2015 Grades – Special Teams and Coaches

With Colorado’s 4-9, 1-8 record now relegated to the history books, and with (some) of the emotion of yet another close season-ending loss to Utah subsiding, it’s time to take a look at how the different units on the team performed this fall.

The standard applied looks not only at the raw numbers produced, but how those numbers match up with the expectations we had for those units when the season opened in September.

2015 Grades – Offense” can be found here “2015 Grades – Defense” can be found here


It would be safe to say that the collegiate punting career for Alex Kinney did not get off on the right foot.

The true freshman punter, installed to replace four-year starter Darragh O’Neill, was called upon for the first punt of his career after the Buffs’ offense had opened the season with a three-and-out against the Hawai’i defense. The Kinney offering was blocked, leading to a Rainbow Warrior touchdown and a 28-20 road loss for the Buffs.

After the inauspicious start, Kinney’s numbers continued to improve throughout the season, with his average punt, in the low 30’s in September, went up over 40 yards per kick by the end of the season. Kinney finished 40.1 yards per kick average, fourth all-time in CU history by a freshman punter. Kinney also set freshman records for punts inside-the-20 and inside-the-ten, with 22 and nine, respectively.

Overall, though, Colorado finished 80th in net punting nationally. Far from great … but not too bad considering how the season started.

In punt return defense, the Buffs were 42nd in the nation, giving up 6.5 yards per return, perhaps a nod to the increased overall speed of the team.

In punt returns, however, Colorado was again pathetic, ranked 92nd nationally, with a grand total of 99 punt return yards for the entire season. When a successful fair catch is the best a unit can produce, it’s not a great season.

Grade … C+.


Kicking Game

As was the case with the punter, the Buffs were trading a four-year starter at kicker – Will Oliver – for a new face.

Well, not exactly new. Diego Gonzalez joined the team in 2013, sitting out a transfer year after coming to Boulder from Monterrey Tech … in Mexico. In 2014, his sophomore year, Gonzalez was in for all of one kick – a kickoff against Colorado State.

This year, Gonzalez was the kicker for the Buffs, hitting 18-of-29 field goal attempts. Gonzalez was the hero of the Colorado State game, hitting the game-winner to give the Buffs a 27-24 victory.

He also missed more field goal attempts than any other kicker in the Pac-12. What’s worse is that Gonzalez, after hitting the first five attempts of the season, went south. He was good on only 13-of-24 the rest of the year.

Not exactly numbers which inspire confidence.

In kickoff return defense, Colorado was 85th, giving up over 1,000 yards on returns. Ouch.

When Colorado had the opportunity to return kicks, the Buffs fared better, finishing the season ranked 43rd in the nation. Phillip Lindsay was the leading kick returner, with 574 yards of returns in 24 attempts.

Not much good to report in the kicking game overall.

Grade … D+.



No point in trying to break down each position coach, if for no other reason than not all of CU’s position coaches will be the same going forward.

We can, however, come to some consensus to the relative production of the coordinators and head coach.

Offensive Coordinator Brian Lindgren

No sense beating a dead horse here. The numbers speak for themselves:

– Rushing offense … 156.2 yards per game – 84th in the nation. The Buffs had five 100-yard performances during the season – not too bad … until one notes that four of those five efforts came in only two games: Massachusetts and Nicholls. Take away the 390 yards rushing against the Minutemen and the 358 yards against the Colonels, and CU’s per game average dips to 116.6 yards per game, which would have qualified CU as the No. 118 rushing team in the nation.

– Passing offense … 240.6 yards per game – 48th in the nation. Colorado’s three quarterbacks – Sefo Liufau, Cade Apsay and Jordan Gehrke – had a combined 13 touchdown passes … and 12 interceptions. A year after re-writing the CU record books, Liufau and wide receiver Nelson Spruce were never able to take control of a game, much less pull out an unforeseen victory. It was a long, frustrating season for CU’s passing attack.

– Total offense … 396.8 yards per game … 67th in the nation.

– Scoring offense … 24.6 points per game … 97th in the nation.

In the third season under MacIntyre and Lindgren, the Buffs failed to move forward on offense. In some respects, they stepped back.

Can it all be blamed on injuries along the offensive line? On the loss of Sefo Liufau?

Or on this … Colorado had 54 red zone attempts this season, and scored only 20 touchdowns. Even with the 18 made field goals considered, the Buffs only scored just over 70 percent of their forays deep into enemy territory. In red zone offense, Colorado was No. 120 (out of 127 teams) in the national rankings.

