Young Buffs struggling to compete

In the wake of a 69-14 loss to Fresno State, University of Colorado football coach Jon Embree declared that his players, owners of a 0-3 record after three games against non-BCS schools, are at least responding in an encouraging fashion.

For example: “I think the players, for the most part, do a good job of not reading the papers.”

Well, that’s a start.

Rock bottom might be approaching in Boulder, as the Buffaloes after last week’s loss at FSU find themselves staring at the prospect of a winless season.

If that smacks of hyperbole — after all, it’s just the fourth week of the season — take a look at Colorado’s schedule. It could be argued that the Buffaloes’ best remaining chance for a victory will be Saturday against Washington State in Pullman. The Cougars are 20-point favorites in most sports books, the line jumping to three scores after opening at 14.5.

Each team remaining on Colorado’s schedule — home games against UCLA, Arizona State, Stanford, Washington and Utah, and road games at Southern Cal, Oregon and Arizona — likely will be a heavy favorite, too.

As Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News wrote: “It’s so bad, Colorado fans are actually looking forward to Pac-12 basketball.”

So Embree looks for signs that his team — riddled with youth, as he said 18 first-time players have taken the field this year — is still engaged.

Do they still show up for study table? For weight training? For tutoring sessions?

Yes, said Embree, who has had individual meetings with each of his players this week.

“Still been paying attention to detail, still preparing hard as if we were 3-0,” he said. “As long as they keep doing that, things will break for us and they’ll be awarded for their effort.”

That effort hasn’t yielded much so far. The Buffaloes want to run the ball to set up the pass, but through three games they rank 104th in the country with just 107 rushing yards per game and 2.97 yards per carry.

But at least they’re balanced, also ranking 104th in passing offense, suffering the consequences of losing standout receiver Paul Richardson to injury.

“We’ve got to be gap sound and we’ve got to be ready for them to take a home run,” WSU defensive coordinator Mike Breske said. “That’s been our Achilles’ heel the past two games.”

Colorado starts Kansas transfer Jordan Webb at quarterback, though he was pulled in garbage time against Fresno State (i.e. after the first quarter, when FSU led 35-0) in favor of two Buffaloes backups. The Denver Post reported Thursday that Webb remains Colorado’s starter. He’s completed 39 of 78 passes (50 percent) this season for 472 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.

WSU coach Mike Leach knows the Buffaloes are young. But he also knows they felt pretty good about their past couple recruiting classes, and says the talent therein is evident, even if the results thus far don’t support the claim.

“They’re out there playing with a bunch of young guys,” Leach said. “With regard to our team, I think we’re similar teams from the standpoint we don’t quite have a tent over our circus right now. They definitely have some resources. I do think they’re going to emerge and explode at some point because they are very talented.”

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