“It’s Real Frustrating, Actually”

It’s tempting, when a game is decided by less than a touchdown, to play the “What If?” game.

What if … the Buffs weren’t called for holding on a Steven Montez touchdown run with seven minutes remaining? The Buffs would have take a 27-24 lead instead of settling for a field goal and a 24-23 deficit.

What if … the Buffs hadn’t gone for the fake field goal late in the second quarter? Instead of trailing 14-10 at the break, it would have been a 14-13 game, and the strategies of play the second half would been altered.

What if … Buff receivers hadn’t dropped two touchdown passes in the end zone?

“We had a couple plays here or there that could have gone either way”, said Mike MacIntyre. “That was the difference in the game”.

The “What If?” game can drive you crazy, and is not advised. (If you still aren’t convinced, ask a Colorado State fan to lunch, and start the conversation with: “How do you think the Rocky Mountain Showdown would have turned out if the Rams hadn’t been called for three offensive pass interference penalties?”. An hour later, you’ll agree that the “What If?” game is to be avoided).

There is a case to be made, however, for taking a look at the UCLA game for its defining moments. Not only game-defining moments, mind you, but potentially season-defining moments.

Case in point … Colorado at Oregon, 2016.

When the Buffs traveled to Eugene last September, both teams were 2-1. CU had vanquished Colorado State and Idaho State, but had just absorbed a tough road loss to Michigan the week before. Oregon had vanquished UC-Davis and Virginia, but had just absorbed a tough road loss to Nebraska the week before.

Oregon was coming off of a 9-4 season in 2015, and hadn’t had a losing season in a decade.

Colorado, meanwhile, was coming off of a 4-9 season in 2015, and hadn’t had a winning season in a decade.

The game went back and forth, and came down to one play.

The Buffs were up, 41-38, but the lead was precarious. Oregon had a first-and-goal at the Colorado seven yard line, with 1:43 still to play. All the time in the world to run three plays for a game-winning touchdown, with a field goal to force overtime the worst case scenario.

Instead, the Ducks, out of an arrogance built out of a decade of success, didn’t take their time. Senior transfer quarterback Dakota Prokup did not make the correct read, lofting a pass to the corner of the end zone, where it was intercepted by Ahkello Witherspoon.

Game over. Buffs win in an upset, 41-38.

Buff fans all know what happened next. The Buffs went on to an 8-1 Pac-12 record, claiming the Pac-12 South title. Oregon, meanwhile, went the other direction, finishing 4-8 (2-7 in Pac-12 play), including a 70-21 mauling at the hands of Washington, and an embarrassing season-ending loss to Oregon State.

What if … Dakota Prokup had handed the ball off instead of going for a quick score on first-and-goal at the seven with 1:43 remaining? The Buff defense was reeling, and, even if the Buffs had held the next three plays and forced a field goal, the Ducks would have had momentum heading into overtime.

If Oregon had pulled out the win, would the Ducks have collapsed so dramatically? Would Mark Helfrich still be coaching in Eugene?

Closer to home, an Oregon victory would have meant that Colorado would have fallen to 2-2 on the season, 0-1 in Pac-12 play. Would the Buffs have bounced back from yet another close loss? Would Colorado, which had gone 5-40 in its first five seasons in the Pac-12, gone on to win seven of its next eight conference games?

I’m guessing “no”.

The 27-23 loss to UCLA can be the catalyst for the Buffs turning the 2017 season into something special … or it could be the first of what could become a series of tough-to-live-with losses, like those experienced in 2015.

Remember … Arizona 38, Colorado 31? No. 25 UCLA 35, Colorado 31 (2OT)? USC 27, Colorado 24? No. 23 Utah 20, Colorado 14?

It’s the difference between 8-4 and 4-8.

The Buffs, for their part, are vowing to use the UCLA game as an instrument of motivation …

— “The biggest thing is we got to work on the little things, that are coming up on film,” said defensive end Leo Jackson III. “One or two yards that make the critical difference we need. We need those yards, we need to find out a way to make those plays.”

— “It’s just about taking that next step,” said defensive back Isaiah Oliver. “It starts with fixing mistakes, we had way too many penalties today, way too many coverages busted and things like that. So we’re going to fix that this week and come out strong and get ready to play Arizona.”

