Shades of Silver Grey

I get it.

I understand that when Nike U. ran out of new ways to spend money that it came up with the concept of 849 uniform combinations, forcing every other school to follow suit in the never ending battle to lure recruits.

I understand that it is fun for the players to get to choose their uniform color combinations, and that it is exciting to wear new and varied uniforms.

Hell, I even understand that the official school colors of the University of Colorado are silver and gold, so silver uniforms are a natural fit for a program looking to expand its wardrobe.

But the all silver uniforms the Buffs trotted out for their Homecoming game against Arizona were not dynamic, exciting or inspiring.

They were just as dull and lifeless … much like the CU program for the past ten seasons.

I was hoping that this weekend’s essay would be about “Silver Linings”, but, after the 38-31 loss to Arizona, this morning is all about feeling “Battleship Gray”.

Colorado stands at 3-4 overall, but Buff fans know the overall record is a mirage. The real record is 0-3, the Buffs’ Pac-12 conference record. In the final six games of the season, there are no re-matches with Nicholls and UMass, only more Pac-12 foes who all seem to have the Buffs’ number.

As we hit the midway point of the season, and start the turn for another “home for the holidays” December, let’s assess where the Buffs stand:

Quarterback:

Silver Linings … One of the mandates for Sefo Liufau this season was to cut down on the turnovers. In 2014, Liufau threw 15 interceptions and lost three fumbles. To date in 2015, Liufau has thrown only three interceptions and lost only one fumble – mission accomplished. With his 339 yards passing against Arizona, Liufau has moved into third place on the all-time CU passing yards list, with 6,709.

Battleship Gray … Liufau has been frustratingly inconsistent this fall. Whether it is due to an injured shoulder, poor play calling, or a make-shift offensive line, Liufau has failed to produce with games on the line. Liufau’s move into third place on the all-time passing yardage list bumped the previous No. 3, Kordell Stewart. In his years at CU, Stewart went 27-5-1 as a starter; Liufau is 7-18. If he remains in the lineup, Liufau will end up as CU’s all-time leading passer, taking the title from Cody Hawkins … who was 11-17 as a starter.

This just in … passing yards don’t equal victories.

Running backs:

Silver Linings … Phillip Lindsay has emerged as a leader of the team, both on and off the field. Against Arizona, Lindsay had 20 carries for 91 yards, giving him 414 yards for the season. True freshman Patrick Carr has shown flashes.

Battleship Gray … The Buffs went for 128 yards rushing against the Wildcats (while Arizona ran for 291 yards). At halftime, Phillip Lindsay had 15 carries for 70 yards. In the first drive of the second half, Lindsay had three straight carries in the red zone, taking the Buffs from the Arizona 15 yard line to the Arizona four, setting up Sefo Liufau’s scoring run on the next play, giving the Buffs the lead. On CU’s next five drives, all of which ended in punts, Lindsay had a grand total of four carries. You tell me …

Wide Receivers:

Silver Linings … Shay Fields is coming into his own. With eight catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns, Fields had his second 100-yard game in three weeks (the other coming against Oregon).

Battleship Gray … and we might not see Fields the rest of the year. Fields was injured on his second touchdown catch, and, with CU’s new non-disclosure policy, we may not know if Fields will return in 2015 until or unless he is placed on the out-for-the-season injury report. Meanwhile, pre-season Biletnikoff Award watch list candidate Nelson Spruce has gone into the witness protection program. Good for a half dozen seven yard outs per game, Spruce has now gone ten straight games without a 100-yard effort, and has all of three touchdowns in his last 14 games.

Offensive Line:

Silver Linings … The Buffs have been able to experiment with a large number of offensive line groupings … That’s it. That’s all I’ve got.

