Colorado at UMass – A Preview – “T.I.P.S.” for the Buffs’ trip back east

Here is a partial list of teams which finished the 2013 college football season with eight wins … Virginia Tech, Texas, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Iowa, Minnesota, Georgia, Boise State, Ole Miss … and Colorado State.

Had Colorado opened the 2014 season against any of the above teams other than Colorado State, and the Buffs lost by two touchdowns, the Buff Nation would have accepted the reality of where CU is at in the college football pecking order after eight straight losing seasons, and moved on to Game Two.

Yes, Colorado State had eight wins in 2013. Yes, the Rams did go to a bowl game. Yes, CSU defeated a Pac-12 team in the New Mexico Bowl.

But losing to CSU ain’t the same as losing to any other eight-win team.

CSU didn’t defeat a team with a winning record in any of its eight wins. The Rams did not have a returning running back who had ever carried the ball in a CSU uniform. Colorado State lost four of its five offensive linemen.

Colorado, with all of four wins in 2014 (two against the FCS), was still a three-point favorite.

What hurts so much is not just that the Buffs lost, but the way they lost. The Buff defensive line was pushed around by an offensive line with four new starters (with the only returning starter going out with an injury in the first quarter).  The Colorado offense, after failing to score a touchdown from inside the CSU five yard line in the second quarter, never again regained any of its first quarter swagger.

CSU was the bully; CU was the 98-pound weakling … with the harsh reality that CU has some real live bullies coming up on the schedule.

Fortunately, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, is not one of them.

The easiest game on the Buffs’ 2014 calendar has now taken on a new sense of urgency.

We’ll see on Saturday if Colorado can bounce back from the 31-17 loss to Colorado State, or if the Rocky Mountain Showdown was the precursor of another season with little hope for success.

T – Talent

There are three players on the Minutemen whose names you will hear called a number of times this weekend (if you are listening to the game, or are watching the streaming video on ESPN3 or – there is no other television coverage):

– Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel (FRO-napple) … A backup at Marshall, Frohnapfel graduated in three years, and transferred to UMass this spring (with two years of eligibility remaining, so Buff fans will see him again in Boulder in 2015). While at Marshall, Frohnapfel completed 35-of-53 passes for 386 yards and five touchdowns in mop up duty. Last weekend, in his first collegiate start, Frohnapfel completed 9-of-22 passes for 147 yards with one touchdown and one interception. While not great stats, Frohnapfel remains confident. “It’s a game of inches and there were a couple throws here and there that I missed. That’s a thing we’ve just got to work out by running routes in practice to get timing down,” he said. “Because you can’t miss stuff like that against a team like that. Next week against Colorado it’s the same thing – we can’t miss plays like that.”

– Wide receiver Tajae Sharpe … The lone scoring play for UMass against Boston College was a 77-yard touchdown pass from Frohnapfel to wide receiver Tajae Sharpe. Last season, as a sophomore, Sharpe led the Minutemen in receptions (61), receiving yards (680), and touchdowns. The BC defenders knew this, of course, yet still allowed Sharpe to get behind them for a long touchdown. Hopefully, the Colorado secondary will be focused upon Sharpe this Saturday.

– Running back J.T. Blyden … A true freshman, Blyden did not start against Boston College, but he made the biggest impression amongst the running backs, carrying the ball nine times for 43 yards. “His eyes weren’t too big, and we are excited about that,” said head coach Mark Whipple of Blyden’s collegiate debut. “I think he is going to be a good player for us down the road”.

The UMass defense has some good players, though none who should scare the Colorado offense (emphasis on “should”). The defensive is anchored by a fifth-year senior linebacker, Stanley Andre, who led the Minutemen with 111 tackles last season (Andre posted 12 tackles against Boston College). The secondary is led by junior cornerback Randall Jette, who led the team with 12 pass break-ups last season, and who had seven tackles and an interception against the Eagles in the opener.

Lest the Buff Nation get too cocky about playing UMass (which would be hard to do after what happened in the RMS), I’ll leave you with two thoughts:

First, UMass does have talented players. Quarterback Frohnapfel had offers from schools like Wake Forest, West Virginia and Vanderbilt, while running back J.T. Blyden had offers from schools like Rutgers and Army.

