I’m Keeping My Towel

In preparing for CU’s rematch with Washington, I made myself go back and take a look at the 2016 Pac-12 championship game.

The perception we have been left with for nine months was that the Buffs were humiliated, with the 41-10 final reflecting the Huskies’ domination.

The reality is that the score was 14-7 at halftime, but a pick six in the third quarter helped turned the game into a rout.

The perception of Washington’s 37-10 victory over Colorado to open 2017 Pac-12 conference play will be that the Huskies proved themselves to be College Football Playoff contenders, while exposing the Buffs as a mediocre team which had a fluke of a good season in 2016 (one which will not be repeated in 2017).

The reality is that the score was 17-10 late in the third quarter, but a pick six helped to turn the game into a rout.

The reality is also that the vast majority of college football “experts” were safely tucked into bed by the time the contest got out of hand (10:00 p.m., ET kickoffs will do that), and will only look at the final score before taking to their computers to write about the Buffs. This will only further the narrative that the Buffs are no good, and will struggle in Pac-12 play this fall.

The conclusion that this Buff team is no good is faulty.

The conclusion that Colorado will struggle in Pac-12 play this fall is spot on.

The Buffs are a third of the way through their 2017 campaign, and have a 3-1 record. But, as any Buff fan will tell you, that record is built upon a house of cards.

The main problems …

Steven Montez is not a world beater … at least not yet.

One year ago today, Montez made his starting debut as the CU quarterback. All the red-shirt freshman accomplished in his first start was post the first 300-yard passing/100-yard rushing game in Colorado history, leading the Buffs to a 41-38 upset win over Oregon.

Montez has had a difficult time living up to that standard in the first four games this fall.

The sophomore has made some bad decisions. Against Washington, Montez threw three interceptions, including a pick six which turned the tide against the Buffs. Told he was abandoning the pocket too soon, Montez has become a statue, absorbing five sacks against the Huskies.

That being said, it’s not all on Montez, which leads us to …

The offensive line play has been a disaster.

The offensive line starters for the Washington game: LT Jeromy Irwin; LG Gerrad Kough; C Tim Lynott, Jr.; RG Aaron Haigler; RT Josh Kaiser.

Offensive line coach Klayton Adams has said he will start his best five each week. As this was the same starting lineup as the Buffs put out the week before, we have to assume that these are the best five.

And they have not produced.

Colorado is 121st in the nation (out of 130 FBS teams) in sacks allowed, giving up 14 sacks in four games. The rushing game, despite the best efforts of running back Phillip Lindsay, is 89th in the country, producing only 141.5 yards per game.

And this is before the Buffs hit the meat of their schedule.

The Buffs have become far too predictable on offense.

The first drive of the Washington game – a quick-hitting, 11-play, 75-yard effort which resulted in a Phillip Lindsay one-yard touchdown run – showed the Buffs’ potential.

After that?

Not much.

The Colorado offense produced only two completions of over 20 yards against Washington (with one of those coming in garbage time, a 20-yard completion from Sam Noyer to Laviska Shenault). The “Blackout Boyz” are either not getting open, are not being found by their quarterback, or are not being given enough time to run their routes as Steven Montez is distracted by a collapsing pocket.

The interception returned for a touchdown was an example of going to the well once (or fourteen times) too often. On third-and-four at the CU 30-yard line, Washington defensive back Myles Bryant jumped the route, and Montez threw it right to him. A 17-10 game was now 24-10, and the Buffs never showed any signs of life after that play.

This just in … you throw slants and quick outs all evening long, and eventually the opposing secondary will sit on those routes.

The Colorado defensive line is a liability teams can exploit.

If there was one major concern Buff fans had heading into the season, it was that the entire defensive line had to be rebuilt. Two junior college players were immediately inserted as starters, confirming the problem.

The Huskies went for 254 yards on the ground, and the Colorado defense produced exactly zero sacks. In the fourth quarter, Washington ran 13 plays, and all were running plays. There were no passes by the Huskies, just 13 rushes … going for 122 yards and two touchdowns.

While Colorado running backs are confronted with defenders  as soon as they get to the line of scrimmage, Buff tacklers (usually the linebackers), are getting in their first hits five or six yards downfield. Simply put, the Colorado defensive line is getting pushed around.

That’s a tough way to make a living.

