Banged-Up Buffs Bracing For Barkley, No. 21 USC
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Colorado coach Jon Embree wouldn’t mind seeing a few snowflakes fall to help prevent another flurry of scoring.
The banged-up Buffaloes have struggled in their inaugural season of Pac-12 play, giving up nearly 45 points in conference games.
That’s why Embree was hoping a storm would pass through town Friday night when the Buffs (1-8, 0-5) host No. 21 Southern California, a team not exactly used to frigid conditions.
A blizzard might be one way — possibly even the best way — for Colorado to put the brakes on quarterback Matt Barkley and the high-powered Trojans offense. USC (6-2, 3-2) hasn’t played a game in the snow since a 40-12 loss at Notre Dame more than five decades ago.
Not that it’s likely to happen this week. Although the area was recently blanketed by eight inches of snow, the drifts should be shoveled off to the side of Folsom Field long before kickoff.
And while another storm is potentially brewing for later in the weekend, Friday night’s forecast calls for dry weather and temperatures in the high 30s — only about 10 degrees colder than in Los Angeles.
So much for a weather advantage.
But Embree and the Buffs still have this working in their favor: higher elevation.
“I know how the altitude affects you when it is real cold, too, it can get your lungs good,” Embree said. “We need it all.”
Especially against a Trojans squad seething after dropping a triple-overtime thriller to Stanford last weekend. Ineligible for a bowl game this season, that was USC’s equivalent.
The game against the reeling Buffaloes could very well be a trap game for USC since looming on the horizon is Washington and sixth-ranked Oregon.
“That can’t happen, and I don’t think it will,” Barkley said. “We’ve got too many guys who aren’t going to let it. It’s just going to be an opportunity for us to show we’re taking every week seriously.
“I don’t think it should be that much of a problem to be focused.”
Barkley’s in line to become the latest Pac-12 quarterback to exploit Colorado’s secondary this season. Keith Price of Washington torched the Buffs for 257 yards and four TDs, while Heisman Trophy contender Andrew Luck of Stanford threw for 370 yards and three scores.
Colorado caught a break when Darron Thomas of Oregon didn’t play against the Buffs. Although, Thomas’ backup, Bryan Bennett, filled in just fine. And waiting in the wings is Nick Foles of Arizona next weekend.
Seeing all these elite quarterbacks only drives home a point Embree already knew: To compete in this conference, the Buffs need one, too.
“This is a quarterback-driven conference. There is no doubt and you have to have it,” Embree said. “This conference is a lot like the (National Football) League. If you don’t have a quarterback or if you don’t have good play at that position, you are fighting uphill from an offensive standpoint.
“Barkley makes them go. Him and (receiver) Robert Woods. They have great chemistry, a great connection with each other.”
That they do. Woods is among the nation’s leaders in catches (81), yards receiving (991) and touchdowns (9). He presents a matchup problem for a Buffs squad scrambling for secondary help in light of injuries and suspensions. If that wasn’t enough, freshman Marqise Lee has emerged as quite a threat as well.
There’s also the running attack featuring the 5-foot-7 Curtis McNeal. He had a career night against Stanford before fumbling the ball away in the third overtime and sealing the Cardinal win. He said that’s a distant memory and he should receive the bulk of the carries with Marc Tyler more than likely out with a dislocated left shoulder.
“I’m ready for Colorado,” McNeal said. “I’m ready to have another big game.”
On defense, USC safety T.J. McDonald will serve a half-game suspension for his hit on Stanford receiver Chris Owusu.
“I apologized to my teammates for not being there for them in the first half on Friday,” McDonald said. “It’s going to drive me crazy.”
The Buffaloes may receive a boost on offense with receiver Paul Richardson and tailback Rodney Stewart possibly returning from knee injuries. The two have accounted for 46 percent of the team’s yards from scrimmage despite missing six games between them.
“The team is just tired of losing,” Stewart said. “So we get our best players back and we can come out there and play our hardest and hopefully get a win.”
A little help from Mother Nature wouldn’t hurt, either.
Embree is envisioning a blizzard so fierce that it rivals the one that hit the Mile High City on Oct. 15, 1984, during a Monday night game between the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers.
“Paint the lines yellow and keep shoveling it off after every TV timeout,” Embree said. “I would love that.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)