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“We gave the game to them”

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“We kind of gave the game to them”

With the 38-24 loss to the No. 15 USC Trojans, Colorado’s season record dipped to 5-6.

The Buff Nation woke up the day after the loss cheering for a team under .500 for the first time since November 28, 2015, when CU finished off a 4-9 campaign with a 20-14 road loss to Utah.

Almost two full years of being on the positive side of the ledger.

Little solace to fans knowing that their team should not only be bowl eligible by now, but be comfortably above .500 for the second year in a row.

Colorado was a 13.5-point underdog to USC, so, to the rest of the college football world, a 38-24 result was to be expected.

We know better.

“We had some critical mistakes and kind of gave them the game,” said head coach Mike MacIntyre. “We had some opportunities tonight and squandered it away.”

Let us count the ways … (note: while I am discussing players and units, I am also taking to task – explicitly or implicitly – those who coach those players and positions)

Quarterback Steven Montez:

No doubt Montez has the physical attributes fans want in a quarterback. Montez is 6’5″, 225-pounds, and has a canon for an arm.

Sometimes, though, that canon works against him, as he throws fastballs even on short slant patterns. There have been dozens – literally dozens – of times this fall when a short pass from Montez has gone right threw the hands of a receiver.

Montez also makes some poor decisions (Again, this must be taken in context, both in terms of play-calling and overall talent on the offense).

This season, Montez set the school record for consecutive passes without an interception. That streak came to an end with a meaningless pick on a Hail Mary at the end of the Arizona State game. His next pick, though, was a pick six late in the first half against USC.

His last pick of any consequence before that was a pick six against Washington on September 23rd.

This just in … you can’t throw interceptions for touchdowns against ranked teams and expect to win.

“We ran a pick route,” explained Montez of the game-altering interception. “I was trying to throw it to the flat to get him out of bounds. I thought the guy had gotten picked but he played over the top of it and jumped it. He picked it and took it the house. I really didn’t even see him. I thought he was with the pick guy. I thought they ran into each other”.

Running back Phillip Lindsay:

Lindsay came into the game with more carries (263) than any back in the FBS. Against USC, Lindsay had only 20 carries (for 68 yards) and two receptions (for 11).

Simply put, that’s not enough touches.

To paraphrase Keyshawn Johnson: “Give him the damn ball!”.

I understand that opposing defenses are scheming to stop Lindsay, but when you have a once-in-a-generation talent, you give him the ball. In his final home game, Lindsay deserved every opportunity to contribute. Direct snaps, swing passes, put him in the slot … find a way to put him in space and let him do his thing.

With his 11 paltry yards receiving against the Trojoans, Lindsay was left just six yards shy of CU’s all-time record for receiving yards by a running back (969, by Rodney Stewart). Lindsay can catch the ball, he can create his own yards … 22 touches in 83 offensive plays are not enough.

Wide receivers:

The No. 9 on the roster Buff fans were scanning their programs for was Juwann Winfree. The junior wide receiver had five catches for 163 yards and two touchdowns against USC. In the first ten games of the 2017 season, Winfree had a grand total of 12 catches for 109 yards.

Winfree was reported to be the best wide receiver in camp in August, 2016, before he suffered a torn ACL which cost him the season.

Where has Winfree been all season? A season in which the “Blackout Boyz” have failed to live up to their advanced billing?

You tell me …

Offensive line: 

We’ve covered this before.

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

Compare that quote to what offensive line coach Klayton Adams had to say in the days leading up to the USC game when asked about losing center Tim Lynott for the season. “It is what it is,” Adams said. “It’s not necessarily open competition, but we’re trying to figure out what the best five are, which seems like it’s been (like that) every week this year for us. We’re preparing to win with the guys we have.”

The “guys” haven’t come through.

Despite having one of the best running backs in the history of the program to block for, the Buffs are 64th in the nation in rushing offense. The offensive line is surrendering over three sacks per game (96th in the nation), and are scoring only 28.0 points per game (70th).

Klayton Adams prided himself on preparing eight or nine players in multiple positions, so that, when the inevitable injuries hit, the Buffs wouldn’t be scrambling to insert a new player into the lineup.

It doesn’t appear that the reality hasn’t been as positive as the theory.

Defensive Line: 

Another unit Buff fans have discussed at some length.

The Buff Nation knew that the defensive line was the weakest link heading into the season. We understood that the Buffs lost three starters along the line to the NFL. We understood that plugging in junior college transfers into the starting lineup was a risky proposition.

We just didn’t know how bad it would be.

“We have depth this year and I think it’s pretty good depth,” line coach Jim Jeffcoat said of his unit back in August. “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.”

We were sold a bill of goods.

We knew the CU defensive line would take a step back this season.