“They were definitely down, no doubt about it”, CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said about his locker room after the game. “They were excited about playing the game and they wanted to play well. We just didn’t finish it like we wanted it to. They’ll bounce back and get ready to go. We have another one quickly. We have a ton (of games) in a row here, so we’ll just keep playing.”

The perception is that the Buffs are done. The offense is predictable and prone to making drive-killing self-inflicted mistakes. The defense is thin and can be worn down over time.

Guess it’s time to throw in the towel, right?

As Lee Corso would say … not so fast, my friend.

Here’s the thing. Washington is likely the best team Colorado will face all season. Everyone else in the Pac-12 has issues, just like Colorado.

Let’s take a look at the schedule over the next few weeks:

— at UCLA … The Bruins are 2-2, and will face the Buffs after absorbing back-to-back road losses. UCLA gave up 560 yards of total offense in a 48-45 loss to Memphis, followed by a 58-34 loss to Stanford, giving up 553 yards of total offense to the Cardinal;

— Arizona … The Wildcats are also 2-2, and are coming off of a “better-than-expected” 30-24 home loss to Utah. The two victories on the season, though, have come against Northern Arizona and UTEP; and

— at Oregon State … The Beavers are 1-3, with their only victory coming with a last minute touchdown over Portland State. Oregon State will face Washington and USC before taking on the Buffs in Corvallis, so it’s likely the Buffs will face a 1-5 team on October 14th.

You can make a case for the Buffs winning all three of these games.

You can also foresee a scenario by which the Buffs could find ways to lose all three of those games.

And that’s exactly the point.

Colorado still has the potential to be a good team.

The Pac-12 is just beginning to sort itself out. There are three good teams: Washington, USC, and Washington State.

There is also one very bad team: Oregon State.

The other eight teams in the Pa-12 have question marks, including every team in the Pac-12 South not known as USC … Are the Arizona schools getting their mojo back, or will they ultimately fade? Is Utah good, or just untested? And what to make of UCLA? (In both their losses, the Bruins gained at least 595 yards of offense. Dating back to 2004, only one team — Texas Tech in 2015 — has ever lost more than two games in a season in which it has gained that many yards).

It’s going to be a difficult ride for the Buff Nation. They will likely lose a game (or two, or three) which they should have won. They will also likely win a game (or two, or three) which they had no business winning.

The loss to Washington was tough to take. Frustrating play calling; frustrating execution.

The Buffs will need to shake off the disappointment quickly, and come back to practice Monday ready to take on the challenge of facing UCLA in the Rose Bowl (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MT, ESPN2).

“We have a lot more season left”, said safety Ryan Moeller. “It was the fourth game that really sucks. It was the Pac-12 opener, that really sucks. But it’s the fourth game that’s out of here now and we have to go and get ready for the Pac-12. It’s not going to be an easy road but it’s one that we’re happy to be on.”

To be sure, there will be those in the Buff Nation who will be giving up on the team.

There will be plenty of negativity in the press over the next week.

Time to throw in the towel?


I’m keeping mine.


18 Replies to “I’m Keeping My Towel”

  1. A lack of urgency on the punters part scares me. That was a big turning point in the game. Untimely turnovers were the biggest part of losing this game.

  2. A little less gloom and doom than most here. I think the first drive against UW shows that our play calling and execution can function at a pretty high level. As the game wore on, we got beaten by far superior lines of scrimmage on both sides. Hats off to UW and what Peterson’s built there. Buffs aren’t there yet, but I think they’re still trending up. It’s easy to criticize coaches and playcalling, but when you’re getting dominated at both lines of scrimmage your hands are being tied. We won’t see lines like UW’s again in the regular season.

    I think the coaches severely hurt Montez by reining him in – the 2 yard short slide demonstrated that. But when Montez had a little time, or could improvise without completely running for his life, he was/is impressive. All of us got severely over-inflated expectations for him due to a horrible Oregon defense last year, a pathetic Oregon State team, and a decent performance against USC. But there is no substitute for Senior experience like we had in Liufau last year. I haven’t timed between plays, but we look significantly slower this year than last – our pace was a weapon last year, hasn’t been this year – again probably due to Montez’ inexperience. I bet we see that pick up as the year goes along.

    The offensive line is clearly the biggest disappointment this year. I guess it shows you that coaches should be careful about what they say in the pre-season, maybe all that pre-season praise went to the big guys’ heads. The d-line was my biggest concern coming into this year and it hasn’t been erased. They were so good last year and it made our linebackers look really good as well. Both lines had a tough opponent on Saturday night.

