Ahead of Schedule

The Buffs have problems.

The kickoff coverage team is so porous, it could be the punch line of a joke:

“The CU kickoff coverage team is so bad …”.

“How bad is it?”

“The CU kickoff coverage team is so bad that it would have to give up fewer than 47 return yards on its next five kicks – an average of less than ten yards a return – just to break into the top 100 nationally”.

Okay, I didn’t say it was a funny joke.

But wait, there’s more.

The Colorado rushing attack features running backs with a combined total of one rush for over 10 yards, with that coming on an 11-yard run by Tony Jones late in the fourth quarter of the Buffs’ 38-24 win over Central Arkansas. CU backs have 163 yards on 56 carries in the first two games, or a paltry 2.9 yards per carry.

The Buff offensive line, facing a much better defensive line than the more touted group from Ft. Collins, struggled all night against Central Arkansas. The Bears collected four sacks and caused two fumbles while chasing CU quarterback Connor Wood all over the Folsom Field turf.

The CU defensive line, meanwhile, posted only one sack against an FCS offensive line.

The Buffs committed eight penalties for the second consecutive game.

The Colorado offense is Paul Richardson and … not much else. The Buffs have 934 yards of total offense in its first two games, and Paul Richardson has accounted for an amazing 44.6% of those yards.

The Buffs allowed an inferior opponent to rally from a two score deficit for the second consecutive game, allowing both the Rams and the Bears to take fourth quarter leads.

But you know what?

I don’t care.

Okay, that’s not exactly true. I do care … a great deal. But this is 2013, not 2003 or 1993. It is enough – quite enough – that the University of Colorado is 2-0 in the first two games of the Mike MacIntyre era.

Were this 1993, and the Buffs were coming off of 39 wins in the past four seasons, or even 2003, when Colorado was coming off of back-to-back Big 12 North titles, there would be much more cause for concern in Boulder. If the 1993 or 2003 teams opened with the above statistics, I would be president of the Hand-wringing Club … believe me.

But we have to keep this team, and its production, in context.

The facts are these:

– After a season in which Colorado averaged 17.8 points per game, the Buffs are averaging close to 40 in 2013;

– The Colorado defense, which gave up a mind-numbing 46.0 points per game in 2012, is giving up a more than respectable 25.5;

– The CU secondary, which had all of three interceptions in all of 2013, had three interceptions against Central Arkansas, with both Greg Henderson and Jered Bell returning their interceptions for touchdowns (Kenneth Crawley had to settle for a mere game-clinching pick in the end zone with two minutes to play);

– Paul Richardson is simply All-World. The junior wide receiver is not only leading the nation in receiving yards, he is 122 yards ahead of the No. 2 receiver. In 123 years of football, the Buffs had players who had posted 200-yard receiving games three times, including Richardson’s 284-yard effort against Cal in 2011. Now Richardson had three such games all to himself. The NCAA record for 200-yard receiving games in a season is three … anyone betting against P-Rich not having, or at least sharing, the NCAA record by season’s end?;

– One more Richardson stat … Last season, Nelson Spruce led the Buffs with 446 yards receiving. Richardson has 417 yards receiving in two games (in case you want to start the countdown, the CU record for receiving yards in a season is held by Charles E. Johnson, with 1,149 in 1992);

– For much of the spring and into the fall, Colorado was in want of a quarterback. Nick Hirschman left, Jordan Webb got hurt (and arrested), and Connor Wood failed to seize control of the quarterback race. The Buff Nation – and the new coaching staff – looked to a transfer (Jordan Gehrke) and a true freshman (Sefo Liufau) as potential answers. However, instead of shuffling quarterbacks, or naming co-starters, coach MacIntyre went with Wood, and, for the most part, Wood has produced. True, Wood had four turnovers (two interceptions and two fumbles) against Central Arkansas, but he is also 5th in the nation in passing yards, and a very respectable 31st in the nation in passing efficiency. Who in the Buff Nation would have predicted those numbers three weeks ago?

But these are just numbers, and they only tell part of the story. The real news for the Buff Nation is not only that Colorado is 2-0, but the way they got there. Racing out to two-score leads is great, but surrendering them is another issue. Recall that the Buffs had two score leads in the first two games last season, against Colorado State and Sacramento State … and lost both games.

“I’m just glad we can get a double-digit lead, and then win it, there’s no doubt about it,” said coach MacIntyre. “That’s sort of knowing how to finish somebody. Right now we’re just learning how to win, and I’m glad were doing that part of it … I think the kids are believing that they can win, no matter what. That’s a big hurdle. We didn’t start getting that until the second year at San Jose State.”

And there you have it.

Buff fans are well aware of Mike MacIntyre’s history at San Jose State. They know that MacIntyre went 1-12 his first season, 5-7 his second, and 10-2 his third. They also knew that making such quantum leaps were not as likely in the Pac-12 as they had been in the Western Athletic Conference. Buff fans were not looking for a ten win season in Year Three of the Mike Mac era, but a bowl bid by 2015 certainly did not seem an unreasonable goal.

Now, with two come-from-behind fourth quarter victories, expectations are being ratcheted up. Ted Miller at ESPN, in his week two predictions, had this to say about the Buffs: “If the Buffs improve to 2-0, as most expect they will, how many Colorado fans are going to start reviewing the schedule closely with a magnifying glass, trying to find four more wins and bowl eligibility”.

The thing is, the Buffs are not there yet.

