Less Worse

Colorado defeated Oregon State, 36-33, when Buff quarterback Steven Montez hit wide receiver Bryce Bobo for the go-ahead score with 1:34 remaining, with Beaver kicker Jordan Choukair missing wide right on a 52-yard attempt with ten seconds left.

The Buffs won, but that doesn’t mean they were the better team on the day.

They were just less worse than the Beavers, who hadn’t finished within four touchdowns of an FBS opponent all season.

Still, I refuse to allow the near miss loss to deter my satisfaction taken from the Buffs’ win.

I owe it to a little bit of added perspective I gained in the days and hours leading up to the fateful final moments at Reser Stadium.

Perspective lesson No. 1 … It’s only a game – Part I

We flew out to Portland on Thursday, heading out a day early so that I could take my seven-year old grandson to his first football game. Liam is the oldest of our five grandsons living in the Portland area (our son has three boys; our daughter, two). Liam’s parents are not interested in team sports, so it falls upon Grandpa Stuart to educate him in the glory that is football.

I took Liam to the local high school football game, with the stadium just a short walk from his parents’ new home in Camas, Washington (really a suburb of Portland, but across the Columbia river in the Evergreen State).

Our exchanges while at the game were not all that I expected:

“Who is that?”, said Liam, pointing towards the near side of the field.

“The player wearing the black uniform is called the wide receiver,” said an excited grandfather. “The player opposite, wearing the white uniform, is called the cornerback …”.

“No,” said Liam. “That man”, pointing again down to the field.

“The man wearing the black-and-white striped shirt?”, I replied. “Well, he is the Side Judge, and he … “.

“No,” said Liam. “The man with the umbrella”.

The umbrella?

“Oh, said grandpa Stuart. “That’s a photographer … “.

Later, Liam spotted the two bright orange down markers on the far sideline. When he asked what they were, I didn’t figure that an explanation about down markers was going to sink in, so I asked Liam what he thought they were.

“They look like carrot sticks,” said Liam.

Well, if Liam says that down markers are carrot sticks … I’m goin’ with carrot sticks.

Perspective Lesson No. 2 … It’s only a game – Part II

I traveled down to the game with my son-in-law, Mac, who is an Oregon alumnus (his boys, I fear, will grow up Duck fans). We went down early to avoid traffic, and had time to hit a farmers’ market to kill some time before going to the stadium.

There were a few orange-clad Oregon State fans in the crowd, but not all that many. The reason wasn’t an antipathy to the home team, I realized, but true indifference.

At a farmers’ market in Corvallis … or Boulder for that matter … you will likely find that over half the people there won’t even know that there is a game that afternoon.

And a full 90% won’t care about the outcome.

Perspective Lesson No. 3 … At the stadium

I have been to most of the opposing stadia in the Pac-12. Road games are fun, but also a little intimidating. It’s tough wearing the black-and-gold in a sea of orange (or red, or green). You bond with everyone wearing your colors, which gives you a strange sense of family.

Watching the Beaver fans head into the stadium, I was curious as to their state of mind. Just five days earlier, Gary Andersen, who had been successful at Utah State and Wisconsin before coming to Oregon State to lead the Beavers back to respectability … had kicked them in the groin.

Not only did Andersen quit mid-season, he very much implied that it was impossible for him – for anyone – to win in Corvallis. Andersen said, in essence, I would rather walk away from $12 million than to deal with the dead end job at Oregon State for another week.

How do you react to that, if you are a Beaver fan? Sure, you understand intellectually that Oregon State has been, is, and forever will be, a second-class citizen in the Pac-12.

But you don’t stop trying.

And you sure as hell don’t expect your multi-millionaire head coach to quit trying.

Oregon State fans would have been forgiven for staying home for the Colorado game, but, there they were, in full black-and-orange regalia. A crowd of 33,785 showed up on a beautiful fall afternoon, and, for most of the day, the Beaver fans were rewarded.

They got to see their 101st-ranked rushing offense (128.8 ypg.) go for 280 against Colorado. The Beavers were 116th in the nation in total offense (321.2 ypg.), and 114th in scoring offense (19.3 ppg.), but went for 569 yards and 33 points against the Buffs.

There was plenty for Beaver fans to enjoy … right up until the final two minutes, when the clock struck twelve, and Oregon State put another loss into the history books.

But they did give me a reminder about sticking with your team no matter what.

