by Rob Moseley
BOULDER, Colo. — Nick Aliotti's area of expertise is defensive football, not grammar.
Thus, the coach wasn't exactly sure how to characterize his halftime message to Oregon's defense, after what he considered a subdued effort in the first half Saturday at Colorado.
"I kind of yelled a little bit more, like I do," Aliotti said following the Ducks' 57-16 victory. "I said, 'Let's wake up, this is embarrassing, this is not how we play' — all those nice things you say.
"Maybe with a few choice adjectives — or maybe they were adverbs? I don't know. But we got their attention."
The statistics would certainly indicate as much. A week after some sloppy second-half play against California, the Ducks shut out the Buffaloes after halftime, and limited them to 56 yards on 32 plays.
In the first half, Colorado piled up 318 yards on 38 plays, using a couple of gadget plays and a few long gains to take an early 10-8 lead.
"Obviously in that first half we didn't play to our full potential," UO nose guard Wade Keliikipi said. "Once we came into halftime coach got onto us, saying we've got to play how we practice. We practice real hard, and we had to go perform how we practice. That set fire to us."
"We definitely started off slow," defensive end DeForest Buckner said. "We weren't playing to our standards, and everybody knew that. We just had to come out in the second half with more intensity."
The Ducks' first-half frustrations couldn't be soothed by some clutch performances on third down and in the red zone. Colorado drove inside the UO 20-yard line three times in the first half, coming away each time with field goals.
"I was really pleased with the red zone, giving up threes instead of sevens," said Aliotti, who also saw his defense deny Colorado a single third-down conversion on 15 attempts.
Small consolation to the players, those instances of rising to the occasion.
"We did, but we gave up big plays leading up to the field goals," Buckner said. "We just need to eliminate the big plays, because it gives them momentum. It lets the other team know they can hang with us, and we don't want that."
Aliotti appreciates that perfectionism from his guys. He helped them out by putting the starters back on the field for Colorado's only second-half chance in the red zone, after an Oregon fumble. The Ducks kept the Buffs off the scoreboard completely in that instance.
"I'd love for us to think we can shut everybody out and not let them score at all," Aliotti said. "But in today's football game it's really hard. In today's spread game, all it takes is one good athlete beating another good athlete — and that Paul Richardson is a really good football player."
Richardson, Colorado's star junior receiver, had three receptions for 114 yards in the first half. He also took the ball on a reverse before uncorking a 75-yard touchdown pass to D.D. Goodson to give the Buffs a short-lived 10-8 lead.
Richardson had two more receptions in the second half, for 20 yards.
"They just kind of chucked the ball up to see what they could get, and it worked," UO safety Avery Patterson said. "It kept them in the game for a little bit, but once we settled down it was OK."
Asked if Colorado's early success through the air exposed anything of long-term concern for the Oregon secondary, Patterson shook his head vigorously.
Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu acknowledged the Buffs came out with "an added edge" that the Ducks didn't match until late in the first quarter. Terrance Mitchell helped turn that around with his two interceptions in the game.
"They gave (Richardson) ways to get the ball in the open field — if you were playing over the top, they threw underneath, and if you were playing tight they threw it deep," Ekpre-Olomu said. "He was a good receiver, one of the best I've played so far this year. …
"We started out slow, a little sluggish as a team. But as the game wore on, we started picking it up."