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Broken

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Broken

For the CU football program, the Arizona contest was a “make-or-break” game.

Consider the Buffs broken.

Broken promises … 

This fall, the defending Pac-12 South champions were not picked to repeat as division winners.

But no one thought they would be this bad.

— The offensive line play has been awful.

We were told that the offensive line would be a strength this fall, not a weakness.

We were misled.

“I’ve said it a few times, this is the best offensive line we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Mike MacIntyre this August.

And it wasn’t just MacIntyre.

“It’s as good as we’ve had for a while,” running backs coach Darian Hagan said of the offensive line. “You look up there and you see really good athleticism, guys that are smart, guys that are maulers. In this conference, if you don’t have a mauler up front, then you’re going to struggle. Our guys, we have confidence in them.”

In six games, the Buffs have tried four different lineups along the offensive line. Colorado gave up four sacks to an Arizona defense which was 96th in the nation in sacks coming into the game.

The offense did produce 42 points and 551 yards, which is nothing to be upset about, but there was the feeling right from the start that whatever CU’s offense could produce, it wasn’t going to be enough.

Which leads us to …

— The defensive line for Colorado is worse than the offensive line.

The defensive line had to be completely rebuilt, and Buff fans understood that the line might be the weak link in the defense.

We were told, however, not to worry.

“We have depth this year and I think it’s pretty good depth,” defensive line coach Jim Jeffcoat said. “When we have depth and don’t have to have a guy play 70 to 75 plays, that helps us. That keeps them fresh and it keeps them involved in the game. It’s why I like to play more than three guys if I have the young guys who can do it and the depth. We have to keep them fresh.”

The defensive linemen had plenty of time to stay “fresh” against Arizona, as the Colorado defense gave up seven scoring drives to the Wildcats, with only one taking more than six plays. Arizona had only 24:06 of possession time … it’s scary to think what they would have done with an even thirty minutes.

Broken hearts …

If you are a cock-eyed optimist, you will note that the Buffs were in both of the last two games down to the final minute.

Had Steven Montez not thrown the ball out of the end zone on the final play against UCLA, giving his “Blackout Boyz” a chance at making a game-winning catch …

Had the Buff defense been able to hold the Arizona offense on third-and-four at the Wildcat 31 with three minutes still remaining, or on third-and-seven a few plays later, the Buff offense could have rallied the Buffs to victory …

“We need to get breaks,” said Phillip Lindsay, who will leave Colorado as one of its most decorated – and popular – players ever. “In any football game, it comes down to whoever is going to get the most breaks whether it is a fumble or a kick return to the house for us. It is the little things that matter. It is the little things that are hurting us.”

I have great empathy for Phillip Lindsay, but it should be coming down to breaks against teams like UCLA (4-8 in 2016) and Arizona (3-9). Arizona hadn’t won a road game in Pac-12 play since … you guessed it … the last time the Wildcats came to Boulder.

The Buffs looked awful on defense against the Wildcats … as in Jon Embree era awful.

Three plays are seared into my memory:

– On Arizona’s first touchdown, quarterback Kahlil Tate put a move on Buff defensive end Leo Jackson III at the line of scrimmage, racing past Jackson and the rest of the CU defense for 58 yards and a touchdown. The replay from the end zone camera shows Jackson chasing after Tate, but it was like a watching a commuter chasing after a train which was already leaving the station … he knew he couldn’t catch Tate, but he was putting in a good faith effort to jog after him nonetheless;

– On Arizona’s next possession, Tate scored on a 28-yard run on third-and-two. The end zone shot of this play showed two Buff defensive backs wrestling two Wildcat receivers to the ground near the ten yard line, only to look up in surprise as Tate raced past them to the end zone. Note to DB’s: If a wide receiver is blocking you fifteen yards downfield … it’s a running play! Your job is not to fling the blocker to the ground, and stand over him like Ali standing over Liston, but to find the ball and get to the ball carrier!

