Fast Five: Keys For Buffs Vs. Washington –

Football Neill Woelk, Contributing Editor
SEATTLE — It’s a familiar refrain for the Colorado Buffaloes: a third straight game against a top 15 team led by an elite quarterback.
The latest version for the Buffs is Saturday’s 7 p.m. game at Washington, where Colorado will face the No. 15 Huskies and quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who has thrown for a nation-leading 3,640 yards thus far this season.
"It’s a monumental task for our football team," CU coach Mike Sanford said earlier in the week. "And we’re excited for that task."
The Buffs (1-9 overall, 1-6 Pac-12) are huge underdogs against the Huskies (8-2, 5-2), who are coming off a big win over Oregon and still have a chance to earn a berth in the Pac-12 championship game.
So how do the Buffs stay in this one and give themselves a chance to pull off the upset?
1. Pressure Penix from the get-go. In Washington’s two losses — at UCLA and at Arizona State — UW’s quarterback has shown a tendency to be pressured into mistakes.
Against the Bruins, Penix threw two interceptions and was sacked twice. Against ASU, he threw one pick, was sacked once — and did not have a touchdown pass, the only game this year he’s been blanked in that category.
The Buffs are coming off a game when they had a season-high three quarterback sacks against USC and also recorded an interception. Colorado needs to get pressure on Penix early, force a mistake or two and give the Buffs’ offense a chance to generate some momentum.
2. Run the ball and shorten the game. The best way to make sure Penix can’t do some damage is to keep him on the sidelines.
That means establishing a ground game, moving the sticks and keeping the clock moving.
Colorado’s run game had a decent outing last week, finishing with 135 yards on the ground against USC, including a 108-yard effort from Alex Fontenot. The Buffs should also get Deion Smith back this week, which could give CU a good tandem attack. 
The Huskies gave up 184 yards on the ground in the loss to UCLA and 156 to ASU. Colorado needs to attack UW on the ground, establish some rhythm and shorten the game.
3. Limit big plays. Only two teams — Cal and Oregon State — have held the Huskies under 30 points this season. They did it by limiting UW’s big-play capability and allowing just a couple plays over 20 yards.
That made UW work for its points and kept Penix relatively in check.
The Buffs have to have the same approach. If they can prevent big plays, it will increase the chances of a UW mistake and keep the Huskies out of the end zone.
4. Get J.T. Shrout comfortable early. When CU’s quarterback gets in a groove, he can move the team. But he’s had trouble establishing consistency — and the Buffs need to help him in that regard with a short passing game to complement the rushing attack.
If Shrout can hit some passes early, it will force UW to respect the passing game — and give CU’s rushing attack a chance to gain some momentum.
5. Make some history. The Buffs have lost 11 in a row on the road and six in a row against ranked teams. This is a chance to leave a positive legacy on a program that needs some good news.
Saturday is as good a day as any to make that happen.

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