    UCLA will be a much better gauge of where we are than UW was. If we can go back to stopping the run, and running the ball (Stanford ran for over 300 against Bruins) we’ll be back in shape.

    UW was a tough way to open Pac12 play. We get back to Buff football against a mediocre UCLA team, and we trend upward to USC in Folsom, which becomes the signature win of the Mac2 era.

    Shoulder to shoulder.

  3. How many of you remember the 2001 season? Lost the first game to Fresno State, lost to then No. 9 Texas the first time we played them that season before beating them in the rematch that was the Big12 title game that year. They were ranked No.3 by that point. We were also coming off of the not so great 2000 season (3-8 that year).

    The 2001 CU team is today lauded as one of the best (mostly from that ridiculously fun to watch Nebraska spanking that year). Mac should take a page from Barnett’s playbook and have the team focused on getting back to the championship game in order to get revenge on Washington.

    There is plenty of season still left. Starting with Saturday against a very beatable UCLA.

  4. Well, I have been saying it for years, Lindgren has got to go. In fact I don’t think I’ll make that much of an effort to watch Buff football until he is gone. I don’t like watching teams that aren’t in it to win it. We aren’t here to be a middle of the PAC12 team. Until he is gone we are all wasting our time. Sure enjoy the tailgate, cheer for the team but if its nice out I’d rather be in the mountains and if its nasty I’d rather not be at Folsom.

    Player wise it doesn’t feel like they have that fire. They don’t seem to care as much as last year. And frankly we don’t have guys that can win without fire. They’re just not that good. Lindsey plays outside his specs because of his fire but lets be honest, he isn’t going pro. Montez may be better spec wise that Sefo but fire wise he feels miles behind. (Frazier and Irwin seem checked out, maybe too much dope? Lethargic after being suspended?)

    After last year, this year people aren’t going to be surprised by us, they are preparing for us. We have to beat them when they know we’re coming.

    I doubt our team’s psyche can handle the offensive bursts that the other schools can deliver. Because we can’t match the firepower, even with all the weapons at our disposal, because we don’t know how to use them. If we get behind by 10+ its over. Again Lindgren needs to go, it is Hawkins-esque at this point.

    Give mac a couple more years, he is no longer recruiting kids into a dumpster fire but into a middling program which means next level kids may give us a look. Man do I miss having monsters at RB, not like Lindsey (5’8 180lb) but 6ft+ 215lb+ fast nasty machines (Purify, Salaam). I miss having monster lines, I miss hard nosed, gritty, we’re going to punch you in the mouth until you roll over, CU football. I want specs AND fire, right now we don’t have much of either.

  5. Stuart, did you really say
    “Frustrating Play Calling”

    Holy Moly the lights are on and someone is

    Fifth year in a row


    I got my towel. Still wet from the tears.

    1. Hard to believe Chev has much to do with it. Hiring him as co OC was a sham and deflection by Mac. I cant begrudge chev for taking the job. Having a coordinator position is way up on the resume from position coach but I wonder how long it will take for guilt by association with Lingering to tarnish that substantially

  6. I was reading an article in my morning paper about the Raiders, and it mentioned that they are “grinding out wins with fourth quarter muscle”. Then I thought about Tim Brando’s comments last night about U-Dub bullying the Buffs around.

    I wonder about CU’s weight training program. There are never any articles about how much the players can lift. I recall that CU had a linebacker several years ago who could bench 500 lbs. Anyone on the team now like this?

    A few years ago Dave DeCastro on the Stanford team was called an “absolute beast” by his team mates. CU needs guys like this.

    I remember CU teams in the past not liking to play K-State because of the physical punishment involved.

    You do not need the be a four star athlete to become strong.

    I would like to see CU teams become the ones that grind out physical wins. Coming to Boulder should be an unpleasant experience for the visiting team.

    1. This^^ PREACH. Remember when playing CU would mean you were less likely to win the next week regardless if CU won or lost because we beat the tar out of you? (Nothing cheap/illegal just tough football). We didn’t become “Running Back U” on the backs of our admittedly great receivers. We ran down hill, with future pro RBs, behind a monster line, in the sleet and snow, at a mile high, all day long. We need to look at Ralphie and remember our roots.

