Colorado’s “Glass Ceiling”

In the corporate world, “glass ceiling” represents an unseen, but still unbreakable, barrier which prevents women and minorities from rising to upper management positions.

In the world of Colorado football, “glass ceiling” represents an unseen, but still unbreakable, barrier which prevents the Buffs from winning break-through Pac-12 conference games.

The Buffs bumped up against the glass ceiling on numerous occasions last season. Colorado lost in double-overtime – twice – falling to UCLA (40-37) and Cal (59-56) in heart-breaking fashion. The Buffs lost to Oregon State, 36-31, with a controversial call which led to CU head coach Mike MacIntyre being preserved for eternity chasing after the officials after the game. CU had leads against Washington and Utah, and was down only 24-20 against Arizona heading into the fourth quarter … you get the idea.

In the end, however, Colorado finished the 2014 season with an 0-9 conference record, the first winless conference season for the program since the 1915 Buffs went 0-5 in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play.

This season, the Buffs have only been dominated in one of their first nine games, falling fast and hard to Arizona State.

Oregon? Tied at halftime.

Arizona? Ahead in the fourth quarter.

UCLA? Ahead in the fourth quarter.

In the end, though, those close games, games which would have helped establish Colorado as a factor in the Pac-12 South, resulted, once again, in losses.

The players, like the fans, are searching for answers.

“I feel like at times we played to our potential,” sophomore wide receiver Donovan Lee told BSN Denver after the Buffs turned a 24-17 advantage over Arizona into a 38-31 defeat. “But we got comfortable when we got up and we didn’t have the maturity or resolve that we needed to  put a team away when we got up. That’s just something that we have to work on that we’ve been talking about all season.”

Lee also wondered out loud about what many Buff fans have been left to ponder: why the offense and defense can never click at the same time for this team.

“I can’t really say what that reason is for it, just different players at different times not making the plays that we need to,” he thought. “It’s a team effort collectively, it’s all of us, you can’t really point out any reason, as a team we haven’t made the plays like we need to but we’re going to get there.”

CU head coach Mike MacIntyre was asked two weeks ago about the psychology of the Buffs not being able to win a Pac-12 conference game, and out came the clichés:

“I don’t think it can slip into the DNA”, said MacIntyre when asked if losing had slipped into the DNA of the Colorado football program. “I think it just tough things to overcome. The lows of losing are lower than the highs of winning, you’ve probably heard that a million times. You have to bounce back, look deeper into your soul, so-to-speak, and then you just have to find ways to win. Sometimes, a win just falls in your lap at times, but you have to find ways to win and finish it off”.

A year removed from rallying from a 17-point deficit to force overtime against UCLA, the Buffs rallied from an 18-point deficit to take the lead against the Bruins. Down 21-3, Colorado rallied to take a 31-28 lead, but could not make the lead hold up.

Against the Bruins, Colorado set school records for total plays (114), plays in a quarter (40, in the second) and time of possession in a quarter (14:03). Still, thanks to a pick-six and an 82-yard run – coupled with CU’s inability to finish off drives in the red zone – UCLA, which had the ball for all of 57 seconds in the second quarter, out-scored the Buffs, 14-6, during that frame.

“It is frustrating when you feel like you kind of controlled the game, so to speak, and didn’t come out on top,” MacIntyre said. “If you watch the game and never saw the scoreboard, I think you’d think we would have won the game. That’s disheartening.”

“It’s very tough,” quarterback Sefo Liufau said. “Any time in life when you continually go for something and you fall short, it’s definitely frustrating.”

Frustrating for the coaches and players.

Frustrating for the fans as well.

Still, as hard as it may be right now, the Buff Nation must take a deep breath and maintain some perspective.

Who amongst us, two days ago, would have taken a bet on CU rallying from a 21-3 deficit to take the lead over UCLA? The Buffs were 22.5-point underdogs at kickoff, and, in the second quarter, the odds-makers were looking pretty smart.

The Buffs, however, didn’t quit. They went on a 25-7 run of their own to take the lead. In the past decade of losing, that sort of resolve – that sort of confidence – was decidedly lacking on the CU sideline.

Yes, Sefo Liufau threw the pick-six inside the Bruins’ ten yard line, but he also passed for 312 yards and ran for 45 more.

Yes, the defense was gashed for an 82-yard run by Paul Perkins, but also held quarterback Josh Rosen – who threw for a school-record 34 completions against Cal the week before – to a relatively pedestrian 19-of-33 for 262 yards and one touchdown.

Yes, the Buffs had only two touchdowns in six trips to the Bruin red zone, but, this just in … Colorado had six trips to the UCLA red zone.

It’s getting better … the Buffs are getting closer.

