BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — The Colorado Buffaloes have a basic outline for bottling up Oregon’s explosive offense: Set the edges so the Ducks can’t run outside and, above all else, don’t miss tackles.
As for a more detailed blueprint, well, Colorado first-year coach Jon Embree doesn’t think one really exists.
He even jokingly suggested that he will conduct a thorough Google search, just to see if there’s any tips floating around in cyberspace.
The banged-up Buffaloes (1-6, 0-3 Pac-12) will have their hands full Saturday trying to contain No. 9 Oregon (5-1, 3-0), even if the Ducks might be without quarterback Darron Thomas (leg) and tailback LaMichael James (elbow).
Oregon’s backups are more than capable of running an offense that’s averaging nearly 49 points and 539 yards a game.
And that’s an enviable trait.
“Someday,” Embree lamented. “I just want to get to where we know who we have.”
For that, Embree almost has to consult with the trainers on a minute-by-minute basis.
The Buffaloes have been besieged by injuries in their inaugural year of Pac-12 play. They’re missing leading tackler Douglas Rippy after he suffered a season-ending knee injury last weekend, along with top tailback Rodney Stewart (knee). They’re also without receiver Paul Richardson (knee), cornerbacks Brian Lockridge (ankle) and Travis Sandersfeld (leg) and … the list goes on and on.
So much so that when Embree was asked if he might be getting anyone back this week, his mind went blank.
“You have to be more specific because I know we have a lot of guys out,” Embree said.
Through the assortment of ailments, Embree and his staff are trying to implement a defensive scheme to ground the high-flying Ducks. They’re even looking at what top-ranked LSU did in a season-opening 40-27 win over Oregon. Even then, the Ducks’ vaunted offense was hardly stopped as they still outgained LSU by a wide margin.
“This is a video game-like team,” CU senior defensive end David Goldberg said.
Sure is. They operate fast and score even faster.
Of their 38 TD drives this season, 19 have taken 1 minute, 39 seconds or less.
That’s why Embree is harping on setting the edge, making sure nothing bounces outside.
“If you make a mistake, with their speed, it’s over. The band is playing,” Embree said. “We have to be very technique sound and assignment sound.”
The Ducks could be without James and Thomas, two of their most prolific playmakers. James dislocated his elbow on Oct. 6 against California, while Thomas was hurt last weekend against Arizona State.
Should James be sidelined, Kenjon Barner steps in. And if Thomas can’t go, redshirt freshman Bryan Bennett will be under center.
Either way, Oregon coach Chip Kelly’s confidence in his offense won’t wane in the least. It will be all systems go, because injuries are simply part of the business.
“It’s life. You’re going to get knocked down in life,” Kelly said. “Feeling sorry for yourself … isn’t going to make anyone better.”
The Ducks insist the Buffs have their full attention. They realize full well that beating the Ducks would be just the signature moment Embree and his program craves.
“They’re looking forward to this game,” Oregon safety Eddie Pleasant said. “It’ll make their season to knock us off.”
The Buffs certainly have taken their lumps this season, losing at Stanford and Washington the last two weeks by a combined score of 100-31. And despite being at home Saturday, they’re still more than a 30-point underdog.
“We just have to be really crisp on all our assignments and we have to do everything perfectly,” Goldberg said. “Or close to it. They’re a fast team for sure.”
Colorado does have one big advantage that could slow down the Ducks — elevation. Boulder is around 4,915 feet higher than Eugene, Ore., making a no-huddle offense more lung searing.
Or so the theory goes.
“We’re going to turn the whole (practice center) into a hyperbaric chamber,” Kelly cracked earlier in the week. “There’s nothing we can do about it so we don’t really talk about it.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)