“Just Keep Believing, and We’ll Keep Battling”

Sometimes numbers lie.

Sometimes they tell too much.

Colorado is in its fourth year as a member of the Pac-12 conference. In all likelihood, it will end its fourth year later this month with a grand total of four conference victories.

To date, the Buffs’ record, in their new conference is 4-29.

Four wins … Twenty nine defeats.

Coach Mike MacIntyre’s contribution to that total … 1-14.

Those are mind-numbing numbers, and while it may well be true that the 2014 team could beat the snot out of the 2011, 2012, and 2013 teams, it is also true that the 2014 squad is well on its way to becoming the first team at the University of Colorado to go winless in conference play in almost a century. Unless the Buffs can beat No. 12 Arizona or No. 5 Oregon on the road, or take down No. 17 Utah at home, this will be the first team at CU to go without a conference win since the Buffs went 0-5 in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play … in 1915.

True enough, there were plenty of positives for the Buffs coming out of the 38-23 loss to Washington:

– Colorado had a two score advantage – twice – taking 17-7 and 20-10 leads. Instead of coming out sluggish in the first quarter, the Buffs scored on their first three possessions of the game;

– The Buffs had 495 yards of total offense, marking the first time in school history that a CU offensive unit has generated over 400 yards of total offensive in eight consecutive games;

– The Colorado defense surrendered only 24 of the 38 points posted by Washington. Playing without star linebacker Addison Gillam (illness), and safeties Tedric Thompson and Terrel Smith (concussions), the Buff defense nonetheless was able to do its part in the second half, holding the Husky offense scoreless after Washington took its first lead of the game, at 24-23;

– The Buff defense held the Husky offense to two-for-11 on third down conversions;

– Colorado came into the game ranked 121st in the nation in red zone defense, giving up 34 scores in 35 enemy penetrations. Washington, which came into the game with the nation’s ninth-best red zone offense, managed only two scores in four attempts (losing two fumbles);

– Sefo Liufau continues to set new school records on a weekly basis. Before Liufau came along, no Buff quarterback, in the history of the program, had thrown a touchdown pass in ten consecutive games. Liufau, with two touchdown passes against Washington, has now thrown a touchdown pass in every one of the 17 games in which he has played. His streak of multiple touchdown pass games is now up to 12, the longest current streak in the nation;

– Nelson Spruce, who came into the 2014 season with 99 career catches, has 90 through the first nine games of the 2014 season. Last fall, Paul Richardson set the new single season standard at Colorado with 83 catches. Spruce passed that record in the second quarter against Washington, and in the next game or two will become the first Buff player in history to record over 100 catches in a season;

– Against Washington, Spruce had 13 catches for 138 yards. Two months ago, the 13 catches would have set a new school record. Now, it’s just another day at the office for the CU junior. After setting the new standard of 13 against Hawai’i (the old record was 11), Spruce went out and crushed that record with 19 catches against Cal;

– Freshman wide receiver Shay Fields, with two catches against Washington, now has 40 on the season, breaking a 32-year old school record for freshmen of 39 catches, set by Chris McLemore in 1982;

By the same token, there were negatives – too many negatives – coming out of the Washington game for the Buffs to overcome:

– Sefo Liufau threw his 12th interception of the season, most amongst quarterbacks in the Pac-12. That the interception came just seconds after Washington had taken its first lead of the game – and was returned for a touchdown – multiplied the negative effect.

– Washington had 298 yards of total offense at halftime, coming on just 34 plays (8.7 yards per play). Linebacker turned running back Shaq Thompson had 151 yards rushing on ten carries – a nifty 15.1 yards per carry – to go with a 41 yard reception for 192 yards of total offense in the first two quarters. Had Thompson not been limited by injury in the second half, there would be talk of record offensive numbers … by a player who was a full-time linebacker three weeks ago.

