Officially, the 38,252 who attended Colorado’s 41-24 victory over Cal endured halftime temperatures in the mid-40’s, with winds “gusting 37 to 43 mph”.
True, wind gusts of 40 miles per hour or more are not all that uncommon in Boulder.
But CU picking up conference wins?
Now that’s a rarity.
For the first time in two full years, Colorado won a Pac-12 game at home. With a 41-27 victory over Cal, the Buffs finally brought to an end a 14-game conference losing streak – a streak six games longer than any similar bouts with futility in school history.
The win gave Colorado a 4-6 record in Year One of the Mike MacIntyre era. Pundits this off-season will surely point out that half of CU’s win total (assuming the win total does not rise in the final two games – a home game against resurgent USC and the road finale against Utah in Salt Lake City) came against FCS opposition, with another win coming over a Cal team whose only win of the year came against an FCS team.
The fact is, the 2013 CU football team has beaten the teams they were supposed to beat. That, in an of itself, is a huge step in the right direction.
While watching the Buffs slowly but surely (even methodically?) pull away from the Bears, and while trying hard to keep my hat, gloves, and anything else I might set down from winding up in Cheyenne, I was blown away in several other ways …
I was blown away by the play of Sefo Liufau
In a battle of true freshman quarterbacks, CU’s Sefo Liufau was not supposed to be in a position to challenge his counterpart, Jared Goff of Cal. After all, Goff came into the game with 3,141 passing yards on the season, already the second-highest single season passing total in Bear history. Goff already possessed the single season school records for passes (467) and completions (287), with Cal being ranked 8th in the nation in passing.
And what did Sefo Liufau bring to the table?
A total of 86 completions in 136 passes, going for 986 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions.
By the numbers, the battle between Goff and Liufau was a mismatch.
And it turned out to be just that … just not the way it was expected to.
Liufau went 23-for-36 for 364 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Goff went 23-for-45 for 173 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
Coach MacIntyre said Liufau “played really, really well. He got hit on the arm on the one interception, but came back and made some really good plays. I think maybe ya’ll are starting a little bit of what I see (in Liufau). Hopefully he’ll just keep improving, and I know he will”.
Added Paul Richardson, one of two CU wide receivers with 140 yards receiving on the evening (Nelson Spruce being the other). “He showed what he is capable of. He is growing up out there. Each and every week he is getting better”.
That certainly bodes well for the CU’s chances at future success.
I was blown away by the play of the Colorado defense
The Colorado defense surrendered 411 yards to the California offense, and a total of 24 points.
Not exactly numbers reminiscent of CU’s glory days.
But behind those numbers was an impressive showing.
Cal came into the game with anomalous statistics. As noted, the Bears came into the game 8th in the nation in passing, and a more than respectable national ranking in total offense (30th). But Cal was also, paradoxically, 92nd in the nation in scoring, putting up only 23.9 points per game.
The task for the Colorado defense seemed clear: Bend, but don’t break. Surrendering yards was acceptable; surrendering points was not.
And that’s just what CU’s much-maligned defense did against Cal.
Cal had six first half possessions, and five of them wound up in CU territory (the only exception being the final drive of the half, which finished with Cal at its own 45-yard line after taking over with just 40 seconds to play before the break).
Yet the Cal offense had only ten points to show for its efforts, as the Colorado defense was able to stop the Cal offense from penetrating too deeply into CU territory.
But the defense’s most impressive performance came in the third quarter.
With the Buffs nursing a 24-10 lead, the Colorado offense went into a shell. The Buffs turned the ball over in CU territory on an interception, then went three-and-out and four-and-out in its next two possessions.
In previous games, that would have signaled disaster time for CU and its fans … over the course of the first nine games of the season, the Buffs had been out-scored in the third quarter by a lopsided total of 104-20.
But against Cal, the Buff defense stood tall.
Instead of allowing the Bears back into the game, the CU defense surrendered, in successive third quarter drives by the Cal offense: five plays and a punt; four plays and a turnover on downs (after taking over at the CU 35 yard line); three-and-out; three-and-out; and eight plays and a turnover on downs.
