“There Are No Moral Victories”

Which was harder to take?

Last season in Corvallis, Colorado stayed with Oregon State for almost a half. By the end of the third quarter, though, it was 38-3, with the Buffs posting a pair of fourth quarter consolation touchdowns in a 44-17 final.

This season in Boulder, Colorado stayed with Oregon State throughout the entire game. Falling behind 14-0 early, the Buffs rallied to take a 21-20 lead, and were poised for a game-winning touchdown drive before failing to move the sticks in OSU territory in a 36-31 loss.

In 2013, the loss to the Beavers was not really a shock; the domination by the Beavers in the second half pretty much expected. Yes, it was painful to sit there in the rain as the Beaver fans celebrated touchdown after touchdown, but there was a numbness to it … after all, we’d been there, done that.

In 2014, the loss to the Beavers was a shock; there was no domination by the opposition. Fans left Folsom Field muttering about what woulda/coulda/shoulda been.

The stats sheet gives numeric proof to the closeness of the 2014 game:

– Total yards: Oregon State, 445; Colorado, 431;

– First downs: Colorado, 25; Oregon State, 22;

– Third down efficiency: Oregon State, 6-of-14; Colorado, 6-of-14.

But there was one statistic, one which should have been equal, but was not. It remains a glaring discrepancy which may have decided the game:

– Turnovers: Colorado, 1; Oregon State, 0.

There was no issue with Colorado’s turnover. Halfway through the first quarter, Buff quarterback Sefo Liufau threw into double coverage across middle, with Beaver linebacker D.J. Alexander making an easy interception. Alexander returned the ball 25 yards to the CU eight yard line, and, two plays later, Oregon State had a 14-0 lead.

There was an issue with Oregon State’s non-turnover. Late in the third quarter, Beaver quarterback Sean Mannion threw deep. Buff cornerback Ken Crawley fought for the ball, came down with an interception. Crawley returned the pick 16 yards to the CU 34 yard line, and the Buffs had new life, down 23-21 with a quarter still to play.

Instead, however, as Buff fans will long remember, the interception did not stand. Crawley was called for pass interference, with Oregon State not only retaining possession, but getting 15 yards and a first down at the CU 34-yard line. Four plays later, Oregon State scored, completing its longest drive of the game in taking a 30-21 lead.

“I thought it was a huge momentum changer, it was a huge play for us,” said CU coach Mike MacIntyre after the game, fully cognizant of the conference rule which forbids coaches from criticizing officials.

That rule did not stop coach MacIntyre from chasing after the referee after the game, in full voice after another pass interference call – one which was not called – helped to derail the Buffs’ final drive of the game.

And the end of the day, however, an “L” will forever be listed next to Colorado in the game played against Oregon State on October 4, 2014.

Nothing will change that. Nothing will give the Buffs a second chance at that final drive.

So, where to the Buffs, now 2-4 overall, 0-3 in Pac-12 play, go from here?

Colorado has a bye week coming up, before heading off to face USC on October 18th. The Buffs have never defeated the Trojans in Los Angeles. In fact, the Buffs have never defeated the Trojans anywhere. Colorado is 0-8 all-time against USC, including an 0-3 mark since joining the Pac-12.

Will the bye week help or hurt the Buffs?

It could help in at least one respect … health.

CU’s leading rusher, Christian Powell, was held out of the Oregon State game due to a concussion he suffered against California. CU’s leading tackler, linebacker Addison Gillam, left the Oregon State game in the third quarter after sustaining a concussion on a punt return. The Beavers were penalized 15 yards for the hit, but Oregon State got the better of the deal, with Gillam not returning the remainder of the game (Oregon State went on an 87-yard touchdown drive immediately after Gillam left the contest).

Both Powell and Gillam are listed as “day-to-day” for the USC game, but, with a week off before the next game, their chances of playing in CU’s next Pac-12 battle will certainly be improved.

