“It Just Wasn’t Meant to Be”

The 2015 Colorado football season opened with a blocked punt in a game played late at night in the tropics.

The 2015 Colorado football season closed with a sack and a fumble in a game played on a snowy afternoon in the mountains.

In between Alex Kinney’s blocked punt in the first minutes of the Hawai’i game and Jordan Gehrke’s fumble sealing the Buffs’ fate in the Utah game, the Buff Nation was led on a roller coaster of emotion, from hope to despair, from elation to frustration.

The net result: a 4-9 season, the 10th-straight losing campaign for a program which, in its history, had never before endured more than six consecutive losing seasons.

Yet there we were at the conclusion of the Utah game, hoping against hope, that when the Buffs took over at their own 19-yard line with 2:48 remaining, down 20-14, that this would be the game, this would be the time, that Colorado finally broke through and won a game it wasn’t supposed to win. A 5-8 record wouldn’t have sent the Buffs to a bowl, but it would have made the next nine months of waiting for the 2016 Rocky Mountain Showdown just a bit more palatable.

But, deep down, we knew better.

We had been through this many times in the past few seasons, only to come up short … every time.

If we had a chance to look objectively at what we were asking of the Colorado offense in that final drive, we would have not have been surprised nor upset with the outcome.

At quarterback was Jordan Gehrke, a career backup who had lost the number two position earlier in the season to a red-shirt freshman.

Gehrke was giving the ball at the outset of the drive to Jaleel Awini, who opened the 2015 season as the starting strong-side (SAM) outside linebacker.

Gehrke was being protected by an offensive line which had only one starter – center Alex Kelley – remain in his position as a starter through the season.

Gehrke was keeping the drive alive by throwing to Bryce Bobo, who had exactly zero catches the previous two games, and who was averaging less than two receptions per game during the season.

This was the patchwork Colorado offense looking for an 81-yard touchdown drive … on the road … against one of the better defenses in the Pac-12.

Yet it is a testament to our belief in the progress of the team that we still believed – hoped – that the final drive of the 2015 season would end successfully.

“It seemed like every game was a recurring theme,” senior wide receiver Nelson Spruce said. “Not being able to finish. … I really thought this last game with our seniors going off might be something special, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”

There will be much rehashing of the Buffs’ nine losses during the upcoming months:

– The season-opening 28-20 loss to Hawai’i, a team which finished the season 3-10 and in search of a new coach, will be noted as the ringing of the death knell for the Buffs’ 2015 campaign … before the country had even reached the Labor Day weekend.

– The 24-17 lead the Buffs took into the fourth quarter against Arizona, only to lose, 38-31.

– The rally against UCLA in the Rose Bowl, with the Buffs taking a 31-28 lead after trailing 28-13 … only to fall, 35-31.

– The 17-3 second quarter lead against USC, with the Trojans coming back to steal a 27-24 win.

And then was the Utah game.

Two trips inside the ten yard line on the first two drives of the game, only to come away scoreless after a blocked field goal and an interception. The four turnovers. The missed opportunities. The all too familiar walk to the locker room after another close loss.

“I don’t know if ‘frustrating’ is even a word we can use anymore,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said.

There plenty of other words – and phrases – which have been used up over the past two seasons to try and describe the status of the Colorado football program.

Over the past two campaigns, I have posted essays with the following headlines:

– “We can play at this level” – 38-24 loss to No. 16 Arizona State, 2014;

– Learning What it Takes – 59-56 double-overtime loss to Cal, 2014:

– “There Are No Moral Victories” – 36-31 loss to Oregon State; 2014;

– “Just Keep Believing, and We’ll Keep Battling” – 38-23 loss to Washington, 2014;

– Reading Between the Lines – 38-20 loss to No. 19 Arizona; 2014

– Sisyphus – 48-23 loss to Arizona State; 2015

– Shades of Grey – 38-31 loss to Arizona; 2015

– Colorado’s “Glass Ceiling” – 35-31 loss to UCLA; 2015

– “We’re Just Not Able to Finish” – 27-24 loss to USC; 2015

And now, thanks to senior wide receiver Nelson Spruce, we have yet another clichéd headline to add to the list of frustration: “It Just Wasn’t Meant to Be”.

There will be plenty of time to digest and debate the past 13 weeks of Colorado football. After all, there are 270 days – nine full months – before the September 3rd game against Colorado State.