— “It’s real frustrating, actually,” said quarterback Steven Montez, who led the team in passing (17-of-36, 243 yards, one touchdown) and rushing (15 attempts for 108 yards). “I thought there were a lot of plays out there that could have gone our way. Obviously they didn’t. We need to get back to practice on Monday and just use this as motivation. If this doesn’t fire you up, I don’t know what will. I thought that we played a good game. We’ve just got to finish”.

There were some positives to come out of the UCLA game. The Buffs put together perhaps their most complete effort of the season, and the numbers back that up …

— The Buff offense went for 434 yards, including 191 on the ground (while holding UCLA to 95 rushing yards);

— The Buffs came into the game 97th in the nation in turnovers lost, and 121st in sacks against, but did not have a turnover, and did not surrender a sack; and

— Freshman kicker James Stefanou remains a weapon (as long as he is not asked to catch passes). Stefanou hit all three of his field goal attempts, giving him nine consecutive made kicks (and 10-of-11 on the season).

The Colorado offense (finally) showed some semblance of consistency, with four drives of over ten plays, with drives covering 63, 76, 75, 62, and 55 yards.

The major problem, though, comes when the Buffs hit the red zone.

The Colorado offense made it inside the UCLA 20-yard line five times on the night, but came away with one touchdown. Scoring four times out of five in the red zone isn’t bad, but one touchdown, three field goals, and a botched field goal attempt is not going to win many games on the road against Pac-12 opponents.

For the season, the Buffs have been inside the opponent’s red zone 18 times, but have come away with only eight touchdowns, to go with seven field goals and three outright whiffs.

“We’re going to keep moving, we’re going to keep working forward and we’re going to get ready for our next one,” said Mike MacIntyre. “Our kids will bounce back but I was really proud of the way they fought and really proud of the way they played. Had a couple plays here or there that could have gone either way, that was the difference in the game, that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”

It is just the way it goes sometimes.

Sometimes teams bounce back.

Sometimes teams can’t get over the hump (see: Colorado, 2015).

Sometimes teams don’t recover (see: Oregon, 2016).

“The kids just battled extremely hard and we’re getting better and better and better,” said MacIntyre. “We’re going to get a bunch of wins before it’s over.”

Buff fans can only hope that will prove true, and that the 2017 season-defining moment won’t prove to be a holding call in the fourth quarter of the 27-23 loss to UCLA …

—–

33 Replies to ““It’s real frustrating””

  1. I said it before the UCLA game that this game would determine if we had a legit shot at the high side but with the results in I think we can safely say we are a middle of the road PAC12 team this year on the high side.

    We should beat: Arizona, ASU, Oregon State & Cal
    We should loose to USC, Utah and Washington State

    7-5

    Go to a middle bowl and a chance at an 8-5 season which is a pretty nice follow up to last year.

    I am not sure how I feel about this….. The offense was supposed to be the strength of the team and it clearly has not been. I am working on a theory of why. I need to see more PAC 12 games to truly figure say I believe it but at a high level I think that Lindgren is having a hard time when he cannot identify a clear way to out scheme the opposing defense. Last year Sefo knew the offense so well he could alter the play at the line of scrimmage and drive the match ups that were favorable. Montez is just calling the play given and in many cases this leaves us with “our dudes” versus “your dudes”. And unfortunately, this means where we have a recruiting gap the opposing players are manning up well against us. I believe in our coaching. I think overall we are a well coached team and the players are still playing above their level but against those teams with elite level athletes we are going to struggle a bit.

    The good news. Montez is still learning and he seems to be getting better. I have a feeling if he can cross the boundary and start to make those switched Sefo was doing we may finish stronger.

    1. I believe you are totally correct on BL. He is predictable, except for a couple of funky plays. The DC’s of the pac 12 own him. Oh of course the kids make mistakes but that happens and you have to expect it to happen. Coaches can’t be saying: Dropped pass, interceptions, fumble, penalties are the reason the Buffs are 0-2 in the Pac.

      What about those crappy play calls? What about the “no real sequence” in the play calling. Some of the play designs are nice, but not many. And that stupid arse fake field goal that the HC said he would call 100 out of 100 times. That right there identifies the problem in spades and the reason lindy is still here. There is cluelessness at the top about what a modern day offense looks like.

      Buffs.