– There has been much discussion about how Colorado had been out-scored 93-45 in the first quarter this season. The Buffs turned that around somewhat against the Huskies, winning the first quarter, 10-7. What hasn’t been discussed as often is how poorly Colorado has played in the third quarter this fall. Out-scored 89-45 coming into the Washington game, the Buffs were out-scored by the Huskies, 14-3, in the decisive third frame of this game.

– The Buffs keep finding new ways to lose. Colorado had not given up a non-offensive touchdown all season … then gave up two in less than six minutes. An interception for a touchdown and a punt return for a touchdown are killers to an underdog, and the Buffs allowed both to the Huskies in the second half.

Perhaps the most disconcerting part of the loss came after the game, in coach Mike MacIntyre’s post-game quotes. You can the write the comments off to frustration or to post-game emotion.

Or you can see them as potential chinks in the armor.

Let’s take a look:

When asked what the loss said about the Buffs, MacIntyre said: “It just says that we’re young.  We had a freshman fumble the ball twice” … Well, there were options other than Phillip Lindsay, coach. Lindsay was sent back to return a kick moments after fumbling the ball on offense. The result – another fumble. Let’s not blame freshmen for playing like freshmen.

When asked about linebacker turned running back Shaq Thompson running over his defense, MacIntyre said: “In the first half, we didn’t roll-tackle the big back like had worked on, but in the second half we did and it made all of the difference in the world.  Once you get trucked, you have to listen to the coaching and do what we ask you to do … That’s something that they’ve done about 100 times since August”. In games played in November, is it the players’ fault for not executing, or the coaches’ fault for not properly preparing the players?

Then there was this, which was the most troubling …

When asked about getting over the hump and finally winning games, MacIntyre said: “We play in a tough league.  It’s going to take a while.  My mentor at Duke [Head Coach David Cutcliffe] didn’t win six games until his fifth year.  Then he won 10 and they’re going to win 10 again this year”.

Red Flag No. 1 … Colorado didn’t hire David Cutcliffe’s protégé. Colorado hired the San Jose State head coach who went from one win, to five wins, to ten wins in his third season. Now, don’t get me wrong. No one with an I.Q. above room temperature has believed in weeks that Colorado was going to go to a bowl game this fall, and no one is projecting that the Buffs will win ten games next season. That being said, it sounds as if the three year plan to get to a bowl game has now been turned into a five year plan.

It sounds as if coach MacIntyre is prepping the press and the Buff Nation for three more losses this November, and an eight game losing streak heading into the 2015 season.

But MacIntyre was not done. After bringing up Duke and David Cutcliffe, MacIntyre continued: “When we went there (to Duke), they were the worst BCS program in the country.  When I came here, this was the worst BCS program in the country”.

Red Flag No. 2 … Over the past 23 months, I have read or listened to most of what Coach MacIntyre has had to say. This is the first time in my recollection that he has referred to the CU situation he entered into as “the worst BCS program in the country”. To me, this bears too much of a resemblance to Dan Hawkins ranting about how the CU program – a program which had won four Big 12 North titles in the previous five seasons – had been “burned to the ground” prior to his arrival … but only after it was obvious he couldn’t turn it around.

Now, truth be told, Colorado was the worst BCS program in the country when Mike MacIntyre arrived. But this is not something the Buff Nation (or the players who were on that team which are still in his locker room) want to hear. If you take your car into a mechanic when it is not running, you don’t want the mechanic to come out to the waiting room three hours later, hand you a bill, and declare the car has problems. You want him to fix the damn car.

Buff fans don’t want to hear about the problems facing the CU football program, they want them fixed. Mike MacIntyre is not being paid $2 million per year to tell us how bad the situation is. He is being paid to turn it around.

What makes this worse is to have to watch what is presently happening in Berkeley. While Colorado may have been the worst BCS program in 2012, California was the worst BCS program in 2013. Last season, Cal defeated – with a late touchdown – the Portland State Vikings, and lost every other game. The Bears went 0-9 in Pac-12 play, were within two touchdowns in only one game in conference play, and finished the season with a 63-13 loss to rival Stanford. Truly, the 2013 Bears were as bad as the 2012 Buffs.