Even those preseason magazines who predicted CU would finish last in the Pac-12 South, and would garner no more than three wins on the season, had the Buffs winning their first two games. There is little question that Colorado State and Central Arkansas were the easiest two games on the 2013 schedule … and the Buffs trailed both opponents in the fourth quarter.

There will be teams in the upcoming weeks which will be able to run the ball much better than did the Rams and the Bears. There will be offenses with speed and weaponry against which the CU secondary will be hard pressed to match up. There will be defenses which will put two – and sometimes three – defenders on Paul Richardson and dare the Buffs to defeat them with some other weapon. There will be special teams lapses by the Buffs which will not only cost them leads, but will cost them games.

But that is not the lesson to be taken from the 41-27 victory over Colorado State and the 38-24 win over Central Arkansas.

The lesson to be taken is that this team, for the first time in a long time, believes in itself. The players believe in the coaches. The players believe they can win.

And that is huge.

It’s fun/maddening to play the “What if?” game, as there is no way of knowing if your speculation is correct.

But it says here that, if you placed the 2012 CU team in Mile High in 2013, after the Rams had taken a 24-23 lead in the fourth quarter, they would have lost.

And if you placed the 2012 CU team in Folsom Field last night, staring down a 24-17 deficit in the fourth quarter, they would have lost.

Confidence is the difference. Unity is the difference. Belief is the difference.

The Buff players talked about it all summer … the different attitude on the team. Having been stung too many times in the past by that promise, though, loss-weary Buff fans were skeptical.

Now, we can start to believe as well.

Will the 2013 Buffs go bowling? Very doubtful.

But will they be competitive? Will they be able to put together scoring drives, and keep other teams from scoring (recall that both of UCA’s scoring “drives” in the second half began in the CU red zone, and netted only 10 points)? Will these Buffs be able to take on Pac-12 foes with the belief that their coaches will have given them every opportunity to be successful and win the game?

Yes. Yes. And Yes.

These are affirmative responses which were hoped for from this coaching staff, but they are coming earlier than expected.

These Buffs are ahead of schedule.

11 Replies to “Ahead of Schedule”

  1. Stu,

    Just took a quick look at what you wrote one year ago after the Sac State loss (the famous – infamous – “Shirt of Shame” essay). What an eye opener that reading was! The mood and optimism for this program has turned around 180 degrees since then. Nice to see, as all of the true CU fans took a beating over the last few years and especially last year (try working for Baylor grads – brutal!).

    Looks like MM is the real deal. He finds true undiscovered gems at the high school level, and gets the team into a position where they believe they can win, and then do it. Now the going is going to get much tougher, and there are probable a few ugly games ahead of us, but the foundation is in place. Things are looking up finally.

    I’d take any win this weekend, and hope that more fans come out to support this team. It seems as if they really responded to the crowd, regardless of its lack of size, and the students were great! Hope you never have to wear that “shirt” again.

    1. WarBuff, you said,” Now the going is going to get much tougher, and there are probable a few ugly games ahead of us, but the foundation is in place. Things are looking up finally.”

      I can’t think of a more appropriate comment encapsulating the future of this program than what you have stated. As fans we have to keep remembering that “the foundation is in place.” Things are going to look up… more this year, then more and more in the future, especially if we show the rest of the nation (and recruits) that, as fans, we are supporting the Buffs… not just in print, but by our presence at Folsom Field.


  2. DenverCUFan, I agree that the tackling has improved immensely, however I still see a need to continue emphasizing basics in practice as I have read MM is doing… and one of the MOST important basics is tackling.

    I have seen some sloppy tackling from our guys occasionally and that will hurt down the road, especially if it leads to an opposition TD and a ‘L’ that should have been a ‘W’. Hope things get corrected soon…. especially the tackling and techniques on special teams.

    BUT, hasn’t MM2 and his staff done a great job with the remnants of last year’s talent… or, lack thereof ? I couldn’t be happier.

  3. Wow. Still not enough kool-aid flowing around here. I’ll bring my keg by on Friday before the Fresno State game. It’ll be a good one.

    This team will be marked by at least one more big difference from recent years past: they will improve from week to week in at least one segment of their game. Count on it. Each week brings more film and and more coaching.

    Go Buffs!

  4. This just feels like a more disciplined better coached team. Certainly the return of Richardson has made a massive difference in an offense that lacked play makers last year, but this staff seems to have taken a team with a widely known talent deficit and made them perform as a team. That has to be coaching. Stuart is right, things get more difficult from here on in and there will be bad days. But the future looks brighter than we could believe at the end of last year.

  5. Great write up. I agree with the total assessment. We are definitely a team that could be o-2 but we’re not because of some really good coaching at the end of the games. No panic on the sidelines but getting players ready for their next turn on the field is huge turn around from last year.
    Fresno St will tell us if we are ready for the next step(did that sound stupid?) because they are not CSU or an fcs school but a pretty talented team with coaching to match ours.
    2-0 sounds so much better than 0-2.

  6. Is it just me or does the tackling seem to be much better? It seemed like last year, the opposition was breaking tackle after tackle and getting deep into the secondary.

    Has anybody else noticed this ?

  7. This is WAY, WAY better than any year in recent memory.
    If they don’t win again, they have doubled last year’s total.
    And they will win again. Maybe quite a bit.
    I love this team !!

  8. Stuart they are ahead of WHERE YOU THOUGHT THEY WOULD BE. You need to get out of your funk and get on the train. FACT.

    1. Stu knows better than to drink the Kool Aid. This is a more. Than fair assessment. Colorado is better but by no means are they good.

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