  7. The first 3 drives the offense line did great. Then
    the washer board defense adjusted. Lindylu did not

    It looks a lot different live than on tv

    Monty took to long to throw as the game went
    and receivers were not open soon enough

    Hence the sacks.

    It will be interested how their grades will be

    Totally disinterested in the NFL. With all the political
    and social crap going on

    Guess international darts is up next

    Don’t fool ourselves. Their ain’t no gimme game
    In this conference


  8. great gamut of comments, all with good points, ranging from one where the coaches arent even mentioned to one that puts a lot of the disappointment on the coaches.
    I have to remain in Mark’s corner. Regardless of the talent or athletic ability level, which isnt as great as some would like to think between 3 and 4 star players, these are mostly 18 to 20 year old kids. Their analytical abilities and maturity levels and arent all the way there yet. Coaching is critical.
    Like Mark said Mac has done a phenomenal job of finding under the radar players and organizing them into a fundamental team.
    Things are going to have to get a little more sophisticated than fundamental to get anywhere near the playoffs….especially on offense.
    In order to quit rambling I will point out couple of things that I wonder about.
    Too many times a team comes in here from sea level and finishes the latter part of the game well ahead of us. Why is that?
    Watching on TV you cant see how the receiver routes develop but you can see Steve hesitate looking for open receivers and get sacked or run out of the pocket with mixed results. I think Steve’s talents are similar to Baker Mayfield’s……… if he gets a chance to develop them.
    We know Ross and Fields have plenty of speed. Are they slacking in their routes or are the routes ill designed? Even a 20 to 30 yard pattern ought to have enough time for a quick throw.

  9. Yo Stuart,

    I’ll keep my towel as well, but…
    We need to see some changes near the top.

    In Mac’s first three seasons at CU, the level of PLAYERS across the board was not at Pac-12 level. Unlike what many fans think, recruiting stars does not make a player or team. Those players have to be DEVELOPED into good Power 5 players. Very few are good enough at the high school level to jump immediately into an important role in college.

    MacIntyre has done an outstanding job of DEVELOPING players, which is something that Hawk and Embree never did well. Mac also seems in tune with finding guys that are under the radar recruiting wise but are solid enough students to make it academically while they learn and grow. He also went out and got a truly outstanding strength and conditioning man in Drew Wilson. Physically, these Buffs are leaps and bounds ahead of where players in Boulder were 3-5 years ago.

    When the Buffs first got to the Pac-12, opposing teams knew they could just manhandle the Buffs. They didn’t need to use special schemes and adjustments to beat Colorado. They just needed to show up.

    Last year that changed. The Buffaloes were finally the physical equal of their Pac-12 peers and it showed over and over again on their way to a 10-2 regular season. And years of losing motivated those young men to persevere and finally finish on top.

    Now that the Buffs are physically the equal of the other conference teams, our opponents are now working on defeating the tendencies of our coaches. Since winning 10 of 12 in the regular season last season, the Buffaloes have gone 3-3 and have looked uninspired even in the wins. But it’s the losses that ring hardest. The Buffs tend to play hard and keep it close for a half, but then self destruct by going to the well way too often offensively.

    Lots of folks are complaining about Steven Montez this morning. But he doesn’t call the plays. If he’s not going to his third of fourth option on passing plays, it means he wasn’t coached well enough to do so. Also, he doesn’t do the blocking and his protection has been pretty bad this year.

    Really good teams adjust well at halftime. Colorado, particularly on offense, does not. Our play-caller doesn’t seem to have the ability to attack whatever defense he’s going against. He seems to be in a special universe where he thinks this team should be able to run whatever play they want and always succeed. It doesn’t work that way unless you’re at Alabama. Colorado is as good physically as the other Pac-12 teams, but to win no matter what you run you have to be heads and shoulders BETTER than the other teams. Colorado is not to that level right now. They have been before (1989-1996), but not now.

    For the Buffs to win in the Pac-12 now, they need to be as good on the sidelines and in the booth as their opponents. In other words, the coaches need to step it up. The weakest link on the coaching staff right now is Brian Lindgren. He doesn’t adjust well at all.

    Mac got rid of an under-performing defensive coordinator several years ago and brought in Jim Leavitt, who turned the defense around. The new DC deserves a chance to make his mark. Lindgren, however, has been here for the whole shebang and he has to be held accountable. And Mac, as the head coach, ultimately has the buck stop on his desk. He has to make the right decisions or take the fall.