This season, the Bears are 5-4 and talking about a bowl bid.

That turnaround took place in a year. CU is two years removed from being the “worst team in the BCS”, and are now – realistically – only four of five slots above that title.

Coach MacIntyre did have words of encouragement for the Buff Nation, fans cheering for a program now guaranteed a ninth consecutive losing season:  “We’re moving our way up.  We are in fourth quarters, we are in football games and we’re going to win some of them.  I don’t look at this like the world is coming to the end.  I look at this as an opportunity to improve.  I didn’t think that we were overmatched today”.

When asked about giving a message of optimism for CU’s fans, MacIntyre said: ““Just keep believing and we’ll keep battling.  Anything can happen.  That’s what we’ll keep telling our players while we keep fighting and pushing.  That’s all that you can do”.

That’s true. All the Buff fans can do is keep believing.

We have nowhere else to go.



18 Replies to ““Just Keep Believing””

  1. Before the “Fire Mac II” chant start up, think about the timing of these questions and responses. They came immediately after another heart tearing loss that CU had every opportunity to win. Anyone who’s ever coached at any level knows that the worst time to approach a coach is immediately after a game, when the adrenaline is till pumping and a million things are running through his mind. Honestly, I think a one hour “cool down” period should be mandatory before a coach talks to the media.

    Secondly, comparing to CU to Cal or any other team is unfair, primarily because the talent level and player experience at those schools when the coaching changes occurred were vastly unequal. Cal’s record last year wasn’t because of a lack of talent, it was because of abnormal number of injuries to starters and second team players. CU has been young for several years due to attrition in the program and only next year will begin to be able to put starters on the field that are predominantly juniors and seniors. Reserve judgment of Coach Mac until after the next two seasons when the playing field is level at least in that area.

    Go Buffs

  2. I agree with you Stuart. How can Cal turn it around in one year, while CU continues to be one of the worst teams in the country? I’m tired of hearing the excuse that the team is young. I have seen plenty of examples of other schools having success playing lots of freshmen and sophomores. It just seems like Colorado football has been toxic in the eyes of recruits ever since the scandals under Barnett. I like Macintyre overall, but he needs to start recruiting better than 2 star players if we’re going to start winning some games. We need a stud like that Shaq Thompson guy Washington has, somebody who just runs guys over.

  3. Yo Stuart,

    I (and apparently everyone else) can feel your frustration. Don’t forget to breathe, buddy. The quality and competitiveness of this team is better than it has been in years. If the only thing that will convince you of anything is wins at this unlikely time, perhaps it’s time to take a break.

    As for the comparison to Cal, take a look at the number of Cal players in the NFL right now compared to Colorado. It’s not even close. The Bears had a horrible season last year, no doubt. But they have had many more high quality players go through the system in the 8-10 years than Colorado.

    I myself have not been able to see the Buffs play for three weeks now (the reason that I have had no posts on my own blog) due to travel constraints. Last week and the rest of the season I will be out of contact with the Buffs except through blog sites like yours and what news I am allowed to get from mainland China. So far away, but still I do what I can to stay up with my Buffs.

    You gotta remember that Boulder is not like most other communities when it comes to college football. There is a great deal of inherent and intense dislike for college football in the Boulder community. And that existed even when the Buffs were a top 5 team nearly every year. These folks used to complain because Bill McCartney publicly prayed (yes, really).

    There is a not-insignificant group of Boulder citizens who would be perfectly happy if the University of Colorado dropped football altogether and would consider it a great victory for their cause if it actually happened. Until fairly recently, some of these folks thought Bruce Benson was in their corner on this. Thankfully, the money committed to the improvements at Folsom means the university is firmly committed.

