Making A Statement

Just so we are clear, the 40-16 win over Arizona State was, in my opinion, not a “statement game”. It was not a “signature win”. It did not merit a Gatorade bath for coach MacIntyre, nor should the fans have stormed the field after the game.

“I thought tonight was a break-through win”, said Mike MacIntyre. “Sefo [Liufau] getting to come back and get his start tonight, and this team he played four years ago was the first time he ever played and it didn’t go great. I kept telling them they built the water up in the dam and the dam had cracks in it. I said you got to go punch it one more time, and now the water’s going to flow”.

A break-through game? Okay. I’ll give you that.

But it wasn’t a “statement game”.

What the Buffs did, however, in taking down Arizona State in dominating fashion, was to make a “statement”.

They made a statement to their fans, to the national media, and, most importantly, to the rest of the Pac-12.

The fans

The Buffs’ mantra for the year has been “Welcome to the Fight”. For the Buff Nation, however, it has been more a “Field of Dreams” theme when it comes to supporting the team: “Build it, and we will come”.

The attendance numbers at Folsom Field have been in decline over the past few years. That’s not exactly headline news. When your team has gone 5-40 since joining its new conference, there is not a great of enthusiasm for the program.

Colorado averaged over 50,000 in home games in 2011, the Buffs’ first season in the Pac-12. Average attendance, though, has not been over 40,000 the past three seasons. The numbers (average attendance for home games):

2011 – 50,355 … 2012 – 45,372 …  2013 – 38,296 … 2014 – 37,778 … 2015 – 39,388.

The Buffs opened its 2016 home slate with a crowd of 39,505 for the Idaho State Bengals. That number jumped – after a good showing against No. 4 Michigan and a road win over Oregon – to 46,839 for the Oregon State game.

For the Homecoming game against Arizona State, the CU athletic department not only made a push to get more black-and-gold fannies in the seats, but made a push for the fans to show up early. The “CU in 60” campaign asked the Buff Nation to come early and get loud.

And, for the most part, it worked.

Aided in part by the 6:00 p.m. start and pleasant weather, 48,588 found their way into the stands, the highest total of the Mike MacIntyre era. Most were in their seats before kickoff, with even the student section having a better-than-usual early turnout.

… Team message to fans: “Come check out your team. We’ve won our first three home games by scores of 56-7, 47-6, and 40-16 … We’re good!” … 

The national media

Someone with more tech savvy than I should figure out a way to take that old Verizon commercial, with the “Can you hear me now?” guy, and get it to Jerry Palm at CBS Sports with a copy of CU’s record so far this season.

Palm, the CBS “expert” on predicting the future, should stick to projecting the brackets for the NCAA tournament. This past week, he did not have the 4-2 Buffs in his bowl projections.

Adding insult to injury, Palm projected that the Pac-12 would not fill all of its bowl tie-ins. According to Palm, the Cactus Bowl, last in the pecking order in conference bowl selections, would offer its Pac-12 slot to … Colorado State.

Translation: Colorado was not only looking at being kept out of the bowl selection process … the Buffs, according to Palm, were destined to go 1-5 the remainder of the season, failing to qualify for a bowl.

The win over Arizona State does not get the Buffs to bowl eligibility, but it is a huge step forward.

The victory not only keeps Colorado in the hunt for the Pac-12 South title in 2016, it helps to eliminate the argument that CU “doesn’t belong” in the Pac-12. There will no longer be any intimations that, in the inevitable move to a four-conference, 64-team alignment, that CU doesn’t merit inclusion.

True enough, there was only a remote possibility that Colorado would be on the outside looking in when the next round of conference realignment came along. Colorado as a university is, all things considered, a good fit for the Pac-12, both academically and demographically.

And yes, other CU athletic programs have more than held their own in their new conference. The men’s basketball team has maintained a high profile, and this fall, all of CU’s team sports have spent time ranked in the top 25 nationally.

As we know, however, the football program is the “front porch” of the university, and if the football team is a joke, it plays on the national perception of the school (see: Jayhawks, Kansas).

It has been a nervous few years, as Colorado has failed to assert itself as a player in the Pac-12. Now, with a 3-1 record and a tie for the top of the Pac-12 South, the nation can’t dismiss the Buffs any longer.