Battleship Gray … When the offense is struggling, it’s easy to blame the quarterback (see above). It is also easy to blame the play-calling of the offensive coordinator (Brian Lindgren). But at the end of the day, none of it matters unless you get solid play from the offensive line, and the Buffs’ offensive line has been horrendous. The Buffs gave up 23 sacks all of last season, but have surrendered 19 in the first seven games of 2015. The loss of left tackle Jeromy Irwin for the season during the Colorado State game cannot be understated, as the lineup has been in flux ever since. In the fourth quarter, Arizona was rushing only three defensive linemen against the Buffs. Colorado even held in a running back, giving the Buffs six players to block three … and yet the Wildcats were still consistently able to harass Liufau. Say what you want about Liufau and Lindgren, but when the defense has the luxury of having eight defenders to cover four receivers, your offense is going to struggle.

Defensive Line:

Silver Linings … When the opposition goes for 291 yards rushing, with a 6.6 yards per carry average, it’s hard to find good thing to say. Still, the Buff defensive line held its own for much of the game. Pac-12 opponents had scored in 13 straight quarters before Arizona went scoreless in the second, and the back-to-back scoreless quarters in the second and third marked just the second time since CU joined the league (the 2011 Utah game being the other) in which the defense held a Pac-12 opponent scoreless for over 30 minutes.

Battleship Gray … Other than the middle part of the game, the Colorado defense was its usual self … getting gashed. The Wildcats were held under 100 yards in both the second and third quarters, but went for 227 in the first quarter – putting up 17 points – and went for 227 yards in the fourth quarter – putting up 21 more. The first four opponents of the 2015 season were all held to 28 points or less. Pac-12 opponents, meanwhile, have scored 41, 48, and 38.

Linebackers:

Silver Linings … Grant Watanabe made his first career start in his first collegiate game, leading the Buffs with nine tackles and a sack. Watanabe is just the second true freshman to start at inside linebacker for the Buffs in the past ten years, with the other being Addison Gillam.

Battleship Gray … and now future Buff opponents have film on Watanabe. Without the leading tacklers for the past two seasons – Addison Gillam and Kenneth Olugbode – in the lineup, the linebacker corps has been an exposed unit. Teams attack weaknesses, and the inexperienced linebackers for Colorado are an undeniable weakness. No slight to the efforts of Watanabe, Rick Gamboa, and N.J. Falo, who all may become great linebackers for the Buffs … but they can’t handle all that is being thrown at them by the sophisticated offenses of the Pac-12.

Defensive Backs:

Silver Linings … The Colorado secondary has shown great improvement when compared to the results posted by the 2014 unit. The Buffs managed only three interceptions all of last year, and did not post a single pick in the final nine games. The Arizona game, conversely, was the first game of the 2015 season without an interception, with the Buffs collecting nine in the first seven games.

Battleship Gray … Arizona came into the Colorado game averaging 231.7 yards passing per game, but left Folsom with 325 passing yards and two touchdowns. Completions of 44, 34, and 34 yards by the Wildcat offense in the first seven minutes of the game set the tone for the contest. Once again, the Buff secondary was burned early, leaving the team with yet another hole to dig out of the remainder of the game.

Special Teams:

Silver Linings … Don’t look now, but what was supposed to be a real question mark for the team has become one of its better units. Diego Gonzalez did miss a 43-yard attempt against Arizona, but is a more than respectable 9-of-13 for the season, including 6-of-8 from beyond 40 yards. Punter Alex Kinney got off to the worst start to a career imaginable, having his first-ever punt blocked in the opener, but he has recovered, and did his job against Arizona, with eight punts for a 42.9 yard average, including three punts placed inside the Wildcats’ twenty yard line.

Battleship Gray … The next time the Buffs get a punt return, take a picture. Jay MacIntyre had a 31 yard return a few weeks ago, with those 31 yards making up 31 of the total of 49 yards in punt returns CU has for the season. The Buffs still ranked in the 100’s nationally in net punting and punt returns.