– Late in the third quarter, with Arizona up 28-21, the Wildcats faced a third-and-goal at the CU one yard line. Jase Franke was in at nose tackle, replacing the injured Javier Edwards. On the play, Arizona went right up the middle for a touchdown. Where was Franke? At the CU ten yard line, looking back as the Wildcat running back scored with ease. Franke allowed himself to be taken right out of play, rushing forward only to discover that the ball and the ball carrier had long since gone in the other direction.

It’s not my style to criticize players. Leo Jackson is one of CU’s best players; the Buff defensive backs are some of the best in the conference; and Jase Franke is coming along as a defensive tackle.

But these three plays are representative of the debacle which was the Colorado defense against Arizona.

And it’s not like we haven’t seen this before. Every year in the Mike MacIntyre era, the Wildcats have run all over the Buffs. Even in the 49-24 victory in Tucson last year, the Wildcats posted 267 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

If Arizona were the most prolific offense on CU’s schedule, this might be forgiven, even understood. Almost every other team, however, has figured out how to stop the Wildcat offense,

Yet the Buffs are still grasping at straws … and having rushing records set against them.

Broken spirit … 

I really don’t like going to zoos.

I understand their purpose. Millions of us have been able to see and interact with species which we would never have had the chance of seeing in our lifetimes. Zoos also help us to understand and protect animals, and I acknowledge that they do their best to create a suitable environment for their animals.

For me, though, these “habitats”, as well-intentioned and designed as they may be, are just prisons. It may be the animal equivalent of a prison with Wi-fi and gym access … but they are prisons nonetheless.

Some animals, most notably the big cats, have a difficult time adjusting to their confinement, constantly pacing, looking for a way out.

Most, however, adapt, and lead lives of quiet desperation, their spirits broken.

Welcome to Colorado football, midway through the 2017 season.

Two years ago, I traveled to Corvallis for the CU/Oregon State game (having children and grandchildren in Portland makes Oregon an obvious choice for a road trip). The Buffs were 0-3 in Pac-12 play heading into that game in 2015, as were the Beavers. It was a “battle of the basement”, a game to decide which team was the worst in the Pac-12 conference.

The Buffs came away with a 17-13 win, and I entitled my essay for the game, “We’re No. 1(1)!“, and, sure enough, it proved to be true. Colorado did not win another Pac-12 game the remainder of the season, finishing 4-9, 1-8, while Oregon State finished the season 2-10, 0-9.

Last fall, Oregon State traveled to Boulder, with the Buffs winning handily, 47-6. Colorado had distanced itself from Oregon State, and the gap between the two programs was significant.

Now, Colorado returns to play Oregon State in Corvallis (I’ll be there again). The Buffs are 0-3 in Pac-12 play, as are the Beavers. It will again be a “battle of the basement”, a game to decide which team is the worst in the Pac-12 conference.

Which sucks.

I was willing to live through a 7-5 season this fall. I understood that the Buffs were not likely to repeat as Pac-12 South champions; I accepted that a ten-win season was not in the offing.

But to have fallen so far, so fast?

Right back down to the bottom. The Buff spent a decade trying to climb out of the basement … but took only a half season to fall right back in.

“I don’t think our guys are demoralized. They’re really dejected,” said Mike MacIntyre. “We’ve lost two heartbreakers in a row, down to the wire. That’s the way Pac‐12 games go. Last year, we won five of them like that. We’ll eventually win some more, so hopefully we can do that this week.”

This particular Buff fan is past dejected … demoralized is a much better description.

Colorado is 3-3, with most of the easiest games in the rear view mirror. The task now becomes one of trying to go 3-3 the remainder of the season, and send Phillip Lindsay out with a bowl victory and a winning season.

I’m not seeing it.

Broken promises led to broken hearts, which it turn has led to broken spirits.

Off to Corvallis, in hopes of claiming the No. 11 spot in the Pac-12 conference …

—–

 

23 Responses to “Broken”

  1. Thomas

    I like Coach MacIntyre and appreciate the fact that he took a program firmly in the ashes and lifted it back up (along with great help from AD Rick George) into a program that has actual Pac-12 talent at all positions.

