No Conflict, No Story

 

Worst. To. First.

Last season, Colorado finished 1-8 in Pac-12 play. This year, the Buffs went 8-1 in Pac-12 play.

This past August, in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, the Buffs were pegged as the 11th-best team in the Pac-12 conference. This past week, the Buffs were ranked as the ninth-best team … in the entire nation.

With a 27-22 victory over No. 21 Utah, the Buffs completed a regular season journey absolutely no one saw coming. The statistical “best since” accolades are cascading through the record books like an avalanche:

— First ten-win season since 2001, and first eight-win conference season in school history (the Buffs only played seven conference games in the Big Eight, and went 7-1 three times in Big 12 conference play);

— First six-game winning streak since 1996, and first back-to-back wins over ranked teams since 2002;

— First undefeated home slate since 1994, going 6-0 at home for just the sixth time in school history.

Et cetera … et cetera … et cetera.

But the Buffs’ tenth victory of the 2016 season did not come easily. Colorado trailed Utah for nine minutes in the first quarter, and did not take a two-score lead over the Utes until the fourth.

I hope you have been taking in CU Video’s outstanding series, “The Rise” (if you haven’t, the first four episodes can be found here. It is truly “must see TV”). If you have, you know that there have been several mantras espoused by CU head coach Mike MacIntyre during his team meetings and pre-game speeches.

One is, “Welcome to the Fight” … with W.T.T.F. t-shirts now a common sight at Folsom Field.

Another is “No Conflict, No Story”.

The latter phrase is easily deciphered, but could also be restated, “If it was easy, everyone would do it”.

There has been plenty of conflict for the Buffs throughout the 2016 season.

And the game the game against the Utes was certainly no different.

— Conflict … Special Teams

If there has been an Achilles heel to the Buffs’ magical season, it has been special teams.

Last season, a 4-8 CU team traveled to Salt Lake City for the season finale against the 8-3 Utes. That Buff team was ranked in the bottom third in the nation in any number of statistical categories, including scoring offense, rushing defense, total defense, and third down conversion percentage (both offense and defense).

This season, a 9-2 CU team hosted a Ute team which was carried with them an 8-3 overall record. This Buff team, however, was ranked in the bottom third in the nation in only three categories: net punting (115th nationally); punt return yardage defense (116th); and kickoff return yardage defense (120th).

And those deficiencies almost cost the Buffs the game.

Boobie Hobbs returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown to opening the scoring six minutes into the contest, giving Utah a 7-0 lead. Later, on the first play of the fourth quarter, after the Buffs had scored to go up 20-13, the CU special teams surrendered a 93-yard kickoff return.

“The first one, on the punt, we just didn’t get a very good punt and we line-drived it right to the dude and he got going”, explained Mike MacIntyre after the game. “He made two of us miss and was able to hit it fast before we got down there and got in shape. He made a great run, they had good returners. The other one, they took the kickoff return and the guy hit it up in there. It looks like we got knocked out and a guy missed a tackle”.

But for the hustle of Chidobe Awuzie, Kyle Fulks would have scored the tying touchdown on his kickoff return, perhaps shifting the momentum back to Utah for good. Instead, the Buff defense held, forcing a field goal out of the Utes, preserving the Buffs’ lead.

The Buffs have suffered special teams lapses all season. Against Utah, it almost cost them the game.

— Conflict … Offense

When cornered for the perfunctory interview as the teams went into the locker rooms for halftime, Mike MacIntyre had only one comment, “We should be ahead 21-7”.

The Buffs did have the lead at the break, 13-7, but few would have argued with MacIntyre’s assessment of the first half.

Three CU pass plays in the second quarter went into the record books as incompletions, but all three could have been touchdowns.

Two miscues occurred on the same drive. First, Shay Fields dropped a pass while wide open near midfield. Later in the drive, Sefo Liufau missed a wide open Devin Ross in the end zone on third-and-goal. The pair of missed opportunities forced the Buffs to settle for a 25-yard field goal instead of posting a touchdown.

Later in the second quarter, on third-and-goal at the Utah two yard line, Liufau had George Frazier all alone in the endzone. The pass was fine, but Frazier, a fullback/tight end with zero catches on the season, kept his record intact, dropping a sure touchdown. Instead of six, the Buffs again settled for a short Chris Graham field goal.

Those two missed scoring chances inside the ten yard line were bad enough, but the offense struggled for most of the night. Colorado had 378 yards of total offense against Utah, one of the lowest outputs of the season, and went three-and-out seven times.