True enough, for the game, Colorado surrendered 411 yards of total offense to Cal.
But here are the numbers to take away from this particular contest … In the third quarter, with the game still very much in doubt, Cal posted 47 yards of total offense. In the fourth quarter – with the Buffs up by three scores throughout – Cal had 172 yards of total offense.
“It was a lot of fun,” said CU defensive back Greg Henderson. “We had a lot of three-and-outs, as well as four-and-outs. We played hard and fast. We let up a little bit at the end, but I still feel like we did a good job tonight. It has been awhile since the defense played this well and it is good to have that feeling after winning”.
Indeed it is.
I was blown away by the comedy of the CU and Cal onside kick units
With a big victory, it was a comedy.
But it could have been a tragedy.
Cal scored a touchdown with 6:14 left to play in the game to make the score 34-17 (note to Cal coach Sonny Dykes: When you trail by 24 points, as you did against the Buffs at 34-10, and you score a touchdown, you go for two. Kicking an extra point that late in the game didn’t help your cause. Seventeen points left it a three possession game. Your only hope was to get three touchdowns and three two-point conversions. Just sayin’).
With only six minutes left in the game, everyone in the stadium expected an onside kick.
But apparently receiving onside kicks are not often practiced in Boulder. The Buffs were uncertain as to how to line up for Cal’s kickoff.
Time out. Colorado.
As it turned out, the time out was a blessing, as Cal tried an onside kick to the short side, where they had the Buffs out-numbered. But the ball bounced directly to Nelson Spruce. For whatever reason, the Cal defenders seemed to be of the opinion that Spruce would simply fall down to cover the ball. Untouched, Spruced decided not to just fall down, instead taking the ball back for a 46-yard touchdown.
Score one for the CU onside kick unit.
But the onside kick units were not done yet.
After Cal scored another touchdown to make the score 41-24, Cal again lined up for an onside kick. Again, the Buffs were uncertain as to how to line up.
Time out, Colorado.
This time, instead of kicking to one side or the other, the Cal kicker dribbled the ball straight ahead, where only one Buff was waiting. Instead of falling on the ball, the CU player went to block the kicker, apparently assuming his sole responsibility was to prevent the kicker from falling on the ball. Problem was, there were no Buffs in the area to assist, and Cal was easily able recover the kick.
Two onside kicks. Two time outs. Two errors on special teams.
Fortunately for the Buff Nation, one of the two errors was committed by the Cal onside kick unit.
I was – almost – blown away by the weather.
For those of you who have attended CU games with me over the years, you know that I don’t leave games early. Even in the 1-10 seasons when I was in school, and there were more fun things to do on campus than to sit and suffer through another mauling, I stayed in my seat. My loyalty (stubbornness?) became well known in our circle of friends who attended games.
More recently, though, I have left a few CU games before the final gun. The first was the CSU game at Mile High which ended up with tear gas being dispensed against Ram fans, but there have been others (I left after the third quarter of the game against Oregon last fall in Eugene, for instance, with the score already up to what would prove to be the final, 70-14).
But I had never left a game when CU was leading.
Colorado was up 24-10 at the half against Cal, but the weather in the second quarter was miserable, and there was every indication that it was just going to get worse. Many in our section left, and Tony and I discussed leaving early in the third quarter.
We had one reason to stay – at least through halftime – anyway.
CU at the Gamer Mike had given us his field passes so we could watch Ralphie, up close and personal, lead the team out onto the field for the second half (thanks, Mike!). After that, though, Tony and I were considering heading for shelter.
Instead, the wind let up a bit, and the Buffs continued to play well. We stayed on a little longer. Then a little longer.
We stayed to the final gun.
At the end, there were perhaps 100 fans left in our section, and that was a number typical throughout much of the stadium.
We weren’t, in the end, blown away by the 40 mph winds.
But we were blown away by the stellar team play of the Colorado Buffaloes.