We didn’t know that the step back would be taken … on each snap of the ball by the opposing offense.

The Buffs have been pushed around to the tune of 199.3 rushing yards per game. The Buffs also entered the USC game ranked 96th in the nation in sacks, and 92nd in the nation in third down conversion defense.

Special teams:

Getting upset at kicker James Stefanou would be unfair.

The freshman did have two kicks blocked (and yes, both kicks were low), but Stefanou has been money all season. Coming into the game, Stefanou was 16-of-18 in field goal attempts, and was the only Buff to be named a semi-finalist for a major national award (the Lou Groza award, given to the nation’s best kicker).

Still, Stefanou’s struggles were emblematic of CU’s season … the Buffs have not been able to put together a complete game all year.

Another example:

Buff fans will long remember the pick-six Steven Montez threw just before halftime against USC.

Most Buff fans won’t remember, however, just how the interception was set up.

The Buffs had missed a field goal with 1:40 remaining before halftime. The Trojan offense, though, went three-and-out. USC punter Reid Budrovich miss hit his kick, but punt returner Ronnie Blackmon, instead of fielding the kick, allowed the ball to roll past him. The net result was a 57-yard punt, pinning the Buffs back at their own nine yard line.

Had the Buffs started that drive at the 30-yard line instead of the nine, perhaps a telegraphed series of sideline routes would not have been required to move the ball. Perhaps the Buff offense would have been able to move the ball into field goal position, making it a 14-3 game at halftime, instead of a debilitating 20-0.

Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda.

Such as been the lament of Buff fans all season.

“We shot ourselves in the foot two games in a row and you just can’t do that,” said Mike MacIntyre. “We need to find a way in the bye week to come back and hopefully do something that hasn’t been done around here in 14 years (actually 12, but who’s counting?) and that’s what we’d like to do.”

Arguments can be made that the Buffs should have won the Arizona, UCLA, and Arizona State games … with at least a puncher’s chance at upsetting Washington and USC.

The Buffs are out of chances. A loss to Utah in the season finale, the Buffs will not only miss out on a bowl, they will miss out on the much needed 15 additional practices which come with a bowl.

“I’m approaching it like it could possibly be my last college game,” said senior safety Afolabi Laguda of CU’s bye week leading up to the season finale against Utah. “I’m going to wear myself out, there’s nothing left to keep in the tank. I’m going to enjoy these next two weeks and enjoy every practice. When we play Utah, that’s the last time this team will have a regular season game together. The future is unknown, nobody knows what will happen after that, but that’s our last guaranteed one. I’m going to empty it out these next two weeks”.

Fingers crossed.

—–

 

37 Responses to ““We gave the game to them””

  1. KevinMac

    So frustrating to see what Winfree could do only after Fields got knocked out. Grossly underutilized that guy. And Lavishka is electric every time he touches the ball. Coaches need(ed) to give these guys a lot more touches. Have nothing but respect the senior WR’s, but you need to get some height in there. And agree with the post/question about why so many patterns are outside the hashes? – if you’re going to live on the sidelines, at least throw it to a a guy that’s 6’3″ not 5’10”. Blackout Boyz will be really solid next year.

  2. Yo Stuart,

    Sorry. Old habits are hard to break. I looked for you at the USC game. Maybe next year.

    Yo buffalobilly,

    Let’s see. Oregon was 126th in the country in yards per game defense last year without Leavitt. This year they are 49th. Oregon moved up 77 places.

    Colorado last year with Leavitt was the #17 defense. This year with Eliot they are 109th. So that means Colorado DROPPED 92 spots.

    Source:
    http://www.espn.com/college-football/statistics/team/_/stat/total/position/defense/sort/yardsPerGame

    We all concede that D.J. Eliot is in his first year here. And, if you’re gonna be singing his praises, at least get his name right. And if you’re gonna diss Leavitt, at least have a clue as to what you’re talking about.

    Also, Leavitt and Clark have helped Oregon’s recruiting to be ranked #1 by Scout and #5 by Rivals. Colorado is listed at #41 and #44.

    For Colorado to get better, they have to recruit better, coach better, and develop talent better. They need to gear their offense and their defense to the talent they have on hand. This is not the NFL. If they can’t stop the run with a 3-4 defense, maybe they should chance to a 4-3. But they gotta do something.

    I realize many folks are ticked off that Leavitt and Clark left, but they were doing what’s best for their families. Wish them well and move on.

    Colorado can’t get better by complaining. They’ve gotta work to get better. They have one more chance to get six wins and two weeks to prepare and heal. Utah should be their focus. It’s tough to win on the road in the Pac-12. They’ll have to play their best game of the year to win.

    We’ll see how they come out.