But are there negatives associated with the layoff? Colorado has just lost two games in agonizing fashion, with multiple chances of winning both. Now, instead of “getting back on the horse”, the Buff players, coaches and fans are left to stew for two weeks, mulling over what might have been.

What the players think about the bye week:

– “It’ll give us some time to prepare for the next one,” said senior linebacker Brady Daigh, who had five tackles subbing for the injured Gillam. “I think a lot of guys are hungry to get back on the field after a game like that. We have our bye week, we’ll utilize it and do what we have to do with it. I definitely think we’re ready to get back on the field. At the end of the day, as a team, we want to stop saying ‘oh we were so close, we should have won that one’ which has happened multiple times now. We want to get to a point where we’re celebrating in the locker room afterwards.”

– “I trust the guys on this team,” said senior wide receiver Tyler McCulloch, who had four catches for 76 yards and two touchdowns. “They’re smart and we’re going to come back with even more of a hunger to get better and come back with a win against USC after our bye week.”

– “The guys are definitely hungry,” said senior defensive tackle Juda Parker. “There’s a sense of, we don’t want the bye week, we want to play next week so we can get that win. We really feel that we’re so close and we don’t agree with people saying ‘it’s a moral victory.’ We really want to win and get this thing rolling.”

The term “moral victory” has been cast about a great deal the past two weeks. After all, Colorado has only four Pac-12 wins, total, in 3+ seasons as a member of the Pac-12. The average score of CU’s Pac-12 games last year was 44-20, and even that lopsided number was an improvement on the 48-17 average score of CU’s Pac-12 contests in 2012.

Through the first three games of the 2014 Pac-12 season, the average score is 44-37 … not great, but certainly better than what Buff fans have been asked to sit through the past few seasons.

There is the sentiment in the Buff Nation, however, that close is not good enough. That “playing for pride”, and staying competitive until the fourth quarter, no longer suffices as a satisfactory effort.

Fortunately for the Buff Nation, the Colorado locker room echoes that opinion.

The Buffs, suffering from a second consecutive gut-wrenching loss, were far from satisfied. In fact, it’s not too difficult to pick up a sense of defiance:

– Asked if the Buffs might hope to grow from the loss to Oregon State, quarterback Sefo Liufau had this to say: ““It’s not a hopefully. We’re expecting to break down the door. It doesn’t matter who we play, where we play, or anything like that … I wouldn’t change, be on any other team, besides this one. I consider these guys my family and we’re going to keep fighting and get ready to go.”

– “It comes from Colorado. We used to be National Champions and in the last couple of seasons we have had a really bad record”, said wide receiver Bryce Bobo about CU’s fighting attitude. “We’re tired of it. We’re tired of not having good enough records”.

– “I would say in the past [it was difficult to overcome losses] but there’s something different about this team since last spring and the summer,” said Tyler McCulloch. “This team is just resilient. I trust the guys on this team”.

 – “You can say if ‘we made a couple plays, we made the catch, we made the tackle’ records could have been different, the outcome could have been so much different”, said Juda Parker. “We’re just focused on this season and getting the next one. We’re going to prepare for the win against USC and that’s our mindset.”

The last word goes to coach Mike MacIntyre. When asked about “moral victories”, MacIntyre had this to say: ““There are no moral victories. I do know that our team fights and believes that they can win. I think that we’ve come a long way, but we just have to punch through and get some wins. Those kids are hurting in our locker room, really hurting, but there is no quit in them and there is a lot of fight. As coaches, we just have to find a way to help them get over the hump at the end of games”.

Midway through the 2014 season, Colorado sits at 2-4. The Buffs could well be 4-2, or at least 3-3. The harsh reality, though, is that the “easy” part of the schedule has just concluded. The Buffs have six games remaining, and five of the six remaining opponents are or have been ranked nationally.

The Buffs do not want to accept moral victories.

That’s good. That’s the way it should be.

Colorado is very close to being back in the mix in what can only be described as a very deep and talented conference. But the Buffs are not as close as they need to be to stay with some of the upcoming opponents.

