EZ Mortgages

Doldrums, 2008 – “Ten wins; no excuses”; Early Look at 2009 Depth Chart

// Dec 10 - 2008

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Coach Hawkins calls for a ten win season

In a Rocky Mountain News article on December 16th, Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins was quoted as forecasting for 2009, “10 wins and no excuses”.

My first reaction was one of shock. For a team coming off of three consecutive losing seasons, including a 5-7 effort in 2008, forecasting twice as many wins next season seemed like a stretch. For a coach with a disappointing (to put it mildly) 13-24 overall record at CU, predicting ten wins in 2009 seemed to be the coaching equivalent of donning a flight jacket and declaring the end of hostilities in the North division of the Big 12.

The Buffs face seven 2008 bowl teams in 2009, and ten wins, including a bowl game victory, would require defeating four from the following ‘08 bowl-eligible group: Colorado State; West Virginia; Kansas; Missouri; Texas; Oklahoma State; and Nebraska (in addition to assuming victories over Miami (Ohio), Wyoming, Kansas State, Iowa State, and Texas A&M).

If the Buffs don’t live up to their coach’s prediction, the quote will be repeated over and over again as the Dan Hawkins era winds down in Boulder. A bold statement, indeed.

On reconsidering the forecast, though, I believe it to be a master stroke by a renowned motivator. What better way to capture the attention of his young team as they slog their way through December conditioning drills instead of preparing for a bowl?

In fact, why wouldn’t you want to set your goals high? Most of us were looking for a winning season in 2008, and the Buffs came up just short of having that opportunity. What’s “just short” of ten wins? Any Buff fan you know who wouldn’t take a 9-4 record in 2009 – right here, right now?

I am a true believer in motivation being a huge part of the college football game. It’s cold in Boulder right now, and the Buffs’ main rivals, Colorado State and Nebraska, are relishing bowl opportunities. Want to get inside the head of a 19-year old in the weight room? Tell him you believe he is on the brink of greatness. Tell him that extra rep or extra hour of film will make the difference between a good season and a great one.

We’ll see how it works out …

Buffs to square off against three new head coaches in 2009*

*Bill Snyder – Kansas State

I had to put an asterisk besides this note because one of the three new head coaches the Buffs will face off against this fall is not exactly new – Bill Snyder. The “new” Kansas State head coach was on the sidelines against Colorado between 1989 and 2005, compiling a 5-11-1 record against the Buffs.

Snyder, 69, resurrected the “Mildcats” into a legitimate college football program. In his 16 seasons, Snyder posted a 136-68-1 overall record. Not great, but if you want to find a total of 136 KSU wins prior to Snyder taking the helm, you have to go back a total of 51 seasons and run through 12 different coaches. BS (Before Snyder), Kansas State posted only two winning seasons in 34 years.

“The Kansas State family is in flux right now,” said Snyder upon his re-introduction. “I want to be able to help. I want to be able to sooth the waters.”

While this may be a smart move by Kansas State in the short term – re-energizing the fan base, giving the players and incoming recruits a sense of continuity – I can’t help believe that this will hurt Kansas State in the long term. Snyder was 4-7 and 5-6 in Snyder’s last two seasons as head coach, so it’s not as if he went out riding on his player’s shoulders. Plus, what does the administration do if Snyder is not successful? There is already a Bill Snyder Highway leading to Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Athletic Director Bob Krause, who did not offer the job to anyone else, said “We anticipate he will coach as long as he is able to coach and is successful in coaching”.

Coaches are hired to be fired. Watch for an ugly divorce (similar to what happened to Sonny Lubick and CSU) in three or four seasons.

Paul Rhoads – Iowa State

With the surprising (shocking? startling?) announcement that Iowa State head coach Gene Chizik (he of the 5-19 record) had been hired to be the new head coach at Auburn, it seemed only fair that the new head coach in Ames would come from the Tigers. Paul Rhoads, defensive coordinator at Auburn in 2008, was named the 31st head coach in Iowa State history on December 20th.

What do we know about Paul Rhoads, 41? Well, he is an Iowa native, born in Ankeny, just ten miles down the road from Ames. Rhoads has never been a head coach, though he has served as a defensive coordinator for the past eight seasons (2000-2007 at Pittsburgh; 2008 at Auburn). In 2007, in his last season at Pitt, the Panthers’ defense was ranked 3rd in pass defense and 5th in total defense, and it was his defensive scheme which shocked Pat White and West Virginia in the regular season finale when the Mountaineers were a win away from playing for the national championship.

This past season at Auburn, the Tigers were 27th nationally in total defense (15th in scoring defense), though Auburn struggled down the stretch. The Tigers lost six of their last seven games (the only win coming over Division 1-AA Tennessee-Martin) to finish with a 5-7 record.

Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard described the process of hiring a new coach “an emotional whirlwind”, but that giving Rhoads his first head coaching opportunity was the right fit for the Cyclones. “(Rhoads) had charisma,” said Pollard. “He had a competitive plan on how to do it at Iowa State, and, as an added bonus, he’s an Iowan.”

With his history with the state (Rhoads’ father is a member of the Iowa High School Coaches Hall of Fame), combined with the unexpected departure of Gene Chizik, Rhoads will be given a long tether at Ames. Rhoads inherits a team with a ten game losing streak, a team which has never notched an outright conference championship in the 117-season history of the program (the Cyclones did share the Missouri Valley Championship title – in 1911 and 1912).

Look for the Cyclones to start fairly well in 2009 (in addition to the annual grudge match with Iowa, the non-conference slate includes North Dakota State, Kent State, and Army), before settling back into their losing ways. By the time Colorado plays Iowa State on November 14th, the Cyclones should already be eliminated from bowl contention.

Mike Haywood – Miami (Ohio)

The other new hire the Buffs will face in 2009 (assuming no other Big 12 coaches move on to other jobs after the bowl season and the NFL season are concluded) will be Mike Haywood, who takes over at Miami (Ohio). Haywood replaces Shane Montgomery, who resigned after posting a 17-31 record in four seasons with the RedHawks (2-10 in 2008).

Haywood, a 1986 Notre Dame graduate, has been the offensive coordinator for Notre Dame since 2005. This past season, the Irish were ranked 65th in total offense and 69th in scoring offense (100th in rushing offense). As mediocre as these numbers are, they are actually a considerable step up from 2007, when Notre Dame was dead last in the nation (119th) in total offense, and was ranked 110th or worse in rushing, passing, and scoring.

Haywood, 44, was named the Assistant Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association in his first season with Notre Dame (2005), and Haywood has coached as an assistant at Texas, LSU, Ball State, Ohio, Army, and Minnesota. He was interviewed for the vacant jobs at Washington and Syracuse before being offered the Miami job.

Haywood becomes just the sixth black head coach in Division 1-A. His take on becoming the head coach at the institution known as the “Cradle of Coaches” (Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian, and Bo Schembechler are amongst the names who have coaches at Miami)? “It’s a great opportunity,” said Haywood “going to a program with great academics and a storied football tradition.”

What Haywood inherits is a RedHawk team coming off a 2-10 season. Miami was ranked 100th or worse in eight categories tracked by the NCAA, including rushing and scoring offense and rushing and scoring defense.