      Note: Just about had enough of the “glazed over eyes” in the press box and the
      “strolling coach” on the sideline.

      Note: Go Buffs get a bowl.

      Note 2: Go Vols lose the rest of your games

      Note 3: Perfect

      1. Yeah that whole Butch Jones drama, and where he is now literally and figuratively is all kind of amusing now. I think we got a better guy.

          1. Whew. Glad your opinion evolved w/ more information on that one. There was a time you were pointing out that Butch was the guy they should’ve gotten instead of Mac.

            Hindsight’s a beautiful thing.

            Not that Butch isn’t a good coach. Tough expectations at TN. But, I think Mac was a better fit for the turnaround needed at CU. Now, can he keep it going? We’ll see.

            Go Buffs.

          2. You miss read as usual.

            My opinion has always been evolved. Ahead of the time so to speak. Especially yours.

            It took four years and Mac has in theory rebuilt the program. Whether he can manage that success and continue the process remains to be see. This year is a pivot year although Mac1 in his 5th year went 6-6 including a bowl loss but was 6-1 in conference, setting up the next 8 years for a 73-19-5 record.
            Can mac2 do this. Mac2 appears at risk.

            Now butch couldn’t make the turn around move. With higher rated players but oh by the way in a much tougher conference.

            Loan guy, never wanted Butch. Mac always seemed like a risk and perhaps still is to get to the next level. Until someone can get him to understand big time, offenses, before and during the game, and clock management, and demeanor he will be to me a small time Mac1 imitator with a much worse personality than the Real Mac.

            Just how it is.

            Buffs.

    2. Rob – Honestly the Offense/Defense are performing worse/better than expectations but overall the team at 7-5 w/bowl win is realistically where this team was at. If the O were rolling and we were giving up UCLA-esque (until last week) points, I think many would say they were not surprised.
      7-5 + bowl win sets up for next year…which is the one we should really be banking on…if we are not competing for the Pac12 Champ. in ’18 we need a new HC. Think about it, we should be that good, esp. based on the play of some of the youngsters this year. Need a RB for sure, otherwise???

  2. It was disappointing to lose a close one, but Montez is getting better. He’s really got a strong arm and throws bullets. And he looked good running too. The O and D lines have really been squashed two weeks in a row. At this point, I think it is safe to say that is who they are. And I’m afraid no amount of coaching or “fixing mistakes” is going to change that.

    Right now it’s hard not to think that the sky is falling, but win 2 of the next 3, and then 2 of the last 4 and go to a bowl at 7-5. The Buffs still have a good chance for a decent season after losing all of those guys to the NFL last year.

    McIntyre has still only had one good recruiting class (last year). Think about where they were a few short years ago (2-10 and 4-9). At this point, I’d take 10-4 followed by 7-5.

    1. My bad. Should have been “JL”.
      VK likes to remind us of how much better the Oregon defense is doing under Jim Leavitt … as if retaining Jim Leavitt at over $1M/year was an option for CU.

      1. Freudian slip by you eh?

        What’s real frustrating is all this frigging moisture. An indication of the upcoming winter? Will the Buffs be playing in December?

        Will Mac be going to Tennessee?

        So Frustrating.

        Buffs

        1. I wouldn’t think he’d go to Tennessee until after Jay graduates…but then again there’s the SEC $$$. Does he truly love Boulder as he says? Hope so. We need a coach we can have around a good long time.

          1. Good points.

            But Jaymac can graduate in May and will have a year of eligibility left,
            so there is that.

            Buffs

    1. Well, it’s the one of the lowest paid staffs in the Pac-12 … so you get what you pay for.
      When you get your “GoFundMe” site up and running to raise money to get BL back, let us know.

  3. When your quarterback is your leading rusher, there’s problems on the offense. I know some will gloss that over with “Hey, Montez is a great athlete/quarterback,” etc., but many of those yards were what looked to be broken plays and a QB running for his life. Yes, I am glad Montez made the plays, but he is sure to be injured soon if this keeps up. Then what? The backup QB’s can’t run as well.
    Yikes! Remember when Coach Mac realized his good friend and faithful coach, Kent Baer, wasn’t cutting it in the PAC 12 as a Defensive Coordinator? Well, I think it’s time to admit the same thing with our offense, starting with Coach _________? first.

