Moving (Just a Little) Too Fast

It was a heady week for the Buff Nation.

Colorado was 4-1, 2-0 in Pac-12 conference play, and the plaudits were coming in from all quarters. The Buffs were featured on ESPN’s GameDay broadcast, Mike MacIntyre was interviewed on SportsCenter, and national sportswriters fawned over the “feel good” rags-to-riches story that was the 2016 Colorado football team.

The “first time since” stats were everywhere:

— First time with a 2-0 record in conference play since 2007;

— First time ranked in the national polls since 2005;

— Largest margin of victory in a conference game (47-6 over Oregon State) since 1992 (54-6 over Kansas State).

Mike MacIntyre talked about being the 2-0 record be just that – 2-0. There were seven games left to be played in the Pac-12 race, and the Buffs had clinched exactly nothing. It was hard, though, not to start thinking about CU’s first winning record since 2005, and the first bowl appearance since 2007.

Then Colorado went to Los Angeles, in search of the elusive first-ever win over USC. The Buffs were 0-10 all-time against the Trojans, but had come tantalizing close in a 27-24 loss in 2015.

The Buffs came up just short once again, falling 21-17 before 68,302 sun-baked fans in the Coliseum.

The 21-17 loss to USC made it 11 straight for the Trojans, and gave the Buff Nation a reality check.

Yes, the 2016 CU football team is very good. Yes, the Buff Nation has every reason to expect a winning record and a bowl game from this experienced and talented squad.

But it is also fair to say that the USC game proved – both on and off the field – that things have been going just a little bit too fast.

On the field 

USC was not the USC of old … at least the first four weeks of the season.

The Trojans came out of the gate with a 1-3 record, with losses to three ranked teams – Alabama, Stanford, and Utah – with all three games away from home.

But it’s not as if USC lost all of its talented players.

The talent – and speed – of the USC skill players were evident on Saturday.

It was not only on display with the Trojans speedy running backs and receivers. Adoree Jackson put on a show, returning kicks (a 38-yard kickoff return and a 47-yard punt return), while also turning in a highlight reel interception.

But the difference in the game was the speed of the USC defense. The Buff offense was dictated to as the Trojans made the Colorado offense look pedestrian.

Two stats spell this out:

— Coming into the game, the Colorado offensive line had given up eight sacks in five games … USC had four;

— Coming into the game, CU opponents had 12 total PBU’s – passes broken up – in five games … USC had seven.

For the first five weeks, when Colorado was averaging 531.2 yards of offense and 43.2 points per game. Buff fans were singing the praises of new co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini and his fast-paced, innovative offense.

When the Buffs struggled to post 17 points and 371 total yards of offense against USC, however, Buff fans were equally quick to jump on co-offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren, for his conservative and predictable play calling.

This just in, folks … the same pair has been calling the plays for all six games.

It wasn’t that Lindgren took over and reined in the Colorado offense. It was the fact that the USC defensive players are that good.

Re-read the PBU stat again. A total of 12 PBU’s by CU’s first five opponents, but seven by USC’s defenders.

Slant patterns which went for huge games the past few weeks were now incompletions. Bubble screens that went for seven or eight yards a pop were now going for no gains or even losses.

Think about Shay Fields’ three touchdown catches against Oregon State:

— The first was a bomb set up by a play fake after six straight runs by Kyle Evans. The CU running game never got on track against USC to allow such play fakes to be effective;

— The second was after Steven Montez was given six or seven seconds of protection, allowing Fields to run all the way across the field to get open. Montez was never afforded that much time against USC; and

— The third was a short bubble screen which was misplayed by the Oregon State defensive backs, allowing Fields to escape down the sideline, turning a six yard play into a a 63-yard touchdown.

The play-calling was the same. The execution, however, was hampered by a quick and talented defense.

Fortunately for the Buff offense, Colorado is not likely to again run up against such a set of speedy defenders again this season.

Off the Field

After the win against Oregon … which, as you will recall, was one smart offensive call on the part of the Ducks away from being a Colorado loss … the Buffs were ranked 31st in the Associated Press poll.

Immediately speculation began about the Buffs re-entering the polls with a win over Oregon State.

I didn’t believe it was possible, though. There were plenty of teams still ahead of the Buffs, and a win over lowly Oregon State was not going to move the excitement meter that much about the CU program.