The Buffs face the RedHawks in Oxford on September 12th. Miami kicks off its 2009 season with a trip to Evanston to face Northwestern, so it is likely that Miami will be on a six game losing streak (dating back to an October victory over Bowling Green) when the Buffs come calling.

Recruiting Update – Position by Position

Colorado remains stuck on nine commits, with only one new commit since November 16th.

Still, that does not mean we can’t talk recruiting.

First, let’s talk numbers. Colorado lost 15 seniors after the Nebraska game, so it is not likely that the Buffs will have a large recruiting class in 2009. Still, the total number of available scholarships has continued to rise. Recall that sophomore wide receiver Kendrick Celestine quit the team, sophomore linebacker Nate Vaiomounga was dismissed from the team for off-field transgressions, and junior defensive tackle Jason Brace is not likely to return to football due to a series of concussions.

As a result, Dan Hawkins said recently that he expects the 2009 recruiting class to be in the neighborhood of 20-22 new players (there were 21 in the 2008 class).

What to look for in the Colorado signing class on February 4th? Three areas of need which are apparent are offensive and defensive lines, as well as wide receiver. “I’ll be living out of a suitcase (for the next two months)”, said Dan Hawkins.

A breakdown by position:

Offense

Quarterback – the Buffs lose Nick Nelson, and have a commitment from Clark Evans of California. The Buffs lost a former quarterback commit, Jordan Wynn, to Utah. As the first two commits of the 2009 class were quarterbacks, there may be room for one more before signing day, but that now appears unlikely.

Running back – Colorado loses no tailbacks this season, but does lose fullback Maurice Cantrell. The Buffs are not in the running for any high profile running back recruits this season, and with a plethora of returning young talent, don’t look for a splash to be made at this position.

Wide Receiver – Four scholarship players are lost – Patrick Williams, Cody Crawford, Steve Melton, and the aforementioned Kendrick Celestine. Scotty McKnight and Josh Smith are the only returning players with much experience. Colorado already had three wide receiver commits for the 2009 class – Jarrod Darden of Texas; Ayodeji Olatoye of Ohio; and Andre Simmons from a junior college in Kansas. Of the three, Simmons may be the best bet to see playing time in 2009. Do not discount two Buffs already on the roster, however. Markques Simas was supposed to be a field-stretching threat this season, but academics kept him on the sideline. Jason Espinoza broke his collarbone in August, and then again a few weeks later after playing on a limited basis in October.

Both Simas and Espinoza will be needed, along with all of the newcomers, if the Colorado offense is to be productive in 2009. If there is to be a “name” recruit on offense this season, it may still come from this position. The Buffs are in the running for several highly regarded players (more on them in weeks to come).

Tight end – No losses this season, but there are three seniors-to-be on the 2009 roster, so look for at least one tight end/fullback/H-back recruit in this area.

Offensive line – with only starting center Daniel Sanders lost, it would be easy to believe that there was little need for extra bodies on the offensive line. Unless you were on vacation in Swaziland for the past three months, though, you know that there is no such thing as enough depth when it comes to the offensive line. CU has 15 linemen on the roster, and coach Hawkins has indicated he would prefer 18. The Buffs have one commit, tackle Jack Harris from Parker, and will likely add one or two more large young men to the roster before the first Wednesday in February.

Kickers – must we go there? Colorado loses only punter Tom Suazo, who came on to replace two-year starter Matt DiLallo late in the 2008 season. DiLallo returns, as do kickers Jameson Davis and Aric Goodman. No need to state the obvious here. Unless Davis or Goodman find a way to convince coaches to the contrary, look for the Buffs to add another scholarship kicker this season in order to correct the woeful performance endured by the kicking unit in 2008.

Defense

Defensive line – three starters from the line must be replaced, with George Hypolite, Brandon Nicholas, and Maurice Lucas all lost to graduation (at CU, you can actually say “lost to graduation”. Hypolite and Nicholas graduate this month, with Lucas on pace to graduate in 2009). This does not take into account the likely loss of Jason Brace (concussions). With the anticipated loss of Brace, there will be only seven scholarship defensive lineman at Colorado. Dan Hawkins went so far in his post-season interviews as to state that the Buffs would consider using more 3-4 alignments next fall in order to compensate for the lack of depth on the defensive line. So far, CU has received the commitment of one defensive lineman, Nate Bonsu of Texas, and will be looking to add two or three more before signing day (Nosa Eguae from Texas has also committed to CU, but is counted only as a “soft verbal” as he is making other official visits).

Linebackers – only Brad Jones and Nate Vaiomounga (suspensions) are lost, and the Buffs should have significant depth in this area – assuming everyone is healthy and eligible. The linebacking unit took some hits last fall, as Jon Major was injured and Lynn Katoa was ineligible. If those players are back, and the remaining players live up to their potential, this should be the strongest unit on the team. There are no new commits at linebacker to date, though the Buffs are in the hunt for three prospects ranked in the top 11 nationally at their position. The “headliner” from the 2009 class may still be a linebacker.

Defensive backs – four seniors, including both starting safeties, will be lost. There is some genuine talent in this area, though, and the CU pass defense was really the only unit in 2008 which exceeded expectations. Secondary coach Greg Brown and defensive technical intern Ashley Ambrose (he of the 13 years NFL experience) got the most out of these young, talented players. Safety prospect Parker Orms (the subject of this week’s recruiting spotlight), is the only verbal commitment to date, but there should be one or two more in the fold by signing day.

Stay tuned, Buff fans. This year’s class may not have the notoriety of the Ryan Miller class of ‘07 or the Darrell Scott class of ‘08, but I would be surprised if there are not a number of quality players who can come in and play in 2009. Keep your focus on wide receiver and defensive line. They are the areas of greatest need

….. unless you happen to know if Mason Crosby has a little brother.

Go Buffs!

[comment… ]

Recruiting Spotlight – Parker Orms

Even Disney would pass on this one.

The story line – “High school star scores five touchdowns, including game-winner with 19 seconds to play, to lead his team to state title” – wouldn’t make it in Hollywood.

it’s just too implausible.

Meet Wheat Ridge High BMOC – Parker Orms. Orms played almost every down for the Farmers this fall. Starting at both running back and safety for Wheat Ridge, Orms led his team to the State 4-A title game at Invesco Field against Greeley West. Orms scored all four touchdowns for Wheat Ridge as the Farmers built a 28-17 lead late in the game. Then Greeley West scored two quick touchdowns to take its first lead, 31-28, with less than two minutes to play.

No problem. Give the ball to the guy who had carried the team all season. On fourth-and-two on the Farmers’ 44 yard line, Orms took off on a draw play and raced 56 yards for the winning score with 19 seconds to play. 35-31, Wheat Ridge.

Got that film producers? Five touchdowns in the state championship game. 275 yards rushing on 38 carries. Including kick returns (did I mention Orms was also on the field for kicks?), Orms had over 400 all-purpose yards. In the 4-A playoffs this season, Orms averaged over 250 yards rushing per game.

Oh yeah. Here’s the best part. Orms verbally committed to play for Colorado on November 15th.