    The players are not making hundreds of thousands dollars, or several million in the case of Mac, each year. The coaches are. All blame when it is due goes to the coaches. It’s what they get paid for.

    If the Buffs don’t start adjusting better, they will be destined to be a middle of the road Pac-12 team. Not great, not horrible, just middle of the road. They’ll win 6-8 games a year and go to a bowl game. If that’s what they are satisfied with, so be it. But it’s hard to be passionate about a program that lacks passion itself.

    These guys need to be a family. And the heads of the family need to take responsibility instead of blaming the kids. The bell has started ringing. Need we ask for whom the bell tolls? We’ll know a lot more in the coming weeks.


    1. Mark, I totally agree with you as I commented on last week’s column. What makes this even tougher to stomach is that we have a potential star OC sitting next to Lindgren in the meeting room and he’s not being given the opportunity to steer the offense on game day. I think most of Buff nation sees Coach Chiv as a future head coach (hopefully in Boulder) and it’s time for him to start to steer the ship.

      1. Yo Dave,

        Coach Chiaverini definitely has head coach in his future. Our current play caller is having way too many “deer in the headlights” moments. Maybe he should devote 100% of his time to developing the QB’s and let someone else call the plays. Getting on the phone is not the same as being face to face.


  10. I watched as a fan last night and I have not spent the time to really watch the game from an analysis standpoint but here is what I caught:
    1. Against an elite o line our three man front could not compete. I think this may be my biggest concern. Our d coordinator did not adjust in game. After back to back drives of 6 yards a run I would have switched to a 4-3 to take the run away.
    2. Against an elite d line our oline really struggles. The o coordinators did a pretty good job f mitigating it but I think we saw the difference between Sefo and Montez. Sefo may not have had the tools but by his senior year he could read a d early well and get his team into the best possible play. Montez is not there yet.
    3. Our special teams gets mixed reviews. Another blocked punt…… but a 4 yard field goal.
    4. Lynot needs to be replaced at center. Bad snaps affect everything.

    The good news. We have one more elite team on the schedule. We also have more time to develop and learn. We have two weeks off to learn more and get more consistent. 5 years ago the schedule would have been 50-0 before we scored a point against there 3rd string. We are so much better but we are not a top 10 team yet.

    the question will be how does the coaching react and can they get these players to develop even more. Frankly I always thought UCLA would be the real test. Win that and we are a 9 win team. Loose bad and we have issues.

  11. Alright. If I take off my Black and Gold glasses, here are some reasons for concern (fortunately I believe the coaches and players will address them and improve) but:

    UW pressured Montez pretty much all game w/ three-man fronts. I don’t know how to get the O-line to do better, but my money’s on Mac, the offensive staff, and their players to do it. It doesn’t hurt that UW’s defensive front has two likely first round picks leading their charge.

    Lynott’s chronically low snaps didn’t help things. Rain? Nerves? Resulting from having those two “pros” in his face? Probably more that than coaching…

    When the pick six happened, UW disguised their three man rush by putting everyone in the box. Montez didn’t recognize the disguise and locked into the same slant that had otherwise worked all game. Easy pickin’s. My money says Montez will have better post-snap reads going forward.

    The CU line wasn’t able to get any holes consistently opened for Lindsey. See the comment about UW’s front, but? Still cause for concern. That’s why they were running to the outside most of the game though. The Huskies’ two “dudes” made anything between the tackles tough. But, the Buffs’ line have to do better.

    Montez’ touch still needs to be refined. He makes some great throws, but… misses some “easy” ones too. That’ll happen.

    His pocket patience and presence is improving. Maybe too much so? I don’t think so. I think it’ll pay dividends vs. first instinct of running for it, as the season progresses.

    Ok. I tried to point out some flaws. For each one, I couldn’t help but illustrate the potential bright side.

    Oh well. So much for my negativity (some would maybe call it “realism”. But, if it’s realistic to point out the flaws and weaknesses, it must also be realistic to highlight progress and improvement).

    As so many said, this one game shouldn’t make or break this season. Most didn’t expect a much different result than we got. I’m still encouraged, and will not be surprised to see a rematch in the Pac 12 Championship. Unless it’s CU vs. Wazzu. Either way, if that happens, I expect our Buffs to put together a much more complete, mistake-free game. And… have a nice shot at winning the Pac 12.

    On to UCLA.

    Go Buffs.

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