    With all of that said…

    When Dan Hawkins was hired, everyone (including me) was very excited. Years later we now know — unmistakably — that it was not Hawkins who was a great coach, but rather his Offensive Coordinator… Chris Petersen.

    In that same way, I am deeply concerned that last year’s success was really Jim Leavitt’s success. I’m worried that MacIntyre may have been the right guy to rebuild this program and upgrade the talent, but he may be nothing more than a medium-talent Head Coach. That is my worry.

    Coach MacIntyre, please prove me wrong on this. Prove you not only can rebuild a program, but you can also lead it to great, yearly success. Because right now, I’m seeing all the same problems I saw with this team from 2 years ago. Close losses that are almost completely, fully, self-inflicted.

    Still hopeful… not holding my breath.

  2. Josh Rahe

    Our front seven is not doing a very good job on defense. They seem to always be out of position.

  3. VK Berlin

    Hey there Stuart,

    I am not gonna let you go down that rat hole. It is a dirty ol rat hole and we all been there before.

    This is just a little miss-management issue. Happens all the time. Happens everywhere. Just a little miscommunication in managing our expectations. You saw it we all saw it.

    There is a huge difference in “hoping” a team will be good. That opinion is based on our real/perceived, knowledge of the aspects around the team.
    Fun Fan Stuff.

    Expecting a team to be good is laid in our “hope” groundwork and then driven by expectations created by coaches, players, the press, and loan-shark posters.

    Reality can easily be blinded ” wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ Plannin’ and dreamin’ which will rip you apart” ………….

    So listen Stuart, It ain’t broken and you ain’t demoralized. You are just feeling sorry for yourself cause ” wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ Plannin’ and dreamin’ didn’t quite work out for us. (Damn banker…..Trust me the interest rates are the best you can get) He don’t get it Stuart. Fanatics never get it.

    So get over that Krappp and get “Shoulder to Shoulder” and be Buff. Have a great time at the game with the family.

    Remember. Mac1 went 6 and 6 his 5th year. Hey ya never know.

    So Enjoy it cause winning ain’t everything and even with all the problems and situations that exist within and around the team there is some pride still there.

    Don’t be jumping down a rat hole or take out a loan based on what the “fanatics” spew……..cause the “fanatics” don’t deal in reality and will be powerful smoke blowers right up the ol ***

    You will be just fine.

    Buffs.

    • MB

      Disagree VK. Stuart nailed it, and if the Buffs want me to give up most of a day and a healthy chunk of change for a ticket, I expect more disciplined, quality football than what I’ve seen this year. No excuses. If the likes of Wisconsin, Michigan State, Kansas State, Washington, and Stanford can produce quality teams each year, so can we. Like these aforementioned teams, I don’t believe any of us are talking about having to win national championships every year like many of the typical top tier football factories (however, maybe every 10 or so years we can muster enough seniors to have that conversation). We just want a fairly predictable, competitive product. This year’s team is bipolar. Can you honestly tell me what you can expect next week at Oregon State other than Phil Lindsey working his butt off?

      We need blue-collar grit, and we’re far from it. It starts with quality O-lines and D-lines (again, like the aforementioned schools) and then building from there. We’re spending too many scholarships on wide receivers, etc. when we don’t even allow our quarterback enough time to set up and throw to those quality receivers. And then when the other team gets the ball, it’s their turn to bulldoze their will on our d-line. It starts with both lines. See our championship teams from the 90’s for details. What I wouldn’t give for a Joe Garten, Jay Leewenberg, Darius Holland, or Joel Steed right now. Just saying those names gives me goosebumps and epitomizes football.