Not even Jerry Palm …

… Team message to national media: “We may only be on the Pac-12 Networks, but we’re worth checking out … Find us!” … 

The rest of the Pac-12

Two years ago, the last time Arizona State came to Boulder, the Sun Devils raced out to a 14-0 first quarter on its way to a 38-24 victory.

Despite the two touchdown loss, in a game which witnessed the Buff defense surrendering 545 yards of total offense to the Sun Devils, wide receiver Nelson Spruce nevertheless summed up how the team was feeling this way: “I think it shows that we can play at this level”.

That was the state of the program two years ago.

The Buffs spent most of the 2014 home game against the Sun Devils down by two or more touchdowns. Colorado had just fallen to 0-5 against Arizona State all-time, had posted only 18 first downs (to 28 for Arizona State), and yet came out of the contest with the attitude, “we belong”.

It’s a testament to how far down the program had fallen that being within two touchdowns of a middle-of-the-road Pac-12 program, even in a home game, was considered competitive.

Not anymore.

“People projected us to win this game,” said Bryce Bobo, who had the first 100-yard game of his career (six catches for 110 yards). “I felt at the same time they still kind of doubted us because they don’t know if we’re contenders in the Pac‐12. But I think tonight proved that we are.”

The Buffs finished the evening with a 5-2 record, tied for first in the Pac-12 South with Utah with a 3-1 record. The Colorado offense dominated the line of scrimmage, pushing around an Arizona State defense which came into the game fifth in the nation in rushing yards allowed. The Sun Devils were allowing only 89.3 rushing yards per game, and had held UCLA to negative numbers the weekend before. The Buffs, though, gashed the Sun Devils for 315 yards on the ground.

As well as the offense played, though, it was the defense which shined.

The Buffs had almost as many sacks (5) as the Sun Devils had first downs (7). In the second half, ASU had 14 snaps inside CU territory. The Sun Devils, in those 14 plays, netted a minus-12 yards. The 199 total yards were the lowest allowed to a conference opponent since 2001.

… Team message to the rest of the Pac-12: “Ignore us at your own risk. We’re for real, and we’re not going away!” … 

The 40-16 win over Arizona State was a dominant victory.

But was it a “statement game”?

Not really.

“I was really impressed with our team, the way we came out of the blocks, how we kept playing, how we kept fighting and how we kept moving”, said Mike MacIntyre. “There was a lot of things to be proud of with our team. We’re one step closer to getting closer to where we want to go, so we’ve got a long ways to go. We’ve done pretty well so far”.

The Buffs have done pretty well so far. And yet, as Mike MacIntyre put it, the Buffs still got a long ways to go.

The “statement game”, as I would define it, is a game which reintroduces Colorado to the national stage. A victory which is not perceived as just an anomaly, but reinstates Colorado as a perennial power.

That game has yet to be played.

Still, the Buffs did make a statement against Arizona State.

Colorado is no longer a doormat in the Pac-12. The Buffs are a force to be reckoned with, both for the rest of the 2016 season and into the foreseeable future.

For a team which has yet to finish outside the basement in its first five years in the Pac-12, that’s a pretty significant statement in and of itself.

 

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4 Replies to “Making a Statement”

  1. I have a statement. Everything Mac has been saying, for 3.5 years now, is essentially coming together. Our Buffs are 5 and 2. The two losses? At Michigan and at USC. Excuse me?

    At least as importantly, in both games they had a shot to win. And, the guy who is allegedly not a good coach (our friend Lindgren) has clearly helped develop a very, very solid QB of the future, as well.

    I said it when the hire was made, but the combination of Chev’s fire, w/ Lindgren’s “football mind” is a lot like Kiffin and Sarkisian. But much less volatile, more stable, and probably long-lived, until one of them moves on to their next big gig.

    Yeah, there’s still a ton of football to be played. Continuing into Saturday at the farm. Stanford could be finding their mojo, like USC did. I still like our Buffs’ chances.

    And sure. The Pac 12 South, and in general the whole conference, “may” be in down year. But, I tell you what, these guys can get to the Pac 12 Championship game. No doubt.

    Then? We’ll really see what they’re made of, by how they handle the North winner (probably UW, although I’m not ruling WSU out, either). If CU’s there? I’m there. Haven’t been to Levi Stadium yet.

    So much fun to be a college football fan, particularly when our Buffs are “rising” and relevant again.