Compare: Two seasons ago, the last time the Buffs traveled to Pasadena to play the Bruins in the Rose Bowl, the halftime score was UCLA 21, Colorado 13. The Bruins then out-scored the Buffs, 14-0 in the third quarter, coasting to a 45-23 win.

This time, the Buffs were down 21-6 at halftime, but went on to out-score the Bruins, 25-14, in the second half.

One drive short. One score short. But in the conversation at the end.

Still, as the saying goes, “you are what your record says you are”.

Colorado is 4-5, 1-4 in Pac-12 play … and a fifth win will be hard to come by.

The November calendar for the Buffs … a top ten team in Stanford; a former top ten team which is again hitting its stride in USC; a Washington State team which was a missed field goal at the final gun away from upsetting Stanford; and Utah, another recently displaced top ten team.

Where does CU’s next win come from? After all, the combined record of CU’s final opponents is 24-8.

Stanford did not play particularly well against Washington State, will be playing at the equivalent of a 10:00 a.m. game in Boulder, and has Oregon next on their schedule.

USC will have a short week to prepare for its road game against the Buffs, and will have a game against Oregon next on their schedule.

Washington State may have come back down to earth by the time the Buffs hit Pullman, with games against Arizona State and UCLA before facing Colorado.

Utah will be heading into the regular season finale against Colorado after a showdown against UCLA. The result of that game could play into the psyche of the Utes come Thanksgiving weekend.

Not too much for Buff fans to get excited about. All four games will feature Colorado as an underdog, quite likely in the double digits.

It’s going to take an upset for Colorado to break through the “glass ceiling” between it and the rest of the Pac-12 South.

Yet, for the first time since joining the conference in 2011, the Buffs are actually pounding on the glass.


6 Replies to “Colorado’s “Glass Ceiling””

  1. Stuart you mentioned the 312 passing yards Sefo had and I do agree he is the best QB we have had since (dare I say it) Joel Klatt. But his picks came at a time where he needed to be his best and not the inconsistent player he has been in the clutch. Pick six in then red zone, ouch. Pick, to end any chance for a come back really big OUCH.

  2. The definition of insanity is trying the same thinks that fail over and over again expecting different results. As long as Mike McIntyre leads the team out, and Sefo trots out to take the first snap, we will not win another Pac 12 game. They have proved it time and time again. Mcintyre is 2-21 in Pac 12 play, and has only beaten two winless in conference teams in three years. Sefo is 2-17 as a Pac starter, worst in 100 year history of the Pac. Make no mistake about it, these teams of the last three years have had ample opportunities for upsets, which should happen just by chance alone, and have failed. UCLA was a perfect example of that. Arizona also. This has cost us dearly in recruiting. We are much too passive as far as the administration and the AD. There is not a single school in the Power 5 that would put up with the aforementioned stats. If in fact we lose the next four, Mcintyre and Sefo need to go. Enough of the insanity.

  3. Great read as always. It definitely feels like a glass ceiling at times. But I will say this, implicit in the glass ceiling metaphor is the assumption that we (or anyone approaching the glass ceiling) belong above it and the only things holding us back is the barrier. We lost a bunch of painful close games, but at the end of the day all of those teams were better than us (better players and probably better coaches). At the end of those games, the better team buckled down and pulled it out. However, we did pull a close one out against a pac12 opponent on the road against a team that we were supposed to beat (or at least it was supposed to be a very close game). To me this is a huge win for us moving forward.

    So depending on your perspective I think that we either haven’t yet reached the glass ceiling (glass half empty) or we put our first big crack in it with the win a couple of weeks ago (glass half full). One more win this season will solidify this as we will be underdogs in every other game. We were close many times already, but patience is a virtue!!

  4. Nice perspective, Stu. It’s pretty much a mirror image of my thoughts. This seemed to me, to be, by far, the most complete and error free game we’ve seen from our Buffs since the beginning of the “lost decade” of CU football.

    I like their chances of getting one, possibly two more wins this year. And, their stealing three is not out of the question. They’ve shown they can compete and go toe to toe w/ some pretty good teams, in a very difficult conference.

    What’s more encouraging, to me at least, is their progress is not of the “flash in the pan” variety we saw during the Hawkins tenure, when they’d play up and stun someone (#3 OU for example) only to drop one to Kansas, or whichever inferior opponent, the next week.

    They’re putting things together. More slowly than any of us would like. Particularly for them, inside the program. But, rest assured.

    A breakthrough, or two, are coming.

    Most likely this year.

    If it’s not until next year, it’s likely to be many more than a breakthrough or two. Mac and Co are putting the “lost decade” of CU football behind us.

    Go Buffs.

  5. On the second to the last drive, CU was running the ball so well and then they took a chance with a long pass to Lee. Incomplete and that was the beginning of the end. UCLA could not stop the run. It is so frustrating.

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