The Buffs haven`t given up 16 quarterback sacks in two games because of one mistake that continues to occur over and over again. It has been a lot of different miscues and there isn`t one magic fix.
Members of the offensive line have taken responsibility saying confusion on certain plays from "exotic" blitzes, poor communication on others and blown assignments have led to quarterback Tyler Hansen running for his life.
But other players have blundered, too. Running backs and tight ends have missed blocks and assignments and Hansen has scrambled into sacks instead of making the right reads or simply getting rid of the ball.
Only 19½ of the Buffs` 36 sacks allowed this season have been allowed by offensive linemen, according to the latest offensive line grades released Tuesday. Offensive line coach Denver Johnson is not happy with any sacks, but he is also careful not to beat up his guys for mistakes they didn`t make.
"It takes 11 whether you`re running the ball or throwing the ball," he said. "Now certainly a good number of those sacks are just guys getting beat. Protection is an all-encompassing endeavor. It`s not just five guys. There is lots of guys involved in protection. Sometimes it`s us and sometimes it`s others. We try to worry about the part of it that belongs to us."
Colorado coaches also continue to point out, the Missouri and Texas A&M defensive fronts deserve credit for making plays. Aggies` outsidelinebacker/defensive end Von Miller came into last week`s game leading the nation in sacks with 13½ and left Boulder with two more and a third tackle for loss.
The Aggies also used some shenanigans with the Buffs. They had played with four down linemen on defense for most of the season, but against CU they shifted to an odd front using three linemen and four linebackers. It led to the Buffs giving up four sacks on their first two possessions before settling down and figuring out what was going on.
"I think it`s more of a focus issue than anything," sophomore guard Matt Bahr said. "Guys need to focus on the guys they need to pick up, understanding the blitzes."
Johnson said a handful of players will be rotated in practice as he continues to try to identify the best group of five to put on the field. And like last week, if players make significant mistakes during the game, they will be benched in favor of other teammates.
Johnson said one positive development for the line is having redshirt freshman tackle Bryce Givens back in the fold after some time off for personal reasons. Givens` return will likely push Ryan Miller back to guard again, though Johnson said there is no guarantee Miller will start.
Miller is coming off a concussion suffered against the Aggies and hasn`t played his best football in recent weeks, though his best grade of the year came against Kansas State three weeks ago.
"Sometimes the answer is just getting better," Johnson said. "We`ve been pretty much assignment correct. Sometimes you get up against a guy and he prevails, he physically wins. You`re supposed to block him and he defeats you. The only answer to that is just to continue to try to get better at your side of that."
The good news this week is the Buffs face an Iowa State team that ranks last in the Big 12 in sacks with only 12 in 10 games.
Espinoza hopes for thumbs up
Wide receiver and punt return man Jason Espinoza is hoping to get back into the mix on offense this week, but he continues to deal with pain in his broken thumb suffered in a late September practice. He was playing with a protective device over the thumb but a pin inserted in his thumb last month kept poking through the skin on game days and caused an infection. The pin was removed when the injury swelled up badly, but the thumb remains fractured.
It has been a frustrating time for a walk-on who earned the starting punt return job in fall camp and also produced his first 100-yard game as a wide receiver before the injury. Espinoza has been hoping to earn a scholarship this season but he hasn`t participated on offense in six weeks.
"I`ve just need to go out and start making plays again and hopefully I`ll get worked back into the offense," he said.
Colorado received two more oral commitments Tuesday from recruits who made official visits to campus last weekend for the Texas A&M game.
Justin Favors, a tight end prospect from Trotwood-Madison High School near Dayton, Ohio, told Scout.com he committed to CU but still plans visits to Syracuse and Louisville, probably in December.
Jered Bell, a cornerback from Colony High School in Ontario, Calif., also committed, giving CU four new additions in the past three days. CU is expected to sign 21 players in February for the 2010 class and has 11 oral commitments.
Dan Hawkins celebrated his 49th birthday on Tuesday as players and assistant coaches serenaded him after practice. ... Linebacker Doug Rippy hasn`t played in a game in a month because of a sprained knee and a hamstring issue. Rippy said he is feeling better and can finally run again, which has him optimistic about getting back on the field as soon as this weekend. "I`ve been talking with the coaches and they say you`re never going to play healthy," he said. "It was like an understand process that you`re not going to play this game healthy. That`s what I have go through and I`ve had to learn over the past couple of weeks." Rippy said he believes the injury is healing but he did not rule out the possibility that he could need postseason surgery.