Coaching:

Silver Linings … The additions of Jim Leavitt as the defensive coordinator and Joe Tumpkin as the safeties coach have been positives. The defensive numbers in Pac-12 games may not reflect all of the benefits, but the fact that CU was 17-17 at half against Oregon (after being down a cumulative 164-19 at the break in the previous four games), and 17-17 at the half against Arizona help Buff fans believe that some corners are being turned, and that there remains reason for optimism in future games and seasons.

Battleship Gray … Much has already been said about head coach Mike MacIntyre’s “guarantee” of a victory over Arizona at the Friday night pep rally on Pearl Street the night before the game. While some will see it as false bravado and potential bulletin board material for the opposition, I saw it for what it was – MacIntyre caught up in the emotion of the moment, and, if calculated, it was meant as much as a challenge for his own players as it was any slight to the Wildcats.

Fact is, Mike MacIntyre and is staff have to figure out a way to win games. When the opposition scores at will to open the contest, that is on the game plan, which is on the coaches. When your offense strings together five straight punts with the game still in doubt, that is on the coaches.

The Oregon State game now becomes the most important game of the 2015 season, and perhaps Mike MacIntyre’s stay at Colorado. A win, and the Pac-12 conference losing streak (not to mention the Pac-12 conference road losing streak) comes to an end. A loss, with games against UCLA and Stanford up next (both have 56-14 feels to them, don’t they?), and the calls for a change in coaches will grow louder and louder.

Gray will turn to black for this team and this coaching staff if they don’t post a win over the Beavers.

And I’m not talking about the color of the uniforms …

—–

 

10 Replies to “Shades of Grey”

  1. Good read, Stuart. I know they are looking better and all, but it is still depressing to watch this endless string of losses.
    I like the comment about Lindsay carrying the ball more, along with some of the reader’s comments about better utilizing the talent we have on offense. This O line is better at run blocking than pass blocking, and Sefo is getting shellacked, so let’s run the ball more and utilize the play action (and, yes, Sefo needs to sell the run better).
    I am not a big fan of the blah gray unis, either. How about a gold helmet, black jersey, silver (gray) pants look if they insist on wearing the gray?
    Anyway, I remain a loyal fan and season ticket holder, but I’ve given up on seeing anymore wins this year.

  2. NW Buff have to agree with you on alot of what you said . time for the Buffs to changes along with thier attuide and coaches and recruits .they gave what it took to win but just couldnt get over the top and win . All they can do is keep trying I really believe that this coaching staff has the team headed in the right way.

  3. I have had an epiphany about cu. the issue with our offense is not that the offense as a whole will not work. The issue is that it will not work with the players we have now. That is not to say we have bad athletes. Actually I think we have pretty good athletes they are just not suited for this offense. The zone read offense needs a quarterback who is a threat with his feet to go the distance. I love Sefo and think he is tough and has a good arm but he is not a threat with his feet to go the distance. A zone read offense needs a running back that is explosive, has great vision, is fast and is tough to bring down. I love our running backs but while Adkins is potentially these he is not durable enough. Lindsey is tough to bring down, has reasonably good vision but he is not fast enough, Powell is not fast enough nor does he have the vision, Carr may be fast enough but he is still too young and goes down to easy and he doesn’t have the vision yet. A zone read line needs to be able to block in space really well. Our line is just not good at that yet.

    All of that said I think our guys can win now. They just can’t win in this offense against good competition. The coaches MUST adapt their offense to their players. Go to a pro set with good play action and roll out throws. It will slow the pass rush down a bit, simplify sefo’s reads a bit. I think Sefo was built for a pro style offense though. Lindsey will make a great downhill runner. His style will be rough when he is crashing through the line 20 times a game with a 6 yard head start. I believe our line is pretty powerful in straight forward blocking. I don’t see them getting blown backward often and when they block straight forward the point of attack seems to be pretty good. The issues I see is when they have to do complex blocks in space or pull long distances. Simplify it for them and then use Frazier and Powell for the more complex lead blocks.

