October 17, 2008

Five Keys to Victory: K-State at Colorado

BOULDER, Colo. -- At the start of the season, pundits were convinced that this season would mark a breakthrough for Coach Dan Hawkins' Colorado football program. Everyone is still waiting. In part because of a daunting schedule, but mostly because of uneven performance as of late on both sides of the ball, the Buffaloes find themselves in a virtual must-win game Saturday with the Kansas State Wildcats if they want to salvage their season.

Colorado is 3-3 overall and 0-2 in Big 12 Conference play, while the Wildcats come to the Rockies with 4-2 and 1-1 marks after winning at Texas A&M last weekend. CU looked decent in the first half of last week's game at Kansas, but then collapsed in the second half of its 30-14 defeat.

Now K-State and Coach Ron Prince, who is 2-0 against Hawkins, comes to town for a game that could bury the Buffs or put them back on track. As for K-State, the owner of one of the 10 worst defenses in terms of yardage out of 119 FBS schools, the opportunity to move to 5-2 and 2-1 despite those shortcomings is unmistakable.

When: Saturday, Oct. 18
Kickoff: 6 p.m. (CDT)
Location: Boulder, Colo.
Venue: Folsom Field (53,750)
TV: FSN Midwest, Kansas City, Southwest, Rocky Mountain

Colorado has issues on offense. K-State's are opposite. Will the Wildcats be the Buffs' cure or the other way around?

CU's problems, though, aren't isolated to offense, where its running game has struggled behind disappointing running back play and a battered line. Now the defense is breaking and the once-terrifying special teams aren't so scary.

"We have got to move the ball," Hawkins said simply. "We've got to stop people and play better on special teams. We've got to coach better. It's the whole deal."

From Prince's standpoint, he sees Colorado as a team that has run a gauntlet of sorts since knocking off West Virginia 17-14 in overtime at home on Sept. 18. Colorado has since lost by an average of 18.7 points to Florida State, Texas and Kansas, a trio of teams with a combined two losses.

"They have played some terrific teams. They are very sound and never out of position, which is a testament to their coaching," Prince said. "I have a lot of respect for this coaching staff that we are about to face. It is a tough environment to go on the road and win. That game last week is not going to do anything to help us win this week."

Maybe not, but the momentum of winning at A&M had to bolster the Cats' confidence. Now, can they make it two in a row on the road, a rather remarkable accomplishment for Prince's 2008 team? Maybe … particularly if they follow five simple keys to victory.

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