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By: CUBuffs.com
Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy makes a point during preseason camp.
Brooks: From Any Vantage Point, 'EB' Wants To Run
Release: September 06, 2011
By: B.G. Brooks, Contributing Editor
BOULDER - After his weekend debut in Hawai'i as an offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy arrived back at his office at Colorado's Dal Ward Athletic Center figuring he owed several people a telephone call.

"I realize I've given a lot of coordinators hell over the years," Bieniemy said Monday with a laugh. "I've had to call and apologize to a lot of former coordinators I've worked with because I can see how intense the environment can be."

Still, despite CU's 34-17 loss, Bieniemy called his first game calling plays for the Buffaloes' offense "a great learning experience . . . I had fun and I'm looking forward to this week."

Where he works on Saturday against California (1:30 p.m., Folsom Field) still is being discussed. For a pair of August scrimmages, Bieniemy called plays from atop a lift at the practice fields, acclimating himself to that view and using a headset to get plays to the sidelines. But several days before the opener, Bieniemy opted to remain on the sideline, with assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer going to the booth.

"I wanted to see exactly what it would be like to call it and have that sideline view," Bieniemy said. "I can (now) see the advantages and the disadvantages of both. I'm still weighing my options. I think whatever I decide to do next will be permanent, though."

No matter his vantage point for Game 2, Bieniemy and his boss, Jon Embree, want to see a more productive running game - a bold point of emphasis since Embree's hiring.

In the opener, the official stat sheet showed the Buffs running 28 times for 17 yards. Their net total was 73 yards, but they lost 56 - 44 on seven quarterback sacks - leaving them with 17. Senior Rodney "Speedy" Stewart was the only tailback used; he carried 18 times for 52 yards.

Bieniemy said Stewart "played exceptionally hard," but lamented not using his other backs. "I need to . . . you get caught up and don't get the flow that you want," Bieniemy said. "I've got to make sure I do a better job of getting guys in.

"Obviously, that goes with the flow of the game and having some success, doing things that you planned. And obviously the plan didn't go as we thought. But I've got to make sure we're not beating (Stewart) up, because it's a long season."

To rev up the ground game, Embree said he and Bieniemy this week will follow an August blueprint that appeared to have the Buffs ready to run: "We have to keep doing what we've been doing. We'll be doing 9-on-7 live, we'll be doing team run live . . . we just have to keep banging away at it. It was disappointing, our lack of running production. You'll continue to hear me say it: we have to be able to run the football, we have to be effective at that."

Embree was puzzled by a fumbled snap on CU's first offensive play and disappointed by a holding call that negated a decent run. Stewart also slipped on another play, and Embree said each of those missed opportunities appeared ready to yield good yardage.

"So, you factor that in with a couple of negative runs that were on a pitch or toss that we run weak and that's where you get the numbers we had," Embree said.

Those totals, he added, are "not acceptable. We just have to keep working and get it going. That's something we have to be able to do and be able to hang our hat on - being able to run the football."

Bieniemy called the Buffs' ground difficulties "all self-inflicted wounds . . . I'll keep harping on the little things, the details, the discipline it takes to be effective and efficient. It's hard enough playing against teams as it is . . . but when you're not doing things the right way it makes the game even harder."

He said there was no way he could have foreseen such a lack of productivity: "Not at all, not at all. That's why I told these guys we're better than how we played. We need to start performing like we practice, perform under pressure and be poised. We're putting them under dire conditions in practice. The games are supposed to be easier and fun. For whatever reason, we didn't come out and play our game, and that's our fault. But it's also on these guys to realize that this is football; let's go out and play."

In last season's 52-7 loss at Cal, Stewart ran 29 times for 80 yards. But when six quarterback sacks and other negative yardage was factored in, the Buffs' rushing total was 75 yards in 42 attempts.

NEMBOT SWITCHES SIDES: Freshman Stephane Nembot spoke with Embree at the conclusion of Monday's conditioning work and requested a switch to the offensive line. Embree consented.

Nembot said he planned to continue to practice on defense this week with the scout team to offer the CU offense the best possible look in its preparation for Cal. However, Nembot added he also will begin doing individual work with Steve Marshall's O-linemen.

"I think I am a good fit (at either tackle)," said Nembot, who didn't make the trip to Hawai'i and is ticketed to redshirt this season. "I know I have the athletic abilities to play there at this level. I played offense and defense in high school. However I can best help the team, I'll just go with it."

