For our weekly “Five Questions, Five Answers” blog entry examining Washington’s opponent — which Saturday is Colorado in Boulder at 10:30 a.m. Seattle time — we turn to John Henderson, who covers the Buffs for the Denver Post. He can also be found on Twitter at @JohnHendersonDP.
Q1: Expectations weren’t high for Colorado but this seems worse than people thought. What are a couple of things that have gone wrong that weren’t expected?
A1: I think across the board they are worse than everyone thought and expectations were really low. I picked them to go 3-9 and I struggled to find a third win after Colorado State and Sacramento State. But when they lost to Sacramento State I knew this team was going to be awful because they not only got beat, they got pushed around and they have not gotten better as the season has gone on. They are very, very young. They only have eight seniors and they have like 15 true freshmen. But these guys are not getting any better. The coaching staff says they are improved but I don’t see it and that’s what concerns a lot of people is this coaching staff doesn’t seem to get them to improve week to week.
Q2: The quarterback situation has been kind of a merry-go-round all season. Where does it stand right now?
A2: They brought in Connor Wood, who was fourth-string at Texas last year in fall camp and he transferred to Colorado. He beat out Nick Hirschman for the job in the spring, or at least it appeared that way to everybody. And then Jordan Webb (pictured above in an AP photo), who was told by Charlie Weis at Kansas he wouldn’t play this year, he graduated so he could transfer to Colorado and immediately won the job. He started nine games and wasn’t very good, mainly because he has nothing around him. He has possession receivers at wide out, he’s got a converted high school fullback who is a true freshman at tailback (Christian Powell), he has no weapons. So he wasn’t productive and last week they opened up the competition again between the backups, Hirschman and Wood. Hirschman won the job last week and then had a concussion-like symptoms and so I don’t know who they are going to start this week (as of Tuesday).
Q3: The defense right now is the worst in the nation. What has happened to make it worse than expectations?
A3: It is worse than it was last year and we don’t know how because they were so young in the secondary a year ago. But they recruited true freshmen who were better than last year’s and they are getting torched and it has been a continual cycle of missed tackles and missed assignments week in and week out. And this past week they faced a Zone Read offense (against Arizona) and they cannot figure out how to defend it. They had no clue, and they were getting gashed. The holes that Ka’Deem Carey ran through (in rushing for a Pac-12 record 366 yards) were big enough for some of the dinosaurs to run through. They were massive. I wrote that he would have gotten that many yards if they were playing flag football. He wasn’t touched. He’s a good back but he was just not being touched. The defense has given up more yards (505.0) and more points (47.2) per game than any defense in school history and it’s not really close.
Q4: Given the struggles, is there any thought that second-year coach Jon Embree is in trouble?
A4: No.The athletic director, Mike Bohn, and Embree both agreed when he took over it was going to be a three- or four-year project. They are not going to fire him after two years, they just won’t do it. Bohn swung and missed with (Embree’s predecessor) Dan Hawkins and he’s not going to admit he made a mistake on this one so soon. It’s easier to make changes in the staff than the head coach. The only thing that could change is if they get a 53-degree day and sunny Saturday and they get under 20,000 attendance then less for Utah (the following week) and get blown out two more times and they have some inner turmoil on the team, I can’t rule anything out. But right now I highly doubt they will pull the plug after two years.
Q5: UW is a 21-point favorite, the most points by which it has been favored on the road since 1997 (23 points at Oregon State). Is there any chance Colorado can win this game?
A5: The way Colorado has played this year, I don’t see it. Especially the way Washington is playing well. Washington is playing really well and I really believe with Justin Wilcox, his defense is going to be good for years to come and it’s really starting to come around the last three games and their running back (Bishop Sankey) I think is too good for Colorado to handle. The biggest problem, hard to tell if it’s defense or offense, but they have just not been competitive with anybody other than Washington State and I don’t see them winning a game where they are so downtrodden against a team that is playing so well in an atmosphere that is going to be anything but hostile toward Washington. There’s not going to be very many people there and it’s not going to be very loud. I’ve been following the Pac-12 since 1964 and this is one of the three worst teams in conference history. I think the Oregon State team in 1980 (which went 0-11) might have been worse. One of the amazing things is Colorado has had no injuries. They lost receiver Paul Richardson, who might have been their best player, to a knee injury in the spring. But other than that they have been pretty healthy. They just don’t have any playmakers.