The Bite Size Rise

The theme for the 2016 season at Colorado was “The Rise”.

For 2017, one of the themes has been “Never Stop Rising”.

With a 41-21 victory over Northern Colorado, the Buffs moved their 2017 record to 3-0. It’s the best start for CU since 2008, and only the third 3-0 start to a season for CU in the 21st century.

Yet, with each game, the CU coaching staff and players find themselves spending more time explaining than celebrating. The Rise is continuing, but not at a pace which is satisfying to many of the Buff faithful.

Call it … The Bite Size Rise.

Very often, how well Colorado plays in its opener sets the tone for the year.

In 78 seasons CU has won its first game of the season, the Buffs have gone on to post winning records 61 times (78.2%). In 44 seasons CU has lost its first game, the Buffs have gone on to post winning records only 19 times (43.2%).

In 2016, the opening game of CU’s season truly set the tone for the 2016 campaign.

The Buffs demolished Colorado State last Labor Day weekend, racing out to a 21-0 first quarter lead, never looking back in a 44-7 rout. The Buffs went on to post a worst-to-first, ten-win, Pac-12 South championship season.

This fall, the opening game of CU’s season may have also set the tone for its campaign.

Colorado defeated Colorado State, 17-3, but was criticized for the victory. The Buffs held a Ram offense which had put up 58 points against Oregon State the week before (and was averaging over 40 points per game over its past eight games) to a single field goal. Yet the post-game celebration was muted by criticism of the officials, who flagged the Rams for three offensive pass interference penalties.

In Game Two, the Buffs put away Texas State, 37-3, but was only ahead, 14-0, at halftime, with one of CU’s two touchdowns coming by way of a fluke fumble/punt return for a touchdown by wide receiver Laviska Shenault.

The Buffs won by 34 points, but again were relegated in the post-game interviews to explaining why the offense hadn’t performed better.

Against the Northern Colorado Bears in the final non-conference tune-up, the Buffs allowed the Bears to score on their first possession of the game, then again on the first possession of the second half to pull within a touchdown, at 28-21. The Buffs finally pulled away for a 41-21 win, but again, the Buff coaches and players were left to rationalize and explain.

“We need to improve everywhere”, said CU head coach Mike MacIntyre in his post-game press conference. “You always want to clean everything up. In sports, nothing goes perfectly very often. You have to learn how to adapt and how to handle adversity and handle situations and keep playing”.

Sound like a coach who just posted the first 3-0 start of his 28-year career as a coach, college or pro?

It wasn’t all that long ago that Buff fans were excited about the prospects for the 2017. The optimism has been tempered, however, as CU’s victories in non-conference play have been less than stellar.

At the risk of being mocked/criticized, let’s look back at “Return to Relevance II“, which I posted in August. I posted ten reasons for Buff fans to be excited about the 2017 season:

1. Steven Montez is the real deal The Buffs’ starting quarterback may only have three starts under his belt, but he also has three years in the Colorado system

and now … Montez set career highs for attempts (41), completions (29), passing yards (357) and touchdowns (4) against Northern Colorado. Montez has had moments in non-conference play, however, when he has been indecisive, missed open receivers, and made bad decisions … He is also 5-1 as a starter. Give the sophomore time.

2. The CU wide receiver corps is not only one of the best in the Pac-12, it is one of the best in the country … Athlon has the Buff receivers ranked as the No. 5 unit in the country, with Lindy’s stating, “One of the very best wide-receiver corps in the nation resides in Boulder” … 

and now … CU is the only school in the nation with three receivers – Shay Fields, Bryce Bobo and Devin Ross – with over 100 career catches. There have been positive moments in the first three games, but not the dominance CU fans were expecting.

3. The offensive line is a strength, not a weaknessThe Buffs lose only one starter along the offensive line. The projected replacement for Alex Kelley at center, Jonathan Huckins, started three games last year, and has 13 career starts …

and now … This was a complete whiff. The offensive line has been a huge disappointment. Offensive tackle Jeromy Irwin and blocking tight end George Frazier were suspended for the first two games, but their return for the Northern Colorado game did not render dramatic improvement. Center Jonathan Huckins missed the UNC game with an injury, but the unit is out of excuses. If the offensive line doesn’t get its act together, the Pac-12 conference season will be long indeed.