  4. mtb

    Great article, Stuart. I appreciate the candor. Rooney from the Daily Camera is the only other place to get good, honest journalism on Buffs football. I keep thinking…if teams like Washington State, Kansas State, Utah, and Stanford can churn out quality, competitive teams EACH year, can’t we? I miss that gritty, tough culture of the McCartney peak years. Where’s the discipline? Where are the noticeable, effective adjustments at halftime? I miss Leavitt’s gray sweatshirt and gum smacking–the essence of what I’m talking about. GRIT! Old School! Back when they gave more attention to the details of the game and less attention to the 27 nifty uniform color options. Black tops and gold bottoms at home. White tops and black bottoms away. Gold helmets always. Spruce those up if you want. Then leave them, and let’s play FOOTBALL!

  5. cricky

    There are lots of reasons that can explain why this season is not turning out as hoped: bad play calling, players are flat, lack of halftime adjustments, bad luck, inexperience, lack of player development, high academic standards, lingering effects of the scandal, Pac 12 is getting tougher, etc. I agree with these and undoubtedly all of these factors combine together for the results we have seen.

    I am not necessarily a believer in the recruiting star system and I don’t subscribe to any of the recruiting websites, but generally there is a correlation between a player’s recruiting ranking and his likelihood of going to the NFL (i.e. talent), and teams with more high star guys generally tend to have more talented teams and win more games.

    I’ve tried to stay positive this season and don’t want to pile on, but…

    Here are the final rankings from a well known recruiting website for the last 4 CU classes:
    2017 32nd
    2016 65th
    2015 70th
    2014 63rd

    There are 65 Power Five conference teams, so any year with a ranking above 65th means that recruiting is below the P5 level — not just bad — but below the bottom of P5 recruiting. An “average” P5 recruiting class would be ranked around 33rd. The simplest analysis would indicate that for a P5 team to expect to win half of it’s conference games (an “average result”) they need to have recruited “average talent” over the last 4 years. The small sample of numbers above indicate that the Buffs haven’t really been doing that.

    • VK of Berlin

      Excellent comment.

      Last year Chev and the wins made the difference in recruiting. The performance ionthe field was led by the defense as the offense remained mediocre. The defense was coached up, provided excellent schemes, and made the adjustments to win.
      Mac got all the accolades and the two coaches
      who made the biggest difference did not . Just how it is

  6. Michael

    Ahh Stuart –

    I was with you when Embree led the Buffs to the worst record in 120 years of football and you’d had it. And today, you nailed it again. I’m with ya guy. Far beyond dejected and dismayed, yup, demoralized sums it up. I’ve had a gnawing feeling all spring and summer, starting with what seemed to be a failure to capitalize on the momentum (10-4, division champs, outstanding new facilities) and bump up recruiting. Yes the 2017 class was top 30 but they lost a couple at the end which dropped them from the Top 25 and so far, this year looks like an average class. Meh, certainly not what you’d expect based on where we thought the program was headed. Now, they’re back in the basement and will be lucky to hold onto to what they commits they’ve got.

    The sick feeling got worse when I learned that TWO TEAM CAPTAINS were suspended for violations of team rules. Wth? Coming on the heels of losing Falo, Julmisse and Umu. Seriously, how does that happen? Not a good sign of things to come. Next came the sleepwalking performance and cameo appearances of the offense and especially, the vaunted OL. And the stupid penalties or simple failure to execute, OMG! I’ve been to every home game and a road game and they’ve looked downright lethargic, mired in molasses or just not good. Until Saturday, the D tried to keep them in games and gave a reasonable account of themselves but that’s now gone. The attrition on D, especially the DL (and the total absence of HS recruiting this position) has left them with no talent and no depth.

    I’m trying hard, so hard to stay optimistic for a turnaround. But I just don’t see it. They say the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. On the basis, the odds of a bowl game for this team, is NO BUENO. And that, my friend is indeed demoralizing.

    Hope I’m wrong for Phillip Lyndsay’s sake, as he and a few others deserve better. He gave all he had last night, in an epic performance and it wasn’t enough. Damn shame.

    • VK of Berlin

      Excellent early morning post.

