Even Ugly Wins Count

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Even Ugly Wins Count

The statistics tell the story:

— Four turnovers;

— A total of 12 penalties – including four personal fouls and four calls for unsportsmanlike conduct – for a total of 128 yards;

— Four trips to the red zone by the offense, with only one touchdown to show for the effort.

In year’s past … Hell, last year … this would have been the post-mortem of yet another close loss. The Buffs, at times in the very recent past, played well enough to win Pac-12 games, but turnovers, missed opportunities, and self-inflicted wounds kept the team from posting “W’s”.

Against UCLA, however, the team found a way to win, coming away with a 20-10 victory before a Thursday night Blackout crowd of 43,761.

The Buffs did, in large part, thanks to a defense which is setting new records every weekend. The UCLA offense, coming off of a 45-point effort against Utah, was stymied the entire evening. The Bruins were held to 210 yards of total offense, with a total of 25 yards in 30 carries … an absurd 0.8 yards per carry average. UCLA was held to 14 first downs in the game – with four of those coming by way of penalty.

How good is the Colorado defense? The Bruins became the fourth opponent to post less than 250 yards of total offense against the Buffs in the first nine games of the 2016 season. The last time Colorado had a defense to hold four opponents under 250 yards in an entire year? Back in 1998. The Buffs have allowed just 58 points in the last five games. The last time the Colorado defense had such a dominant stretch? Try 1991.

There are plenty of reasons for concern, of course …

— Penalties —

Colorado came into the game with the lowest penalty/game average in the Pac-12, at 40.8 yards per game. Against UCLA, the Buffs had 50 yards in penalties … in the first quarter. The 12 penalties for 128 yards was a ridiculous number, especially when most of the penalties were for personal fouls. “We can’t have penalties”, said running back Phillip Lindsay. “That was a sloppy showing of Colorado football. That’s not who we are so we need to go back and get it changed”.

By the same token, UCLA was having its share of issues with the officials. Coming into the game, Colorado opponents were averaging only 42.8 yards per game, also a conference low. And yet the Bruins were flagged 13 times for 96 yards. The Buff offense picked up six of its 24 first down by way of yellow flags, so the sloppy play cut both ways.

— Sefo Liufau —

Much will be written and said about the Buffs’ starting quarterback between now and the Arizona game. Against Stanford, Liufau was 12-for-25 passing for 135 yards and five sacks. Against UCLA, Liufau was 19-for-30 for 143 yards, two interceptions, a fumble, and four sacks. The Buff passing game failed to produce a single “explosion” play (a pass going for over 20 yards) in either game.

Does that mean it’s time to put Steven Montez back in as the starting quarterback? I’m going with “no”. While Liufau has struggled with some of his passes, you have to also attribute some of the problems to the offensive line – nine sacks allowed in the past two games – and to the quality of the defenses the Buffs have faced.

Then there is the intangible factor … leadership. When the Bruins were getting chippy, it was Liufau who was more than willing to take them on. Liufau had 58 yards rushing against UCLA, and many of those were hard-fought yards after contact.

“He’s a warrior,” said Steven Montez. “That’s exactly how I describe him. He takes a shot, gets up, and just brushes it off. I know he’s hurting ‐ and he doesn’t let anybody see it. He’s just a warrior”.

And yet Liufau has no issue shouldering the blame for the recent failures of the Buff offense. “Like I keep saying, it starts with me”, said Liufau. “I will take all the blame, all the fire. It’s not the coaches’ fault. It’s not the O‐Lines fault. It’s my fault.”

Words you’d expect from CU’s first time three-year captain since the 1890’s.

— Red zone offense —

This is a real issue.

Against Stanford, the Buffs had two opportunities inside the Cardinal 20-yard line, and came away with no touchdowns and one field goal.

Against UCLA, the Buffs had four opportunities inside the Bruin 20-yard line, and came away with one touchdown and two field goals.

Six chances in the past two games … and one touchdown.

“We can sit here and give excuses all day, but we just didn’t handle business,” said Phillip Lindsay. “We just didn’t go out there and play Colorado football … We’re not executing, period. I had that fumble, that’s a missed touchdown. We have to go back and correct those things and that comes from discipline.”