4. Phillip Lindsay, a/k/a The Tasmanian DevilThere have been many popular players at Colorado over the years, but Phillip Lindsay may leave Boulder as one of the most popular ever. A colorful and feisty spokesman for the Buffs during the hard times, Lindsay may get to enjoy the fruits of his labor this fall. 

and now … Lindsay has 376 yards rushing in three games, and has done his part. If the offensive line was doing its part, who knows how good of a season Lindsay could be having.

5. The defensive line will surprise …  The Colorado 2017 defensive line starters will have to prove themselves, but Leo Jackson (who has played in 26 games in his CU career, with 11 starts) will lead a unit which has more experience than it is given credit for. 

and now … While not a dominant force, the defensive line has held its own. The Buff defense has given up 27 points in three games, the fewest for a CU defense since 1978. The defensive line has done its part.

6. Isaiah Oliver – All-Pac-12 in 2017; All-American in 2018? … Colorado had three defensive backs drafted into the NFL in April, but the Buffs’ shut down corner this fall may be better than those three. 

and now … Oliver is all that, and a bag of chips. Two interceptions in the first three games, including a highlight reel pick against Texas State.

7. The new defensive coaches are working out just fine … Colorado has three new defensive assistants – D.J. Eliot, ShaDon Brown, and Ross Els – and none of them are named “Jim Leavitt”. It remains to be seen if the 2016 Buff defense was an anomaly – and a product of mastermind Leavitt – or the natural progression of better recruiting and overall player development. 

and now … See above. A total of 27 points in three games. Do the Buffs need a better pass rush? Better deep coverage? More consistent play overall? Sure. But until or unless the Huskies dominate the Buffs, these coaches get the benefit of the doubt. The play of the defense has not been CU’s problem.

8. Depth is not a four-letter word …  Only a handful of especially gifted freshmen will see the playing field this fall, while most of the talented members from the CU Recruiting Class of 2017 will watch this fall, hitting the books and the weight room, waiting for their turn to become stars at Folsom.

and now … A number of true freshmen have seen action: linebacker Jacob Callier; linebacker Nate Landman; wide receiver K.D. Nixon; tight end Jared Poplawski; wide receiver Laviska Shenault; linebacker Dante Sparaco; and kicker James Stefanou. Those who have played have, for the most part, played well. The majority of players from the Recruiting Class of 2017 are waiting, watching, and learning.

9. Buffs still have a “chip on their shoulder” … The final two games of the 2016 season – embarrassing losses to Washington and Oklahoma State – are providing fuel to the Buffs’ fire. Disrespect – actual and perceived – have left the Buffs knowing that there remains some unfinished business in 2017.

and now … If the Buffs have a chip on their shoulders, they have been holding back on their use of that motivator. The Buffs have played well enough to win their non-conference games, but have not come out looking like a team which wants to show the nation that it is an elite team. Quite the contrary … the Buffs are giving fuel to the naysayers that the Buffs were one-hit wonders in 2017, and will revert to mediocrity (or worse) once Pac-12 play begins.

10. The schedule works in CU’s favor … If the Buffs can get past Colorado State in the opener (and yes, that remains an “if”), Colorado will coast to a 3-0 non-conference record. That will give the Buffs two extra weeks to prepare for their rematch against Washington, which will be a sellout between two undefeated teams … 

and now … nothing has changed. The Buffs, are, as expected, 3-0 heading into the Washington game. The schedule has been kind to Colorado, but now it’s time to put up or shut up. If the Buffs have been lacking in motivation against the last two opponents, saving themselves for the Huskies … fine. The proof is in the pudding.

If Colorado upsets Washington next weekend, all will be forgiven. The Buffs will be 4-0 and nationally ranked.

If Colorado lays an egg against Washington next weekend, the boo-birds will be out in full force. The Rise hit a wall in the Pac-12 championship game last season.

The Bite Size Rise the Buffs have put together so far in 2017 is now on the clock …


19 Replies to “The Bite Size Rise”

  1. Work in progress, UNC provided some valuable lessons and challenged this squad, the best case scenario when you schedule a game like this. Still got the W, but more importantly some good work for what’s ahead.

    Not saying we’ll win, but Washington is beatable without Ross. Special teams will need to keep Pettis in check, if that means just not kicking him to him, so be it.

    Time to get loud Saturday night!!! Bring your “A” game!

    Go Buffs!!

