Giving Thanks

The 2016 Redemption Tour by your Colorado Buffaloes continued this weekend with yet another victory. Before a national television audience on Fox, No. 12 Colorado took down No. 20 Washington State, 38-24, to run its record to 9-2, 7-1 in Pac-12 play.

There are, of course, the latest additions to the list of “not since” or “first time since” to add to the ever-growing pile of superlatives being posted by these Buffs … First win over a ranked team since 2009 … First five-game winning streak since 2002 … First nine-win season since 2002 … First 5-0 home record since 1994 …

And that’s before we get to the heroics of the individual players.

Rather than pile on the statistics, though, let’s talk about this historic ride, and what it means to those closest to the fray … the coaches and players who are making this run possible.

First, there is head coach Mike Macintyre and his coaching staff.

The meteoric rise of the Buffs this fall is looking more and more like the seismic shift the program took in 1985.

That season, in the fourth year under Bill McCartney, Colorado went from a dismal 1-10 record in 1984 to a 7-5 season, ending a stretch of six straight losing campaigns. McCartney, for his part, was named national Coach of the Year.

This season, in the fourth year under Mike MacIntyre, Colorado has gone from a disappointing 4-9 record in 2015 to a 9-2 season, ending a stretch of ten straight losing campaigns. MacIntyre, for his part, is looking more and more like a lock to be named national Coach of the Year.

There’s no way of knowing for certain whether or not MacIntyre would have had this much success without the addition of co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini this year, and defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt last season.

But most observers would say it would have been highly unlikely.

This fall, Mike MacIntyre, at just over $2 million per year, is the lowest paid head coach in the Pac-12. His contract runs through the 2018 season.

CU athletic director Rick George did not get to his position, and foster as much success as he has at Colorado, by not understanding what’s at stake here. Mike MacIntyre’s resume indicates he has an overall record at CU of 19-29 (35-50 counting his stint at San Jose State). The win over Washington State was his first over a ranked team in 13 attempts at Colorado (and now 1-19 overall, counting his 0-6 record against ranked teams while the coach at San Jose State).

Not great numbers to the casual observer, but football fans understand how this works … Mike MacIntyre is a hot hand, and he has now successfully resurrected two programs in the past seven seasons.

There could be offers from other schools … and it’s up to Rick George to keep MacIntyre wearing CU’s black-and-gold.

The same holds true for keeping DC Jim Leavitt and co-OC Darrin Chiaverini. The better the Buffs do, the more national attention CU receives. The more attention CU receives, the more other schools take note of how well these coaches have done in Boulder, and have done so in a very short time span – an enticement for those schools looking to get better sooner rather than later.

Here’s a modest proposal: CU was budgeting for around 40,000 fans per game this fall. The average for the first five games is over 45,000. That’s over 5,000 extra tickets per game, multiplied times six home games (Utah will draw at least 45,000). At an average of say, $50/ticket, that’s $250,000 extra revenue per game. For six games, that would be an extra $1.5 million in the coffers from ticket sales alone. Add in concessions, parking and apparel sales, and you’ve got a nice little nest egg with which to try and retain a coaching staff which, for at least one season, has it all figured out.

(Yes, this a gross over-simplification, but the reality is that winning teams bring in more revenue … and winning teams need to pony up to keep their coaches).

Which brings me to the players.

Now, we can’t offer the players a raise, but we can offer them our support.

If you are planning on going to the Utah game next Saturday (5:30 p.m., MT, Fox), do me a favor, and go a little early.

I’m not talking about getting there in time to watch Ralphie run. I’m talking about getting there in time to cheer on the seniors as they are being introduced.

There are 24 seniors who will be running out behind Raphie for the final time next Saturday. Many will receive long – and deserved – ovations. Defensive stalwarts like Chidobe Awuzie, Ahkello Witherspoon, Jimmie Gilbert, Kenneth Olugbode and Tedric Thompson will all get loud receptions. Other familiar names, like center Alex Kelley, tight end Sean Irwin, defensive linemen Josh Tupou and Jordan Carrell, and linebacker Ryan Severson, will also receive prolonged applause.