There will be much hand-wringing over the failures of the Buff offense the past two games. And yet, we’re still talking about a road win over Stanford and a home victory over UCLA.

If red zone offensive production is all the Buff Nation has to worry about, it’s been a pretty good season.

Which leads us to …

— National respect —

During the bye week, the national media was forced to deal with the reality that the University of Colorado was in first place in the Pac-12 South division. What had been a “feel good” story was now turning into a legitimate opportunity for the Buffs to play for the Pac-12 title.

Pundits (here’s looking at you, Jerry Palm at CBS Sports) who had earlier failed to list Colorado in their bowl projections, were now penciling the Buffs in as a possible Rose Bowl participant.

Rose Bowl?

Are you freakin’ kidding me?

Many of us, two months ago, were trying to figure out a way for the Buffs to get to six wins and a bowl berth … and now we’re talking about the Rose Bowl?

Think about it. In August, Colorado was facing a schedule which included four road games against teams which were ranked in the preseason top 25 poll – Michigan (No. 7), Oregon (No. 24,), USC (No. 20) and Stanford (No. 8). Considering that the Buffs hadn’t beaten a ranked team on the road since 2002, those were four assumed losses. Throw in a game against No. 16 UCLA, and home games against two teams just outside the polls (Utah and Washington State) and it appeared that the Buffs were facing an uphill climb to a bowl berth.

Now, two months later, the Buffs have road wins against Oregon and Stanford in their pockets, along with a home win against UCLA. The Buffs, with five Pac-12 wins in their first five seasons in the Pac-12 (5-40) have already posted five Pac-12 wins in 2016.

This is a team which had gone winless in Pac-12 play against Oregon, Arizona State, Stanford and UCLA, and now owns wins over all of them (the only two conference rivals left for the Buffs to conquer … USC and Washington).

The grand plan for Thursday night was for the Buffs, freshly-minted as the No. 15 team in the nation in the first College Football Playoff rankings, to take out the Bruins in dominant fashion. After weeks of playing in obscurity on the Pac-12 Networks, Colorado would have a national audience (albeit on FS1) to show that they were truly a player, not only in the Pac-12 South race, but in the race for the Rose Bowl, and, dare we say it, the College Football Playoffs?

After all, didn’t Ohio State rise from a similar position in the initial playoff rankings in 2014 to the national title? Didn’t the 2001 Buff team go into its game against Nebraska as the No. 14 team in the country, only to take out the Cornhuskers and Texas Longhorns in successive weeks to come within a decimal point of qualifying for the national championship game? Didn’t the 2016 Buffs, with successive games against ranked opponents in Washington State, Utah, and Washington, have the same chance to make runs as Ohio State in 2014 and Colorado in 2001?

Sure.

But then the Buffs, on national television, posted 304 total yards and 20 points against a 3-5 UCLA team, committing 12 penalties along the way.

Not exactly showcase stuff. Depending on how the other teams ranked around Colorado perform this weekend, the Buffs could actually drop in the rankings when they are released next week.

But … you know what?

Who cares?

I like the idea that the Buffs have secured a winning season with their seventh win … and are pissed about it.

I like the idea that the Buffs will travel to Tucson to take on a struggling Arizona team next weekend … with something to prove.

Good teams are like that. They find a way to win … and still have room to grow.

“We worry about ourselves ‐ Colorado football”, said offensive lineman Tim Lynott. “That’s the only thing that’s stopping us. That’s the only thing that’s ever going to stop us. Tonight, we stopped ourselves. We still got the win. It was a sloppy win. Once we play loose, we are the team that we’ve been the past seven weeks.”

What was the quote from Florida head coach Jim McElwain a few weeks ago, after a 13-6 win over Vanderbilt?

“A wise man once said, ‘you even have to bring your ugly babies home from the hospital,’ and that was ugly,”

It was an ugly 20-10 win for Colorado over UCLA.

But it also clinched the first winning season in 11 years.

