Eric Bieniemy might be relatively new to his role as an offensive coordinator, but he's wise enough and up-front enough to recognize if a do-over was possible he'd go for it. Two days after calling for a rollout pass on fourth-and-less-than-one at the Colorado State goal line, Bieniemy conceded he should have called for his Colorado offense to run the ball.
"At the end of the day you always want to run it," Bieniemy said Monday. "If I woulda, shoulda, coulda . . . yeah, in hindsight we should have buckled up, knuckled down and run the ball."
Asked if he was comfortable with his play calling in general in CU's disappointing 22-17 loss to its in-state rival, Bieniemy answered, "Obviously there's about four or five calls you wish you could take back - and that (fourth-and-one) would be one.
"But overall, I was comfortable going in with the game plan and comfortable with the calls. At the end of the day we (coaches) are responsible because we've got to get our kids to play better."
The fourth-and-one goal line play in question was critical because the Buffs, trailing 16-14 in the third quarter, had just recovered a fumble at the Rams' 15-yard line. A major bullet was dodged five plays later on third down when CU tailback Malcolm Creer stretched for the goal line and lost the ball when it made contact with the ground.
CSU's Austin Gray scooped it up and ran 99 yards for what initially was ruled a touchdown. But upon review, the call was reversed, leaving CU with fourth down just short of the CSU end zone. Buffs quarterback Jordan Webb was pressured as he rolled right and threw an incompletion, returning possession to the Rams.
A field goal would have put the Buffs up 17-16 - an advantage they eventually achieved on their first possession of the fourth quarter, courtesy of a 30-yard Will Oliver kick. But those would be CU's final points of the game. CSU won with a pair of Jared Roberts field goal in the fourth quarter.
Factoring into Bieniemy's fourth-and-one call could have been CU's lack of success in the running game to that point. The Buffs finished the afternoon with only 58 yards rushing on 29 attempts. They averaged 2.0 yards a carry and had only four rushing first downs. Last season, CU averaged 108.7 yards on the ground, making run game improvement an off-season priority.
Bieniemy said the ground game's lack of productivity against CSU was due to a lack of execution and undisciplined play: "Schematically are we doing the right things? We are (but) for whatever reason our guys, uncharacteristically and based on what we've done since spring and in fall camp, they didn't go out and perform to expectations. It was all about executing and being disciplined with our assignments."
He dismissed the idea that the Rams stymied the Buffs' offense with halftime adjustments, even though the majority (169) of CU's 245 yards in total offense was gained in the first half and both touchdowns were scored in the second quarter.
In the second half, said Bieniemy, the Rams merely "played harder and tougher than we did - that's what it came down to. At the end of the day we did not execute."
Asked if the "harder and tougher" factors were difficult for him to accept, Bieniemy said, "Very much . . . especially when we're not doing ourselves justice by giving ourselves a chance. If we give ourselves a chance by executing the details, then let's go play ball. It's an equal match then."
Bieniemy used three tailbacks in the opener - starter Tony Jones (16 carries, 43 yards), Creer (4-17) and D.D. Goodson (1-1). In preparation for Saturday's home opener against Sacramento State (1 p.m., Folsom Field), Bieniemy said he will take longer looks at freshmen Donta Abron and Terrence Crowder.
"We'd like to get some more guys going," he said, noting of Abron, "I want to see exactly what he can bring to the table. I wouldn't say he'll get the majority of the reps, but he'll get more reps than he did last week."
Bieniemy said his message to the offense this week would center on rebounding from an adverse and sub-par start: "We put ourselves in an adverse situation (losing the opener). I always talk to my guys about overcoming adversity. What are we going to do about it? Are we going to put it behind us or let it linger for the rest of the season?
"The thing I will bring up is the recent history of coaching here. We had a 2001 team that lost its opener to Fresno State. Then we went on and played well that season (winning the Big 12 championship). We had a team in 2002 that lost to CSU . . . but went on to play well that season (winning the Big 12 North). You can't control everything, but we can take control of today."
DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN? CU defensive coordinator/secondary coach Greg Brown hopes not. After his 2011 secondary was stricken by early injuries and suspensions, Brown entered the 2012 season believing/hoping fate would be kinder - particularly after the most recent recruiting class was well-stocked with defensive backs (five).
Then came last weekend's opener . . .
Brown lost starting senior free safety Ray Polk at least for this week and has starting sophomore right corner Greg Henderson on the questionable list.
"Depth is now out the window, but that's part of the deal," Brown said. "We're right back where we were losing two starters, right back to square one. We still need to get another recruiting class in next year with a number of quality DBs and get the numbers up."
CU finished the CSU game with three freshmen - corners Kenneth Crawley and Yuri Wright, nickel back Marques Mosley - in the secondary. Brown at least has a pair of juniors - Terrel Smith, Parker Orms - at safety.
Against the Rams, noted Brown, his freshmen "represented themselves pretty well for the first time out."
WHAT'S THIS GAME COMING TO? Orms was the recipient of a third-quarter personal foul call that Brown disputed on Saturday and again on Monday.
"I guess I don't understand football anymore . . . why is that a penalty?" Brown asked. He said Orms did not lead with his helmet in knocking a Rams receiver out of bounds: "The first thing to hit the kid was (Orms') forearms and hands. I guess they say any hit from the chest up is a personal foul . . . but if Parker would have hit him, maybe not as hard, would they have thrown the flag?"
Brown said that flag provided CSU with "a little momentum." Sure enough, the Rams scored on the next play - a 32-yard screen pass that CU linebacker Doug Rippy claimed he was responsible for allowing.
"Definitely my fault," Rippy said. "It's really disappointing, but at the same time we've got to move on . . . we've got to put this game behind us. I definitely know I am. Just with the amount of mistakes (he missed the final half of the 2011 season with a knee injury), you get antsy out there and try to do your job . . . at the same time, everybody's got to do their job. Obviously it cost us."
The Buffs also had a communications breakdown on CSU's first touchdown - a 20-yard pass only seven seconds before halftime. Brown said Crawley wasn't responsible for busted coverage: "He did the right thing, he had his man . . . two other guys were back there and we had a mix-up in schemes."
ROLL TIDE, ER, RAMS: Brown's quandary in preparing for CSU's offense was trying to determine which schematic snippets he would see from new head coach Jim McElwain and new offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin.
Their coaching backgrounds include stints at Alabama, Michigan State, New Mexico and Utah State.
In the end, said Brown, CSU's new offense most closely resembled that of McElwain's last stop - Alabama, where he was Nick Saban's offensive coordinator.
"The CSU offense was a nice mix, but it was more of Alabama than anything else," Brown said. "It was a very well thought out and challenging plan by McElwain. Hats off to him. He's a master at moving the chess pieces around; he was Bobby Fischer moving those chess pieces."