Then there will be the introduction of Sefo Liufau. The ovation will be – and should be – loud and long. The holder of 84 school records (and counting), Liufau long ago won over the CU locker room. He has now completely won over the Buff Nation, with cheers of “Sefo! Sefo! Sefo!” echoing throughout Folsom Field in the fourth quarter of the Washington State game.

All of the above deserve our full-throated support during the pre-game introductions … but there are others on the list of two dozen seniors who also deserve their moment in the spotlight.

Like the stars, they have given their blood, sweat and tears to the program. While not always in the lineup, their sacrifice to make this 2016 season special has been no less difficult than it has been for the starters. If fact, in some ways, their path to the final home game has been even more difficult, as they have put in the work while not receiving the same attention and adulation of the starters.

So, let’s give thanks next weekend to players like … wide receiver Jaleel Awini, the Air Force transfer … to offensive linemen Shane Callahan and Sully Wiefels, who have played well when called upon … and to defensive lineman Tyler Henington, whose promising career was cut short by injury.

We should give thanks to all of these seniors, as they were the group which finally broke through to give Buff fans the season they have been longing for for a decade.

We should also take the time to reflect this week on what a great run it has been in 2016.

As is usually the case, Drew Litton of the Daily Camera caught the moment perfectly. His cartoon posted on the day before the Washington State game:









It’s all happened so quickly, there hasn’t been time to fully appreciate all that the Buffs have accomplished this fall:

— How’s about opening the season with the following first quarter stats against Colorado State … Total yards – CU, 253; CSU, 10 … First downs: CU, 12; CSU 0 … Score: Colorado 21, Colorado State 0?;

— Or taking a 21-7 first quarter lead against No. 4 Michigan in the Big House (or a 28-24 lead in the third quarter before Sefo Liufau left the game)?;

— Or Ahkello Witherspoon’s interception in the end zone in the final minute against Oregon, preserving the Buffs’ 41-38 victory?;

— Or the first-ever win over Arizona State? The first-ever (in Pac-12 play) wins over Stanford and UCLA?;

— Or the 49-24 rout of Arizona, the largest margin of victory in a road game in over a decade?

What will you remember most from CU’s 38-24 win over Washington State, the first victory over a ranked team in seven seasons?

Will it be the fourth down stop by Nick Fisher, the seldom used backup forced into action upon the ejection of Afolabi Laguda? Will it be the 13-yard touchdown run by Phillip Lindsay, with Lindsay taking would be tacklers with him into the end zone to give CU a 38-24 lead? Or perhaps the forced fumble by Jimmie Gilbert, recovered by Addison Gillam with three minutes to play, all but ensuring the Buff victory?

All great memories, for which we, as Buff fans, owe the coaches and players much thanks.

The 2016 Colorado Buffalo football team may not end up in the playoff for the national championship.

But they have already given the Buff Nation a season which will live long in our memories, and a legacy which will pay dividends in years to come.

They 2016 Colorado Buffalo football team may not, in the end, even play for the Pac-12 championship. A loss to Utah in the regular season finale would hand the Pac-12 South title to USC.

They may not live up to every expectation of the Buff Nation, a list of expectations which grows loftier with every new victory.

But they are already champions.

Thanks, Buffs … I hope you have a great Thanksgiving!




17 Replies to “Giving Thanks”

  1. Yo Mark.

    Many of us also appreciate your perspective to complement Stuart’s diligent, unwavering, loyal CU support…. and, to VK for his sarcasm, humor and statistical highlights.

    Thanks to each of you, Trax


    Kansas beats Texas
    Kansas State trounces Baylor
    Oklahoma State hammers TCU
    Iowa State Slaughters Texas Tech

    Oh the Texas 12 just ain’t what it use to be now is it.

    Now the old Big 12 North on the same weekend

    ISU whips tech
    KSU beats
    Kansas beats texas
    CU beats WSU
    Kornholers beat who cares
    and Mizzou loses

    Oh what a night …………….

    mid November back it twenty-sixteen…………

    What a very special time for me……….

    As I remember what a night.

  3. Great essay Stuart! So thankful to these seniors and hopefully the classes behind them have taken notice. Great character, hard work, and perseverance pays off. Go Buffs!

  4. The highlight of the game on Saturday was the trickeration play. Absolutely the best. Had to be a Chev thing, Keep it up.