    I think these guys can win now but our coaches need to adapt to what they have and run a pro style offense.

  4. Very accurate insight Stuart. I agree with your assessment. My additions are that Sefo really telegraphs his primary target area and he has all season ( my seats are corner end zone and high). Also, he doesn’t follow thru with the QB nature after a handoff. He hands off the ball and then watches, what ever happened to the follow through action after hand off to fake that he might still have the ball? The o line has moments of commanding the line of scrimmage but then they play like the JV squad. Pass protection of 5 on 3 defenders is pathetic, the tackles get beat end around and get to the QB from behind. They do not sustain a pass block, the sacking comes from the outside. Our Defensive line is so quick to read where the ball appears to go that a counter play and ISO are easy blocks for the opponent o line. We got sealed up on counters the second half and that killed us. I’ve bee a season tix holder 25+ yr and the past 9 yrs are making question if I really want to go to the games anymore, I can watch on TV and buy better bourbon for armchair quarterbacking.

  5. I sat in the empty student section endzone last evening. The buffs lack of depth is starting to show. Our first string players look the equal of other squads in terms of size and athleticism, but our lack of depth at linebacker, only because of age may I add, showed last might. It will be taken advantage of constantly for the rest of the season. But don’t give up on this team, I am seeing fight and a sense of pride that I haven’t seen since the early 20000’s out of any buffs players.

  6. Stuart,
    I thought this was a accurate overview in Silver, Gray and Black.

    A few quick impressions from the coast. I really thought/felt that we would win this game, not because of the verbal ‘guarantee’; but, because the players were taking the on emotional attitude to produce a win.

    Did we get our guaranteed WIN? NO!! Are we currently last in the Pac 12 South Yes! Are we still, year after year, completely out of all of our PAC 12 games after 2 quarters? NoWay!!

    This program has made some progress, we no longer are an ‘it’s all over by the 1st quarter or half’’ team and as hard as it is for me to say this, we still have a couple of seasons to go before our Buffs are a consistent Bowl Eligible Team.

    What I watched yesterday was a team that finally earned, a lead and emotionally didn’t know how to handle it or what to do with it; a characteristic of a program that has been losing for a long time; not just a season or two but a decade. Even our poor 1st Quarter starts, are more reminiscent of ‘stage fright’ than being unprepared to preform.

    That being said, I also saw a coaching staff, that seemed to become tentative and I think that is the very last thing this squad needed yesterday to build a winning psyche. Playing not to lose, is not the same as pushing yourself to win. Poor execution and blown assignments are one thing, inept schemes are a whole different kettle of fish.

    However, I am not going to throw the current coaching staff (well, maybe 2-3) under the bus while we turn this program around, just because the wins are not what I expected at this point.

    This program is still recovering from more than a decade of self inflicted wounds and I am not about to abandon it during the long recovery process.

    This is our current Buff era!! Not what we want and I agree a victory over OSU is now a “MUST WIN”; which by the way, will not go over well with some of my relatives! So BE IT!!!! GO BUFFS!!!

  7. Yo Stuart,

    After swearing off the Buffs until Lindgren is gone last weekend, I got gifted the opportunity to catch the Arizona game from a suite high atop Folsom. I thought I would pass on some priceless comments from a group of ladies I was talking with during the pregame warm-ups.

    “Colorado is not going to wear those ugly grey things during the game, are they?”

    “I guess I should have worn my glasses, you can barely see them out there.”

    “Whatever happened to Black and Gold? I liked those colors. All grey is a bad choice if you ask me.”

    I just thought the Buff brass would like to know what those folks up in the luxury boxes think of the product Colorado is putting on the field.

    Mark
    Boulderdevil

  8. That was rough. I really thought we had it going into the 4th. These guys work hard and I just wish they could taste a PAC-12 win. It would go a long way. Hoping we show up and finish against Beavers.

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