    Moral of the story? In Boulder, the football program not only has to compete against conference foes, but also with local naysayers who do not think football belongs in university life. They are wrong, but their attitude breeds discontent not only among students but also casual fans. And we must remember that Colorado’s football heart belongs to the Denver Broncos and that will never change.

    Forget the wins and losses this year. Look at the improvements being made in recruiting and the level of play. The Buffs will be back. They used to be a laughingstock, but now they are putting up the same kinds of numbers as their opponents. Right now, we are not talented enough to overcome turnovers and poor decision making. But the Buffs are SO close to turning the corner. Remember when Mac and staff had to teach these guys how to have fun and celebrate? Next on the agenda is learning to win the close ones. Don’t forget how nice it is to be in close ones.

    And remember… it’s a game… played by young men who are full time college students who have to go to class. This is NOT NEBRASKA. And it’s not Texas either, with the biggest athletic budget in the country and a team full of four and five star athletes, yet STILL is under .500 for the season.

    Relax, breathe the clean of Colorado (or in your case, Montana) and enjoy the fact that our lives are good enough to be spending lots of time with the game of college football. I miss clean air.

    Don’t be surprised if the Buffs pull off an upset sometime soon. The Utes and Arizona are both still on the schedule and both are teams we have beaten since joining the conference.


  4. Stuart, I know you love the Buffs and I respect your insights and commitment, but disagree with “That being said, it sounds as if the three year plan to get to a bowl game has now been turned into a five year plan. ” SJSU played in an easier conference, but CU is 1) playing better then expected if you expected what you predicted early on; that the Buffs would improve in stats this year but maybe have a worst record then last year and not make a bowl game. It seems you were right on then and have forgotten your own words.

    2) While CU was the worst team in a power five conference (stats wise) the year before MacIntyre arrived, the school wasn’t in the same trouble that SJSU was in when he was hired, SJSU had an APR problem, NO MONEY for recruiting trips or budget of any kind and was on the verge of shutting the program, so it’s a bit of apples and oranges talent wise and recruiting wise; and don’t forget the difference in the competition. So measuring losses against losses isn’t exactly the same, but rather the progress against some of the top 25 teams in the nations where the Buffs have improved greatly… even on defense!

    Yes some of the defense numbers against are still high, but instead of the score being 48 for the other team early and the 2nd and 3rd string are in for the opponents, their 1st string are in until the end, that is improvement whether you see it or not.

    I understand the frustration, I don’t understand the ideal that the Buffs are the 5th youngest team in a power five conference and yet some demand more, right now! this moment! instant gratification! because we saw a glimmer of hope and now your not finishing games!

    The Buffs have played close games against ranked teams, not unlike Utah who finished with a couple of 10-2 seasons before coming to the PAC12 just to choked on the competition when they got in; but now they are playing good football. They have also had the same coach for ten years and had a winning program to build on and it took them three years to adjust to the conference and some here can’t let the current staff finish year two without getting impatient.

    “Now, truth be told, Colorado was the worst BCS program in the country when Mike MacIntyre arrived. But this is not something the Buff Nation…” It’s a fact that we can’t this dismiss just because we don’t like it.

  5. I read your blog a lot and love that fact that you bleed buffaloe but still remain mostly fair and unbiased for the most part. Today I read your frustration come out and I think you sort of lost it; you’re just piling on like the rest of the negative nellies. Yesterday I was as frustrated by this loss as anybody else but but today I still believe this coaching staff is extracting as much out of this talent base as is possible. With a mediocre coaching staff this talent base would barely make it to .500 in CSU’s conference (whatever it’s called) and yet we are putting up a good fight and competing well against Pac-12 teams with exceptional talent. We have recruited a bunch of 2-3 star players for years with absolutely no game-changers on either side of the ball. Every other Pac-12 team has at least a sprinkling of game-changers. I truly believe that we need to see 2-3 good recruiting classes before this team turns it around and starts kicking some ass. Until then please withhold your criticism of coach Mac and his staff.

