How the Other Half Lives

I didn’t want to leave.

It was midway through the third quarter of Colorado’s 48-14 romp over Massachusetts. The Buffs had turned a 31-14 halftime advantage into a 41-14 laugher with two scoring drives to open the second half. Even for a cynic like me, there was the pleasant acknowledgement that the outcome of this game was no longer in doubt.

Why would we want to leave?

We weren’t talking about leaving the game, mind you.

Brad just wanted to meet a friend over in the Balch Fieldhouse beer garden, and the move made a certain amount of sense. It was certainly warm in the east stands – the 77-degree temperature at the noon-time start had certainly risen well into the 80’s, and the reflected light from the half-empty bleachers only made it more uncomfortable. It was also inarguable that the Fieldhouse would be cooler. Plus, the game was being shown on several big screen televisions inside the Fieldhouse, so we wouldn’t miss any of the action.

Still, I didn’t want to leave our seats.

Simply put, I was having too much of a good time seeing how the other half of the college football world lived.

It had been a long time since the Buff Nation had been afforded the opportunity to watch the home team dominate a game. To dictate tempo. To control the line of scrimmage. To pick up turnovers while making none of their own.

To win going away.

Several times during the UMass game I thought to myself, “So this is what it’s like for other teams to play Colorado”.

The Buffs have been beaten up so many times in the past decade. It has become commonplace for Buff opponents to put together scoring drives seemingly at will, with a full playbook of options. First-and-tens begat second-and-threes which begat more first-and-tens as Colorado fans hoped in vain for a turnover … or at least a third down.

Not that the outcome of the Massachusetts game was a given from the outset.

In fact, well into the second quarter the game was very much in doubt. The first two Buff scores were quickly matched by Minutemen scores. A replay of the 41-38 nail-biter in Foxborough last September was seemingly all but assured.

It’s easy now to forget that on the first play of the game, UMass quarterback Brian Frohnapfel overthrew his receiver, who had gotten behind the CU coverage. Had the play been complete, it would have gone for at least 30 yards, and perhaps a touchdown.

When you are dealing with the fragile psyches of two teams used to losing, I shudder to think about how the game might have played out had that pass been complete.

The same could be said of several of Sefo Liufau’s early throws. There were a couple of near interceptions in the first half which also could have shifted momentum to the visitors’ side of the field, perhaps permanently (on a side note: Is it just me, or does it seem that the Buffs run the short out pass so often that the only logical explanation is that someone on the CU payroll gets royalties every time that play gets called?).

Oddly enough, the game turned on a play when the CU faithful were booing the loudest.

It was midway through the second quarter, with the score 24-14, Colorado. The outcome of the contest was very much in doubt, as UMass had driven to the Colorado 17-yard line, looking to once again answer a CU score. On second-and-13 from the 20, Frohnapel threw towards the Colorado endzone, with the Minuteman receiver being separated from the ball by a powerful hit by Buff defensive back Afolabi Laguda. The hit was vicious, but legal, as Laguda led with his shoulder instead of his helmet.

The back judge, though, didn’t see it that way. Not only was Laguda flagged for the hit, he was ejected from the game for targeting. This gave the ball to the Minutemen at the CU ten yard line, first-and-ten, and sent the 35,094 on hand into a frenzy. Buff fans were able to watch the replay themselves (a tip of the cap to the Pac-12 for showing controversial replays, rather than leaving the paying patrons in the dark while the television viewers get to see what the replay booth is viewing), and were unanimous that CU was the victim of a bad call.

After two incompletions, UMass faced a third-and-ten. Instead of posting a tying score, though, a Frohnapfel offering was picked off by Buff defensive back Ryan Moeller. That pick led to an eight-play, 80-yard drive for a touchdown and a 31-14 halftime lead. Though there were still thirty minutes of football to be played, the wind had been taken out of the UMass sails. The Minutemen not able to mount anything resembling a serious challenge the remainder of the game.

Brad and I left the beer garden and returned to the stadium proper as the fourth quarter began, with the Buffs now comfortably ahead 48-14. As the final stanza unfolded, the game lost its luster. Both teams were content to run up the middle to keep the clock moving. Colorado wanted to get the game over with before the Minutemen could fight their way back into the game, while UMass wanted to get the game over with so they could get on their plane back to the eastern time zone … and an atmosphere with more oxygen.

By the time the game ended, the crowd had dwindled to about the size of a spring game. After the final play and handshakes at midfield, the Buff players went over to the student section to sing the school song. The number of Buff players, though, were about equal to that of the number of students remaining in the stands.

Shortly thereafter, with the players drifting back to their new and improved locker room (cool video of the celebration here), the CU marching band played the alma mater. As is our custom, Brad and I stayed for the playing of the song, but the crowd was now down to a few hundred.

There was a single line of fans over by the band swaying to the alma mater. Over on the CU sideline, the Buff cheerleaders, strung out in a line which went from the 30-yard line to the other 30, swayed along as well, looking up into stands with a crowd totaling fewer than their number.

It was now officially time to leave.

I knew that there would be a fun night ahead.

A night of pouring over stats from the game, with a chance to do a write up of a victory instead of a defeat for the first time in almost a full calendar year, was certainly something to look forward to. I would also get to hang out with Brad and his family, taking in more football as Saturday afternoon turned into Saturday night. Some of the games we would watch would turn out the way I wanted; some would not … But I was comfortable in the notion that, regardless of the outcome of those Saturday night contests, exactly half of the teams playing would lose.

And, for once, Colorado would not be on the list of losers.

For a change, Colorado fans could enjoy remembering how the other half lived … basking in the smug glow of an easy victory.

No doubt about it. Saturday night promised to be a great deal of fun.

There was just one problem.

Standing there in Folsom Field, watching silently as the crowd of thousands turned to a hundreds, I had only one clear thought …

I didn’t want to leave.

—–

 

4 Replies to “How the Other Half Lives”

  1. Nice article Stuart. Sad about the student attendance. I think back to my student days in the early 90s and how a $35 Buffs football student season ticket was the best deal ever. Even then the student fan support doesn’t match what it is today in the SEC or Big10 — but again football is all they have.

    Back to the current-day Buffs, really happy with the win and the run game. On the flip-side of the coin, I’m worried about pass protection and overall lack of proficiency in the passing game in general. Sure I’m not alone there.

    (Hey CJBuffCo, it felt weird using just CJBuff, so I decided to have a little fun with the ID)

  2. It was nice (but strange) not be be stressed out in the 4th quarter.

    That is what it looks like when the O-line takes over a game. Some lines are good at pass blocking and some are good at run blocking. It appears that CU’s is better at run blocking.

  3. What a great feeling after a year of frustration (and yes the passing game is beyond comprehension)!! That was a physically dominating performance against essentially the same team we barely beat last year.

    We had a chance to talk to Michael Adkins at our tailgate on Saturday, and a couple of things struck me. The first is that I am extremely proud to call him a fellow alumnus. a great man and a True Buff. The second was listening to him talk about how Coach Bieniemy HATED Nebraska and that hatred came through even during the recruiting process. He regretted not having that type of rivalry with anyone. He and I talked about the 90’s and how fun it was for Buff fans. I wish that he could have experienced that atmosphere during his years as a player here. With the way things are headed, he might just get a chance as a fan.

    I certainly hope so.

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