      And don’t forget Mac saying to the world

      . McCartney doesn’t know what he is talking about”

      That was the indicator to me. Telling a team captain to basically shut up
      in public

      There is a problem and it starts with the current head coach

      Buffs

  7. ael

    Well I remember not too long ago we were just hoping for a bowl game……sigh, I guess were back to that.

  8. WarBuff

    There is a commonsense rule that says, “Care no more about something than the owners(or managers or players, pick your poison) do”.

    I witnessed a team that didn’t care, and I’ll be damned if I care about them more than they do (Lindsey and a few others excepted from this criticism). No heart, and NO PRIDE! This team has been entrusted itself to the timid and the weak, both players and coaches. Pathetic.

    Play the freshman and park the “players that don’t make plays”. Mac is used to last place in the PAC12 South, so it makes sense that it is where he heads to again. Couldn’t live with Leavitt because JL demanded better performance and no excuses from everyone. Ran him off (MM could have let Bernadi go and used that salary to keep JL) and got a demoted replacement coach from KY that just let a backup QB set an all time performance record.

    Look long and hard at those Coach of the Year trophies MM. They will never be awarded to you again.

    • VK of Berlin

      “..Situational football and knowing your teams strengths
      and weaknesses is all about coaching…”

      Stole it from wingo

      But man is he right and haven’t seen it in Nuffland
      for 3 games

      Buffs

    • NW Buff

      WarBuff, As this year has evolved I’ve been thinking about team chemistry as compared to 2016, because I still believe the overall depth and talent of the athletes on the current squad is equal to if not slightly better than 2016.

      What I can’t gauge from a distance, here in the Pacific NW, is the overall team heart. With all that I seen watching the games and have been reading in the various posts it is the thing most lacking with this years squad. I now have greater direct access to UW and OSU than I do the Buff’s, the UW TEAM Chemistry is solid and not so much for the Beaver’s. I’m not talking Individual commitment here, this is about TEAM chemistry and TEAM COMMITMENT!!

      What I can say, @ UDub there is no doubt that it is Peterson’s ship and you are on board or left standing dockside as the ship sails away.

      So, my question is considering all that MacIntyre went through last year (death of his father, Loss of JL, Clark and Tompkins, the ongoing Tompkins Mess) despite the successful season; is there something off vibe wise from MacII, the coaches and maybe even from the AD or University that the squad is picking up on?

      One of the marks of this for me (yes, penalties happen) are the numerous irresponsible and lack of focus penalties we have seen from this years squad.

  9. NW Buff

    At the start of this season I envisioned three possible scenarios for the Buff’s overall season record; 10-2, 9-3 and 8-4. I took the optimistic middle path, who knows why, but I can say that all the above projections were based on a strong Offense (not offensive) performance by our Buff’s and a hopeful fingers crossed belief that the Defense would be just slightly better than initially projected.

    All, of the possible outcomes were based on losses to UW and USC and either 0 or 2 losses to the group of Utah, Washington State and UCLA.

    Well, obviously we are 3-3 at the half-way point and now I also am trying to find a realistic path to a 3-3 finish. At, this point the only way I can see that happening is somehow we take 3 out of the next 4.

    Even though I don’t own any smart money and even if I did, my optimistic nature would be hard pressed to advise that we will go 3-1 in the next 4 games. I will be in Corvallis, with my equally dismayed OSU relatives, in my buff black/gold gear. Just, hoping that we can get closer to a Bowl eligible season.

  10. Keep the faith, Stu!

    Yeah, that loss sucked, but… they all do. They’ll get into Corvallis, and hopefully get their game in all phases going, get a needed win, and get some confidence back.

    Wazzu in Martin Stadium will be tough. But? Falk is not mobile. As you pointed out – as did I in my first post on the game recap – mobile QBs have been the bane of the CU defense for years. Even under Deity Leavitt. In my “expert” (hahahaahah) opinion, that was magnified last night by inexperienced players in pursuit. Seasoned dudes have the discipline to get gashed less often.