Let’s take it home and cherish it …

 

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14 Responses to “Even Ugly Wins Count”

  1. 83Buff

    We hear from Sefo, Phil, Lynott, etc. about the ineptness of the Red Zone offense. Each taking their share of the blame. I want to hear from Lindgren and Chev. They’re the coaches, they’re calling the mind numbing plays. It is clear that Lindgren is in over his head and Chev still has some work to do to prove himself. Chev has been great with the WRs, but we have no idea how much if any influence he has on game day play calling. Lindgren coaches the QBs, a decidedly up and down success this year, and combined with his play calling, leads one to believe he may be the root cause. Lindgren’s answer to a poor play is to follow it up with a Sefo run up the middle! No wonder Sefo has been knocked around so much in his career, and the play calling didn’t seem a whole different when Montez was in there.

    Lindgren’s and Chev’s silence speaks volumes. Stop hiding behind your players!

    • buffalobilly

      I’m not a Lindgren fan either 83. Play calling at times is really abysmal. 4th and goal from the 1 foot line????? Would have made a statement with a td in that spot.

    • Victor King

      Hey the Mantra from Mac2 is

      “Players make Plays” “Players win Games”

      What would you expect?

      Finger pointing (either self or from others) is directed only at the players.

      Ownership eh?

      Well dang nab it, at some point the coaches have to take ownership. And not just for the wins.

      The Defense is the strength of this team period.

      Hail Leavitt
      Hail Leavitt’s Legions

      Special teams has been the week link in several games. Really just the kicking game.

      The offense has been the weak link several times as well.

      “The Lindgaverini Offense”:
      Has become slow
      Has become stale
      Lacks imagination
      Has become predictable
      Has been figured out by the Pac12 DC’s
      Is Stoppable.

      Yup Players gotta play, but the coaches gotta give em the right tools………Like Leavitt does.

      Mac gives good “Speech”

      Go Buffs

  2. Saheeb

    One of the more alarming things, aside from a suddenly porous o-line in pass protection, is that our receivers don’t seem to be able to get much separation the last two games. Against excellent pass defenders at Michigan they routinely found a step. They don’t seem to be getting open much the last two games. I know Sefo hasn’t had much time, which means they don’t have as much time to spring free, but I hope they can create some separation in upcoming games.

    Also, please god work in the TEs! I know they tried against Stanford and had Frazier wide open in the end zone but no one blocked a rusher, but especially since we’re struggling surprise the D with a wrinkle – throw to Irwin or Kinney!!

    • iriebuff

      I believe this started with USC and their decision to play lots of man coverages. Since that game we really haven’t had a great day in the air. Sefo is waiting for guys to be open vs. throwing w/anticipation it’s tough to beat straight man. Playing man also showcases the weakest part of Sefo’s game which is accuracy as windows are generally a bit tighter.

      Biggest beef is in man sometime you have to have your WR make plays which Bryce has shown a great knack for…why not chuck it up to him a couple of times a game 1:1?? Esp. in the red zone…fade to Bryce!!

  3. Saheeb

    Good analysis. It was a huge opportunity on the national stage and they stunk it up and looked out of character. CU was the one starting the fights early, and seemingly with little provocation. I think they’ve been stewing about the two close ones against UCLA they let get away the last two seasons. I also think, as Dave Wannedstedt aptly stated during halftime and at game’s end, that they read their press clippings all week and felt like they deserved to win and deserved more national respect, instead of going out and proving it on the field. They tried to show they’re tough instead of simply playing tough. It was embarrassing. I do disagree with the statement you made, implying that this was a positive last night: “When the Bruins were getting chippy, it was Liufau who was more than willing to take them on.” Liufau can be fiery, which is great, but as a senior and the leader he needed to cool down his teammates, not incite them, or more flags were sure to fly. Haigler had to lie on top of him to keep him from getting up and doing something stupid and getting flagged, but that helped bring in Bobo who did something stupid (with some theatrical help) and that flag really hurt. Haigler showed leadership, which means composure. I love that Liufau will stand up for himself but he needed to calm down and keep his guys calmer to avoid stupid mistakes. Aside from this nitpicky comment, great analysis. Hope this is the last we see of the dumb Buffs version and of a seemingly stagnant offense!