    Mark
    Boulderdevil

    • buffalobilly

      Last time I checked, its about wins and losses. Gave up 35 to lowly Nebraska? Oregon is 5 and 5. and it isnt over yet. Lets see how they fare against AZ. Put all the stats you want, its wins and losses.

      • Yo buffalobilly,

        Stick to a claim will ya? Wins and losses? Oregon beat Nebraska, remember? Oregon will win at least 50% more games this year than last year. Colorado, unless it pulls off the upset against Utah on the road, will win 50% less games than last year. Even if they do win, they will have won 40% fewer games than last year.

        So, maybe we should focus on those wins and losses for Colorado. I’d be glad for the Buffs to have given up 35 points IF we won the game.

        Colorado won 10 of 12 last year in the regular season. Since then, we’ve lost 8 of 13. If that’s acceptable to you, so be it. Some of us were hoping for something better. Wins and losses, baby, wins and losses.

        Mark
        Boulderdevil

  3. VK. 🏌️

    Coaches coach, players play, fans critique. Right now, we only have one of those things occurring.”

    BUFFS

  4. buffalobilly

    Before mindless criticism of DK Elliot gets out of hand, examine what Leavitt has done for Oregon his first year. Stopped laughing yet???? Oregon was terrible on D. Elliot is in his first year. Give him at least that.

    • VK Berlin

      Hey Billy, hope you are well.

      Just so you know:

      Conference games only cause they matter.
      Oregon
      …………………..2016……….2017
      passing defense………10………..11……15 yds better
      rushing defense………12…………3….135 yds better
      total defense…………12………5…..150 yds better
      Scoring defense………12 ………8….. 12 points better

      I’m not laughing I’m crying

      Buffs

      • VK Berlin

        And Billy the Ducks offense went down 123 yards per game and down 10 points per game in scoring. And if they beat OSU they will be bowl eligible.

        Now tell me again about the Oregon defense.

        Buffs.

        • VK and Mark, do you think having three guys on his D line last year at CU who got a crack at the NFL (not to mention the DBs who are all playing) had anything to do w/ better performances by CU’s defense on Saturdays? Or, was it all Leavitt and his genius?

          As to Clark, who’s pissed he left, and why (same thing for Leavitt, really)?

          Three things happen to good employees:
          1) they end up owning a piece of the business – not possible in college athletics
          2) you end up paying them enough that they don’t need to own a piece of the business – CU couldn’t do that w/ Leavitt or
          3) they move on to their next big gig. True of both Leavitt and Clark. And, don’t forget, Clark was a MacIntyre protege. Recruited him to play. Recruited him to coach. Had him with him Mac’s entire coaching career. Time to spread his wings. But that’s right. Mac has no coaching tree growing.

          Go Buffs.

          • Yo Eric,
            Your many takes are Mickey Mac and Brian Lindgren are the greatest coaches not only in the history of Colorado, but also college football, right? We should give ’em raises and extensions and grovel at their feet, right?

            Leavitt shows up and turns the Buffs defense around. In two years they go from 120th to 17th. Leavitt leaves and the Buffs fall back to a D ranked 109th. Leavitt was a finalist of assistant coach of the year last year with Colorado and this year also with Oregon.

            And those guys on D who got a crack at the NFL did so because they learned from a master, and it wasn’t Mac and Lindy. Same with Clark, he followed the guy who was a master to Oregon.

            Remember that Colorado was picked to finish LAST in the preseason of 2016. All that “talent” didn’t mean anything without the proper coaching. There’s a reason good coaches get so many offers.

            Mark
            Boulderdevil

          • Stuart

            Leavitt is making $1.1 million to work for Nike. Offer him $1.3 million, and maybe he comes back.
            Short of finding oil under Folsom, this is a pointless discussion.

            CU was able to hire Leavitt because he was damaged goods, biding his time as a linebackers coach for the 49ers. Had Leavitt not been fired from his last collegiate job, he would not have been available in CU’s price range.

            Oregon is a Have Have; CU is in the group of Have Not Haves. If we have a successful coach, they can be lured to a better paying gig elsewhere. Nothing new under the sun here (see: Neuheisel, Rick; 1999).

        • buffalobilly

          Its about wins and losses vk. You above all spout that year after year.

        • buffalobilly

          From what 45 pts to 33?

      • buffalobilly

        And here I thought scoring defense mattered. they jumped a whopping 4 places. Last time I checked, points allowed won and lost games, not yards given up.

  5. bufflove

    O-line has enough talent in the pipeline to compete. Not sure about Adams anymore though. This year he had three seniors and a freshman all-American in Lynott and produced only moments of quality play. Agree totally about the D-line. It’s way too weak for Pac 12 play. Not even close. Colorado is a difficult place to recruit quality D-lineman to, but THAT is THE biggest issue that must be addressed. Not sure if Jeffcoat is to blame here or what, but someone has to get these players in. If MM wants to take the next step with the program, he’s going to have to make some gut-wrenching changes. Stuart, is there a single coach or are there multiple coaches most responsible for D-line recruiting?

