Huskies loom as Buffs’ real test

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - MARK KISZLA Den­ver Post Colum­nist

What’s not to love about the Buf­faloes? Are they un­de­feated after three games? Yes, sir. Knock­ing on the door of the top 25 in the na­tional rank­ings? Sweet.the rise? It’s real. As Colorado run­ning back Phillip Lind­say has been known to say: “That’s cute.”

But is CU ready for prime time?

Well, we’re fix­ing to find out. The Buf­faloes have yet to con­clu­sively prove their No. 17 rank­ing in the fi­nal 2016 As­so­ci­ated Press poll was more than a happy fluke. But their next foe is Wash­ing­ton. There’s an old score to set­tle. Beat the Huskies in a steel-cage match and CU can shout down any doubters.

“We’re ex­cited about Wash­ing­ton com­ing in here, and I know they’re ex­cited about com­ing in, too. It’s a re­match of the Pac-12 cham­pi­onship game where they beat us pretty good in the sec­ond half,” coach Mike Mac­in­tyre said Satur­day after a fi­nal tuneup for the Buffs.

CU beat North­ern Colorado 41-21 in front of a crowd of 44,318 at Fol­som Field, if you count sev­eral thou­sand that were other­wise oc­cu­pied, either clean­ing out the garage at home or vis­it­ing the high coun­try to check out the an­nual fall fash­ion show by the aspen.

When we last saw the Wash­ing­ton Huskies, they were knock­ing the snot out of the Buffs and tak­ing down the rise a notch, with a 41-10 drub­bing in De­cem­ber.

“You can’t ever for­get,” Mac-

In­tyre said. “Our young men will use it as mo­ti­va­tion. I won’t have to say much about it at all.”

Is CU ready for the re­match? Well, yes and no. Hate to be wishy-washy. But depend­ing on how strong the li­ba­tion was in your glass for brunch with the Buffs, they were either half-good or half-bad against North­ern Colorado.

It was sup­posed to be a week­end af­ter­noon in the park. Colorado, how­ever, was forced to grunt and sweat, be­cause th­ese Bears re­fused to dance.

Ahead by only a touch­down early in the third quar­ter, the Buf­faloes wres­tled away a vic­tory from North­ern Colorado, which re­fused to go away qui­etly against a CU squad that acted as if it over­slept for the noon kick­off.

“We just didn’t come out ready to play,” line­backer Derek Mc­cart­ney said.

To which Mac­in­tyre snap­pily re­torted: “That’s not true. Derek doesn’t know what he’s talk­ing about.”

Mac­in­tyre be­lieves the Buffs are rock­ing and ready to de­fend their rep­u­ta­tion and their turf. I think Mac­in­tyre is half-right. The CU of­fense is fully ca­pa­ble of light­ing up the score­board. While it’s true North­ern Colorado is not quite Pac-12 ma­te­rial, the Bears ain’t chopped liver. And CU quar­ter­back Steven Mon­tez shred­ded them for 357 yards pass­ing and 76 yards rush­ing.

No of­fense to Sefo Li­u­fau, but the Buffs have up­graded at quar­ter­back.

But the CU de­fense? Well, that’s a whole ’nuther story. De­spite rave re­views after the Buffs re­fused to sur­ren­der more than a field goal in vic­to­ries against Colorado State and Texas State, what the Wash­ing­ton coaches will see on video is a run de­fense that’s sus­cep­ti­ble to pres­sure on the edge and a sec­ondary that can have a deep ball thrown over its heads.

This much we know is true: You can count on the Buf­faloes go­ing bowl­ing again 2017. With two weeks re­main­ing in September, they’re al­ready half­way to post­sea­son qual­i­fi­ca­tion. But can Colorado make noise in a con­fer­ence where both Wash­ing­ton and South­ern Cal­i­for­nia have le­git­i­mate na­tional cham­pi­onship as­pi­ra­tions, and both are vis­it­ing Boul­der?

Lind­say, who ran for 151 yards against North­ern Colorado, is itch­ing for the chance to prove the Buffs be­long on the field as more than a chew toy for the Huskies.

“They have a lot of tal­ented play­ers and they’re go­ing to play ball, but you know what? We were in the Pac-12 cham­pi­onship, too,” Lind­say said. “So we’re go­ing to show what we have, too. We’re go­ing to go out and play Colorado foot­ball, and I think now you guys are go­ing to start to see an all-around team. There’s a lot to this game that people can’t see from a far dis­tance. So when we start play­ing our game, it’s go­ing to be a dog fight.”

OK, as long as we’re woof­ing, here’s my two cents. Take it for what it’s worth: 1) Don’t wait a half to wake up against Wash­ing­ton, and 2) Come out sleep-walk­ing in prime time against one of the coun­try’s 10 best teams, and it will be nighty-night for the Buffs be­fore the fight gets started.

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