I was wrong. The Buffs convincing 47-6 win over the Beavers, combined with some timely losses by teams just ahead of Colorado in the standings, thrust Colorado into the AP poll as the No. 21 team in the nation (No. 23 in the USA Today coaches poll).

#TheRiseIsComing was, all of the sudden, #TheRiseIsHere. Buff fans were openly speculating about a run to the Pac-12 championship, about a Rose Bowl match-up against (of all teams) Nebraska, about a long run in the polls. Fans were scrutinizing the schedules of teams ranked ahead of the Buffs, speculating as to where the Buffs might land in the next poll. There were threads on message boards, fearing the loss of defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt and co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini.

Don’t get me wrong. I was thrilled to have the “not ranked since 2005” moniker off of CU’s resume. I had flashbacks to the mid-1990’s, when I would track (on a legal sized yellow pad), the Top 25 and the upcoming slate of games. I would place a slash next to a team who had not been in the poll the entire season, a small nod to the (what turned out to be a 143 week) run of consecutive weeks CU had been in the poll (from 1989-97).

And yet, it seemed like it was all happening too fast.

True enough. The Buffs were 4-1, and 2-0 in Pac-12 play, and had played No. 4 Michigan tougher than anybody.

But it was also true that the Buffs were still two wins away from even securing a bowl bid. It was also true that Colorado under Mike MacIntyre was now just 4-25 overall in Pac-12 games.

For his part, MacIntyre tried to downplay the Buffs’ thrust into the spotlight. “We talked about (being nationally ranked) for maybe five seconds, maybe”, said MacIntyre. “Basically what I said is they’ve earned the right to be acknowledged for what they’ve done, but it means nothing Saturday”.

There are great opportunities ahead for the 2016 Colorado football team. The Buffs are still 4-2 at the midway point of the season, with four of the final six games at home. A quick look at the remaining contests:

— Arizona State. The Sun Devils are 5-1, but are beatable, with quarterback injury issues of their own;

— at Stanford. The road game against the Cardinal looked like a sure loss to open the season, but now, after thumpings by Washington (44-6) and Washington State (42-16), anything is possible;

— UCLA. When the season opened, this Thursday night game looked like an opportunity for a break through game for the Buffs. With the Bruins struggling, this game has tantalizing national implications for the CU program;

— at Arizona. At 2-4, 0-3, the Wildcats are currently the odds-on favorite to replace CU at the bottom of the Pac-12 South standings;

— Washington State. A few weeks ago, with the Cougars 0-2, this game looked like the safest bet (after Oregon State) for a Pac-12 win. Now, perhaps, it could be a showdown of ranked opponents; and

— Utah. The Utes are taking care of business. With a 5-1, 2-1 record, the October 29th home game against No. 5 Washington could be a Pac-12 title game preview.

Six games. Six potential victories for Colorado.

But you can also make a reasonable argument for the Buffs losing all six games.

Colorado had a week in the clouds, with national attention not seen in a decade. The Buffs had their chances against the Trojans, but a loss is a loss is a loss.

The Buffs will try and go 1-0 this week against the Sun Devils of Arizona State. Instead of a quick and talented defense, the Buffs will be taking on the 128th-ranked (yes, that’s dead last) pass defense in the country.

Perhaps this week – both on and off the field – won’t go as fast.












9 Replies to “Moving (Just a Little) Too Fast”

  1. WR lost their 1 v 1 matchups all day in man/man coverage. Not enough separation. Was a day where even a Klopfestein would potentially have had a difference in both run/pass game.

    Great heart, loved Price’s moxie to make the kick in the 4th. And for the most part we left HEALTHY (Haigler splits reps to begin with).

    Go Buffs.

  2. Yo Stuart,

    This game was lost for several prominent reasons.

    1. USC loaded the box to take away the run and the Buffs did not respond in their play-calling until it was too late. By failing to throw deep, the Buffs allowed the Trojans d-backs to keep the Buff receivers in front of them and help out with the run game. Heck, even the announcers were pointing out that the Buffs were hurting themselves with only short passes and needed to stretch the field.

    2. Buff defenders were extraordinarily good at ball-hawking and creating turnovers, but horrible at wrapping up ball carriers. Way too often the Buffs would hit someone behind the line of scrimmage, only to let them escape for positive yardage. Same thing with hitting people short of the first down marker, and missing the tackle and allowing yet another back-breaking first down.