Which leads me to …

Perspective Lesson No. 4 … The Pac-12 is wide open

Okay, who had the trifecta of Cal mauling Washington State, Arizona State beating Washington, and Arizona posting more points against UCLA than it did against Colorado?

Sure you did.

Cal, which was supposed to be lousy this year, took down undefeated and eighth-ranked Washington State, 37-3.

Arizona State, which was supposed to be in negotiations with Chip Kelly by now, as the replacement for Todd Graham, shut down undefeated and fifth-ranked Washington, 13-7.

Arizona, which was also supposed to be looking for a new head coach to replace Rich Rodriguez, is 4-2, 2-1, after a 47-30 thumping of UCLA.

If there is one lesson to be taken from the Pac-12 results this weekend – other than the fact that the Pac-12 will likely play its way out of a spot in the College Football Playoffs – is that pretty much any Pac-12 team can beat pretty much every other Pac-12 team.

“It gives us confidence because we were able to finish a game,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said after the Buffs held on to defeat the Beavers. “We did it a lot last year, but we haven’t been able to do it the last two weeks. … We made a drive and we made a stop when we had to.”

The Buffs have five games remaining on their 2017 regular season schedule. The home game against Cal now looks a little bit more difficult, as does the road game against Arizona State. Conversely, the road games against Washington State and Utah now look a tad more manageable.

The last three weeks, the Buffs played three conference games in which the outcome was decided in the final minutes. With the parity which has taken over the Pac-12, there is a strong likelihood that the Buffs will face several more games which will be decided late.

Can the Buffs rise to the occasion? Can the Buffs find a way to at least two more wins, and secure a bowl bid and a chance at a winning season.

If the Pac-12 games, including CU’s narrow 36-33 win over Oregon State, prove anything, is that the Buffs don’t necessarily have the best stats coming into the game.

They don’t have to dominate. They don’t to even be the best team on the field.

They just, for that game, be less worse.



20 Replies to “Less Worse”

  1. All I want for Christmas is some big, nasty lineman, both offensive and defensive. Less wide receiver commits please. Only two receivers caught balls last week anyway. LINEMAN IS WHERE THE GAME STARTS AND ENDS. Once you get quality there, you only need average to slightly above average players at the skill positions to put together a winning team from year to year. See Wisconsin, TCU, Michigan State, Kansas State, Stanford, and Utah for details. If these schools can get them, we can!

  2. Interesting

    In the first years of Mickey Mac, they were a few
    plays every year from being 8-4 or 9-3 or 7-5 if you listened to him
    except maybe the first year.

    Sorry this team is poorly coached


    1. Coachs?

      I didn’t see a single coach miss a tackle of Tate in the AZ game, nor did I see WR coach Chiv drop a single TD pass that hit him right in the hands, in the UCLA game!

      Players make plays (or don’t). Players win games (or lose them accordingly).


      Old armchair QB wizards like you (who never played a down) can’t seem to get that!

  3. Like to thank Rob on his astute D insight. I dont see anything changing however. It hasnt in the past. I can also see the D line getting handled. I dont think we have anyone in the commit or redshirt group for the near future either. We got plenty of WRs though, even though we only used 2 in the last game. Even if the pass protection is second rate you would think with Chev’s experience in the air raid he could put together plays to get the ball out of the QB’s hands quickly.
    And then there is Eric. His wife must treat him right every night and his boss must be his best friend.
    Yeah, in the grand scheme of things its only a game…until Stuart had to go and mention 12 million dollar deals

  4. So I watched the game again. Watching every defensive snap and the conclusion is not good. Oregon state definitely came out and played with some fire but we have major issues and it starts up front.

    1. Our defensive line is getting beat man to man on 95% of the time. This means they are putting a hat on a hat and nearly every time the other team is winning. And not only are we not winning we are loosing he battle the o line is moving the d lineman off the mark. This means that they never have to double block to open a house le. This allows them to allocate lineman to the line backers.
    2. Our line backers are “catching”. What this means is the linebackers are not flowing down field and meeting the player in the hole. This is creating space for opposing running backs to run through.
    3. The safety’s are not filling quickly when they read run. They are coming down but it is a step or two late and this means when they fill it is often 5-8 yards down the field.
    4. The opposing team is always falling forward. This is 1-2 yards a play.