But it also won’t take long before we start looking to the future:

– Will the coaching staff remain in tact? (Probably not, as special teams coordinator Toby Neinas and almost every other offensive coach not named Troy Walters appear to be on the list of coaches Buff fans wish to see replaced);

– Will the Buffs be able to find six wins out of next season’s schedule? (Ten teams the Buffs will face next year will be getting in their extra bowl practices this December, with only Oregon State and Idaho State from the 2016 slate also done for the year);

– Will Colorado be able to produce a decent recruiting Class? (Not according to any rankings. The CU Recruiting Class of 2016 is already set to be small – 14-16 likely – which means that, even if the Buffs were to sign a series of three- and four-star recruits, the Class would still be ranked well below schools who will ink Classes of 24-26 recruits on the first Wednesday in February).

“We’re so close … so close,” said junior safety Tedric Thompson after the Utah game. “Everyone says that, and I hate it — but I’m saying it, too. But this team made a lot of strides and we have to have everyone buying it for next year. I’m mad the season is over — but everyone has to have that same attitude for next year.”

Next year.

Always next year.

Cal, under Sonny Dykes, broke through this year, in year three of his tenure at Berkeley.

Washington State, under Mike Leach, broke through this year, in year four of his tenure in Pullman.

Perhaps next year it will be Colorado’s turn.

Perhaps next year, the Buffs will start winning all of these close games they have been losing.

Perhaps next year, the CU offense will have a dynamic quarterback who can lead the Buffs in critical moments, and have a defense which will rise to the occasion at the end of the game.

Perhaps next year.

All we know for certain it that it wasn’t this year.

All we can say about 2015 is that it is over, and that Colorado finished with a 4-9 record.

As CU’s record-setting wide receiver Nelson Spruce put it … it just wasn’t meant to be.


11 Replies to ““It Just Wasn’t Meant to Be””

  1. Also, when there were rumblings out of LSU that Les Miles might be canned, did anyone else think Rick George should have to on the phone to Les immediately? Miles always felt like the CU Head Coach that should have been.

  2. Well, Nelson Spruce put it best. With the schedule they have next year, the Buffs will be HARD pressed to make a bowl game. This was the year, with the soft OOC, schedule where they were to run off 6-7 wins and build some momentum. Bowl game or not, this team ended their season playing exactly as they did in the FIRST game. Same bad play calling, poor execution, untimely mistakes and offensive ineptitude. The worry here is that the Buffs have already wasted the momentum they derived from the “excitement” of new uniforms, new facilities, etc. We’ll see come NSD in February but I won’t be holding my breath.

  3. The offense was why we had only four wins. Changes need to be made offensively. Get a Leavitt style hire on the offensive side of the ball.

  4. McIntyre plays his “favorites” which has hurts us in wins, sitting miserably in the stands as season ticket holders. He is like a high school coach. Bobo is a playmaker. Hardly played. Frazier is a weapon. Very few touches. I really was impressed with the Gehrke/Awini during the series switch off. Went right down the field and actually scored in the red zone! . Of coarse, McIntyre didn’t do something that worked on the next series. But blames everyone else. And of coarse, his kid was back there returning punts. Luckily, their All American kicked to Spruce every punt. Mcintyre has to earn his $2 million and put his favoritism aside and play the playmakers. Make no mistake about it. I know Rick George said he is coming back. But there are many, and I mean many, that want Mcintyre gone.

  5. The negative, is the lack of talent. In particular on the o and d lines. Everyone that beat us had better athletes, especially along the line. Furthermore,I see no reason to believe next year will be different. We have heard the same tune this time of year for 10 straight seasons not just 3 and if you did take the time to read the kisla article that was the point. The bar is set at “oh I hope we can go .500 and make bowl” that’s garbage. As fans we certainly should expect better than the complete crap that has been produced. There comes a point where it is simply unacceptable, to quote Dan Hawkins “no excuses”. Fix this, and fix it now. I have been attending games since the mid 90s and I am about to give up on this team. No more waiting until next year, no more excuses for poor performance or lack of talent. Get it done now, win now, or I am done. And I imagine there are many like me.

  6. The good from this season:
    1. The defense played like a PAC12 defense for the first time. Leavitt shows all the signs of turning that squad into a monster squad that will come tpo be feared.
    2. We got some key recruits that may be able to contribute quickly.
    3. We are not getting blown out. Kizla is a jag off. I have watched nearly every Buff game throughout this brutal decade and at the bottom of the Hawkins era and the disaster of the Embry era we were getting blown out so bad that by the second half the teams we faced this year in the Pac12 had their benches cleared and they were still scoring on us. This year they had their 1st team in at the end and were sweating it out in the vast majority of games.
    4. We are still young and we are keeping our young players at a much higher rate than we have pre-Mac.