  6. VK Berlin

    ““We had some critical mistakes and kind of gave them the game,” said head coach Mike MacIntyre. “We had some opportunities tonight and squandered it away.

    Poor coaching just damn poor coaching.

    If last year was:

    The Rise

    This year is:

    Talk No Walk.

    Buffs

  7. AZBuff

    Stuart, you have pointed out a number of glaring issues with this year’s team. I think we can say that maybe this year is more disappointing then when we knew we were truly rebuilding after the Hawkins and Embree debacles.

    It is difficult to see on TV but it seemed that most of our pass routes to each of our wide receivers all year long were of the sideline variety. Bobo did get into the interior now and then but it seemed the only time Shields was ever between the hash marks were on deep posts which they only connected on about once and he dropped that one. I also wonder where Winfree has been all year and his plays yesterday were made between the hash marks. If we had a more imaginative passing game, there is chance that next years group of WR’s might even be better then this years. I think that the few times they threw to the TE this year and it was an accurate pass he caught it and it made yardage. If they aren’t going to use the TE and just use him to block all the time they might as well bring in an extra tackle that can do some second level blocking as to what they do now.

    Stuart there is a lot of criticism of Elliott but I would like to hear if you think that a Leavitt D this year would have been any more effective.

    RG needs to sit down with Mac and they need to really analyze this program as they regressed a lot more this year in their play on the field then they should have considering where the program has come from and also considering their schedule. They really never once overwhelmed anyone as almost every game had moments when it was a real struggle.

    • Stuart

      I definitely don’t buy into the “Eliot must go” argument. The defense stepped back this season, but that was expected.
      Would the defense have been better with Leavitt still in place? Probably. The defense also would also have been better if Clark was still in Boulder – continuity in coaching counts.
      Eliot deserves the time to install his system with his players. That being said, unless there is improvement in personnel along the defensive line, it won’t matter who is wearing the headsets.

      • VK Berlin

        Hey Stuart, lets continue that line of questioning.

        Do you think Lindgren is a viable option as an OC?

        Asking for a friend

        • Stuart

          I’m open to suggestions.
          If anyone believes CU can get a better offensive coordinator for the money, I’d love to hear the names …

          • VK Berlin

            So what you saying? Lindgren is low paid?

            You get what you pay for.

            Except for Mac. Then you get less.

            Lindgren may be overpaid. Take some of MickeyMacs money and get a real OC

            RG shot his foot on that the MickeyMac deal.

            Buffs.

            Note: We now start the 4 year cycle at the bottom again. Another turnaround ready for Mac2. But this time he be getting paid.

            Note 2: Mac is a real good recruiter of 3 stars and below and “Projects” FACT

            note 3: Clearly the coaching staff is not good at developing players.

            Note 4: Who for the OC? Dameyune Craig, Pep Hamilton, David Yost

            Note 5: Mac is a hot turnaround expert. There must be someone who needs him?

            Note 5a: The lack of strategic and tactical offense lies directly on MickeyMac

          • ep

            right now we are getting nothing for the money. Let Hagan try if you cant find anyone else.

          • That’s your list of top offensive minds, VK? Really?

            Ok.

            If it’s them, or Lindgren and Chiaverini, I’ll take the two co-OC’s all day long. Granted, I don’t follow most other programs, let alone their coaches much, but… Just researching those three dudes a little, I’m not seeing how they’d be the golden ticket to mind-blowing offensive genius (or recruiting, for that matter, which I think Chev does very well).

            What makes you think those guys would do better than the dudes running CU’s offense now?

            Go Buffs.

          • VK Berlin

            All rising stars Stuart.

      • WarBuff

        What was most frustratiing is that we knew the defense would struggle this year, and the offense would be required to carry the team. The offense failed to do their part. Figured we would see some old WAC type games (52-45), but it was the offense that couldn’t produce as expected. I also believe MM lost tons of credibility with the offensive line hype. This line was a bigger seive than Hardy Astrom (Don Cherry Colorado Rockies reference for old duffers). Without the incredibly weak OOC schedule, this is another embarrassing season. Maybe TN is up for helping MM find his SEC dream?

  8. ep

    Wonder how long before Mike Norvell gets a big time offer. I think he is already making close to what MM is.

    • AZBuff

      ep iff Scott Frost doesn’t go to Nebraska, Norvell might get offered, both of those guys are 2 of the hottest young coaches in college football right now. Of course so was Hawkins at one time, I guess one never knows.

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