“It’s a dream come true,” Orms told Scout.com about his plans on playing for the Buffs. “Ever since I was little I was always going to the games. Getting to play for a school I grew up rooting for is amazing.”

Orms is not highly rated overall, being just a two-star recruit at safety. At 5′ 11?, 185, Orms knows he has something to prove. “I’m not 6’3?, 200 pounds,” said Orms. “I worked hard at (CU”s) camp. They said if I had a good season they would see how it goes. I think I proved myself to them that I can play and work hard for them.”

What of Orms’ running and kick returning skills? “They want me to play safety, but by the end of my time, I could be a running back,” said Orms. “I would rather play safety, but it would also be nice to get the ball in my hands. I definitely want to go out for punt and kick return.”

Sounds like a good fit for Colorado. A tough, talented, two-way (three-way?) player who grew up wanting to play for the Buffs. CU needs an infusion of talent in the defensive backfield, and Orms will assist in filling that need.

Now that’s a Hollywood ending I can buy into!

Guest Archivist – Brad Mathers

“No Guts, No Glory”

November 9, 1991 #14 Colorado 16, Oklahoma State 12

I was a young fan in the “glory years” of Buffaloes football (1988-1994), and I found myself completely in love with this unique team full of talent, heart, pride, and, inexplicably, heart-stopping moments. If you were a true Buffs fan in those days, it is likely that you relied on a pacemaker during such memorable games as “The Fifth Down,” the Orange Bowls, The Miracle in Michigan — well, I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, these Buffs were just not kind to the faint of heart.

In 1991, the magic of the National Championship subsided a bit with shocking upset losses at home to a ranked Baylor team and on the road to outmatched Stanford. Darian Hagan was oft-injured, and the Buffs were trying to adjust to life after Eric Bienemy. Still, these Buffs were young, talented, and great things seemed bound to come.

On this unsuspecting fall day, when the nation likely turned its attention to other games in expectation of an easy CU victory, the Buffs narrowly avoided an upset loss (and/or tie) to the Cowboys in a most unlikely way. Colorado came in to Stillwater as the #14 ranked team in the country to face a hapless Oklahoma State team, who was winless on the year (0-8-1, 0-4-1). It was a classic trap game for the Buffs, who were fresh off an emotional tie against Nebraska (which required the only “defensive extra point” in Colorado history to earn the tie – some snowballs at the end helped, too). The Buffs were still alive in the race for the Orange Bowl, but needed to win out and get some help to get there. On to Stillwater.

The game itself was televised locally on KCNC (Les Shapiro, anyone?), but I was relegated to listening to the game on local radio (KOA) because my friend, who I watched so many games with and would seem to know, for whatever reason insisted that the game was not televised. So two young Buff fans huddled around the radio, and would eventually hear a play that would require visual proof to believe.

The first 57 minutes of the game were largely unremarkable. The Buffs played perhaps their worst game of the season. In obvious “letdown” mode, the Buffs offense committed six turnovers, while the defense kept Oklahoma State close despite the Cowboys squandering several first half scoring opportunities. Listening to Larry Zimmer’s call, by the fourth quarter you felt as though the unthinkable upset was imminent.

The Buffs really should have been out of this one by the time they got the ball back one last time at the Oklahoma State 43 yard line, but suddenly they had one last chance to tie the game or take the lead, down only 12-9. Buffs quarterback Darian Hagan started the drive under center, but three plays netted minus-four yards, and the Buffs were faced with fourth and 14. Enter Vance Joseph.

Backup quarterback Vance Joseph, who made several appearances during 1991 in relief of both an injured or ineffective Darian Hagan, trotted out onto the field to replace Hagan. On fourth and 14, Joseph threw to fullback James Hill for a 17-yard gain to the Oklahoma State 30. First down, and now at least a tie was in the offing. Another first down got the Buffs to the 20 yard line before the field goal unit came out to try to make the game 12-12.

Games like these are especially tortuous to listen to on the radio, but it was well worth it… Robbie James, a walk-on backup wide receiver who had all of two catches in his CU career, came out to hold for the field goal attempt. James was not the normal holder on field goal tries, although he did so on a few occasions in 1991. Christian Fauria, the redshirt freshman tight end who would ultimately become a legend, assumed his usual place as the right end blocker.

The ball snapped, Oklahoma State sent everyone to block the field goal attempt, but James immediately waggled out to his right and found Fauria all by himself at the 10 yard line. Fauria raced into the end zone for a touchdown off of the fake field goal, the Stillwater crowd went into stunned silence, and Buff Nation felt joy, relief, and incredulity. The extra point made it 16-12, game over, disaster averted, cojones emboldened.

What a call in that situation! I had heard, in my opinion, the gutsiest call in Bill McCartney’s career, and in Colorado football history for that matter. A second tie of the season would not have ruined the Buffs’ chances at the Orange Bowl, but a loss to a winless team a year after winning the National Championship would have been detrimental to the season and beyond. Furthermore, it was just so unlikely – McCartney rarely called fake field goals or punts (except in Orange Bowls), and Robbie James had never attempted a pass before. In fact, Robbie James never again made it on the stat sheet, save for winning the 1991 Dean Jacob Van Ek Award, which is given to a player annually in the spirit of academic and athletic excellence (he was ultimately was awarded a scholarship, too, before graduating in 1992). Yet here was walk-on wide receiver Robbie James attempting a pass on a fake field goal, which, if he fails, makes for one of the worst losses in program history. Regardless, as for the play, I was as astonished as the Oklahoma State defense.

The win did not impress pollsters, as the Buffs fell to #16 the following week. The Buffs would have another “heart attack” game while hosting Kansas in snowy Boulder the next week, winning in comeback fashion again, and would conclude the regular season by winning a tight game in frigid Ames thanks to a very long Lamont Warren touchdown run. After the game, I waited and waited for the local sports shows to show highlights of the game, still needing indisputable visual evidence that the fake field goal in fact happened. Eventually, KCNC granted my wish, showing only the fourth down pass play to Hill and the fake field goal play, images that are burned in my mind to this day. For I will always remember the 1991 game in Stillwater for the gutsiest call in Colorado

Guest Archivist – David Barash “The Day I Became a CU fan”

Colorado v. Washington – Boulder, September 16, 2000

My most memorable CU football game occurred on September 16, 2000, because it was when I became a real fan.I visited Colorado for the first time to see my brother, a CU Law student, and we decided to take in a game that day vs. Washington.

As soon as I walked through the portal to our seats, I could sense how much Buffs football was a part of the fabric of Boulder and the CU community. The environment was just electric – Folsom Field was sold out, everyone was wearing black and gold, and I thought it was the most picturesque scene, especially with the awesome Flatirons in the background.

We chanted “RAL-PHIE, RAL-PHIE” right before she charged on to the field, and then the Buffs ran out in their black uniforms and gold helmets with the interlocking “CU” and Buffalo logo that I had always admired.The game was also memorable because Washington coach (and former CU coach) Rick Neuheisel returned to Folsom for the first time. We had an especially close viewpoint of Neuheisel, and we really rode him as he ran out of the tunnel with his head down. I recall that we were really fired up to watch the Buffs take a lead at the half, but our excitement was tempered by the final outcome, when Washington scored two late TDs to win. Despite the loss and a long season that would follow, the game stands as the spark that led me and my family to stand “shoulder to shoulder”. Go Buffs!