  2. After watching the Washington/Fresno game until Pettis had 4 TDs I turned it off thinking CU is going to have a very long Saturday night. Either the Buffs have been sandbagging it in anticipation of not showing their offense to Washington (of course that would be foolish because UW can just look at last year’s film) or they read their own press clippings. I believe the latter. This is the pitfall of non-conference games being against much inferior opponents – they really don’t learn anything about their team, these other teams don’t have enough talent to really challenge the Buffs and they wind up playing up to the competition so that once they are really smacked in the face they aren’t ready. I would be thrilled if they win vs. UW but I just don’t see how they can all of a sudden turn it on and play that complete game they have been trying to for the past 3 weeks. If they do win, my hat is off to them because they have been excellent actors concealing their real talent!

  3. Follow the yellow brick road eh?

    Average like the O stats. Middle of the pack

    Man there are a lot of good OC’s out there

    Certainly next year there will be a team that needs
    Lindy as the HC



    That would take the loyalty monkey off of Macs backp

  4. Yeah the Buffs are “just” winning against lessor foes that we all expected much more against. Like most fans, I am both disappointed about some of their play and happy for the 3-0 start.

    Yes, too many big plays given up against UNC and almost against CSU. (who actually played pretty well at Alabama).

    But, look at half of the PAC12 South, the AZ schools have both lost games to teams “they were suppose to beat”, and UCLA with a loss to a really good group5 school has no defense and got really lucky in their come back win; they were just plain lucky two of the TDs weren’t TOs instead.

    Utah is in the middle like CU, having won three and while at times looking better, their wins haven’t been “top of the conference” wins either.

    So, can CU play well enough? Improve enough? To stay in the top half of the South and be competing for the South come their last two games? I like that the schedule is set up for the Buffs to play USC and Utah for the last two games, get through the above mentioned schools and CU is competing for the South with the important games at the end.

  5. So I was pretty disappointed in the game yesterday initially. But over the rest of the day I got some perspective and it lined up really well with your article. I would add a couple of points:
    1. They are beating the teams they should beat. Even if it looks bad they are still beating those teams. That means that while their execution is not perfect nor 100% consistent it is consistent enough to drop the teams they should.
    2. The team is not nearly as experienced as they were last year. One of the things I have noted is that last year we had so many guys that had been playing together and as starters that they had seen everything and all knew how they would all react. This team has so many new starters or new combinations they are still gelling. I expect they will continue to get better each game.
    3. Last years team never seemed to take a play off. This team does. I think it is human nature. Last years team hadn’t won in so long they fought at 100% all the time. This team knows it is better and at times just coasts. But they are better and when they turn it on they show their dominance of those weaker teams.

    This team is not as good as last years team but they someday might be. I still predict a great year the team will finish in the top 25.

    Here is my prediction based on what I have seen:
    Washington – loss
    UCLA – leaning loss, if this was at Folsom I would lean win
    Arizona – win
    Oregon State – win
    California – win
    Arizona State – win
    USC – loss
    Utah – lean win

    So 7 wins as a base and 2 games that we have a legit shot at. Given what I have seen I think we should have 8 wins with a legitimate shot at 9. Cracking Washington or USC would be a signature win. If the Buffs continue to improve I would love for them to crack USC in our house. Might be possible USC has some flaws.

    1. What about WSU?

      But, yeah those four schools for 7 wins should be really doable and 3 other games are dependent on how they improve and play against those other tier II (in conference) schools, UCLA, Utah & WSU.

      So, a 7-10 win season is/should be the new standard (7-8 in a down year) AND, challenging USC every year for the South is the Buffs new Nebraska/Big10 North. Utah will always be a fun and hard fought game at the end of the season, but with the hate of CSU and USC being the “Nebraska” of the PAC12 South they really fall to #3 in rivalry games… for now, maybe after ten years of playing really hard fought games to decides who end up winning the South, or higher in the standings, or at a better bowl game will the games become a nasty rivalry game.

  6. After watching the Buffs inconsistent and mediocre play against the last two weak teams, I am starting to think that a six win season seems less likely than it did after the CSU game.

    I hope I am wrong, but winning PAC-12 games is going to be difficult for this team.

  7. I love the optimism that many including ‘my tribe’ from CU showed going into this year and through the first two games. While to date it’s the D outperforming the O vs. expectations, the overall results are pretty much inline w/more realistic expectations for this team.

    Now we have bigger problems as the Oline is a terrible disappointment.

    Making and winning (any) bowl game should be the goal for this team, just don’t want our ‘fans’ who are going to come/tune into their 1st game of the season next week to loose interest if we struggle against a VERY good team (think CSU vs. Bama…we know UW can go toe/toe w/Bama). In fact, whatever your gut reaction is to CU vs. Bama at Folsom on Sat. should be the general expectation.