“In a game it’s never as good or bad as it seems,” said Sefo Liufau, who also had two fumbles in the game. “I think we did some really good things and we just didn’t capitalize. I was an idiot and I missed Devin a few times, he’s too fast for his own good sometimes, streaking through the end zone … That Utah defense is one of the best we’ve played all year so it’s also a credit to them for how they played”.

– Conflict … Defense

The only true conflict here would be whether the defensive players would take out their frustrations on their offensive counterparts.

The defense came up big time after time, and is the main reason why Colorado defeated Utah.

Utah had four straight possessions in the the third quarter which resulted in a “first-and-goal” opportunities.

That last sentence bears repeating … Utah had four possessions in the third quarter. All four possessions included a “first-and-goal” opportunity.

Instead of 28 points, however, the Utes settled for nine, with three field goals and a lost fumble.

“We just look at it as a positive thing”, said linebacker Addison Gillam of the team’s reliance on the defense. “It’s not really a negative thing to us anymore. We like it. We like going out there and being able to stop, showing what our defensive is about. It feels good, I like it”.

“One thing our coach always says is, ‘They are not heavy, they are our brother’. When one group is not producing, it is the other groups job to step up and carry the weight”, said linebacker Jimmie Gilbert. “Today the offense was having a hard time putting points on the board so as a defense we tried our best to work together and limit them to as many yards, touchdowns, and scoring opportunities as possible. When we do that, we know sooner or later our offense is going to get rolling again and put more points on the board. If we can keep them below our offense, we are good.”

When the dust had settled Saturday night, and many from the crowd of 52,301 (CU’s first sell-out since 2008) were still lingering on the Folsom Field turf, CU head coach Mike MacIntyre was left to try and sum up the game and the season.

“Wow. These young men are special, special, special”, said MacIntyre. “You again saw the fight in them, which they’ve had – these guys that have been with me – for the whole time. I told them before the game, the people came to see them. They have built the mystique of Folsom back. It’s really exciting how we played tonight – how we just kept fighting, kept going, kept working and kept pushing. That’s what a championship team does, they find a way to win it.

“They’re my heroes, that’s the best way to say it”, he continued. “A hero goes beyond and above what you think they can do. They don’t listen to anything. They keep going out there and rescuing people. That’s what these young men have done, they keep lifting each other up and lifting us up. I think some of these guys should be CU legends for what they’ve gone through and for what they’ve done for the University of Colorado and the University of Colorado football program.”

No Conflict, No Story.

There have been many trials and tribulations over the past decade. The once proud University of Colorado football program had plunged to previously unknown depths.

Ten loss seasons. Ten straight losing seasons. Last place finishes in conference play.

Plenty of conflict …

… which has now turned into one great story.

—–

 

13 Replies to “No Conflict, No Story”

  1. The Rise is Real! I was at a wedding Saturday night following the game on my cell phone. My wife (who doesn’t follow college football) was asking for updates. Once the game was final I was high-fiving everyone around – many who didn’t know what was going on/or why I was celebrating.

    I’ve been a fan since I was a little kid and this season has made me feel like a kid again – let’s keep it going!!!!!

    GO BUFFS!

  2. The sellout! In a season full of positives and success beyond almost everyones’ wildest dreams the sellout is bound to be overlooked as another BIG (not B1G, that’s not a word that’s part of a wifi password) milestone on the RISE. Success on the field is fantastic BUT you need to translate that success into ticket sales and fan engagement and Colorado is slowly but surely doing that. This was a great win for the program on and off the field.

  3. You know what is best of this year? The comments here! Love to hear from true Buff fans who support their team no matter what. Go Buffs! Two more wins possible this year!

  4. Yo Stuart,

    Nice write-up. This team may have more heart than any other since I showed up I arrived in Colorado way back in ’83. That heart and hard work HERE more than made up for all the high school recruiting-stars that made up the rosters of many of the Buffs opponents.

    The Buffs outworked everybody this year. Only a meltdown on special teams at Michigan and an offensive coordinator meltdown at USC has led to losses this year. The Buffs were actually thisclose (hold your thumb and forefinger 1/16″ apart)to going undefeated. Isn’t that freaking amazing? You bet!

    I hope MacIntyre realizes how much the D under Leavitt and Tumpkin is the reason for all this. The offense seems to be able to score at will against inferior opponents, but against top notch defenses the Buffs and their play caller Lindgren have struggled since Sefo went down in Ann Arbor.

    I know Mac and Lindren like to blame players for “lack of execution” but they really need to take a look in the mirror and realize that their play calling tends to be completely predictable in tough situations. Not only predictable, but sometimes downright stupid.