    Oh, and a shot to the worriers about next year. See Mac’s track record w/ recruiting and developing players to date. It’s w/ rare exception that the next class/player is not more talented than the guy/s they’re replacing. I’m expecting that trend to continue. I think we’ll be seeing key contributors saying “why haven’t we seen him yet?” Well? Because, for once, in about ten years, we haven’t needed to see them as freshmen.

    The lost decade of CU football is behind us. They are turning the corner. Have they “arrived”? Absolutely not. In reality, you never “arrive”. You just keep striving to be better, every day. Our Buffs are on their way.

    So fun to watch it happening.

    Go Buffs!

  2. Ok, I have had some time to let my anger over my personal pet peeves of the game to subside :)…

    This was a solid win by the Buffs. In particular the offensive line was really functioning as a unit. The hole that opened for one of Lindsay’s touchdowns was gaping. If you look at some of the replays and ignore everything but the O-line you can really see the cohesion. I think that was the biggest difference offensively this week vs. USC last week. Some of this was better O-line skills from a pad level and vector stand point. Some of this was ASU being a good bit smaller and less talented than USC. Regardless I love seeing the Buffs have a dominant run game powered by a punishing line.

    I don’t think ASU was that good. For some reason they were ranked yet we were favored. There are a lot of easy to medium W’s on their schedule which makes their #5 defense against the run a bit overblown. I always trust Vegas when it comes to these things, money has a way of cutting through bias.

    This game was not a “statement” per se more of staying on message, we didn’t “say” anything we haven’t said before, we just said it a little bit louder by covering the spread. We all thought (we being fans and bookies, people who get paid to put makeup on and talk to a camera don’t count) the Buffs would win and just had some apprehension since ASU has been one of those teams that just seemed to have our number.

    I think next week will be interesting but I expect us to win by 10+. It appears the ability of our O-line to create holes is a massive indicator of our success as it is key to our entire offensive strategy, arguably more so than other teams. However beat up Stanford is, they always have big physical lines. I think next week will really be a good test piece for our O-line to see if they are improving or ASU just wasn’t that good.

    With our secondary as good as it is and with their injured RB I expect the defense to continue to dominate. Also interested to see how our D-line pairs with their O-line.

    ps. Hopefully: Jay gets over the yips, Lindgren goes for the throat, Julmisse takes one to the house (I really want us to have a threatening return game), and we only use the screen pass at most 8x (unless of course its working) 😉

  3. Stuart,
    I love your website and your articles so please take this with a grain of salt. 🙂

    But you say it was not a “statement game” but then the hole article is about how the Buffs made a “statement.” For us laymen not in the media I thought that was the defintiion of a “statement game.” I agree it is not a signature win. That was the Oregon game, I don’t care how bad Oregon is or how bad their uniforms get, that was a game that will go down as the win we needed to get on the right track.

    But for all the reasons you said above. This was a statement game. CU came out and beat a middle of the road PAC12 team in convincing fashion. We did it by running up their grill aganst a defense that had stifled other run offenses. We made them look bad, when they had been busy making a lot of other teams look bad. We did it in our house when every PAC12 team had been kicking our teeth in in our house.

    AND WE MADE IT LOOK EASY. Notice the caps. 🙂 That is a statement, that is a statement game. I also say this is a statement game becuase it is the first time we did it. Next week when we go beat a middle of the road Stanford team it may be a statement game again becuase if we do it in a doninating fashion on the road we will be making a statement about where we will beat teams down. If we squeek by it will not be a statement game.

    Love the site man!

  4. Yo Stuart,

    I disagree. I think this was a statement win. ASU has pretty much always dominated the Buffs. This time, though, we didn’t just eke out a close win. The Buffs dominated in a game to see who would remain in first place in the Pac-12 South.

    Colorado deserves to be ranked this week, but night games in the west are generally ignored back east. Most of those casting their ballots probably did so before the first half was over or forgot that the game was being played. If the Buffs can win in Palo Alto next week, I think they’ll get a double-whammy push into the Top 25.

    It bodes well that Mac and his team were already talking that it was time to put this game behind them and get ready to go 1-0 next week. Stanford may be down a bit, especially with Christian McCaffrey hurt, but they are still a proud bunch who can pull it together and defend their home turf. It will be a good test for the Buffs to go on the road and win another one.

    Mark
    Boulderdevil

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