    So first things first none of this was true last year on a regular basis. We are running effectively the same defense but the players last year executed it better. Carrel, Kafavalu and Topuo were studs and won one on one battles all the time. Forcing double teams and freeing linebackers up to flow into the play.

    So what do we do?

    My suggestion is switch to a 4-3 and stunt more. With a 3-4 you rarely stunt because you create too many gaps. With a 4-3 you can stunt more to try and create better match ups. I would at least try it. One thing you may have noticed is at the end of the arizona game we brought the entire defense down into 10 yards. This also happens in goal line situations. I don’t think we have a choice at this point I think we need to at least bring 10 in and probably 11 on over half the plays. You’ll notice that as we did that we could bring more people to the point of attack than they could and we started making plays. Laguda and worthington are solid safeties. We need them in the box filling holes. This exposes us to the big play but if we can’t stop the run we are exposed anyway.

    Not sure if this is he week to make this change Washington state is a pass first team so you probably stay how we are for at least a week but unless we switch something up with our alignment then we are in for a long season.

    One thing I have always struggled with a Macyntyre team is that he does not seem to adapt to the players he has. He keeps his mantra of players make plays…… but coaches put the players that they have in positions to succeed. And keep trying until they find something that will work instead of blasting the, on film for something they just cannot do.

    We’ll see.

    1. Thank you this is a really good post. They seem to have a little success going to the 4-3 on some plays, and I would like to see them do that more instead of being so predictable at 3-4. Overall it seems like the defense has become less creative as of late.

  5. Right? Less worse is pretty apt, and mostly true 90% of the time in college football. It’s the team who makes the fewest mistakes that wins. Usually, at least.

    If our Buffs can quit beating themselves – although Tate had a little something to do in that regard against AZ – they have a real shot to beat any team they face.

    Either way, you know what? The games our Buffs play are fun again. They were last year. They are this year, too. Even UW was not done until the 4th quarter.

    How long has it been since we could say that (knowing 2015 was similar, but they were on the losing end more often then not)?. During the “lost decade” watching our team play was more painful than fun. But? We still watched. We still cheered, and most of us maintained our CU Pride.

    At least now, they’re back on the right track. Even, if at times, it appears they may not be. Yesterday was another step in the right direction.

    Go Buffs.

    1. I’m probably speaking for a lot of others when I say that watching your offense struggle against some of the worst defenses in the country isn’t all that much fun. And watching your defense struggle against mediocre offenses (see Eric’s post above) is also not all that fun. I guess your right track isn’t the same as mine.

        1. More aptly, I was on the beer squad. FAC anyone? How great was that?

          But? I have always cheered for my Buffs. That’s most definitely true.

          Go Buffs.

      1. You may be, Loco, you may be.

        But, I watch college football, and football in general, to be entertained. And, really that’s much more college, than pro. Why? Because anything can happen. they’re playing for passion and pride, not a paycheck (most of them, anyway). It’s young men aka kids, putting it on the line. I’d way rather see close games – ugly or not – than blowouts.

        Sure, it’s definitely more fun when you see your alma mater doing well, on the winning end of those games. But? This is why I say they’re on the right track. I’ll choose to “only” go back 17 years:
        2000 Gary Barnett 3–8 3–5 4th (North)
        2001 Gary Barnett 10–3 7–1 1st (North) L Fiesta†
        2002 Gary Barnett 9–5 7–1 1st (North) L Alamo
        2003 Gary Barnett 5–7 3–5 T-4th (North)
        2004 Gary Barnett 8–5 4–4 1st (North) W Houston
        2005 Gary Barnett
        Mike Hankwitz 7–6 5–3 1st (North) L Champs Sports
        2006 Dan Hawkins 2–10 2–6 5th (North)
        2007 Dan Hawkins 6–7 4–4 3rd (North) L Independence
        2008 Dan Hawkins 5–7 2–6 T-4th (North)
        2009 Dan Hawkins 3–9 2–6 5th (North)
        2010 Dan Hawkins
        Brian Cabral 5–7 2–6 5th (North)
        Pac-12 Conference (2011–present)
        2011 Jon Embree 3–10 2–7 T-5th (South)
        2012 Jon Embree 1–11 1–8 6th (South)
        2013 Mike MacIntyre 4–8 1–8 6th (South)
        2014 Mike MacIntyre 2–10 0–9 6th (South)
        2015 Mike MacIntyre 4–9 1–8 6th (South)
        2016 Mike MacIntyre 10–4 8–1 1st (South)
        2017? TBD.

