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The 38-16 win over UCLA: Representative of the “New Normal” for CU football program?

The last time Colorado opened a season with a 4-0 record – in 1998 – Rick Neuheisel was still at his first head coaching job.

Armageddon was the highest grossing movie of the year. Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy was the New York Times No 1 best seller.

And over half of CU’s 2018 roster wasn’t even born.

When I say that Colorado’s 38-16 win over UCLA represents “the new normal” for the Buffs, I am not suggesting that the program is at a place where going undefeated for any significant stretches in time is to be expected, much less taken for granted.

What I am suggesting is that the University of Colorado, a national punchline for six of its first seven seasons as a member of the Pac-12 conference, may have turned a page.

For the remainder of the 2018 season, and for the foreseeable future thereafter, the Buffs are going to be considered as a full-fledged member of the Pac-12 Conference.

Considering that, even after winning two of its last three over the Bruins, the Buffs are a collective 10-41-1 all-time against UCLA and CU’s next three opponents – Arizona State, USC, and Washington – saying that the CU program has arrived as a team to be reckoned with in the Pac-12 is a significant statement.

Before Friday night’s game, Colorado had never scored 38 points against a UCLA defense; the Buffs had never enjoyed a 22-point victory margin over the Bruins.

History would suggest that these two teams, who had played close games the previous four years, will again in the near future.

But the days of absorbing losses like the beatdowns the Bruins administered during CU’s first years in the Pac-12 – 45-6, 42-14, and 45-23 – should begin to fade from memory.

Games wherein CU is not only competitive, but occasionally dominates, are going to become the new norm.

The 38-16 victory over UCLA stands as an example of how things have changed.

Colorado had six long scoring drives against UCLA, and Buff fans are remembering solid play calling and great execution by CU’s skill players.

UCLA fans, at the same time, are lamenting the “woulda, coulda, shouda” theme all too familiar for the Buff Nation for most of the past decade.

Witness:

  • On CU’s first touchdown drive, culminated by a 57-yard touchdown strike from Steven Montez to Laviska Shenault, was just one untimely penalty against the Bruins away from never happening. On third-and-nine from the CU 16-yard line, Montez tried to hit Shenault, and the pass fell incomplete … but the Bruins were called for pass interference on the play. Instead of a disastrous second consecutive three-and-out to start the game (with CU already down 7-0), the Buffs had new life. Three plays later, Montez connected with Shenault, tying the game;
  • Down 10-7 early in the second quarter, the Buffs faced a second-and-nine at the UCLA 43-yard line. Montez was sacked for a nine-yard loss on the play … but … Nate Meadors, who sacked Montez, also caught the facemask of the Buff quarterback. Instead of a third-and-18 from midfield, the Buffs had a first-and-ten at the UCLA 28-yard line. Five plays later, Montez scored on a ten yard run, giving CU its first lead of the game;
  • Late in the third quarter, with CU nursing a 21-16 lead, the Buffs had a third-and-five at the UCLA 17-yard line. The Bruins blitzed, and Montez had no chance. Instead of a sack, though, Montez ducked, evading the tackle. Montez then scrambled out of the pocket, not only avoiding the sack, but picking up 11 yards and a first down. On the next play, Trevor McMillian went up the middle for six yards and a score, giving the Buffs their first two-score lead of the game, at 28-16.

“You know that one at the end of the third quarter?”, lamented first-year head coach Chip Kelly, referring to the Houdini act of Montez. “We may have had him sacked to get them out of field goal range, and it is a whole different ball game. But he was able to shake our guys off, stays on his feet, and ends up getting a first down and then score on the next play”.

“We definitely have work to do, we know what we have to do,” said UCLA freshman quarterback Dorlan Thompson-Robinson, who was held to 138 yards on 17-of-35 passing. “It’s very frustrating because you know what the mistakes are, and you know what you left out there, and when you have that type of game, it’s really frustrating”.

Chimed in running back Joshua Kelly, “I know the season isn’t over. I know that we can bounce back. I have confidence in my teammates, coaches, everybody … we just got to keep hammering at it and fixing all the little details”.

Sound familiar?

Sounds an awful lot like what Buff fans have been hearing out of the Colorado locker room for years.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

Seems odd, hearing it from the opposing locker room.

Meanwhile, the Buffs locker room sounds like a room full of cohesive, confident coaches and players.