  6. Terry, I was at a conference several years ago where Benson was a guest speaker and made it clear where his priorities were in regards to the football program and the types of recruits he wanted to see come in. I have no problem with education being, by far, the #1 priority of an university. However, I do have a concern when the approach seemed to be binary (academic versus athletics) instead of a win-win, complementary approach to success. It seems that Benson is onboard now with the hiring of Rick George but significant damage has been done in terms of less talented, less competitive athletes and now we are digging out of a very deep hole in a talented conference. At least the commitment appears to be there, we receive more money in the Pac 12, and facilities improvements are underway. When Rick George was hired, that fueled my enthusiasm, more than the previous hiring of Macintyre by Bohn. I am not saying that Macintyre is a bad hire as I feel the jury is still out and he is clearly making cultural progress but I feel that Rick George is going to find a way to get this done in the future, either with or without Macintyre.

    1. Good call on Benson and academics. That makes me ask “what does CU want to be?”. The facts are we’re irrelevant in football and our academic rankings as an institution, by any measurement, are very average too. Part of our identity problem lies here…if we want to stand for academic excellence, fine…but we’re certainly not there, despite arguments from many. Wins and losses don’t lie and neither do academic rankings. Right now we’re mired in mediocrity, at best, on both fronts. Actually I wish we were mediocre in football. Sigh.

  7. After watching a CU game I watch several games from around the country, and my first reaction is always how much speed teams have when compared to CU. Even the obscure teams that play on tuesday nights have some burners out there. LSU’s defensive tackles seem faster than CU’s linebackers.

    I will watch to see what CU does to recruit speed in the upcoming recruiting season. Without it CU will be a bottom dweller for a long time.

    1. absolutely right, I see no speed at wide receiver. Spruce runs great routes and has great hands, but no one expects him to take a punt to the house.

  8. Keeping things In perspective, we’re improving and getting more and more competitive. We were the worst team in The BCS…that’s a difficult place to begin a turnaround. College football is cruel to bad teams. No bowl game, no extra practices and recruiting is tough. But that’s where we need to get better. These players were part of non ranked recruiting classes and yet we’re competing…and we’re very young. But Bobby Bowden would remind us having all starters back from a terrible defense may not be a positive. Somehow, some way we need to recruit better. Our commits so far are completely underwhelming. Maybe at San Jose this could work but in the PAC 12 we simply struggle to compete with better players. Until we are able to keep the best players in state and bring in a few higher rated guys regionally its a sad truth that just competing is actually pretty good.

  9. Not a fair comparison! Shame on you for deceiving your readers rather than enlightening them. Cal was bad last year with a new set of coaches, but their player talent was really rather high. They had recruited a number of 4* and 5* kids over the years, they just weren’t playing well. Come the 2nd year the coach gets them heading in the right direction and they win.

    CU didn’t have that talent base to start with. For 5 years we signed mainly lower star kids. We still only sign lower star kids and can’t move up in talent till we get more wins. Wins will come soon because the team is playing much better than 2-5 years ago, that much is obvious. Lastly, the other weak team in the league hasn’t been on our schedule the last 2 years, if WSU was we might have had more Pac-12 wins.

  10. Stuart, I guess I’m a “glass half full” kind of guy, at least when it comes to the Buffs. To quote the famous VK, “I love the mighty Buffs, regardless”. I’m 46, and have been following the Buffs since 1988. I was fortunate enough to be a season ticket holder from the 1988 season through the 1991 campaign. I moved to Oregon then but still have followed the Buffs religiously.

    Anyway, I digress. I love your website and read it daily, but I am not sure that it is “doom and gloom” forever. I don’t think it is accurate to compare coach Mac to Hawkins. Hawkins showed that the team was regressing each year in almost all statistical categories. The current coaching staff (as you started) has improved dramatically in almost every statistical categories. If this program wasn’t burnt to the ground with Hawkins, then Embree made sure that is was.
    I could go on and on. I could talk about how we should have gotten Butch Jones (Tennessee is 4-5 with 3 of those wins over lesser team’s) or how we should have went after Brady Hoake (Michigan also 4-5 with those wins over lesser team’s).