Embree believes Nembot has the size (6-8, 280 pounds) and agility to become a top-flight left tackle. "There might be more opportunity for him (on offense)," Embree noted. "He's got great feet, and he says he's more comfortable there."

Senior nosetackle Conrad Obi, who helped Nembot with his summer acclimation to Boulder and football at this level, said he believes Nembot can play offense. "He can play wherever he wants to," Obi said. "I think he can be a natural (at left tackle)."

SAME GAME, DIFFERENT VIEWS: When Embree took a look at last season's Cal tape, he was struck by what he termed "a lack of effort . . . (the Buffs) didn't compete very well."

A 45-point loss would indicate as much, but Obi disagreed. He called the game "ugly," adding, "They did whatever they wanted to."

But Obi disagreed about CU's effort, or lack thereof: "I think the effort was there; we just didn't execute."

Embree said he doesn't buy into a "revenge factor" this season, noting there are enough other factors that should motivate the Buffs. His list included Saturday being the home opener, CU's 2001 Big 12 Championship team being honored this weekend and his weekly theory that "you focus on and play the game at hand . . . it always should be more about us than our opponent."

YOU CAN'T PLEASE THEM ALL: The Buffs didn't open the Embree Era with a win, and that was Embree's bottom line in judging his first game. The head coach didn't like it, the CU fan base didn't like it.

Embree said the fan feedback contained just one "nasty letter" - and it was anonymous. He believed it was sent by someone who "was very passionate or lost some money - maybe both . . . it is what it is.

"Obviously, I didn't do a good enough job, because we lost."

WHO WAS THAT QB? Early on in the opener, it was hard for Embree to tell. He said a slow start by the offense and quarterback Tyler Hansen were puzzling, but promised both will improve.

Hansen "didn't do as well as we'd have liked with some of his decisions," Embree said. "I didn't think Tyler was Tyler."

However, he said Hansen steadied himself in the second half, particularly in completing a pair of "big-time" touchdown passes to Paul Richardson that helped bring CU back to within a touchdown (24-17).

"He put those balls where only 'P-Rich' could get them," Embree said. "I expect (Hansen) to play good on Saturday . . . his expectations for himself are probably higher than I have for him. I like that."

Hansen completed 16-of-30 passes for 223 yards and the TD tosses (15, 21) to Richardson. He was intercepted once and sacked a career-high seven times, but Embree wouldn't place all of those on the O-line. 

NOT LOOKING BACK: Embree said he didn't sense a "here we go again" attitude among his players: "We had these kids ready to go."

He told his players that win or lose the previous Saturday, that page will have been turned by Monday afternoon when they meet for conditioning. (Sunday is the players' day off.) The Buffs haven't had many joyous Mondays over the past four years, particularly after road trips. The loss in Hawai'i extended their losing streak to 19 consecutive out-of-state games, dating to 2007.

Obi contends there's no way the Buffs will lapse into the mode of the previous four years: "We've put too much work into it to fall back into old habits," he said.

BUFF BITS:  Love 'em or hate 'em, but Maryland made a splash Monday night with new unis and helmets. Embree apparently didn't care for the look. He said CU "has the best colors in college football" and there are no plans to go crazily creative. But he did say the school has "talked a little with Nike about 'combat unis' for special games." . . . . The college landscape could undergo another upheaval, maybe as early as this week, but Embree said any moving and shaking in the Pac-12 would be taken care of at a level above him. He's focused on Cal. "I trust (commissioner) Larry Scott," Embree said. "I'm glad we are where we are." . . . . Richardson, a sinewy sophomore who has eight TD receptions in his 13 CU games, eventually "could be mentioned" among the school's top career receivers, according to Embree. "He could have his name in the stadium." Embree lauded Richardson's work ethic and competitive spirit, and noted that the 6-1, 175-pounder "is deceptive; he's stronger than he looks." . . . . Former Texas quarterback Connor Wood has completed the transfer process and began classes on Monday. Embree said Wood, a 6-3, 225-pounder from Houston, would be a walk-on this semester and will help on CU's scout team while he sits out his transfer season. Wood, who is wearing No. 5 and will have three season of eligibility remaining, could get immediate work as a scout teamer. JC transfer Brent Burnette has been slowed by a shoulder injury, leaving freshman Stevie Joe Dorman with much of the scout QB duty before Wood's arrival Monday at practice.

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU

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