CU-Boulder football is a program that is traditionally run-heavy offensively, but this season has become an aerial attack in Boulder.
After a relatively anemic first game, CU quarterback Tyler Hansen and superb sophomore receiver Paul Richardson went off in an overtime loss against the University of California last week.
â€œHeâ€™s an elite receiver,â€said coach Steve Fairchild of Richardson. â€œHeâ€™s probably as good a football player as weâ€™re going to face all year.â€
The numbers back-up that claim.
Richardson was named the Pac-12 offensive player of the week after a game in which he caught 11 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns.
With 333 yards, he is tied as the nationâ€™s leading receiver and is second in the country in touchdowns.
Richardson has helped his quarterback experience an explosion of his own. Hansen threw for 474 yards last week. To put some context to that number, CSU quarterback Pete Thomas has thrown for 437 yards in two games this season.
Despite how dangerous Richardson can be, defensive coordinator Larry Kerr doesnâ€™t anticipate matching a certain cornerback on him.
â€œWherever the matchup occurs, we feel like that guyâ€™s just got to go out and do his job,â€ Kerr said.
Richardson lines up in all three of the wide receiver positions in CUâ€™s west coast offense, meaning that he can show up on both sides of the line of scrimmage, as well as in the slot.
Most of his catches have come on short passes, 10 yards or under, and he has turned them into big gains by breaking tackles and using his blazing speed to get away from the defense.
His elusiveness makes tacking Richardson down at first chance a key to keeping him in check.
â€œFor us, it comes down to tackling,â€said safety Ivory Herd. â€œIf we miss tackles of course heâ€™s going to get yards after the catch. We just have to be there and make tackles.â€
With such short passes, it takes away many chances for the defensive line to get sacks. But timing is such a key in the west coast offense that if the line can get quick pressure, it could create opportunities for turnovers that potentially change the game.
â€œItâ€™s going to be big (to force turnovers),â€ Herd said. â€œI feel like itâ€™s going to be a really great game and itâ€™s going to be really close. For us to make turnovers is going to be key to win this game.â€
CSU doesnâ€™t anticipate double-covering Richardson or giving extra safety help wherever he is lined up, though that could change based on how the game develops. But the Rams know that they have to keep him in check.
â€œGuys like that are so dynamic that he can change a game,â€ Fairchild said. â€œWeâ€™ve got to know where heâ€™s at and try and not let him get loose on us.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.