    The whole purpose of sports, really, is to “entertain” the public. I can say that at least this year, I have been very entertained. Losses suck, but I would much rather lose 10 games in double overtime, then lose 10 games by 30 points. Lets not start the “Mac must go” mantra; at least not yet.

    I’ll make a deal with Mac. You and your team keep battling, and I promise to keep believing…

  11. I do see improvement in team and they are certainly more competitive in games, but I’m starting to question a few of the things that Mac does in games. The pre-halftime possessions in the last 2 games were pathetic. So disappointed with lack of awareness in game against UCLA in last possession before half, but yesterday was just as puzzling. You have almost a minute to score and end up running off field at halftime with a timeout still left. Why not throw a Hail Mary? And then the rugby-style punt? Come on; what happened to a high corner punt to pin them deep? And, Lindsay back in after the fumble? I understand “getting back on the horse” but that seems a poor time to do it. I also am getting tired of Sefo’s egregious mistakes. He brings a lot to the table, but his inability to see the whole field and his constant “zeroing in” on his targets is getting old? How about giving Gehrke a chance every now and then. Tired of leaving Folsom bummed out!!

  12. Stuart

    I found this game most frustrating and your article nailed the reasons why. Especially the give-aways in the third quarter that turned and sealed the game. Unfortunately, I was equally concerned by Coach Mac’s post game comments as well. This was a game the Buffs really had no reason losing at home and I get that, after season long frustration, it is very hard to speak with his usual positive stroke. That said, his team’s performance yesterday and his post game performance left me back in 2012 under Embree . . . a long suffering Buff fan with no hope. A terrible place to be with three games left in the season.

  13. I too was concerned about the timetable phrasing. No way do I want to hear 5 year talk. Cal and Utah weren’t much better two years ago, and look where they are now.

    One real concern that I have is the lack of movement at some positions. Sefo is a true battler, but every game he has 2 turnovers…….every…..stinking…..game. Enough. Let see if Gehrke can lead this team without the back breaking turnovers. We already know we can lose with Sefo and his turnovers. What can Gehrke do?

    Lindsey needs to work on holding onto the football. Bench him for the rest of the year and maybe he will understand how devastating his multiple turnovers were. The message being sent right now is that some players, regardless of performance, are untouchable. That message needs to change.

    1. That’s a little harsh, isn’t it? Bench him for the rest of the season? I’m sure he will be a better player then…yeah right. I’m sure he understands just how devastating his fumbles were, but as was written, there was no shortage of reasons for the loss.

  14. MacIntyre is nothing if not honest and optimistic. His comments after the game may have been a bit harsh, but nonetheless true. It does not look to me like there is any head hanging or despair from the players. We will see Saturday. I didn’t take his comments about cutcliffe as anything more than an illustration of a point. Turning a program around is a process. Comparing cu to cal? They had a much, much deeper and experienced and arguably talented roster. Nevertheless, their season this year is very, very similar to cu’s. They just won a couple/few close games that cu didn’t. That cu is only a notch or two above being the worst team in fbs? By wins, sure. But drop them into the acc or big 10, or big 12, and they are probably six wins and bowl eligible. PAC 12 south is arguably the best division in football along with sec west. Hang in there folks. This is another tough year, but I am expecting a quantum leap next year, along with at least one more, maybe two, wins this year.

    Go Buffs.

  15. There are several programs around the country have enjoyed short turnarounds, and some that have just as dramatically “fell from grace” (South Carolina, Florida, Georgia…). I’m convinced that CU has some deep-seated problems that aren’t being aired, and that is what is hindering recruiting. Maybe it is that we don’t cheat like many of the big football powers (ref. UNC), and I don’t want us to do that.

    That being said, I’m seeing a vast improvement in our team, and I’m willing to wait a couple more years to be competitive in the PAC-12.

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