    Although the Cougs now have a serious rushing attack, I believe the match ups work to the Buffs advantage. Or, more aptly this year, aren’t slanted to much towards their weaknesses. I believe the offense can move the ball against their “speed d”. Plus, it’s the Cougs. They can always drop one they “shouldn’t” as can pretty much any team in the Pac 12, really. It’s a tough conference.

    Cal? Another dangerous game. On paper, the Buffs win that one. Too bad they don’t play on paper. But, I still think CU gets that win.

    ASU will be tough. But, my hope is by then this team has grown, they’re sitting at 5 or 6 and 3, and aren’t shooting themselves in the foot at nearly every opportunity.

    SC’s about as beat up as any team. They’re beatable, especially in Folsom on a nice November day (cccccooooooold hopefully).

    Off to SLC. Those games have proven to be tight for years.

    Are our Buffs’ backs against the wall? Sure. How will they respond, coaches and players? That’s what I’m watching for, as much as anything.

    Again, people point to division in the locker room. I’m not seeing that.

    Yeah, people hate hearing “a play here or there” but… at least now, it’s not smoke and mirrors, as it clearly was during the “lost decade”. These were self-inflicted wounds I believe they will learn and recover from, rather than letting them drag them to the bottom, like an albatross around their collective necks.

    Either way, I’m watching, and cheering them on. As I know you are (and most of us, despite the immediate aftermath hyperbole).

    Shoulder to shoulder, baby.

    Go Buffs!

  11. Yo Stuart,

    Wow. You’ve fallen hard. The only reason I’m not apoplectic right now is that something inside me told me it was coming. Now, I’m just dejected too.

    Mac needs to do something to shake this up NOW or all will be lost going forward. He should realize that if hard core fans like you and (mostly) those who read CU at the Game are this down about the status of the program, then casual fans will simply disregard the Buffs altogether.

    Some of us have suspected that Rick George has had to be the instigator of changes for Mac and his staff. If that is indeed true, it’s time for RG to give Mac a quick kick in the pants and insist that changes be made. Mac’s got a big old contract, so firing him is (and should be) out of the question for now. Others on the staff however should be reassigned or replaced. Now.

    Maybe RG should explain to him that if the Buffs fall back to the basement this year and beyond, MacIntyre will have a tough time getting any head coaching job in college football. And an inability to react and adjust will make getting an NFL assistant job pretty unlikely as well. If nothing else, maybe Mac a sense of self-preservation.

    I think it would be better all the way around if Mac made the changes himself. If not, I’m sure RG will even if Mac doesn’t like it. All the progress made last year will be for naught if nothing happens.

    Mark
    Boulderdevil

  12. cjbuffco

    Usually, after sleeping on things, I can see more of the positive side of things. Today, I am even more concerned about the team not being ready to play. Fans next to me, outside of the stadium, all mentioned the team being “flat”, “uninspired”, “not ready to play” for the vast majority of the game. How is this possible with a crowd of almost 50,000 for a must win game? Players should have been jacked, coaches ready. The Buff sideline was woefully lacking any energy. I hate to say it, but this year’s version of the Buffs is starting to look similar to a Dan Hawkins team, with a lot of coach speak which lacks substance, mention of “attention to details”, we are “close”, lack of adjustments, failure to take responsibility for stupid calls like the UCLA fake field goal attempt. I really feel bad for Phillip after his monster day. Just stop one gasher and Buffs win. Just one. I am losing faith in Macintyre. He can’t talk himself into a win, he needs to lead his team into one. Is it realistic to assume we will beat USC at home or Utah or Washington state on the road? No. To get to 6 wins, Buffs would need to beat OSU, Cal, and Arizona State. Is that realistic? Perhaps OSU but, IMO, not Cal or ASU given how the Buffs are playing now. If the coaching staff can get its act together in the next two weeks, then maybe the odds for those games increase. I have not packed it in yet, but I am close. Lose to OSU and it will be time to fold up the tent.

  13. Charlie Brown

    AAUGH!!!

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