        But, they’ve already gotten four wins, so they’re looking at a better record than they’ve had in 7 years (other than the 2016 worst to first year) IF they win just one more. I’m betting they get three or four more.

        You may not see that as progress. I do. And? I would argue that the Big 12 years inflated CU’s record b/c the North was abysmally bad. Beating up on perennial losers KU and Iowa State sure was fun, right? Toss in Baylor for good measure (as you surely know, they really sucked back then too).

        I much prefer the Pac 12. And, I do think there’s progress, and that the Buffs are back on the right track. Are they elite yet? No chance. Can they get there again? I sure hope so. In the meantime, they are legitimately two plays away from being 5 and 2 or, dare I say 6 and 1. That’s a far cry from the “lost decade” of CU football.

        To me, that is moving on the right track. Is it as fast as we’d like? Probably not. But, climbing from being, literally, one of the worst teams in FBS back to a perennial power is a process, and, unlikely to be in a straight line. It’s not a flip of a switch.

        Go Buffs.

        1. 2017???

          1-8 in conference is a distinct possibility.

          To get 6 wins they will need to beat Cal
          at home and get a road win

          Which one? WSU UTAH AZ??

          Can you believe there are only 5 games left?
          6 if they win 2 more!

          The Mighty Buffs could be the underdog in everyone of
          those games.

          MickyMac has got to get his act together or
          “The Rise” could become “The Slide”

          Frigging Amazing.


          Note: I expect, no demand they find 2 more wins.

          Gotta get 6. Anything above 6 is gravy

          1. Funny, VK. I’m having that exact conversation w/ a buddy and fellow alum now. I can’t say “which” games they’ll win, but I see at least two, and yeah… possibly four. He, like you, is not so sure.

            I’ll say it again though, I thought they’d lose one they shouldn’t this year. They lost two. Similarly, I figured they’d win one nobody thought they would; just need to get two now.

            In my eyes, at Wazzu and Cal at home are the “most likely” wins to get to six.

            I see ASU as tough, not b/c they’re that good, but… the desert boogie man (or is that the dessert boogie man?). As to USC? They’re beat up. Still, Darnold et al “could” go off any time. Or, go off the rails. That’s in Boulder, so? Anything can happen.

            UT in SLC is tough. I am not convinced UT is all that great, either. But, regardless of who’s where between UT and CU, those games have always come down to the wire, it seems.

            All that said, I could not agree with you more. They gotta get at least two. As you always point out, those extra practices are big. And, I think given the younger talent coming up who’ll be expected to contribute next year, they’re huge.

            How it’ll all shake down? No idea. Looking forward to watching it unfold though.

            Go Buffs!

        2. I agree Eric. We are on the upswing, this year is just a step back from last year’s unexpected performance. While the Buffs have struggled this year more than I expected, we still are playing for a bowl game. All these guys who are already counting losses that have yet to be played blow my mind. I think this team is growing and when you see how many leaders left after last year I think it is natural, particularly on defense.

          Also, I sat 3 rows behind Stuart at the game with my family. Last time I was in Corvallis four years ago there were far fewer Buff fans and far more Beaver fans in pouring rain. That alone tells the story of the direction of the two programs. Four years ago we started the game with Connor Wood and ended with Sefo. That tells a story too. Montez is learning and getting better. I think this game will help him. I saw him start to make plays. Even when he threw it away it showed that he was growing.

          We are not as good as last year, but I think we are not as bad as some think. This year does not warrant panic in my opinion no matter how the rest of the year goes.

          I agree with Stuart’s perspective notes.

          1. Well said, Andrew. Of course, because we agree… Nah, I just think some people get too caught up in the immediate aftermath, and forget the larger picture.

            It’s hard to say this team is not improving. Heck, I even shocked myself at the listing of just how bad they’ve been since the early 2000s.

            It’s crazy to think that for most of the “lost decade” getting five wins was a good year. One year after an exceptional performance, albeit with a ton of close calls that just broke their way, everyone’s expecting them to compete for 10 wins again. I mean, I was, but… I can be accused of being optimistically delusional.

            In reality, there’s nothing we’ve seen that shows they’re not still on the rise. Growing pains? Absolutely. Need of better D line and O line? Without a doubt.

            I think they’ll get there. Possibly even this year, still.

            Go Buffs!

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