“We’re No. 1(1)!!”

Twenty-five years ago, Colorado won the national championship. The Buffs went into the Orange Bowl as the defending Big Eight champions, and came away as the nation’s No. 1 team.

Less than fifteen years ago, Colorado was again in contention for participating in the national championship game. Instead, the BCS computers somehow figured that Nebraska, which had not won its division much less a conference championship, was more worthy to face Miami for the title than Colorado, even though the Buffs had beaten the Cornhuskers, 62-36, just two weeks earlier.

Just ten years ago, Colorado won its fourth Big 12 North title in five seasons. At the time, claiming “We’re No. 1” in the Big-12 North division didn’t seem to be all that much to crow about.

But such cheers seem like a fantasy compared to what has become of the Colorado football program … a shell of its former self.

To celebrate the 17-13 defeat of Oregon State, with the Buffs claiming the No. 11 spot in the Pac-12, sounds hollow when put up against the history of the CU program.

Yet the win should not be taken lightly.

The 17-13 win represents a small step in the progression of the program back to its former status as one of the top 25 teams in the nation.

The goals for the 2015 Colorado team were modest.

No one in the Buff Nation was predicting a national title, a conference championship, or even the crowning of the Buffs as Pac-12 South’s best team.

We knew that a team which had won all of four Pac-12 games in four seasons in the conference would be hard-pressed to win four conference games in one campaign.

Still, there were reasons for optimism as the 2015 campaign opened.

Mike MacIntyre’s resurrection of the program at San Jose State was often cited as one of those reasons. MacIntyre had taken a moribund Spartan program, and had gone from 1-12 to 5-7 to 10-2 in three years. While no one was expecting ten wins in MacIntyre’s third season in Boulder, there was reason to expect some progress.

The main goal for the Buffs in 2015 was a bowl game. With 13 games on the schedule, that meant seven wins … a daunting task. Then, when the Buffs lost to Hawai’i in the opener, that task became Herculean. Four Pac-12 wins were now required, even if the Buffs were to win its three remaining non-conference games.

Going 4-5 in Pac-12 play after going 4-32 in such games over the past four years? Not likely.

Since the opener, however, the Buffs have been able to take on its list of remaining goals, and have been able to check off some vital boxes:

Defeat the teams you are supposed to beat … Colorado did allow Massachusetts to hang around for an uncomfortable quarter-and-a-half, but the Buffs did then turn a 14-14 game into a 48-14 win, going for 290 rushing yards in coasting to victory. Against Nicholls, the game was never in doubt as the Buffs took the opening kickoff and scored, posting 636 yards of total offense in a 48-0 blowout.

A small request, asking your team to beat the teams is supposed to beat, but the Buffs haven’t been able to even do that in recent years.

Check.

Take down Colorado State, and shut the Ram fans up for the next twelve months … It wasn’t easy, as the Rocky Mountain Showdown went into overtime, but the Buffs ultimately prevailed, 27-24. Timely plays on offense, defense and special teams, against a rival on the field and a vociferous Ram crowd in the stands, gave the Buffs all the more reason to relish the victory. True enough, the Rams are not all that great this year (though they still might make a bowl in the ridiculously awful Mountain West Conference), but it is also true that CSU was coming off of a ten-win season, with Colorado coming off a ten-loss season.

A modest request, asking your team to take down its little brother, but the Buffs have struggled to do that in recent years.

Check.

Not be embarrassed by the better teams in the Pac-12 conference … Losing all of those conference games over the past four years have been bad enough, but many of them were over before halftime. Colorado was not just losing Pac-12 games – they were being flat out embarrassed week-in and week-out. Lest we forget, in Jon Embree’s last season, 2012, the Buffs went on a stretch of seven conference games where the scores were: 42-14; 51-17; 50-6; 70-14; 48-0; 56-31; and 38-3.