Second (and please keep this one to yourself, as I can hardly believe it’s true), as of the end of the NFL preseason, the University of Colorado had a grand total of nine players on NFL rosters (a total which is likely the lowest since the late 1980’s).

The number of UMass players on NFL rosters at the close of the preseason?



I – Intangibles

There are good losses, and there are bad losses, and Week One of the 2014 season was no exception.

Virginia hung with No. 7 UCLA, losing 28-20 only because the Bruins scored three defensive touchdowns … Good loss.

Wake Forest lost, 17-10, to UL Monroe … Bad loss.

Hawai’i had every chance to upset No. 25 Washington, falling just short, 17-16 … Good loss.

Miami welcomed Louisville into the ACC by falling hard, on national television, 31-13 … Bad loss.

UMass did lose to Boston College, 30-7. The Minutemen did have zero rushing yards until midway through the third quarter, and allowed Boston College to hold the ball for 42 minutes.

Yet it was probably recorded as  a “Good Loss” by UMass fans. The score was only 6-0 at halftime, the Minutemen didn’t quit, and over 30,000 came out to watch them play.

Colorado, though, suffered a “Bad Loss”. The Buffs had a two score lead (10-0 and 17-7), and led for almost three quarters of game clock, but never seemed to be in control. In fact, though the game was still close until midway through the fourth quarter, there was a sense from the first minute of the second quarter (when the Buffs failed to punch it in at the CSU goalline) that the Rams had all the momentum. Throughout much of the second half, the Rams lined up and ran through the Buffs, while the Colorado offense appeared to be disorganized and playing scared.

Not too put too much on the second game of the season, a game against an opponent has never seen before, and a team which the Buffs should beat nine out of ten tries.

But this is a huge game for Mike MacIntyre and his staff. The Buffs, before they can play with the big boys of the Pac-12, must show they can take care of business when they have to.

Last season, Colorado trailed Central Arkansas in the fourth quarter, 24-17, before rallying to score three touchdowns to pull away late.

Last season, Colorado only led Charleston Southern, 22-10, at halftime, before finding a second gear in the second half.

If Massachusetts can hang with the Buffs like they did the Boston College, and trail only 6-0 at halftime, I will be very nervous. The Minutemen will start to believe they can win, and the Buffs might start to believe that they can lose.

Colorado is a 17-point favorite this weekend, the same point-spread Boston College enjoyed last weekend.

The problem for the Buffs, and their fans, is that the Gillette Stadium scoreboard won’t start the game with CU up 17-0.

The Buffs will have to earn a lead, and earn a victory.

P – Preparation / Schedule

Colorado is leaving for Boston on Thursday, a day earlier than the Buffs usually leave for road games. The hope is that the extra day will give CU players extra time to be rested and acclimated for playing a game in the eastern time zone.

That really should not be much of a problem, as, with a 3:00 p.m. EDT kickoff, it will seem like a 1:00 p.m. MDT kickoff, and the Buffs shouldn’t have any issues with that.

Hopefully, the extra day together as a team, away from the negativity which has surrounded the program this week, will help the Buff players focus on this game.

While this game may have some of the feel of the Toledo game in 2009, the last time Colorado travelled back east to face a Mid-American Conference team, there are differences.

First, when the Buffs had to play Toledo five years ago, they did so on a Friday night, coming off of a Sunday game against Colorado State. This time, the Buffs not only did not lose a day of practice leading up to the game, but actually received an extra day of rest, playing on Friday (while the Minutemen played on Saturday).

Second, with all due respect to Massachusetts, they aren’t as good as even the Toledo Rockets. Toledo, while a fair-to-middling MAC team, was a better team in 2009 than UMass is in 2014. The Minutemen have won two games in the past two seasons, besting Akron in 2012 and Miami (Ohio) in 2013. Akron, in 2012, went 1-11. Miami, last season, finished 0-12.

