Losing your best player before the season and knowing you won’t be able to replace his production is tough. That’s exactly what Jon Embree’s Colorado Buffaloes have had to endure this season, as future NFL talent and wide receiver Paul Richardson was ruled out for the season back in August due to a knee injury. Without the Serra High phenom, the Buffs just lack an offensive spark, which might help explain why they rank 105th in the nation offensively.
But he’s not the only offensive weapon that Colorado will be without on Saturday, as leading rusher Christian Powell is questionable and possibly more likely to be doubtful, as he suffered a thigh injury against UCLA back on September 29th and has yet to play since. Powell, a true freshman, has 294 yards on the ground, though half of that came in a home loss to Sacramento State back in September.
Without Powell, the Buffs turn to redshirt sophomore Tony Jones at tailback, who is a compact runner at 5-foot-7 and has only been used in small doses since the opener against Colorado State. Jones has 218 yards in five games, but more than a third of those yards came on one play, when New Jersey native broke off an 84-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter against Washington State, Colorado’s lone victory over an FBS team.
In the passing game, look for Jordan Webb to run the Colorado offense at quarterback, and like most of the Buffaloes starters, he’s had his ups and downs. Webb comes into the game with a passer rating of 115.7, with only Washington State’s Connor Halliday below him in the Pac-12. Despite not having Richardson at reciever, Webb has shown that he’s capable of having strong games, as he threw for 345 yards in the win over Washington State and was efficient in a losing effort to UCLA the week after, completing 66 percent of his passes.
But as decent as Webb has looked at times, it’s the lack of talent around him that has been hurting his game. For comparison’s sake, through six games, Webb has the same number of pass attempts at Matt Barkley, 193, yet has two fewer interceptions with four, and half the number of touchdown passes with eight.
The most notable talent weakness for Colorado on offense has to be the hogs in front of Webb, as the Buffaloes are surrendering 4.5 sacks per game, good for dead last in FBS. Normally when an offensive line is giving up that many sacks, injuries are the culprit, as seen with USC’s trip up to Stanford. But for Colorado, that hasn’t entirely been the case, as only seven players have gotten starts on the line, with four players starting all six games.
The right side of the line got a little bit of a shakeup for the Washington State game after centers Gus Handler and Brad Cotney went down with injuries, forcing sophomore David Munyer to move from right guard to center, while Jack Harris slotted inside from tackle to guard. The result was six sacks by the Cougars and four more by UCLA a week later. Handler returned to action last week at home to Arizona State, and even with a fully healthy offensive line, the Buffaloes gave up five sacks to the Sun Devils.
Looking back to the passing game, Paul Richardson isn’t the only receiver missing for Colorado, as incoming 3-star wideout Jeffrey Thomas was suspended for the first two games of the season, before opting to attempt to grey shirt. That leaves the Buffs with receivers Nelson Spurce, Tyler McCulloch and Gerald Thomas catching balls thrown from Webb. Spruce is the team’s leading receiver with 27 catches, which puts him at 16th in the Pac-12.
WR Tyler McCulloch #87
LT David Bakhtiari #59
LG Alexander Lewis #71
C Gus Handler #55
RG David Munyer #52
RT Jack Harris #75
TE Nick Kasa #44
QB Jordan Webb #4
TB Tony Jones #26
FB Alex Wood #47
WR Nelson Spruce #22