True enough, the Buffs were blasted a few weeks ago by Arizona State, 48-23. In the other two Pac-12 games before the Oregon State game, though, the Buffs were ahead of Arizona in the third quarter, and were tied with Oregon, 17-17, at the half.

Not fantastic results, but when you note that the cumulative halftime scores in the previous four games against Oregon totaled 164-19 … 17-17 at the break was an improvement.

Check.

End the Pac-12 losing streaks, both overall and on the road … It wasn’t pretty. Colorado was just the least worst team on the field Saturday night in Reser Stadium. Both teams had moments of success. Both teams made silly mistakes and committed costly penalties. Colorado had the ball in the fourth quarter three times with the lead. One more successful drive and the game would be won. Instead, each time the Buffs went three-and-out.

It wasn’t so much that the Buffs found a way to win the game as it was the Beavers couldn’t find a way to win.

Still, a win is a win is a win. Colorado coaches, players and fans needed to stop hearing about not winning a conference game for two years and not winning a road conference game for three. They needed to be able to see national internet postings about Bottom Ten and Bottom 25 lists … and not wonder if there team was on them.

They needed to be able to start looking forward, not back. The win over Oregon State allows for that.

Check.

So, what’s left on the 2015 to-do list for the Buffs?

Colorado is now 4-4 on the season, a pretty nice looking record for a team which went 2-10 last fall. In theory, the Buffs could still go 3-2 the rest of the way, and still earn a bowl bid. That being said, four of the five teams left on the calendar have spent time in the top ten this season, so a strong November is probably not in the offing.

As a result, the attainable goal left on the table for the Buffs is the same as when it was spelled out in ESPN’s “10 bold predictions for the Pac-12” laid out back in September:

9. Colorado will upset someone: The Buffs might not quite be at bowl-berth level yet. But they are good enough to put a scare into a few teams. And at least once this season, they are going to knock off someone that folks like us say they shouldn’t. I don’t know who. It could be a team from the South or North. But you need only to look at how close Colorado was last year to breaking through. This year, one of those close games will go the Buffs way.

The Buffs are not going to be favored in any of their remaining games (unless Washington State suddenly decides to revert back to the team which lost to Portland State in the season opener, which doesn’t appear likely). A win over UCLA, Stanford, USC, Washington State or Utah would fit the bill as the upset the Buff fans have been waiting for – make that longing for – to get the Colorado program at least back in the same conversation as being on a level playing field with other Pac-12 teams.

The “most consecutive conference losses” and “most consecutive conference road losses” postings have been put to bed, at least for now.

The Buffs, with a little help from the Oregon State Beavers, are no longer the No. 12 team in the Pac-12 conference.

We’re No. 11!

Anyone up for No. 9 or No. 10?

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15 Replies to ““We’re No. 1(1)!!””

  1. Lets Review
    Injury is a reality of football. It does not justify losses. All teams have injuries and they still have to play to win.

    We barely beat the worst team in the Pac 12. If we played OSU 2 or 3 times could we say we would for beat them every time…unlikely.

    Year 3 for Mac. Year 1 for Anderson. Should we have more dominated that team…I think so.

    Reminder, we barley beat CSU. A bad MW team.

    We are…still in the bottom of the Pac12. Maybe not the worst, but amongst the worst.

    What a bummer our situation is…beating the worst team on the road is considered PROGRESS!!!

    1. When you have gone 1-28 in your last 29 Pac-12 games, I’d have to say that yes, beating any team in the Pac-12 has to be considered progress.

  2. We won’t win another game if we keep playing so timidly on offense. I agree that it seems like the coaches are trying to run out the clock any time they get a lead in the 2nd half, and that’s just an absurd strategy. The defense is playing pretty well though, even with injuries, and they are creating a lot of turnovers. That will help keep the upcoming games close, but the offense needs to step it up.