  5. I was a freshman at CU in September of 1985 and bore witness to the Year One of the rebirth of the program under Coach Mac I – with the incredible win over Oregon the highlight of a 7-win season. It was 1985 that started them on the upward climb that culminated in the win in the 1991 Orange Bowl vs. ND to secure a share of the National Title.

    I’m 2/3 of the way across the country from this year’s team – watching games on TV and listening to Mark Johnson and Gary Barnett via the Gameday app on my iPhone and what I see and what I hear reminds me quite a bit of 1985. This year’s team has put up a better record, obviously, but the way that the contagion that is “belief” has spread outward from the locker room to the far reaches of Buff Nation seems very similar to what happened a generation ago.

    This year’s Senior Class is the first senior class in a decade whose career as Buffs shall not end in November and whose career shall not end with Senior Day/Senior Night. These young men – and the older men who coach them – deserve a hell of a lot of credit for being tough enough to have persevered to reach this moment. Nothing worth having comes easy. This Senior Class has embodied that life lesson every day for the past four years. Their success makes this old, graying Buff happy but as happy as I am for me, it pales in comparison as to how happy I am for all of them.

    Happy Thanksgiving

  6. Along with a magical season goes this great writeup by Stuart as well as the comments of fellow Buff fans who have stuck with our team through the good years and the bad ones as well. Dear Buffs, please don’t stop now, it will be a long path to get back next season to where you are now, it is so much easier now. Shock the world!

  7. I’ve wondered two or three times over the past few months…what if Davis Webb had kept his commitment to play for the Buffs this year? We might actually be better, we may have beaten USC, maybe even Michigan. Indeed, he is likely a more gifted QB than Sefo. The first time I asked that question to myself, I felt a bit of disappointment wishing that had actually been the case. But I can honestly say now that I am so thankful that this beautiful story has been able to play out, and Sefo has been able to cement himself as one of the most honorable Buffs that I have had the pleasure to see over the last few decades. It has been so much fun to watch these Buffs play this year, mainly because they just get it. They understand what they are doing and do not take it for granted. Regardless of what happens next week, Sefo and Co. deserve not only our thanks, but also our profound respect.

  8. Can we also thank Davis Webb for choosing Cal?

    I give thanks for Stuart’s awesome write up. Regardless of what happens for the rest of the season we have been blessed with an incredible group of individuals coming together as a team to energize the Buff Nation. Great job Seniors and great job every single Buff that toils away at practice to make the team better regardless of whether they get to see the field.

    Go Buffs!

  9. Bravo, Stuart, for another excellent addition! And to Mark, above, for adding additional insight. This year has been fun, and as I’ve been in attendance for both losses this year, I’ll do what I can to stay away from Folsom and Levi’s…!

    Buffalo up!


  10. Yo Stuart,

    Nice write up. We need to remember that these guys leading the Buffs to glory this year came in when CU was the worst team by far in a Power Five conference, and arguably the worst team in the FBS (Division 1 for us old farts). Despite the woes of the program, these guys came in with a goal of returning the team to respectability. We (none of us outside the program anyway) expected them to shoot right past respectability back to national prominence.

    The guts and character of this team is so amazing that no one would have believed it if it was a work of fiction. It’s been my honor for more than 30 years to watch my Buffs play. And I am as proud of these guys as that group 30 years ago that took down the Huskers after some seriously down years as well.

    This is the toughest and hardest working bunch I’ve ever watched at Folsom. Their team was put together with guys who WANTED to be Buffs and refused to give in even when things did not go their way. All those close losses in seasons past just made these guys work harder to turn the tide and be the team that came out on top.

    It’s been a magical year. Sefo is the toughest QB in the country, and may very well be the toughest player overall. You can knock him down, but he always gets up. I’d say that 99% of players with his kind of injury last year would have hung up their cleats. But his work ethic to get better and recover showed his teammates what guts and dedication really are.

    I think the Buffalo Heart Award should be renamed the Sefo Liufau Buffalo Heart Award in his honor. That way, in years to come, we can all be reminded of the guy whose heart, guts and toughness led the Buffs back to prominence in 2016.

    And I agree wholeheartedly that we should all be there early enough to honor the seniors and the whole team for a marvelous season.

    Go Buffs!


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