Game Notes – Colorado v. #9 Washington – September 16, 2000

The Buffs entered the game against the ninth-ranked Huskies with an 0-2 record. Colorado had started the 2000 season ranked 23rd in the nation, but a 28-24 loss to Colorado State in the opener, followed by a 17-14 loss on the road to #11 USC, had left the Buffs reeling.No rest for the weary. Coming to Boulder to face Colorado was Washington, a team brimming with confidence. To make matters worse, the Huskies were coming to town led by second-year head coach Rick Neuheisel. Neuheisel was now 9-5 at his new school, while his Buff replacement, Gary Barnett, was now 7-7. The two teams had met in Seattle in 1999, with Washington prevailing, 31-24. Revenge was too harsh a word for the Buffs heading into the game against the Huskies. Desperate, perhaps?

September 16th – Boulder #9 Washington 17, Colorado 14

Former CU head coach Rick Neuheisel made his return to Boulder a successful one, as Neuheisel’s 9th-ranked Washington Huskies defeated Colorado, 17-14. Playing before 50,454 sweltering CU faithful, Washington overcame four turnovers to turn back winless Colorado. UW quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo passed for 200 yards and rushed for 43 more to lead the undefeated Huskies, while Bobby Pesavento, making his first career start for CU, managed 174 yards on 15-27 passing.

Washington dominated the first half of the game, but it was Colorado which took a 7-3 lead into the half. Redshirt freshman cornerback Phil Jackson cut in front of a Tuiasosopo pass with 1:37 left in the second quarter, taking the interception 28 yards for a score. For the third consecutive game, Colorado went to the halftime break tied or in the lead.Then, for the third consecutive game, the Buffs lost in the fourth quarter.

The Buffs locker room motto for the week of the Washington game was “FINISH”. It was Washington, however, which demonstrated closing power. The Huskies scored two touchdowns in the first six minutes of the final stanza to take a 17-7 lead. Only then did the dormant Colorado offense begin to show signs of life. The Buffs responded to the ten point deficit with a ten-play, 97-yard drive, capped off by a 19-yard touchdown pass from Pesavento to Javon Green. Down 17-14, the Buffs did get the ball back with a chance to pull out an unlikely win. With only 57 seconds to play, Colorado did push the ball to midfield before a fumble by senior wide received Eric McCready sealed the win for Washington. “It was an unbelievably hard-fought football game,” said Rick Neuheisel after the win. “My congratulations to Colorado and Coach Barnett. They have great character in their program. I wish them nothing but the best and I hope they win every game in their conference schedule.”

Neuheisel could afford to be conciliatory. He was now 2-0 against his former team, with no games (barring a bowl match-up) scheduled between the teams for the foreseeable future. Neuheisel was also now 10-5 at Washington, while his counterpart across the field, Gary Barnett, slipped to 7-8 as the Colorado head coach.What could Gary Barnett, with #5 Kansas State up next after a bye week, say? “They made the plays when they had to, and we didn’t. That was the bottom line.”

Actually, the bottom line was that Colorado was 0-3 for the first time since 1986, and was faced with the real possibility of its second losing season in four years.[Colorado would go on to lose to Kansas State, 44-21, to open the season 0-4. The Buffs would win their next game against Texas A&M, but would finish with a 3-8 overall record, the worst for the program since the Buffs finished 1-10 in 1984].

Our Guest Archivist, Dave Barash, is planning on commuting from his home in Rockville, Maryland, to Morgantown, West Virginia, for the Colorado/West Virginia game next September. He would like to extend his best wishes to Buff fans everywhere!

GUEST ARCHIVIST – SCOTT “WOODY” GRUENLER

“I Know Something You Don’t Know”

Colorado v. Iowa State – Boulder, November 19, 1994

As a life long Buffs fan I attended the 1994 CU-Iowa State game with a friend of mine that had recently moved to Des Moines. When he showed up for what was to be Coach Mac’s last game he informed me that he was able to obtain press box tickets. Off we went to sit with the media. However, since we could not utter a peep in there we went up one level in the press box, sitting with some other CU fans. I was sitting next to a women that half way through the game told me that Mac was going to resign after the game. What a shock that was to both my friend and I!

While it was awesome seeing Salaam run for a CU rushing record I was stunned to know that Mac was leaving. With our press passes we ventured onto the field late in the game. I saw Kevin Cork, a KUSA sports reporter and I went up to him and told him the story. He said I was full of baloney. He had a chance to get the scoop of the year, yet he didn’t know me and had no reason to believe me. My friend, a sports talk radio s how host in Des Moines, went up to Iowa State head coach Jim Walden. Walden, who was coaching his last game at ISU, apparently believed the story. When the game ended, Walden sprinted to the CU side of the field and spoke to Mac. I was looking over there and Walden was pointing at me. Coach Mac had a look on his face that I’m sure was reserved for the team in closed quarters. As we were leaving the field I went back up to Kevin Cork and told him that he better get to the locker room ASAP to see that my story was true.That’s my story, a sad one for sure. However, Coach Mac went out a winner and I’m sure we are all grateful for everything he did for our university.

Steve “Woody” Gruenler

CU Class of 1980

Game Notes – #7 Colorado 41, Iowa State 20 – November 19, 1994

A game between a 9-1 team and an 0-9-1 to finish off the regular season would normally not bear much attention. The 41-20 final score, after the Buffs nursed a 20-13 lead into the fourth quarter, would not have merited much notice nationally. For local writers, though, the game presented a year’s worth of headlines. “Christian Fauria snares six catches; becomes Big Eight all-time tight end reception leader” would have been apropos. As would have been “CU posts 576 yards of offense, sets team record for season average -495.3?, or “Kordell Stewart becomes Big Eight all-time leader for total offense”. All worthy events, but they were all overshadowed. First by Rashaan Salaam, then by the team’s thirteen-year head coach. Salaam was effective against Iowa State, rushing for almost 200 yards and a touchdown in the game’s first three quarters. The Buffs, though, could not put away the winless Cyclones, leading only 20-13 at the start of the fourth quarter. Salaam was still 13 yards shy of the 2000-yard mark as the Buffs, leading 27-13 after a 23-yard run by Kordell Stewart to open the quarter, faced a first-and-ten at the CU 33-yard line. Salaam took the handoff from Stewart, cut to his right, and raced down the sideline in front of his teammates for a 67-yard touchdown and front-runner status for the Heisman. Salaam’s run gave him 2,055 yards on the season, and also gave him the titles of the nation’s leading rusher, scorer, and all-purpose runner. Salaam’s final run of the day also gave CU its first real lead of the day, 34-13.The remainder of the game was a celebration. The 10-1 Buffs were heading for the Fiesta Bowl and a yet-to-be-named opponent. Salaam was given a ride off of the field by his teammates, as 46,113 frigid fans (37 degrees at kickoff) kept themselves warm by cheering the third 10-win team in school history. All in all, a successful game and season. Fans piled out of the stadium and into the late-afternoon sunshine, cold but content with the day.But it wasn’t over yet.