  3. Yo Stuart,
    Nice to hear that the Buff D came up big and held onto a lead after Lindgren went to his soon to be patented strategy of trying to “run out the clock” no matter how much time is left. It seems all he needs is ANY lead after the half and he shuts down any semblance of creativity.

    The Buffs need to get real and try to score every single time they get the ball like every other decent team in the country. It doesn’t mean they have to take stupid risks, but they should looking to take any advantage they can get. All those guys on offense would sure be having a lot more fun.

    And Leavitt’s gang on D would love to be able to pin their ears back and get after the opposing QB while knowing they were ahead by a couple scores. Let the kids have some fun and the wins will be much more frequent.

    Mark
    Boulderdevil
    (From Holland)

  4. I think a useful comparison can be made between our team and Washington State. Our defenses seem like they are generally adequate but not outstanding. However, on offense, Washington State is extremely aggressive and at times prolific. As our coach has said, last year Sefo threw the ball a lot because that is what they believed was needed to compete.

    This year, we have heard hype about increases in the strength of our team and the expected improvements that would occur. It is clear that our team is more athletic and stronger that it previously was. However, due to the myriad of injuries, our running game has not met the standard we were hoping for.

    Our offense needs to throw effectively to set up the run, although I wish it was the other way around. Ultimately, we need an offense that is relentless and much more aggressive. At this point, we don’t have anything to lose this season. CU needs to change its PG rated offense into an R rated offense with an unmistakable killer instinct. Now is the time to stop being afraid of that pesky shadow.

  5. Stuart, thank you. A part of my renewed interest in the Buffs is because of this terrific blog/website.

    Being a fan is fun, even when it’s not, and I appreciate that aspect of your writing. The site my first place I want to go after games to get insightful and informative commentary. Keep up the great work!

    Crappy win, BUT I’LL TAKE IT! I love coach Mac (what a great guy!), Sefo (warrior), and the team and hope they can continue to make progress. Go Buffs!

  6. I feel the buffs are improving this year over last. I do think we would have had a much better opportunity to defeat Oregon, Arizona St and Arizona if we would have had the services of Gilliam, Irwin, Adkins, Olugbode and Carr. Now young players are getting some experience that will bode well for the future. They MUST eliminate the penalties. GO BUFFS!!!!!

  7. progress has been set back by injuries to some key players….Irwin, Gilliam. Atkins.
    Buffs need to open the offense up a bit. Being way too scared to make mistakes is getting in the way. Playing not to lose especially in the 4qtr is getting real annoying

  8. Let the coaches and players enjoy the win, but this had to be the most frustrating victory I’ve ever watched. It’s hard to say CU football has shown much progress this season after the performance in this game. I think we all expected to see more from the Buffs vs. a lesser opponent.

    Again I sat there mystified at what the CU coaches think they are trying to accomplish. Yes, the defense is doing all they can, but the missed assignments and wide-open receivers has to start converging. There is so much promise on the offense. Donovan Lee should be the #2 running back, period. TE Irwin is a beast with great hands. These are just two examples. It’s disappointing to see so much potential underutilized on the current offensive schemes.

  9. Stuart I completely agree, the Buffs did not win this game they just forgot to find a way to lose it.

    I think Mac is doing a great job and his love for his team and his desire to produce good men as well as football players was evident in his emotion and postgame comments last night.

    However, I did not expect us to be one throw away from losing to OSU 20-17 in the fourth quarter. I expected a 35-14 (ish) final score. Our defense did its job and then some. Our offense was a disaster. We played down to their level. Holding penalties, false starts, that idiotic pitch backwards to the running back, overall predictable and often bad play calling leaves me with one conclusion.

    Something must be done on the offensive side of the ball.

    The Buffs should have put this one away by getting a least a field goal on the last possession but instead we did 3 extremely ineffective and predictable runs up the middle and then prayed our defense would once again bail us out of our offensive ineptitude.

    I am not sure where the change needs to be made.