    The negatives:
    1. The offense was way too predictable.
    2. The coaches still had horrible clock management on the offensive side of the ball.
    3. The special teams play broke down in some critical situations.
    4. We still have too many players playing that are not play makers. No need to embarrass the kids with specific names but we need those kids to work like crazy in the off season or we need to recruit kids to replace them.

    I know that year three is supposed to be the big year and at San Jose State that was the big turn around year. But the Pac12 is not the Mountain West. It is going to take more to complete this turn around but MacIntyre and his staff (Yes even Bear and Lingren) were the right people to start that process. The kids gave up on Embry and Hawkins multiple times. Mac and team kept the kids fighting and pushing which is the first step of digging out of the hole we were in. The question facing the administration is do they think Mac is the right person to continue leading this turn-around. I hope they do because I believe he is. What I have come to believe is that Lindgren is over his head at the OC level in the PAC12. I hate arguing for someone to be let go but the kids deserve a change. There were too many mistakes at his level and an inability to adapt. Whoever is responsible for the running back by committee must go as well. We need a coach who is willing to pick one kid over the others. I am sory but in football there are favorities and you get paid to make that decision. The offensive line is a question mark for me. They were riddled by injuries, I will give them that but there was too many pays where I saw kids running around trying to figure out who to block. This could be experience. This could be coaching. The negative I see is Nembott who has all the physical and mental skills to be a great tackle and I still saw mistakes coming from him he should have been coached out of. I am on the fence on this one. Walters needs to stay. What he has done with Spruce and fields was awesome. Fields is still playing on a bad ankle his year. I expect him to return to form next year. You cannot place Ross’s drops on Walters Ross just has bad hands (Though he will always have a place in my heart because of the spectacular catch vs CSU). On Neinas I think we need to let him go. Though the special teams coninues to get better I think it is the recruiting aspect. Getting kickers and punters to punt here at altitude should mean that we always have some of the best punters and kickers in the game. We don’t, so regardless of performance on the field I think he needs to go.
    The defensive coaches all get another year under Leavitt. I am excited to see what this unit can become. I also think that unless major progress is made next season and a few wins in the PAC12 early in the schedule then we need to keep Leavitt as he should become the interim head coach.

    After all of the heart break of this season I think we continued to climb. We continued to get better and I have hope for next season. I do think we need a change in the coaching ranks but not a complete change.

    These young men need to keep believing and keep working. This next off-season is going to be key to our overall future because we need to continue getting better. I believe we have the kids to finish the turn around. Now we need to give them an edge in coaching. Here is hoping Mac can go find the offensive version of Leavitt and convince him to come here.

    Go Buffs!

    1. Pretty fair assessment.

      I would add that it seems like Leavitt can recruit. As I recall, he already has some good Florida and Georgia players giving verbals. Getting Leavitt last year was a coup.

      I would also add that Mac is pretty smart. He changed DCs last year, so I hope he has the courage to do it again this year with the Special Teams and OC.

      Seems like you do not need to recruit from the big schools to get a decent Special Teams guy. Surely there is someone out there who has “it” and would love to come to Colorado.

      With OC, I am torn as to where we should go, but I would rather get someone who is a big time recruiter and can run a flawless, pro style offense, with a power running game and some sort of Kubiak-style zone blocking, with some wrinkles for the college game and to suit the altitude…like a hurry up run game that keeps the same D on the field and just keeps pounding it at them. I always thought the wishbone worked well in Colorado, at least in part, because of the continuous pounding at altitude, that eventually wore teams out.

      Mac needs Someone who is extremely detail oriented and will drill the mistakes right out of these players. That’s one thing I did not like the past few years when I have gone up to watch practices. They seem to not really run plays until they are perfect. I swear our High School coaches had our teams more well-versed in our plays than these guys. Run the same play 30 freakin’ times in a row until the offense gets it, every single player,PERFECT at least a couple of times in a row. Even my Division II rugby teams would drill more than these guys. Who knows, maybe they did do that, but I never saw it. I think it was in one of Malcolm Gladwell’s books that you have to do something 10,000 times before you are an expert.

  7. What a disappointing season. Offense really regressed, need to make a change there. I was inspired by how our defense improved. Definitely keep Leavitt around. Now it’s time for some basketball, they seem to be playing well so far this year. go buffs

  8. Spot on Stuart, somebody on this staff or the next staff has got to be able to start landing some good recruits. Average players are not going to get it done. I commend Coach Mac for having his team play hard and stay out of trouble but he just is not getting the talent in here that is needed to win the PAC 12. I’m afraid Coach Mac has reached his glass ceiling.

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