Back from the store

In Bozeman, I received updates from ABC and ESPN throughout the afternoon on thewin over Iowa State. Frustration with the Buffs inability to put away ISU was quickly forgotten when the highlight of Salaam’s touchdown run flashed across the screen. The play made for perfect theater. Salaam reached the 2,000 mark in just the right fashion – at home, running right in front of the CU bench, on a long touchdown run to clinch the win. If Salaam had not already clinched the Heisman, that highlight alone may have sealed the deal. It would be replayed numerous times in subsequent weeks as college football analysts debated the issue.

Content with the afternoon’s events, I went to the store with my wife, Lee. Some time later, we returned to find the answering machine blinking. It was Charlie B. in Tennessee. “What is McCartney thinking?”, Charlie asked me by way of tape. “What is going on?”

Not understanding the message, and assuming Charlie was merely upset about McCartney’s play-calling on the day, I returned the call. It was then that I learned the reason for Charlie’s consternation. I quickly clicked on the television, turned to ESPN, and quickly had confirmed for me what Charlie was telling me.

Colorado head football coach Bill McCartney was resigning.

Press Conference

Shortly after the Iowa State game had come to an end Bill McCartney came to the post-game press conference, something he had done 162 times before. His opening remarks were standard fare: “I want to celebrate all of these things that happened out there today …. Rashaan’s tremendous abilities and the support he had was just extraordinary …. And I felt really good about Kordell getting that record in the Big Eight because he hasn’t really received his due in my opinion.”

Then Coach Mac dropped his bombshell.

“I have an announcement to make. Lindi (McCartney’s wife), would you come up here? I have a lot of family here, and I’m resigning effective this year. I’m going to see us through the bowl game, if I’m permitted, and through the school year. But, we really need to get a new coach named prior to going out and recruiting.”

The questions from the astounded and unprepared press were predictable:

Why? “It’s time. I’ve been here 13 years and I just feel it’s time.”

Going to another school? The NFL? “There’s going to be rumors, or whatever. I’m not going anywhere.”

When did you decide? “Recently. Recently. I didn’t know how it would work out today, but I knew that today was the day to announce this.”

Colorado fans and players were shell-shocked. McCartney had been given a “lifetime” 15 year contract after the 1989 season. As it turned out, though, the contract was for five years with extensions. The first term of the contract expired January 1, 1995, and that was when Bill McCartney was to step down.

In his book, “From Ashes to Glory“, McCartney explains his decision:

“On the field I had succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. But on the home front, as a husband and father, I often felt like a failure. I was so busy pursuing my career goals that I was missing out on the Spirit-filled life that God wanted me have.”

McCartney caught a great deal of flak from the media because of the timing of the announcement. Rashaan Salaam had just a few minutes earlier capped perhaps the greatest single season in Buff history, Kordell Stewart perhaps the best-ever career. But the headlines the morning after the Iowa State game were all about McCartney and his announcement. McCartney’s explanation: “I’d already told so many people that I knew the news would get out soon, and I wanted to be the one to tell the players.”

[McCartney would go out a winner, as the Buffs defeated Notre Dame, 41-24, in the Fiesta Bowl to cap an 11-1 season with a #4 national ranking].

Many thanks to Dave Barash and Woody Gruenler for being our first “Guest Archivists”!!!

Okay, so now you get the idea. Would you like to be the next “Guest Archivist”? Everyone who is on this site has a Buff story (or ten, or fifty). Please share. Don’t worry about game details – the exact details, who scored, the date of the game – I’ll fill in the blanks.

Just take a few minutes to write up your favorite Buff story – that time you rushed the field after a big win; the road trip with your CU roommates; that bowl game adventure; the time you met the coach/favorite player/broadcaster – there are so many great tales to tell!

Here’s all you have to do: drop me an email at stuart@cuatthegame.com You can put the story with the email, or send it along as an attachment. [Please let me know if it is okay to use your name, or if you would prefer “Steve T.” as an identifier]. I would like to fill the off-season posts with stories from you and your fellow Buffs, and perhaps even have a competition for the best story. I could put up some game tickets or CU gear as prizes.

Get to it! I know you have plenty of time during the holidays to spend on writing, so no excuses!

Go Buffs!

[comment… ]

“The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend” – Bowl game edition

For those of you unfamiliar with my philosophy when it comes to the Buffs’ opponents, it’s actually quite simple.

I have no problem with teams which CU plays being world beaters – after we play them. When we are playing them, I want them to be decimated, distracted, and defeated. Why? Because in college football, winning is everything. Money, media attention, recruits – did I mention money? – follow winning programs. They don’t remember how you got there – just that you made it.

The attention span of football media and fans is incredibly short. You want long-term memory and perspective? Not in this arena. Do you think that there will be a single 2009 preseason college football magazine which will have in its introduction for CU the following language: “But for a freak Cornhusker record 57 yard field goal at the end of the Nebraska game, Colorado would have been bowling for the second consecutive season under Dan Hawkins. The slow but steady rise back to the nation’s elite is on track in Boulder …”

Not a chance.

These are the phrases we see: “three consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1982-84…”; “continues to struggle”; “mistakes of youth”, and, most important for our purposes, “daunting schedule”.

It’s no secret that year in and year out, the Buffs play one of the toughest schedules in the nation. Good for us. But where did playing a tough non-conference schedule leave CU in 2008?

Home for the holidays.

If Colorado, instead of playing Florida State this season, had played Florida International (like Kansas did), or Florida Atlantic (like Texas did), we would now be looking forward to a bowl game instead of talking about what could have been. Try this statistic on your Buff naysayers: After 2009, when the Buff play two 2008 bowl teams in non-conference play, you have to go to 2015 to find a scheduled game against a non-conference opponent which is not a 2008 bowl participant.

Let’s try that one again for emphasis: Every scheduled non-conference Buff opponent from 2010 to 2014 is playing in a bowl game in 2008. Tough enough for you?

Gotta walk before you can run, folks. Yes, Colorado played the toughest schedule in the nation in 1990 in claiming the national championship – but did so with a squad coming off of an 11-1 season. If the Buffs are going to have a tough schedule year in and year out, I don’t mind if the team we play on a given week is down.

Let ‘em get healthy at someone else’s expense.

Toward that end, there is almost always a reason to have a rooting interest in a college football game. Southern Miss against Troy in the New Orleans Bowl? We care. Oregon State v. Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl? You bet it matters.

To make your viewing season easier, below is a chronological list of each bowl game, starting with New Year’s Eve:

The second half of the bowl schedule is more conducive for friendly fan viewing, as the matchups and the quality of play will improve. It has been suggested that instead of grouping the games by category (Obvious, Understandable, Obscure), I should go chronologically, so as to better aid the reader settling in with their remote on a cold winter’s day to watch some football.No problem. Beginning with the games of New Year’s Eve, here is the remaining bowl schedule, and which team Buff fans should be pulling for:New Year’s Eve games:

Air Force over Houston – Armed Forces Bowl – December 31st – Understandable

Unlike the CSU, which Colorado faces every season, Air Force is an in-state school Buff fans can pull for. There has been talk of renewing the series (the last was played in 1974, CU has a 12-4 edge), but there are apparently too many scheduling conflicts to make that a reality (in addition to its Mountain West schedule, Air Force plays Army and Navy every season, leaving few non-conference openings.). This being the case, it is easy to root for the Falcons as an instate team which CSU has to tussle with annually.