    3. The Buffs need to realize that just because they do not use their tight ends to catch balls, it doesn’t mean that other teams follow suit. Against Michigan and USC, the opposing tight ends seemed to be wearing stealth jerseys because the Buffs defenders never seemed to see them wide open down the field. All three TD passes went to Trojan tight ends.

    4. Mac should have had his offense in four down mode late in the game. 3 points did nothing except allow the Buffs to cover the spread. Gamblers love the Buffs because the are undefeated against the spread. But us fans want wins on the scoreboard. The Buffs had not been able to stop the Trojans with a three and out all day. Why in the world would Mac kick a FG and give the ball back to the USC with less than 5 minutes left? The Trojans got two first downs and ran out the clock.

    The Buffs did NOT lose because USC’s “amazingly talented” players. If they were that amazing, they would not have been 1-3 coming into the game. The Buffs were out-coached in this game. Take away the 100 yards on the trick play and the one long run by Lindsay and the Buffs had less than half of their normal yardage output.

    They better rectify this soon because the Todd Graham and the Sun Devils are coming to town. Buff fans thinking this will be easy because of how bad the ASU pass defense is are in for a surprise. Josh Rosen of UCLA came into the season listed as the best QB in the Pac-12, and ASU knocked the snot out of him. Yes, they gave up lots and lots of yards to Texas Tech and Cal, but they won both those games.

    The Buffs better be ready to play and ready to tackle. And the Buff coaches better be ready to adjust their play calling to attack whatever defense ASU runs.


  3. It was clear CU was outmatched by USC on raw talent. But I was really impressed that the Buffs were able to tie the score in the 2nd half. Even with everything that went wrong, these guys fought their way back into the game. That’s a sign of a good team.

    Still I think the week after week of Pac-12 competition is going to be a grind. I hope they kick some devil butt on Saturday.

  4. Well then, what was not moving too fast yesterday, was the offense. Looked like last year. Seriously. But then predictability has been the norm on the O-side for the last 3 years here, and hopefully it was gonna change with Chev this year.

    Mac stated “We did not play Colorado Football.” Well actually it looked just like Colorado football the last three years. “An almost win”

    The offense was Lindgrening. It hasn’t been the first 5 games but it was yesterday. Stubbornness and predictability.

    Somebody believing it was them.

    Oh Well, 6 to go and hopefully 7 and dreaming about 8

    The ol O is not gonna cut it.

    Come on Mac, Let Chev run it.

  5. The rise is real. We haven’t had a winning season in a decade. This year we will go to a bowl, and compete for a Pac12 south title. That is A RISE! We are going to lose more games this year that does not take away what these young men are doing. Listen, I am a kool aid drinker no doubt, and I thought our offense would run through USC. But even I recognize that we were not perfect and games like this were bound to happen. As Mac says we can win every game and lose every game from here on out. I am completely excited about what we have done and the rest of the year. One game and clear!

    1. I agree, it is a visible rise already to this point. The team is improved and it shows in the W-L record along with other less (to people outside of Buff Nation) factors that we saw last year including competitiveness. As Macintyre stated at the end of The Rise: ” You will never have arrived”. The Rise is a journey, we can see it, it is real already, now. Two more wins (I feel 4 is realistic) and then more tangible evidence for any doubters: bowl eligibility. Come on, Buffs, take care of business in a big way next Saturday!

  6. The one PAC12 South team I cannot fathom is Utah. They have beaten every team in the PAC12 since joining it, but they never seem to get over the hump. Had they played at USC on Saturday, my guess is that they would have been beaten. They played at them at home with the now benched USC QB, and squeaked out a win. Washington will expose them as being overrated.
    At this point, it can be argued that CU should be (however slightly) favored against ASU, UA, UU and UCLA and the Stanfurd and WSU games up in the air. Lots of football to be played though, and seeing how the Huskies are dominating, it may be better to not win the South.

  7. Pretty good summary, Stu. Here’s my belief. USC was a great wake up call, at a perfect time in the season. Mac has preached about improving every week, every day, and every play as the season progresses. The kids, dare I say young men now, are on board with that. They are focused on improving every week and playing their best ball late in the season. Four of their last six are at home. None will be easy. But they can still get four of the next six. I believe they will. Given the pac 12 south so far this year, it is anyone’s guess which of those four they will win. We’ll know more Saturday. Folsom better be sold out.

    Go Buffs!

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