  8. Well my friends the Pac 12 season is upon us and after Stuart’s reassessment my favorite Italian proverb comes firmly to mind, “Tra il dire e il fare c’è di mezzo il mare” – ‘between saying and doing there is an ocean’.

  9. One other thought in addition to my other comment. It’s time we need to start talking about who’s in charge of this offense. As I understand the set up, Lindgen does the play calling unless we’re in a no-huddle/2-minute drill scenario when Chiv takes it. Can anyone confirm that’s correct? What I saw yesterday was an offense that easily moved the ball when going up-tempo, and a lackluster offense that couldn’t put its players in position to make plays when they played at a slower pace.

    It’s time for Chiv to take over the offense. He’s just a better coordinator and a better coach than lindgren, and the players love him. He’s the only guy on the staff that these guys are going to run through a wall for.

  10. Was at the game yesterday. I agree the Buffs were a bit disappointing. At least they looked a bit better on offense, but it doesn’t make sense that the D was scored on three times by UNC. Oliver got beat on the first TD. Receiver put a move on him, and he slipped. Wide open TD. Give that UNC quarterback credit, he was on the money at all day long, including a long ball that was dropped for what would’ve been an easy touchdown.

    I thought the O line actually looked a bit better this game. I’m hoping Irwin and Frazier knocked the rust off, and the O line gels against UW. Like everyone else, I’m hoping the Buffs have saved their attitude, creative play calling, and best execution for PAC play. If not, the game against UW will not be fun. Funny that the coaches called out the O line last week, for their lack of attitude. It’s the same thing us folks in the stands have been seeing. The Buffs need a Joe Garten type guy to step up and show the rest of them how to get nasty and maul people ?

    1. Really glad you pointed out that Oliver got beat on that first TD. I was at the game as well and while Oliver is more than capable of making up ground to make a great play, he seems to struggle with body control on quick moves. That’s not acceptable for a guy who is supposed to be one of the best in the country. What’s worse, though, is that the defensive coaches don’t seem to be providing him any help over the top. You also mentioned that pass deep that went through the receivers hands. I couldn’t help but wonder where the safeties were on that play and really, all afternoon. This team feels like it’s has regressed from last year and I know that’s what has me, and I’m guessing a lot of other buff fans concerned.

  11. Great title.

    Well Saturday night it is gonna be cold. Real cold. Especially during the 4th quarter. I hope it snowing. Wait maybe I don’t.

    The bite size rise. So cute.

    The Oline Supposedly the 3 seniors were gonna make this happen. Nada. These 3 have been part of the bad olines for quite some time. Yup Stuart it was a big wiff. Me too. I believed the Mac Hype.

    The rise is real Stuart. It can go as far as to the top. But not with out certain changes that you don’t want to hear. I believe those changes will come. Beating level 3 is not the same as beating the top 10 So we will see. Recall they couldn’t beat a top level team last year. It is gonna take that to make the move. Sometimes loyalty can and is called something else and I think that killed the cat or something.

    Anyway the “run-way” coach of the year is on top of everything, he really is, so on a cold fall night in Boulder can the real signature win show up please.


    Note: I mean it’s gotta be coming sometime don’t it?

    BS……Hey Eric have you seen the 2017 Football info guide cover? You are gonna be framing that for sure.

    1. Amazing. You call Rooney a hack all the time. Then you paraphrase him. On second thought, not amazing at all. I see your true colors. Have for a long time.

      Go Buffs.

  12. That’s good perspective, Stu. As usual.

    And, although I do think they’ve got a shot to shock the world and beat UW next Saturday, that game won’t make or break the season. Again, most people don’t really give our Buffs a shot in that one anyway.

    Lastly, I think it’s important to remember – as you touched on – in 2012, this team was about dead last in every measurable category of D1 football. Dead last.

    It’s unlikely they’ll compete for a national championship this year. Pac 12 Championship – again? Sure. But, as we saw against UW and OSU last year, this team is not yet elite. They are on their way though. And, they do have some elite players. More than in many, many years. But… as you said, give them a little time.

    Go Buffs.

    1. Yes and 2013 and 2014 in Defense

      O was a little better but reached the middle of the pac 12 and are still there while the defense has moved up.

      Currently the Buffs are #1 in scoring defense and #11 in scoring offense.


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