Like it or not, much of the remainder of the 2014 season may well be all about … moral victories.

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7 Replies to ““There are No Moral Victories””

  1. LOL , Whats up with Mike’s comments man dude take a chill pill . I can see him now at his computer typing his blood vessels bulging out of his head. His eyes getting all red. Smoke coming out of ears as he types.

    That and who the heck is he talking about anyway ?

  2. You’re days are number, you so enjoyed looking for positive when there was none Hawkins through Embree, that viewership or hits where strong – now the Buffs are soo close to being good if not soon great – you have zero value but to degrade – hang it pal and go and try and make wifie happy – please end your pat hectic attempt to be relevant.

  3. Yo Stuart,

    I agree with MacIntyre. There are no moral victories. What we need to do is look at the numbers. The 2014 Colorado Buffaloes are a much better team than in 2013. And MacIntyre’s first team at CU last year was much better than that of 2012.

    Fans who want to complain that the Buffs are not winning the close ones should take the time to remember what it was like during the first three years in the Pac-12. The Buffs have been spanked hard until this year.

    For the first time since joining the conference, Colorado is hanging with their opposition until the very end. It used to be that playing CU was a guaranteed victory and that the third stingers would be in the game by the end of the third quarter.

    This year, every conference team the Buffs have played have found themselves in a dogfight. In 2012. the average point spread in Pac-12 play was a loss by 31 points (48-17). Last year, it dropped to 25 points (45-20). This year, after three games, the Buffs are still giving up 44 points per game, but Mac’s and Lindgren’s crew are now scoring 37 per game. That total is equal to what the Buffs scored in the last two years COMBINED.

    Not only will it get better, fans need to understand how much better it already is. Check out my latest blog post on the subject.

    Great job as always.

    Mark
    Boulderdevil

  4. Maybe they’re not moral victories, but they are losses that give tremendous hope that we’ve turned the corner and really good things are on the horizon. It’s fun to watch Buffalo football again. Put me down for twenty bucks for MacIntyre’s fine – that was a horrendous PI call – I love that guy’s emotion.

  5. We are better than last year. But it doesn’t help the won/loss record. They have got to find a way to win the close game. Until they actually start believing in themselves then the losses are going to continue to mount.

    In ’til the end — GO BUFFS —

  6. Tough loss, especially given the controversial officiating that was witnessed. Glad to see the students stayed and for the most part, the rest of the fans. They got loud when needed (ask OSU’s officiating crew).

    Now the next step needs to be taken. Given what the PAC 12 has turned into after last week, there are no games left that are unwinnable.

  7. Great work as always Stuart.

    However, I hope that your title and the first statement in the article either are rhetorical, or said with tongue firmly in cheek.

    For Buff fans (and for the CU Buffs football team) there are absolutely moral victories. If there aren’t, then we might as well not watch this year or next. What I have seen this year is incredibly encouraging (the CSU game the one glaring exception). We have been competitive in all of our games, where we pulled it out against teams we should have beaten, and lost against teams we should have lost to. You must walk before you can run, and I am seeing positive signs that we may soon be picking off a few games that we ‘shouldn’t be winning’. Our games against Pac 12 talent the last two years were painful, difficult to watch and beyond blowout status. This year, we are competitive…we are in every game..and the games are once again exciting. The games are exciting again and enjoyable to watch, and for me that is huge. For our basketball team, I agree there are no moral victories. But this is a different story.

    As for the comment of which game was harder to watch, I would like to make a strong case that an embarrassing blowout where we didn’t even belong on the same field is harder to watch than an exciting game where we had a chance to pull out an upset win at the end of the game. These games this year are not even in the same galaxy as the last two years in terms of enjoyment. Maybe I am crazy, or should care more about win total. But I am incredibly proud of our team. We didn’t pull out the last two games, but at not time have we folded or given up this year. That should count for something (indeed alot) ,and I think our enthusiasm as fans about the direction of this team should reflect this.

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