    Did anyone else notice how often the Buffs (who were trying to run out the clock at that point) were STILL snapping the ball with 15-25 seconds on the play clock? If they were moving the chains consistently it would not matter, but the Buffs O had been producing three and outs at an alarming rate.

    And why Lindgren insists on calling 30 yard passes on 3rd and short when they are trying to run out the clock is beyond comprehension. If you only need three or four yards to get a first down and seal the game, why heave it 25-30 yards? On the other hand, Lindgren also has a tendency to throw 4 yard passes when it is 3rd and LONG. Neither tendency works well to ensure a first down and keep the other team off the field.

    The Buffs this week should look at their offensive tendencies that don’t work and consciously change them. You know, as in make a note to keep in front of Lindgren in the booth that says something like “Close game, protecting a lead, time running out… CALL A PLAY WITH THE BEST CHANCE TO ENSURE THE FIRST DOWN.”

    These Buffs players are good enough to play anybody. It just makes me sad for them when poor play calling risks everything. The looks on Chiaverini and Leavitt’s faces on some of those play calls was priceless. Obviously I’m not the only one with these feelings.

    Ok, rant over.

    Congratulations to the Pac-12 South Champions Colorado Buffaloes. I SO wish I could be there next weekend in Santa Clara. Just a note to others who want to go, however, tickets on some of the re-seller sites are listed dirt cheap. Lots of them were listed for less than $20 a pop on the re-seller sites like stubhub. If you’re out in the Bay Area, get out and support our Buffs.

    Love these guys. They truly have the hearts and will of champions.

    Mark
    Boulderdevil

    1. Gotta disagree on this one. Utah had 8 in the box the whole night. The way you beat that is to throw at least 10 yards down the field. If you run into 3rd and 4 with that many in the box you will get 2 yards. And punt. At least with the long throw you will connect 1/3 to 1/2 of the time with a big explosive play. It also gives the defense a reason to back up. Utah never had to back up because Sefo was not as accurate as he has been in the past (check out the Michigan deep balls) and our receivers had a case of the drops.

      All that said the young men executed well enough to win the game. Against good defenses you will not move the ball up and down the field. Those kids are on scholarship as well.

      1. Hey Rob

        “8” might be a little overstated, as well as “all night.”

        Sefo played okay not great.
        The Oline was back to disaster mode. Huckins got murdered time and time again. Which he always has. No picking just the truth.

        Play calling? Not the best effort. You can rationalize all you want. Then you watch a game with a real OC, and then you know. Don’t matter what the D do.

        This win is on the D which is the “Reason for the Season”

        Hopefully Lindgren gets the head coaching job at SJS. He deserves it. So do the Buffs.

        1. A truer word was never spoken, “Hopefully Lindgren gets the head coaching job at SJS. He deserves it. So do the Buffs.”

          Leave it to you VK to give us a more accurate ‘take’ and perspective. I enjoy that.

  5. I am a long time Buffs fan and supporter and am proud to say I wanted nothing to do with Davis Webb and his self centered act. I do think he helped solidify this team to show everybody that Sefo is the true leader and winner they could stand behind. What great season! Go Buffs!

  6. What is truly amazing is that there are so many stars on this team. Somebody who does not follow Colorado football might say there are no stars but in my 35 plus years of going to Folsom, this team is as good as any team Colorado has produced. In a word. Worldbeaters!

  7. After all our years of suffering, this year has been a dramatic turnaround, from worst to first! I have always been proud to be a Buff fan (even in our bad years) but this team is truly inspiring. No matter what happens in our last two games I will be so proud of this team. The Rise is Real, GO BUFFS!

  8. Nice write up Stuart. For me, the story of this year is how the defense has improved so much in just a couple of years. There is still a lot of football to play this season, but we are going to miss Awuzie when he’s gone. There are a lot of defensive guys we are going to miss.

  9. I’ve been reading this website for many years, the vast majority of which have been dark and lean years for Buffs fans. It’s tough to keep the faith, especially from the East coast with timezones, lack of coverage, etc. But, man, how this year has repaid the faith. I wore a Buffs jacket to the grocery store last weekend and had three different people comment on the Buffs and the win against WSU. Even the drama last night made it sweeter (though we all would have welcomed a blowout!!). Enjoying every single moment of this completely unexpected season… Now here’s hoping we can keep this up for a few years and wash some more of this away. Go, Buffs!!

  10. Stuart:

    Been a Buff my whole life! My brothers and I have 6 degrees from CU… All 3 of my sons have attended or are attending CU…Because of where this team came from, and the enormous mountain this program had to climb, this year may go down in history as the greatest ever! The Rise is Real!!! Go Buffs!!!

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