Pittsburgh over Oregon State – Sun Bowl – December 31st – Toss Up

You can pick your own favorite here. Under the “Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend” rules, I should go with Pittsburgh, as the Panthers play CU opponent West Virginia next season. My other justifications are more personal: my daughter-in-law has a degree from Pitt, and my son-in-law, being an Oregon Duck, is a sworn enemy of the Beavers. For family harmony, I’m going with Pitt on this one.

Boston College over Vanderbilt – Music City Bowl – December 31st – Toss Up

Same problem here. Neither team plays Colorado, nor do they play a team in 2009 which the Buffs will also face. Going with family here again. My other daughter-in-law (yes, we have a pretty well educated family) went to Boston College. I have a BC rugby shirt, so …. go Eagles!

Minnesota over Kansas – Insight Bowl – December 31st – Obvious

No questions on rooting interest here. But for an inexplicable 40-37 win over Missouri to close out the regular season, the Jayhawks would have been the “disappointment team” of the Big 12 North. Now, instead of a 6-6 team limping into a bowl game trying to explain how the 12-1 season in 2007 was not a fluke, the Jayhawks are 7-5 and playing with momentum. A win over Minnesota, which itself has some explaining to do (a 7-5 finish to a 7-1 start), and Kansas will be installed as a solid pick to finish third in the Big 12 North in 2009. A loss here to the Golden Gophers, and there may be some who are willing to take a chance on the Buffs for the #3 slot.

LSU over Georgia Tech – Chick-fil-A Bowl – December 31st – Obscure

If Colorado had kept its contract to play LSU in 2011 and 2012, this pick would be going the other way. Instead, I’m going with LSU, if for no other reason that it was Georgia Tech which “shared” the national championship with Colorado in 1990. As Buff fans, we weren’t even allowed to savor our moment in the sun in 1990. Between the “5th down game” against Missouri, “the Clip” in the waning moments of the Orange Bowl, and the Nebraska lay down against Georgia Tech in the Florida Citrus Bowl, we had to sweat out the polls after the Orange Bowl win over Notre Dame, instead of being allowed to go crazy. The split vote stung, and I still hold a grudge against Georgia Tech.

New Year’s Day games:

Iowa over South Carolina – Outback Bowl – January 1st – Understandable

Other than Colorado, which faces off against CSU every season, the most difficult non-conference game routinely scheduled by a Big 12 team is Iowa State’s annual grudge match against Iowa. With Gene Chizik being replaced in Ames by former Auburn defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads (more on this move in my next posting), the Cyclones will be looking to make a statement early in 2009 against instate rival Iowa. The bloom is falling off the rose which was the dynasty being built in Iowa City by Kirk Ferentz. An 8-4 2008 has removed some of the heat from Ferentz after the Hawkeyes posted 7-5, 6-7, and 6-6 records between 2005 and 2007, so a win in the Outback Bowl will serve as a reminder that Iowa State is the weak sister in the Hawkeye State.

Michigan State over Georgia – Capital One Bowl – January 1st – Understandable

The Bulldogs come to Boulder in 2010 as a return for the CU visit to Athens in 2006. A winless Buff squad in Dan Hawkins’ first season gave Georgia all it could handle, leading until the final minute. The re-match against the Bulldogs will be the final game of the Buffs’ 2010 non-conference gauntlet which includes CSU, Cal, and Hawaii. Michigan State will be a worthy opponent for Georgia, and you might find yourself forced to watch this game as it will be on opposite Nebraska/Clemson. If the Cornhuskers dominate the Tigers, this will be your only chance to stay in your recliner on New Year’s afternoon.

Clemson over Nebraska – Gator Bowl – January 1st – Obvious

If you can’t figure out who to cheer for in this one, what are you doing on this website? Clemson has a new interim/not interim head coach in Dabo Swinney (really, that’s his name!) after the parting of ways with Tommy Bowden. The Tigers are only 7-5, and had to have a season-ending three game winning streak over the likes of Virginia, Duke, and South Carolina to get to seven wins. What makes matters even worse for Buff fans hoping for a Tiger upset? The defensive coordinator at Clemson, Vic Koenning, resigned after the South Carolina game to pursue other options (ironically enough, he wound up at Kansas State). How is that Nebraska not only gets a better bowl than either Oklahoma State or Missouri, both of which had better records, but gets an easier opponent?

I don’t know, either.

USC over Penn State – Rose Bowl – January 1st – Obscure

No true rooting interest here for the Buffs. Neither team is a scheduled Buff opponent, and neither have a common 2009 opponent with the Buffs (USC plays CU 2010 opponent Cal each season). Cheer for JoePa to have a Rose Bowl victory and a friendly wave on his way out the door? If Joe Paterno was actually retiring, I could go with the sentimental favorite. Fact is, though, that Paterno just signed a three year contract extension. The thick glasses are here to stay, so I’m going with the USC cheer squad in this one.

Virginia Tech over Cincinnati – Orange Bowl – January 1st – Understandable

The Hokies were able to put a clamp on the Nebraska “We’re Back” parade earlier this season, taking care of business with a 35-30 win in Lincoln in September. The two teams will play in Blacksburg in 2009. After a mid-season stumble (losses in three of four), Virginia Tech came back to claim the ACC crown with a 30-12 win over Boston College. The 9-4 Hokies will square off against Big East champion Cincinnati on New Year’s Night. Cincinnati will square off against CU opponent West Virginia next season, but the outcome of the Nebraska/Virginia Tech game will have a much greater impact on the Buffs’ season than will the clash between the Bearcats and the Mountaineers. Go Hokies!

January 2nd

Texas Tech over Ole Miss – Cotton Bowl – January 2nd – Understandable

Feeling guilty about not cheering for a Big 12 team during bowl season? Then root for the Red Raiders against the Rebels. The Buffs don’t play Texas Tech next season, but three rivals in the Big 12 North – Nebraska, Kansas, and Kansas State – do. Plus, with a win here, head coach Mike Leach may decided to take his successful offense elsewhere, posing less of a threat to the Buffs in 2010 and 2011.

East Carolina over Kentucky – Liberty Bowl – January 2nd – Obscure

Remember how good you felt after the Buffs defeated West Virginia to go 3-0? Seems like a lifetime ago, but there we were, reveling after the Aric Goodman (don’t get me started) field goal gave CU the overtime win. Do you also remember how it came to pass that the Buffs had a legitimate shot in believing they could win that game? It came courtesy of East Carolina, which defeated the 8th-ranked Mountaineers, 24-3. The Pirates take on the Mountaineers again in 2009, again shortly before the Buffs play in Morgantown. Here’s hoping that history repeats. Go Pirates!

