Upon arriving in Boulder in January, new Colorado coach Gary
Barnett at first did more listening than selling. The former
Northwestern coach, who had been a Buffaloes assistant from 1984
to '91, talked to players, flew all over the country to meet
with their parents, spoke extensively with his former boss Bill
McCartney and tried to restore his old ties with Colorado high
school coaches. When he looked at the team itself, Barnett found
several areas in dire need of improvement: The inconsistent
running attack averaged just 123.2 yards a game in '98. Colorado
also lost 101 man-games to injury last year, and 12 players on
the two-deep roster missed spring practice. Worst of all, the
once-nasty Buffaloes had lost their fire--a product, some say,
of a lax approach to practice under Rick Neuheisel, now the
coach at Washington. Clearly Barnett had work to do.
The weak rushing attack allowed opponents to tee off on
Colorado's passing game. The Buffaloes gave up 49 sacks last
season and averaged just 222.6 passing yards, their lowest total
in 12 years. "We have to run the ball better. I didn't say more,
but we need to be more efficient," says Barnett. He's looking
for a featured back to emerge from the trio of Dwayne
Cherrington, Damion Barton and Cortlen Johnson.
Quarterback Mike Moschetti threw for 2,104 yards and 15
touchdowns last year despite playing with cracked ribs for the
last half of the season. He's a scrambler in the Kordell Stewart
mold, but when he was knocked out of three games, critics
labeled him soft, a tag he doesn't like. "With every sprint I
run, every ball I throw, every weight I lift," says Moschetti,
"I think about what people said. One goal I have is not to come
out of a game unless they drag me out."
On defense Barnett plans to employ an aggressive, pressing
attack with a strong unit that has seven starters back. The
secondary, led by airtight corners Ben Kelly and Damen Wheeler,
allowed just four touchdowns in '98 and should be even better
with the return of safeties Rashidi Barnes and Albus Brooks, who
each missed four games with knee injuries.
Moschetti says he and his teammates are ecstatic with the new
staff, something Barnett sensed this spring. "I knew we had to
drastically change in a lot of areas, but I didn't want to ram
it down their throats," says Barnett. "There's an old saying
that when the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear. It
happened at Northwestern, and I sense it could happen here."
1998 record: 8-4 (4-4, 4th in Big 12 North)
Final ranking: unranked
1998 Averages Scoring Rushing Passing Total
Yards Yards Yards
OFFENSE 22.8 123.2 202.4 325.6
DEFENSE 19.1 147.5 148.5 296.0
Schedule strength: 55th of 114
Sept. 25 at Washington
Every calender in Colorado has had this date circled since Rick
Neuheisel left for Seattle last January.
Nov. 26 vs. Nebraska
Contenders or pretenders? The Buffaloes' season should hinge on
this showdown with the Cornhuskers in Boulder.
The Bottom Line
Moschetti and a swarming defense will put Colorado in contention
in the Big 12, but unless the Buffaloes somehow discover a
running game, they will go no further.