CU Buffs have long way to go to match Oregon, USC up front

EUGENE, Ore. — Even at 3-0, darlings of the nation, Deion Sanders warned those jumping onto the Buffs Bandwagon — some seats might’ve just come open, by the way — that CU was still about a half-dozen or so “dawgs” away from where he wanted the program to be.

On Saturday, it became painfully clear, right away, that most of those missing pieces are along the offensive and defensive lines.

The Buffs allowed 240 rushing yards — 161 in the first half alone — and 522 yards of total offense to the tenth-ranked Ducks, who scored on five of their first six possessions, led 35-0 at the half and cruised to a 42-6 win over the No. 19 Buffs.

“I think that was a good old fashioned butt-kicking,” Sanders, the Buffs’ first-year coach, said after suffering his first loss at CU and largest margin of defeat ever as a college coach. “No excuses. No nothing. Their coaches did a heck of a job preparing their team. Obviously, we didn’t. I mean, that was a really good, old-fashioned butt=kicking.”

On both sides of the line of scrimmage. CU quarterback Shedeur Sanders, son of Coach Prime, was sacked seven times and the Buffs totaled only 40 rushing yards as a squad. And CU will face a team that may be even stronger in the trenches next week, when it hosts No. 5 USC on Fox’s “Big Noon Saturday” at Folsom Field for a 10 a.m. local kick.

“They got to the quarterback,” the elder Sanders said after the game. “And when you get to that quarterback, it’s a wrap, because it’s not like we’re running the ball successfully.”

The Buffs (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) finally had the services of Houston transfer tailback Alton McCaskill IV, a former American Athletic Conference rookie of the year in 2021. But CU got down so quickly, and got trapped in a hole so deep, that the 6-foot-1 Texan finished with 17 yards on five carries.

“Obviously, we’re not satisfied whenever we don’t put up the numbers to be effective to open up and pass (in a) game like that,” said the younger Sanders, who was pressured into his first Buffs game of under 30 completions (23), under 340 passing yards (159) and under multiple touchdowns thrown (one, in the fourth quarter).

“But that has a lot to do with just knowing the right keys and stuff like that and just me personally missing (some things).”

When the Ducks weren’t digging a hole for CU early, the Buffs picked up the shovel and did the rest of the work for them.

Down 7-0 after Oregon’s first drive, the Buffs looked to end the Ducks’ second with a stop on third-and-5 at the CU 5. But a Buffs personal foul halved the distance to the goal line and gave the hosts a fresh set of downs. Two plays later, Oregon was up 13-0.

It would get worse. CU forced a fourth-and-4 at the Oregon 17 early in the second quarter on the hosts’ subsequent drive. Lanning had a card to play that the Buffs never saw coming, as the fourth-down punt snap went short on a take to 305-pound Casey Rogers, a transfer from Nebraska, who followed a convoy of blockers to his left and turned a potential change of possession into a stunning 18-yard gain.

“That (fake) kind of got them really rolling,” the elder Sanders reflected, “and they didn’t stop.”

The Buffs bent and bent some more, but two-and-a-half minutes later, forced a third-and-nine at the Oregon 47. Nix not only found Franklin for an 11-yard gain, a facemask call moved the pigskin to the CU 38.

The Buffs’ Jordan Domineck led a push off right tackle for a sack to set up a second-and-21 from the CU 49, only for Irving to take the subsequent hand-off and gain it all back and more 25 yards up the gut. The hosts scored three plays later, with a 2-point conversion pass adding insult to injury with a 21-0 Ducks lead with 9:39 left until halftime.

“We had tremendous opportunities all day long, but it seems like we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” Coach Prime reflected after the game. “And every time we’d get something going, here we go with another penalty, here we go with another holding. Here we go with just something. We’ve just got to perform better, much better in every phase, not just offense, defense as well, as we keep (struggling) in all three phases.”

But it was up front where the gap felt the greatest. And Sanders doubled down on those concerns after the game.

“I wouldn’t lie,” Coach Prime said. “(It doesn’t just) translate on the field. It translates in practice … I don’t say stuff just to say it, for clicks, contrary to what some may say, and yeah I keep my receipts. But I am serious, I analyze and I understand what we’re up against (and) what we have and what we need.

“One thing that I could say, honestly and candidly (is), you better get me right now. This is the worst we gonna be.”

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