Utah over Alabama – Sugar Bowl – January 2nd – Obscure

Sure, it’s easy to call for a Utah win. The Utes play Colorado State and Wyoming every year, and both of those teams are on Colorado’s 2009 calendar. For me, though, it goes a little deeper. Just a year ago, the Buffs overcame a first half debacle to almost pull out a win over Alabama in the Independence Bowl. The 30-24 loss gave Colorado a 6-7 record; the win gave the Crimson Tide a 7-6 record. At the beginning of the season, CU and Alabama were close in most of the preseason polling, both in the 30-35 range nationally. During the season, the 7-6 team continued to climb, while the 6-7 team continued to struggle. While I don’t begrudge Alabama its success this season, I can’t help but wonder if things may have turned out differently if the Buffs had completed their comeback last December.

January 3rd

Connecticut over Buffalo – International Bowl – January 3rd – Obscure

What Turner Gill has accomplished in three seasons at Buffalo is nothing short of remarkable. Taking a program which has less than ten years in Division 1-A to a conference title in three seasons is very impressive (Gill’s three year record of 15-25, it should be noted, is not significantly better than Dan Hawkins’ 13-24 three year record at CU). Gill was in the running for

both the Auburn and Iowa State openings, and may still hear offers before the season is over (especially if some college coaches bolt prominent programs for the NFL). Still, Connecticut has both West Virginia and Baylor on it’s 2009 schedule, so Buff fans do have a cheering interest in this one.

January 5th

Ohio State over Texas – Fiesta Bowl – January 5th – Obvious

The Buffs are not likely to be given much of a chance in the 2009 Big 12 conference opener in Austin, regardless of the outcome of this game, so if you must cheer for the Buckeyes to continue to struggle in BCS bowl games, go ahead. I am planning on attending the CU/Texas game next fall (it’s on my birthday!), so it would be nice if the Buffs were competitive. A Texas loss here gives Buff fans something to hang their hats on between now and October 10th (especially since, with a non-conference slate of UTEP, Louisiana-Monroe, Wyoming, and Central Florida, the Longhorns will likely be an undefeated top ten team when the Buffs play them).

January 6th

Tulsa over Ball State – GMAC Bowl – January 6th – Understandable

Tulsa regularly plays Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in non-conference games (occasionally, as will be the case in 2011, the Golden Hurricane play both). Somehow in 2008, when Tulsa forged a 10-3 record, the Sooners and the Cowboys missed playing Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane will head to Norman next September, so if you are still in need of a college football fix before the national championship game, go with Tulsa in this one.

January 8th – Oklahoma over Florida – BCS National Championship Game – January 8th – Understandable

The Big 12 v. the SEC. We’ve heard the debate over which conference is superior all season long. The Big 12 got the Heisman trophy winner. Will CU’s conference also boast a national champion? Will Bob Stoops bolt for the NFL if he wins? The climax to the 2008 season should be a great game (for one thing, there will be no Ohio State to kick around!), so just kick back and enjoy.

After the final gun of the Oklahoma/Florida game, every team will be on the same footing once again. Every team will be engaged in off-season conditioning. Every team will be looking to restock their roster on Signing Day. Every team will be looking forward to spring practice and the resumption of full practices in August.

For Buff fans, 2009 cannot come soon enough. Watching other teams play their bowl games is tough; the thought of a fourth straight losing season (and starting over with a new coach) is even harder to bear.

Buck up, Buff fans! When the final gun goes off, there will only be 27 days until signing day, and only 241 until the September 5th kickoff at Folsom Field against Colorado State!

Go Buffs!

[Below are the games played between December 20th and December 31st]

Happy viewing!

Obvious

There are seven bowl participants this holiday season which show up on the Buffs’ 2009 schedule. As such, the results of these bowl games are the most important with respect to CU’s 2009 bowl aspirations. Four of the seven will be played before New Year’s Eve:

Colorado State v. Fresno State – New Mexico Bowl – December 20th – I’ve discussed this before. The Rams are 6-6 under first year head coach Steve Fairchild. A win here by the Rams, and there will be talk all next summer about whether CSU should be the favorite in the 2009 season opener in Boulder. Yuck. The September 5th game is already looming as a pivotal game in Dan Hawkins’ fourth season. We really don’t need a CSU team coming in with confidence and momentum. Go Bulldogs!

West Virginia v. North Carolina – Meineke Car Care Bowl – December 27th – Anyone know why this is a particularly odd matchup for Buff fans? West Virginia is the team Colorado picked up on the schedule for 2008-09 when North Carolina backed out of its contract with CU. The Buffs should be lining up against the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill next fall instead of heading to Morgantown. However, the Buffs may have wound up with a better deal. The way Butch Davis has resurrected UNC, combined with the problems Bill Stewart has had in his first season with the Mountaineers, it now looks as if the Buffs may be better off playing WVU next September. Go with the Tar Heels in this sold out game.

Missouri v. Northwestern – Alamo Bowl – December 29th – How the mighty have fallen! Ranked 3rd in the nation after a 5-0 start, Missouri managed to finish first in the Big 12 North, only to succumb to a ritualistic beat down by South champion Oklahoma in the title game. Instead of playing in a BCS game, the Tigers have fallen to the #6 spot on the Big 12 roster of bowls in 2008. Northwestern is not to be taken lightly. The Wildcats are 9-3, having beaten Illinois 27-10 in the regular season finale (Missouri beat the Illini 52-42 in the season opener). Cheer on the purple from Evanston!

Oklahoma State v. Oregon – Holiday Bowl – December 30th – Another year, another season in the shadow of the Sooners for Oklahoma State. Lost in the whole Texas/Texas Tech/Oklahoma argument over who should represent the Big 12 South in the title game were the Cowboys, who finished 4th in the South. Before a 28-24 loss to #1 Texas in late October, OSU was ranked 6th in the nation. Three losses in the last five games earned Oklahoma State a trip to San Diego to face a 9-3 Oregon team fresh from a 65-38 thumping of Oregon State (when the Beavers were playing, at home, for a chance to play in the Rose Bowl). Go Ducks!

Understandable

These are games in which the rooting interest for Colorado fans is not immediately apparent, but are games which will have an impact on the Buffs’ future.

Miami over California – Emerald Bowl – December 27th – The Buffs play the Cal Bears in 2010 in Berkeley, with a return date in Boulder in 2011. The Bears are 8-4 in 2008, including a 42-7 win over Colorado State in September. With all four of CU’s non-conference opponents in 2010 playing in the post-season this year, it would be nice if one or two would have a poor start to the 2009 campaign – starting here.

Notre Dame over Hawaii – Hawaii Bowl – December 24th – Colorado plays the Rainbow Warriors in Boulder in 2010, and on the islands in 2011. Hawaii was supposed to be down this year after June Jones left. The Warriors did go from the Sugar Bowl appearance to a 7-6 record, but there were sufficient signs of staying power that the head coach, Greg McMackin, was given a contract extension. [Note – if you can’t bring yourself to cheer for Notre Dame, you get a bye on this one. Besides, its on Christmas Eve, so it’s not likely to be on the tube at your house, anyway]

Obscure

This is where it gets fun, and “The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend” really takes shape. Here are bowl games involving teams which the Buffs do not have on the radar, but will nonetheless help share their future:

Florida Atlantic over Central Michigan – Motor City Bowl – December 26th – You heard it here first – Nebraska will play two bowl team in non-conference play in 2009! The Cornhuskers will face the Florida Atlantic Owls (yeah, I had to look that up) from the Sun Belt Conference. Florida Atlantic started 2008 with a 1-5 record (including a 52-10 loss to Texas), but rebounded to win five of its last six games to finish with a 6-6 record and a bowl berth (for the record, the Owls’ only loss during the run was to Arkansas State – another Nebraska opponent in 2009).