—  “We have a tight group and the brotherhood on this team is really good. We believe in each other and we don’t doubt each other at all. We don’t blink and just keep moving forward” – running back Travon McMillian;

— “We just continue to fight every single play. It doesn’t really matter what’s going on in the game. We just kind of feel like we are going to win and we look to each other and say, ‘Let’s go’.” – wide receiver Jay MacIntyre;

— “I think we just have to come in on Monday next week and take it exactly how we’ve been taking it. Work hard Monday through Friday and then the product comes out on Saturday. We just have to keep working and stay humble” – quarterback Steven Montez;

— “The main thing I’ve seen though is just their brotherhood. It’s really unique. Nobody’s getting on each other (in a bad way), everybody is helping each other. Nobody is panicking, everybody is just playing. Same thing with the coaching staff, everybody is under control, everybody is working well. It’s a unique thing to see” – head coach Mike MacIntyre.

While Buff fans have been talking about CU’s potential during the long off-season, the rest of the nation is waking up surprised to see that Colorado is the only Pac-12 team to make it through September without a loss.

The 2018 has the opportunity to turn the national narrative about the Colorado program from a negative to a positive:

— The old normal – (2015) – “Colorado has finished last in the South Division all five years the Buffs have been in the Pac-12”;

— The new normal – “Colorado is 19-11 under Mike MacIntyre since the start of the 2016 season”

— The old normal (2011) – “Colorado has lost 17 consecutive conference road games, dating back to its days in the Big 12”;

— The new normal – “UCLA has lost 12 consecutive road games”

— The old normal (2018) – “Colorado is favored in a Pac-12 opener for the first time ever”;

— The new normal – “Colorado is 3-5 in Pac-12 conference openers, including two wins in the past three seasons”

— The old normal (2018) – “Colorado has no preseason first-team All-Pac-12 candidates”;

— The new normal (2018) – “Colorado has All-American candidates in wide receiver Laviska Shenault and linebacker Nate Landman”

— The old normal (2018) – “Colorado is 1-20 all-time in games against Arizona State and USC”;

— The new normal (2018) – To be determined.

Much will be written in the run up to the Arizona State game about how CU’s first four opponents of the 2018 season enter October with a combined record of 1-16. UCLA (0-4) is off to its worst start since 1971; Nebraska (0-4) is off to its worst start since 1945.

Boo-hoo.

Colorado fans have endured having a great number of “worst since … ” statistics thrown at them since 2006.

Now Buff fans are enjoying hearing “best since … ” statistics thrown their way.

It’s a very pleasant change of pace.

CU’s next three opponents all have winning records. There’s a fair chance that the Buffs might not win any of those games.

But they will be competitive against all three. And no one will be shocked if Colorado is able to take down one or more of the three Pac-12 teams which have the best historical success against the Buffs (Arizona State: 8-1; USC: 12-0; Washington: 11-5-1).

Colorado is no longer an after-thought in the Pac-12.

No one is suggesting – as they certainly did a few years ago – that CU should never have joined the Pac-12.

The Buffs are hear to stay … and will have a say in which team represents the Pac-12 South in the conference title game in December.

That is CU’s new normal.

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6 Replies to “The New Normal?”

  1. Agree with Iriebuff that Mac is still out of control on the sidelines. No one in the press of course has the courage to address it with him. Not a good image for the program, but if he wins it will not be a point of contention. Scary to watch though and disappointing.

  2. So Timmy lost his spot due to performance. Very interesting.

    Maturity. Ya gotta win even if he means playing the younger talented guys. Bout time.

    Buffs

    Note: Nothing against Timmy. Excellent player. If he gets back to starting it only means the line gets better.

  3. OK nitpicking since all is good, but didn’t like it then and really don’t like it after seeing this…’Same thing with the coaching staff, everybody is under control…” – head coach Mike MacIntyre.
    Everybody except Mac2.0 spiking his headset at the end of the 2nd quarter…show some composure man, we had a whole half to play w/a young team. We need steady leadership, glad it’s coming from the kids since our HC evidently can’t provide it.

  4. Love the article. Just want to add!

    Old normal – struggle or eek out wins against struggling teams
    New normal – struggling opponents are put away. That is the expectation. We were favored by 10 by people other than us on this site 😁

    Old normal –

  5. Nicely said, Stu. Not a bad new normal, right? Thanks Mike Mac and co.

    They are becoming a good team, consistently. Beating teams they should and able to beat teams most people think they shouldn’t.

    Now, they get to keep working to get to the next level.

    Pretty fun to watch it happening. These next three weeks could be really fun.

    Go Buffs

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