  4. Yes the ‘what if’ game is very dangerous.. but I have not been able to get over the fake FG call since the moment it occurred. It’s not the fact that we went for it…it’s the fact that we ran a fake FG. If we are going to go for it fine, again we were playing a very shaky D….come out and then try to draw them offside if not beat them with the play.
    Our FG kicker is good, he’s hit them high and solid all year, no one has come close to blocking a kick…it’s not like last year. So if I’m UCLA don’t even try that hard and just play fake.
    Or just kick it for 3.
    Terrible, feel awful for the kids…as that fake was all coaching and talked about all week and just plain bad strategy from the outset.

  5. The Mighty Buffs.

    So what is the offensive identity of the Mighty Buffs? What are they? I believe the answer is they don’t know and don’t have one. Okay there have been some good plays, and some player errors (dropped passes, penalties, other errors) but they happen in every single college football game. And yup they happen at inopportune times. And yup some teams have more than others.

    But even with all that, what is this Buff offense, which along with the Oline was hyped by the head coach as being high powered, explosive and perhaps the best in a long long time. Perhaps it was wishful thinking. Perhaps it was being blinded by the light. Perhaps the players are overrated. Perhaps the coaching staff is division 3 (Northern Arizona) rather than a division 1 staff. It is frustrating as supposedly the talent is they best in 5 years on the offensive side, but it is just not happening other than a here and there deealeooo. So what is the offensive identity? Maybe its who the hell is running the ship. Is it Chev? Is it Lindy? Is it the HC of the year? Each have different experiences and expertise and preferences in the offensive area.
    Maybe too many cooks mean the souffles are burning.

    From and offensive standpoint, it is what it is, and it is what it was.

    7 to go and it is frustrating. As AZ stated, what the heck, this is the fifth year and the issues still exist.

    Welp a home game against a supposed weak team, Then an away game against a supposed weak team.

    Could be 2 and 2 Pac 12 then going to WSU.

    2 and 3 then….

    4 games left 2 at home and 2 on the road.

    4 and 5 in the Pac would not be a good look, especially after going 8-1 in conference last year

    5-4 (8 win season) well maybe okay
    6-3 (9 win season) totally acceptable.
    7-2? not gonna happen.

    Regardless, gotta win the bowl game this year.

    Buffs.

    Note: The loan sharks “I think they will” attitude for an OC

  6. Is it just me or does it seem like every year the “worst offense” or the “worst defense: seems to get it together when they play the Buffs? Don’t get me wrong I saw a better offensive game plan this week but playing a weak defense it seems like we should have scored more points. Kudos to the defense they kept the ball in front of them and held the mighty Bruins. I think our small defensive front is a problem. We cannot out muscle or run around the big offensive lines.

    GO BUFFS BEAT ARIZONA

  7. The defense played well against a good offense.

    The offense….the offensive line can’t run block or pass block, but other than that they looked good.

  8. Some are very gracious in their comments. This was a game we were suppose to wine. Coming out party for the running game… Black-out Boyz in their groove…… Overall, I liked what the players accomplished; improved tackling and Lindsay never quit. The “little things to be worked out” by the Coaches is getting tired… how many games does it take to correct the O-Line, catching Montez zingers, consistent running game or eliminate so many penalties? My guess, is too long for this season to be a success … all on the Coaching Staff; We are so lucky to have MM arrive when he did deliver on “The Rise”… He seems to have his head way up in the clouds so far this season. Admit to issues and fix them; Offensive play calling is obviously
    in need of work and has been …fix it. O-line is putting Lindsay and Montez at risk as well as the Buffs season;
    Will take a bit more work but almost half way into the season, it requires a solution for the 2nd half of the season. Sorry, …. ” just a few small things to work on ; a play here, a play there and we would have won”
    does satisfy me. Cancelled my SingTV package…. not going to watch a repeat of the 2015 season!

    Go you Buffs AND Coaches !

  9. One aspect of last nights game that was somewhat positive is that Montez stepped up in the pocket more than he ever has in a game. He bought time and the Oline seemed to protect him better in that position. When he runs wide or the RB’s are running wide the Oline is much more sieve like. He needs to continue to stay in the pocket. Sometimes he will have to roll out but when things break down step up and leave it to your Olinemen.

    Another thing on Offense that sure would help is more pass plays over the middle. I know that would probably include a TE once and a while. Do we have TEs on this team?