Nevada over Maryland – Humanitarian Bowl – December 30th – The Wolfpack were rolled by the Missouri Tigers, 69-17, in September. That was back, though, when Missouri was in the national championship race. The Tigers have fallen on harder times since then, though, and the Wolfpack finished with a 7-5 record overall, including a win over Fresno State and a close loss (41-34) to #9 Boise State. I can’t imagine Ralph Friedgen’s boys are all that excited about a trip to the Smurf Turf in Boise in late December, so Nevada can get off to a quick start to the 2009 season with this game.

Southern Miss over Troy – New Orleans Bowl – December 21st – Kansas has taken the old Kansas State route to overall success: play teams which require an atlas to find. The Jayhawks stumbled with a scheduling error in 2008, agreeing to play South Florida (a loss). In 2009, Kansas takes only a small dip into the bowl eligible pool, playing Southern Mississippi. The Golden Eagles finished 6-6 in 2008, but that was after a 2-6 start. Southern Miss could conceivably be heading to Lawrence next September on an eight game winning streak. Holy Manginos, Batman!

Wake Forest over Navy – EagleBank Bowl – December 20th – the first-ever edition of the EagleBank Bowl kicks off the bowl season. The game, played in Washington D.C., features a team which will play Baylor next season – Wake Forest. That’s all I’ve got. Go Demon Deacons!

Florida State over Wisconsin – Champs Sports Bowl – December 27th – In the aforementioned rule of cheering for teams CU has played after the Buffs have played them applies to the Seminoles. The three game series with FSU is done, and a strong finish only goes to show that the Buffs’ efforts in Jacksonville were against a quality opponent.

Rice over Western Michigan – December 30th – Houston Bowl – Two reasons to root for Rice. First, they play both Oklahoma State and Texas Tech next season, and both the Cowboys and the Red Raiders could use a little balance in their pathetic non-conference game selection. Plus, Western Michigan played Nebraska this season, losing 47-24. We don’t need to hear about how great the Cornhuskers are because they beat a “quality” team from the MAC. Go Owls!

Be Ready to Flip the Channel

No real rooting interest in these games, so keep a college basketball or NBA game on the recall button – just in case anyone accuses you of watching a college football game for no good reason.

Memphis over South Florida – St. Petersburg Bowl – December 20th – Must have a cheering interest? Go with Memphis. South Florida was ranked when the Bulls defeated Kansas. After a 5-0 start, South Florida has slipped to a 7-5 finish. How great can South Florida (and, as a result Kansas) be, if the Bulls finish 7-6? Game to switch to if challenged: CSU v. Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl.

BYU over Arizona – Las Vegas Bowl – December 20th – BYU plays both CSU and Wyoming in Mountain West play next season. A highly ranked Cougar team keeps the Rams and Cowboys in their places. Besides, who needs another successful Stoops?

TCU over Boise State – Poinsettia Bowl – December 23rd – Same argument here – the Horned Frogs of the Mountain West play both CSU and Wyoming next fall. The argument for cheering for Boise State because the Broncos’ success is a testament to Dan Hawkins’ recruiting acumen loses its luster more and more with each passing year.

Northern Illinois over Louisiana Tech – December 28th – Independence Bowl – A year removed from Alabama/Colorado, the good folks in Shreveport get left with this dog. Personally, I’d go for the Huskies (that’s Northern Illinois) if for no other reason than that the Huskies reward for being bowl eligible is to play basically a road game against Louisiana Tech – in Shreveport. Cheer for the underdog!

Rutgers over North Carolina State – December 29th – Papajohns.com Bowl – I really have to press to find a cheering interest in this one. Neither team has played a Big 12 school lately, and neither is scheduled to in 2009. If you need to pick a team, go with Rutgers on the theory that a healthy Scarlet Knight team poses a threat to ‘09 CU opponent West Virginia. Plus, I like that Greg Schiano stayed with the school when more glamourous programs came calling.

That’s it. The above will get you through to New Year’s Eve. Next week, I will post the remaining 17 bowl games in a similar fashion. In the meantime, I hope you have a great Christmas, and that this finds you and yours healthy and happy.

P.S. Don’t forget to email me your Buff stories at stuart@cuatthegame.com.

Go Buffs!

4 Responses to “Doldrums, 2008 – “Ten wins; no excuses”; Early Look at 2009 Depth Chart”

  1. I think CU has got a great chance this season to change the minds of all the skeptics on the program out there. They have a great young core and the coaching staff is one of the most promising in the conference. I hope they don’t fall too short of their potential.

  2. Okie Buff

    RE: No guts, no glory.

    I was there. The call was one more of genius than guts. I was sitting near midfield in about the 4th row. CU had a horrible day, particularly in the kicking game. Earlier they had a FG attempt and an XP attempt blocked. The images of Santana Dotson of Baylor blocking the FG and flipping the field on the Buffs earlier in the year were fresh on my mind.

    The game started out with about 25,000 fans in attendance. At the end of the third quarter, the gates to the stadium were more or less untended. The longer the game went and the with OSU leading, fans trickled into the stadium. Prior the the FG attempt, the place was full, and really loud.

    CU set up for the FG with about 15 seconds left on the clock and on third down. This, to take into account a bobbled snap where the holder could merely fall on the ball and get an attempt off on 4th down. Pat Jones of OSU called a timeout to ‘ice’ the kicker. During the timeout one of the coaching assistants for CU hatched the Plan. If the play was not open, Robbie James could simply overthrow all of the receivers and then they could kick the FG on 4th down. As it was, Fauria was all alone and the rest is history. The crowd went from an unbelievable decibal level to whisper quiet in a few seconds.

  3. Smart money is on All Colorado kicker/punter Zach Grossnickle to be a buff — if they can persuade him to stay instate. CU is competing with a number of other schools for the dual-threat former soccer player who holds a Ray Guy camp FG record of 61 yards, and Denver East FG record of 53 yards. Since he hasn’t committed yet, CU fans think it’s possible he is waiting for his Jan. 16 visit to Boulder to decide.

    CU currently has only two instate commits, Parker Orms and Jack Harris, also both from the All Colorado team.

    Pro and college coach Paul Assad, the Kick Doctor, features Grossnickle as a top prospect on his site, and Assad ran CU’s summer kicking camp. Rivals has him ranked #19 nationally as a kicker, and as the highest uncommitted dual p/k left on the boards.

  4. Ken

    After seeing the incredible speed in the Big 12 this past season, and the quality at quarterback for so many Buffs’ opponents I would think that speed should be the over-riding quality Hawkins looks at for any position he recruits. I realize we are not going to see any big changes at quarterback, but the rest of the team needs to step up to the competition. I had predicted the Buffs would have a tough time getting 6 wins in ’08 -just a monster schedule – and I don’t know about 10 in 2009, but it’s doable.

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