love to play.”
After last weekend’s loss to UCLA, Coach Prime was brutally honest about Colorado’s offensive line play thus far and said that his big-picture plan is to go get new offensive linemen. Colorado earned a commitment from JUCO offensive tackle Issiah Walker on Monday and will have 2024 five-star offensive lineman Jordan Seaton visiting Boulder this weekend but the options for this season’s line remain limited.
Coach Prime and offensive line coach Bill O’Boyle tried to experiment and play different players along the offensive line early against the Bruins last week but the Buffs’ offensive line struggled to protect Shedeur Sanders resulting in seven sacks for the UCLA defense. It won’t be getting any easier this week as Oregon State’s 26 sacks on the season have them tied for the 12th most sacks in the country. At Tuesday’s weekly press conference, Coach Prime shared why he thinks Colorado’s offensive line will perform much better against the Beavers.
“I had a private personal meeting with the whole offensive line,” said Coach Prime. “The meeting was phenomenal. I have the utmost thought process that those guys are going to step it up tremendously and you’re gonna see a more cohesive, more aggressive, more physical, a more prepared group than ever before this weekend. I really do believe that.”
Running the ball has been an issue for Colorado all season and on Tuesday Coach Prime announced that one of Colorado’s prized transfers will be shutting it down for the remainder of the season.
“Alton [McCaskill] came into my office yesterday and said he wanted to be redshirted, which I think is very wise,” said Coach Prime. “I’m all for him if he would have wanted to continue to play. He’s one of my favorite human beings on this team. He’s a great young man who was raised properly and he wants it but he does understand that it’s been a while since he has had his full strength and full potential and ability to move and cut and explode and he understands that. So he wants to train and work his butt off and get into shape and come back in the spring and earn that number one spot.”
Sanders is still the most-sacked quarterback in the country (41) and the gap between him and the next most-sacked quarterback has grown after last Saturday’s loss to UCLA. Given the pummeling Shedeur has had to endure this season, Coach Prime gave him another day off of practice on Tuesday.
Under head coach Jonathan Smith, Oregon State has solidified itself as one of the more physical teams in the country on both sides of the ball. To better prepare his team for the Beavers’ play style, Coach Prime has increased the level of physicality at practice this week with more tackling drills. Linebackers coach Andre Hart spoke after Wednesday’s practice and cited Colorado’s tackling inconsistencies as the main issue that plagued the Buffs against the Bruins last weekend.
“Missed tackles, a lot of missed tackles,” said Coach Hart. “A lot of fundamental things that we got to get right. That’s been one of our emphases this week in the circuit drills that we do is more of the tackling aspect of just making sure that when we fit, we’re holding on to guys and not giving shoulders and stuff like that. Y’all saw what happened to Shilo. Those rules, it’s kind of a grey area.”
Shilo Sanders was ejected late in the first half against UCLA for a controversial targeting call but because of the timing of the penalty, Shilo will not miss the first half against Oregon State. Sanders was one of the main reasons Colorado was in last week’s game for so long as the Buffs got back into their groove of creating turnovers. CU’s four forced turnovers against the Bruins were the most since the Buffs’ overtime win over Colorado State in Week 3 (4).
Oregon State is one of the best football teams in the country when it comes to protecting the football and only has 6 turnovers on the season. With former Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei leading the way, the Beavers have emerged as one of the most well-rounded teams in the country after battling through bad quarterback play in 2022. Oregon State has scored 35+ points in five of their eight games and averages 36.4 points per game this season. Led by standout running back Damien Martinez, Oregon State has eclipsed 175 rushing yards in five of eight games and averages 187.1 rushing yards per game. Uiagalelei has been efficient but has yet to top 300 yards passing in a game this season; despite that, Oregon State has the 49th-best passing attack in the country averaging 252.5 passing yards per game.
Defensively, the Beavers are prone to giving up yardage but do a great job at keeping teams out of the end zone. Oregon State’s defense allows an average of 226.1 passing yards per game and is 6-0 when holding opposing quarterbacks below 260 passing yards. The Beavers are only allowing 21.1 points per game this season and have held four of their last nine opponents under 10 points dating back to last season.
Colorado enters Saturday’s matchup as 13.5-point underdogs to the Beavers and will have the opportunity to right the ship and pull off another upset on their journey to bowl eligibility. While Coach Prime and the Buffs are coming to terms with the potential ceiling of this year’s team, the impressive list of recruits visiting this weekend reinforces the belief that the future is bright in Boulder.
“We just have to learn how to win,” said Coach Prime. “We’re gonna be okay. So we love the direction that we’re headed. It could be tremendously the other way but when you have an opportunity to beat ranked teams, that’s tremendous for us. We just have to do it.”