The Buffs’ failure to score in the red zone was a problem all season, and, arguably cost Colorado several victories and a chance at a winning season and a bowl game.

That failure falls on the offensive coordinator.

Grade … D.


Defensive Coordinator Jim Leavitt

Despite CU’s 4-9 overall record, the Buffs’ defense made significant strides in 2015.

The story begins and ends with scoring defense. The Buffs gave up 11.5 fewer points in 2015 than in 2014, going from 39.0 points per game to 27.5.

Is 27.5 points per game (69th nationally) acceptable? Of course not.

But the Buffs have moved from the basement in the Pac-12 in points allowed up to 6th – and that’s a real step forward. The past few seasons, Colorado was not only dead last in points allowed, but usually by a wide margin.

The Buffs were also 6th in the league in total yards allowed, giving up 416.9 yards per game. For a change, Colorado was as close to the top of the Pac-12 in total defense (Washington – 349.9 ypg) as they were to the bottom (Oregon State – 481.5 ypg.).

Leavitt and Co. achieved these results without defensive lineman Josh Tupou, regarded as perhaps the Buffs’ best defensive player heading into the 2015 season, and linebacker Addison Gillam, the Buffs’ leading tackler over the past two seasons.

And did I mention that Colorado went from a grand total of three interceptions in all of 2014 to 14 interceptions (28th in the country) in 2015?

The mere fact that the Buff Nation was worried that Jim Leavitt might be lured away to become the defensive coordinator at Michigan (or some other school) is a fair indication of the esteem Leavitt has built in just one year on the job in Boulder.

Here’s hoping for continued improvement in 2016.

Grade … A-.


Head Coach Mike MacIntyre

The immortal John McKay made his mark as the head football coach of the USC Trojans.

But he is remembered also for his quips and jokes as the head coach of the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the late 1970’s. The Buccaneers went 0-14 in 1976, and went on to lose their first 12 games in 1977. By the fourth season, however, McKay had Tampa Bay in the NFC Championship game.

The relevant joke here from McKay:  “I had a five-year plan”, said McKay. “But that was because I had a five-year contract. If I had had a three-year contract, I would have had a three year plan.”

Hopefully, Mike MacIntyre has a four year plan.

At San Jose State, Mike MacIntyre broke through with a winning season in Year Three.

At Colorado, Bill McCartney broke through with a winning season in Year Four.

A 4-9, 1-8 record in Mike MacIntyre’s third year does not constitute a break through season. A 10-27 overall record – with eight of those wins coming in non-conference games – is not satisfactory to anyone associated with the program.

No one can argue that the Buffs have not improved in the past. The team has more talent, and has been more competitive. Mike MacIntyre has raised the Colorado program from a national joke to a team which Pac-12 opponents are required to take seriously.

Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre has a contract through 2018, but 2016 is really his make-or-break year.

Here’s hope Coach Mac has a four-year plan. Another one-win Pac-12 campaign will not give him a fifth year.

Grade … D+.



4 Replies to “Grades – S.Teams & Coaches”

  1. Sefo reminds me of Cody Hawkins. Both are good enough to get you close but in the end not good enough to win. It has been a frustrating year and I agree that special teams were very ordinary. I hope that there is a search for a new place kicker as Gonzalez was extremely unreliable.

    The red zone numbers are revealing. Perhaps the additional of a co-offensive coordinator will help–I am not holding my breath.

  2. When considering what Mac has had to work with and the overall state of the CU Football program, I see positive growth. However, next year needs to show awesome improvement or Mac will be another just questionable hire by the athletic department. The DC hire was a great move, he could be CU’s next head coach IMO, if Mac can’t put together a winning season and a bowl game.

  3. Who in the world were the two morons that voted a grade A for “Magic Mac” in today;s poll? Sefo and his dad? What a mock on the poll! Sefo, stop voting please!

    1. Nah Scott, it was probably you and your wife. Inconsistency. You always rag on Sefo. Mostly cause your “boy” got beat out by him. Badly. Just accept the deal. Sefo is a fine QB. The OC is a joke, forcing Sefo to have to make plays that the scheme or play call will not and cannot.

      I like Mac.
      His decision to Fire(and he did) Baer was one of understanding and fore-site.

      His decision to keep Lindgren (even as Co-Oc, is one of not understanding offensive football (Though Lindgren’s offense is offensive), being bull crapped by Lindgren who is blaming it on the oline and the injuries blah blah blah, as well as having some father/son love for the Teflon-OC

      Just as bad as your hate on Sefo.

      Anyway Go Buffs. Gonna have to get Six to Survive

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