    1. Great point. Totally agree about plays over the middle – why no quick slants over the middle for our speedy wr’s? We only do quick throws to the sideline.

      But totally disagree on your positive outlook on Montez stepping up in the pocket. He was running for his life the whole night. When he stepped up, it was because the their edge rushing had badly beaten our tackles around the edge.

    2. AZ, I think you and many others, incl’ myself, have harped on not utilizing TE’s in the offensive scheme. Crap, Michigan beat us with TE slants across the middle. Every time they needed a critical 3rd down (with 5-8 yards to go) they beat on us like a drum with the TE’s.

      You, VK, myself and many, many, many others have graphically extorted, in a hundred different ways, the need to buy Lingering a one-way ticket out of town. He seems to be entrenched in MM’s back pocket. His play calling is abysmal.

      ‘Cmon Buffs, overcome the ball and chain that’s dragging ya’ down. You don’t have Sefo to fall back on.

        1. Si amigo. Bet you missed me.

          It doesn’t seem as tho’ they (the coaching staff) have paid much attention to any of us… esp’ you, ep, AZ, Buffnaustin and myself and other reg’ contributors. So I decided to only post when the pressure cooker starts blowing its top.

          I still like to read your ranting tho’ and I love all your new I.D.’s

          So, Go Big Buffs. Eat some Cat this weekend !

          1. Thanks VK. Yes, I am doing well.

            My wife and I are still looking forward to trying out that German restaurant you recommended in Lyons a couple of years back…. if we’re ever up in that neighborhood late afternoon/evening.

            Long drive from Colo. Spgs. just for a little schnitzel.

            Root hard for us. Ralphie’s gotta have a little Cat stew Sunday morning.

  10. The one vexing issue I saw all night was the defensive front. Josh Rosen was hardly touched. They were few time he was ever thrown off or forced from the pocket. I’m thinking DC Elliot is not the replacement we needed for Levitt.

  11. Two quick thoughts. I am by no means an expert, but it seems to me that our offensive line play has been horrendous this year. Am I missing something? They were billed as potentially the best CU line in years. Complaints about playcalling are irrelevant, if we can’t block (both in the running game and the passing game). If we can fix the o-line it seems like all facets of the team will improve (playcalling, Montez accuracy, big plays down the field to WR, controlling the clock with the run game).

    On the bright side, it it looks like we have a solid kicker for the next four years, something that has been frustrating to say the least for a long time. In fact, I think special teams in general is looking up across the board. He hasn’t broken one yet, but it looks like the freshman (Nixon I think) has a nice little burst.

  12. Yo Stuart,

    I’m sad and frustrated the Buffs lost… but, I’m relieved that they FINALLY had a game in which their emotions were in it from start to finish. If they had done that from the get-go this season instead of sleep walking through inferior opponents, they likely would have worked out the kinks that that kept them from coming out of this game on top. And, they would have looked a lot better against Washington last week.

    Lest anyone get too excited about a close loss to the Bruins, remember that UCLA is not a very good team, even though they have some outstanding individual players who will be soon collecting paychecks to play on Sundays. The Bruins D was giving up well over 40 points a game, so scoring 23 means the Buffs did only half as well as everyone else the Bruins played.

    On the bright side, the Buffaloes the high scoring UCLA offense to 27 points. That’s 2 1/2 touchdowns less than they normally score. That said, the D played well for the most part. The offense should have scored more, and would have without the butterfingers in the end zone and the killer penalties which seemed to either kill big plays or put the Buffs in a hole to start a drive that the couldn’t climb out of. Very frustrating indeed.

    What they do with that frustration will be telling. Arizona and Oregon State are the next two up. Both programs are having down years and the Buffs should win handily… if they show up to play. If they think all the they have to do is show up and win, the season will get real ugly real quick.

    I hope the fans fill Folsom for Arizona and show their support. I hope the players and coaches start doing the little things they keep talking about.

    Lastly, since they’re villified frequently by fans, the CU offensive coordinators did a fairly good job. Still a few “roll your eyes” moments, but substantially improved from what we’ve seen previously. Good job to Brian Lindgren and Darren Chiaverini on the play calling, although the calls did cause Steven Montez to take a beating.

    We’ll see how the Buffs respond next Saturday.

    Mark
    Boulderdevil

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