    Sefo plays his heart out taking more vicious hits in 2 games then most QBs take all season. He seems more comfortable than most would be behind our tissue paper of an offensive line. And I am not sure we have a better option.

    Perhaps its the O-line. Not enough size? Not enough talent? Maybe we just wait until we can recruit better talent? The blame is at least partially Bernardi’s. Our offensive line fundamentals do not seem to be solid, that has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with coaching and discipline.

    The popular default critique of a sputtering offense is always the offensive coordinator (following the QB). While I have not been impressed by the offensive play calling this year I find it hard to believe that Lindgren would suddenly regress so drastically from the gains made last season.

    My question to you all is what should be done offensively? Anyone have data that can clearly define the problem or a realistic solution to change it?

    1. I do not believe cu has the right people to run the zone read offense. I think we do have the players to run a pro set with sefo under center. This seems pretty evident to me having watched the games. I am not sure why lindgren is so set on the zone read. The sign of a great coach in my mind is adapting to the players you have. I get it that his offense will work if this player or that player on any given play would do their job better. The problem is he doesn’t have players that can consistently execute that offense. It is not their fault, they just do not have those talents. But what I have seen is that they can run a pro offense. Sefo is a fine runner so long as you don’t expect him to go the distance, as a roll out quarterback he is good but he is not the same as the good zone read quarterbacks because he is not a threat to go the distance with his feet. I love Lindsey and lee and Carr have some potential but none of them are spread running backs. Spread running backs have a combination of speed, vision, and tenacity that our three do not have. They are good backs but not in that offense. The line is young and with Irwin out and when kronshag gets hurt it is tough. But across the board we are not good at pulling and blocking in space. Watch and see how often we have a pulling line man and they never effectively block someone at the point of attack. All of them are pretty good in straight run blocks and both Frazier and Powell are great at blocking in space as lead blockers. Lindgren has pro style offense plays. These kids can and have executed on them. Put Sefo under center. Let Lindsey and the running backs get a head of steam as the run into the line. Let the line block straight forward and let a lead blocker from Frazier or Powell lead at the point of attack. Then let Sefo run play action. This will slow down the rush. Even more than the zone read. In addition it will slow down the linebackers as they have to respect the run but if that is all they respect Irwin can get wide open and you slants and crosses get more open. Watch the au game. Almost every long scoring drive had a significant amount of plays run from the pro set. When our offense died we were running almost exclusively from the shot gun. We scored only 17 points in the last game. We ran almost exclusively from the shotgun. It seems like a simple conclusion.

      Oh and one last thing. Find a running back and stick with him unless he is hurt, or tired. Lindsey should be it unless Adkins comes back. Running backs need to be in the flow of the game, rotating them I think hurts more than it helps as they need to get a feel for the holes.

    2. Liufau’s biggest problem (and I actually am a Liufau fan) is that he is not going thru his reads…. he locks on a single receiver or is calling his own number as soon as he sees that a receiver is not yet open. That is not good. But last year, in the second half of the season, he was good at going thru his reads. So I don’t know if I blame it on Liufau regressing, or on the fact the O-line provides him no time and he just panics. Either way, they need to work with him to get thru his reads more quickly.

      As far as play calling, we also need some quick strike stuff. You hardly see any of those called, yet with a porous O-line, that is what we need to do some short passes over the middle. And if I see any more east-west running out of our running backs, I’m going to need a new TV because my remote will be smashed thru my current one. Stupid call that our OC keeps dialing up for some inexplicable reason!

  10. From year one to year two under MacIntyre there was noticeable progress. Progress was expected in year three. The team has not made much progress this season, and it has been a disappointment. I will take the win and move from 12 to 11, but I expected more. Not sure the 2015 Buffs “have it” to pull the upset.

    1. This coaching staff is light years ahead of where a national championship staff were in their third year. It takes a minimum of 4 years to rebuild, I would say this team is right where they should be.

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