  4. iriebuff

    Frankly Sefo has not looked good throwing the ball since the Michigan game, every game there is a handful of overthrows, it’s amazing he didn’t have one of those picked before yesterday. Unfortunately he is back to waiting for WRs to be open vs. throwing w/anticipation, this also results in very long eye lock on his target and not properly scanning the field or his reads. Every drop back pass I hold my breath for something bad to happen, and when something good does (rarely in the air the past two games) it’s a surprise. Unfortunately Sefo is right, unless he plays better we have no shot.

    Montez threw the best ball all night, even his pick was OK, right read just underthrown vs. Sefo’s 2 picks. Love Sefo for everything he brings to the table, but if he has one more half like the last 4 I’d like us to roll w/Montez.

  5. H. Richard Farr

    Stuart, It is great to have the win. I am very concerned about the personal flags. TV guys showed the penalty’s in slow motion. CU has some “dirty” players. I recall statements to Rick George asking to drop entrance requirements so that we could recruit “tougher” guys. He said “no way”. It looks to me like CU has opened the gates. You seldom see that kind of play from top teams. Florida State used to have a great reputation for that stuff. I sure hope the coaches do not let things get out of hand. Bad play on the field shows the caliber of the kid and there will be bad play off the field next. Colorado certainly does not need that press again. You do a great job for all of us fans. Thanks. HRF

  6. Cameron

    I personally think this was a great win, for a lot of the reasons Stuart mentioned above. We have consistently been on the other side of this scenario. It’s one thing to play poorly and still beat a random team. But to play so bad and still beat UCLA! Granted UCLA is not playing well right now, but they are still loaded with 4 and 5 star NLF level athletes.

    A couple of thoughts:
    1) I can’t stand when people trash the playcalling (as if me or anyone else who writes these posts know more about playcalling than actual pac-12 coaches…if it were so easy they wouldn’t be getting paid hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to do it). But I don’t understand the broader strategy entering the game. Why not establish the run early. UCLA is clearly better at pass defense than run defense. Their dbs are ‘legit’, we couldn’t get open all night. Seemed like we were trying to out think the room and surprise them.

    2) It doesn’t really surprise me that we struggled offensively in the red zone the last 2 games. Stanford and UCLA are both having down years, but they are still loaded with serious big time athletes. If they have bigger stronger players on their front 7 defense, once you are in the red zone and the field shrinks it becomes a question of whether our o-line can push their d-line off the ball. Our o-line is not dominant enough physically to do that to Stanford or UCLA or USC or Michigan level talent. Frustrating yes, but not entirely surprising.

    3)I really hope this year creates a positive effect on recruiting high level players for next year. Remember, we are losing a ton of AMAZING seniors on defense next year, and to avoid a letdown next year and in years to come we need to take advantage and try and get more 4 star players in (and maybe an occasional 5 star), so that we can compete athletically with big time programs.

    GO BUFFS!!

    • ep

      I guess you never heard of the Peter Principle

      • Cameron

        @ep, valid point. But my intended point was more that you or I are not really qualified to be making those assessments. Besides, in power 5 programs my guess is that incompetent play callers are generally weeded out pretty quickly because college coaching is so competitive. The Peter principle I think is much more relevant in more stable or bureaucratic labor markets, where incompetent people can be promoted beyond their ability and then stay there for a long time. Still, your point is well taken.

        • ep

          Read Warbuff’s post. I would take credit for the same thing except I think a corroboration will carry more weight with you. Warbuff mentioned he and many others in the stands were predicting the plays with a good deal of accuracy. Just because someone is getting paid a ton of money doesnt mean they are competent. Besides the peter principle there is the good ol boy system….both of which I feel a certain OC is the beneficiary of.

  7. Herbert Schwarz

    I love the fact that we have now secured a winning season, even if we lose the bowl game. But what really gives me great concern is the fact that our offensive unit has managed only two touchdowns in the past two games, one each at Stanford and one against UCLA. That is simply not going to cut it, especially when we meet high-powered teams like Washington State and Utah. I would hope that the team, the media and the fans would stop talking about winning the Southern Division and concentrate only on the upcoming game at Arizona. We could even be in trouble there unless our offense comes back to life.

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