There is no reason, on paper, for Colorado to be afraid of what Massachusetts brings to the table.

The Buffs should be prepared, rested, and focused.

We’ll see …

S – Statistics

Colorado is number one in the nation in two statistical categories this week!

The first: Red Zone Scoring Percentage (Offense) – 100%.

Of course, the Buffs are tied with 56 other schools for first place. And yes, that two-for-two scoring in the red zone mark includes the Buffs settling for a field goal in the second quarter against CSU.

Okay, perhaps that’s not such a great stat …

The second: Quarterback sacks allowed – 0.

The No. 1 club is a little bit smaller this time (36 teams), and allowing zero sacks is always a good thing.

It also doesn’t hurt that last week, against Boston College, UMass did not record a sack.

Other stats of note:

– Rushing offense: CU 134.0 yards per game (83rd in the nation); UMass 55.0 ypg. (107th)

– Passing offense: CU 241.0 ypg. (63rd); UMass 147.0 ypg (99th)

– Total offense: CU 375.0 ypg. (80th); UMass 202.0 ypg (110th)

– Rushing defense: CU 266.0 ypg. (102nd); UMass 336.0 ypg. (112th)

– Passing defense: CU 134.0 ypg. (26th): UMass 275.0 ypg. (124th)

– Total defense: CU 400.0 ypg. (75th); UMass 511.0 ypg. (102nd)

Enjoy these numbers, Buff fans. They may well represent the last time all season in which Colorado has the advantage in most, if not all, of these statistical categories.

(Note to Buffs … This might be a good weekend to actually post some lopsided offensive and defensive statistics. You know, just to make the year-end numbers look a little better!).


As always, your thoughts are appreciated. Please feel free to post under the “Comments” link, above. If you would like to be on the CU at the Game email update list (twice a week during the regular season), just drop me a note at




10 Replies to “CU at UMass – A Preview”

  1. Maybe the Buffs should push that panic button during halftime. They are behind to a team they are favored to beat by 17. This may be the only team we play this year that we have a realistic chance of beating.

  2. If the Buffs don’t beat UMass by 17 or more and completely dominate the game then it might be time to push the panic button. This is the easiest win on the schedule for the team, and the Buffs need to regain their confidence before the ASU game next week. ASU is going to punch the Buffs in the mouth and I want them to have the confidence (swagger) to punch back.

    Go Buffs!

  3. If the Buffs lose to U Mass, there will be less than 30,000 in attendance for the ASU game. Please Buffs, learn how to show up on the road. And at home for that matter.

    I would like to think things will be better in the next few years. But getting almost entirely 0 to 3 star commits is not going to turn this around.

  4. You are correct that we are lucky the point spread won’t be in effect when the game starts because as the favorite CU would be starting the game DOWN by 17.

    Nevertheless I expect a slow start but a strong finish and a 17-20 point victory.

  5. We are not good on the East coast. We are not good on the road. Who could possibly think we can go to Massachusetts and win by 17 points.
    Let’s worry about playing fundamental football for 60 minutes and good things will happen.

  6. I agree with WarBuff. The play calling has been atrocious. Our lines on both sides of the ball need to play together as a group. Neither line did in the game against CSU. What I want to see against UMass is our lines on each side playing together. I also want Mac to start calling the plays and let Lindgren focus on the quarterback position. He doesn’t appear to be able to both just yet. I think he was spoiled by coaching David Fales for one year at San Jose State before coming to CU. He just might not be ready for Pac-12 football yet.

    Boulderdevil (and Buffwatch)

  7. Hopefully there is improvement in many areas. The one most concerning is the offensive play calling because youth and inexperience is no excuse. We need a better game plan than what has been seen.

  8. Forget the 17 point spread, I just want to see an improvement on both sides of the ball in terms of execution, and on the coaching side in terms of in-game adjustments that results in a win. I’ll be there on Saturday…shoulder to shoulder.

  9. Easiest game right now is not the term I would use cause they still have to play out there and just the way things have gone in the last ten years ,Montana St was supposed to be one of those easy games and at home so I `m just going to hope and pray to the football gods for something good.

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