Un-Lucky 13 – Buffs fail to break through (again) against the Trojans

The beatings date back to 1927.

On November 12, 1927, the University of Colorado Silver-and-Gold football team – still seven years away from taking the nickname “Buffaloes” – traveled to Los Angeles to take on the University of Southern California Trojans.

USC won that day, 46-7, setting the tone for the series, which now stands at 13-0 after the 31-20 setback in the Coliseum.

The Buffs tried again in the early 1960’s to earn a victory over the Trojans, but the result was a pair of shutout losses. USC triumphed in Boulder in 1963, 14-0, then won again the next year in Los Angeles, 21-0.

Nine more losses in the series followed, beginning in 2000 with a 17-14 loss, ending with a 38-24 loss in Boulder in 2017.

Twelve games … twelve losses … with most by lopsided scores (the Trojans had out-scored the Buffs 419-169 in those 12 games, for an average score of 35-14 … making the 31-20 final in 2018 right in line with tradition.

For their part, in the week leading up to match No. 13 against the Trojans, the Buffs tried to downplay the 0-12 all-time record.

“We are going to go in this game just like we’ve gone in these past five games,” said quarterback Steven Montez. “We come in, put in our work in the week and hopefully we play well on Saturdays. It is another game for us. It’s the next team on our schedule.”

“Our main goal is that we focus on one team and the most important team is us,” defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson said. “We know that if we go out there and we do what we’ve been training on all week, talking about all week and our game plan and execute it, we plan to be victorious. That’s just kinda how our mindset is. We focus on one team, that’s us, and we go game by game.”

The Buffs appeared to be the more focused team when linebacker Drew Lewis intercepted USC freshman quarterback J.T. Daniels on the first play of the game.

Instead of capitalizing, however, the Colorado offense went backward – losing 12 yards in three plays – a sign of how things were to go for the Buffs on the night.

At the end of the first quarter, the Buffs had one yard rushing on nine attempts, with 21 yards of total offense. By halftime, the Buffs had had nine possessions, and had punted seven times … going three-and-out six times. At the break, Colorado had 111 yards of total offense, with 49 of those coming on one play – Laviska Shenault’s 49-yard run which gave the Buffs a 7-0 lead.

But for two interceptions by the CU defense, the score at the half could have been worse than 21-7, USC.

The Colorado coaching staff, which has made good halftime adjustments all season long, again won the second half. The Buffs out-scored the Trojans, 13-7, after the break, with a pic-six in the third quarter the only points surrendered.

Small consolation, though, for a team which had high hopes coming into the game.

“Getting it going in the second half is not cutting it,” said Steven Montez, who was held without a touchdown pass for the first time in the 2018, with an interception and four sacks. “Especially playing good teams like USC and Washington. You can’t come out in the first half and not play ball. We need to start a lot earlier. We have struggled in the first half. And a lot of that is on me.”

“We won the turnover battle (2-1) and the penalty battle (USC had 13 penalties for 123 yards; CU had eight for 81 yards), you should have a chance to win the game”, said Mike MacIntyre. “We kind of had a chance but just shot ourselves in the foot.”

The fact that the 5-0 Buffs lost to the 3-2 Trojans was not a huge surprise – the Buffs were seven-point underdogs, after all – but still a jolt to the system for a fan base which had quickly forgotten about the 5-7 debacle of 2017, and had gotten used to winning again.

Here’s the thing … while history might prove me wrong (as has often been the case. Hell, I thought in 2006 that Dan Hawkins, who had won 50 games in five seasons at Boise State, was a good hire), this loss may prove beneficial to the Buffs in the long run.

Hear me out.

First, if this summer you had offered almost any Buff fan a 5-1 first half record, they would have taken it, sight unseen. So let’s not get too disappointed with loss No. 1 of the 2018 season.

Second, it might not be a bad idea for “The Rise II” to be more gradual.

Two years ago, the Buffs made an unlikely run to the Pac-12 South championship, going from worst to first in the division. The next two games, beat downs by Washington in the Pac-12 title game, and then again in the Alamo Bowl by Oklahoma State, left the program with a sour taste in its mouth for the entire off-season (exacerbated by off-field issues).

The result was a crash … with Colorado going from worst-to-first-to-worst, finishing 2-7 in Pac-12 play in 2017.

This fall, the Buffs opened the season with a 5-0 record, the best start for the program since 1998. Colorado rose to No. 19 in the nation, and the Buffs were finally getting some national recognition.

Again, it may have been a bit too much, a bit too fast.

With the loss to USC, the naysayers will be out in force … “Never played anybody before the Trojans” … “Over-rated” … “Told you they would crash and burn once they played a team with a pulse”.

Perhaps that criticism is justified. Perhaps not.

The Buffs will now be double-digit underdogs against Washington, another team which Colorado has failed to beat as a member of the Pac-12. The game will be on the road in Seattle, and another beat down is, at least on paper, in the offing.

After that, however, the “mediocre” Buffs will settle in, at 5-2, and have a chance to demonstrate that they belong in the top half of the Pac-12.

Not the top tier of the conference, mind you, but in the top half.

The Oregon State home game is a likely win, which will make the Buffs bowl eligible before Halloween.

November includes two home games – Washington State and Utah – which are looking more difficult than before, as well as two road games – at Arizona and at California – which are looking more winnable than before.

Colorado has not returned to the status of a preeminent college football … at least not yet.

There are plenty of reasons to believe, however, that this team is an upper division Pac-12 program, and can maintain that status for the foreseeable future.

“It’s what we’re going to learn on Monday, what we’re going to learn on Tuesday,” Montez said. “Our guys are going to come out and play hard. This team is a brotherhood. Something like this is going to make us even closer.”

“We’ll get over this,” said linebacker Drew Lewis, who had his first career interception against the Trojans. “We’ll learn from our mistakes and move on to Washington.”

On to Washington … and beyond.


13 Replies to “Un-Lucky 13”

  1. Whoever, or whomever, designed the offensive game plan for the USC game oughta’ be demoted for a week or two. It looked like a high school freshman team just learning their plays in the first scrimmage. Usually when you start coaching “not to lose” it’s late in the game trying to protect a tenuous lead, not from the very start. Really, how long should it take for a coaching staff to realize the plays they’re calling are not working and make some changes? I’m sorely disappointed, as I’m sure many long-time Buff fans are.

  2. “Overreaction” is where it lives. Fanatic foolish freaky fandom knows only:

    Into the valley rode the six hundred.
    Exaggerated reality is fun to watch…………….99 baby

    Up the Buffalo

  3. Defense was stout overall once Wigley swapped for Miller (reverse of last week, interestingly)…otherwise they picked on mismatches on the outside. Worthington for a supposed playmaker showed Big John he can’t play on Sundays.
    Big question is what will the coaches do moving forward offensively…they obviously were caught off guard by our Oline getting destroyed, this will be the same case vs. UW. Made headway in the 4th (too late) with our limited ‘heavy’ package to help w/ PassPro. We need more of that and rollouts…we didn’t have a single designed roll-out for Montez. Just the basics offensively when you are outmanned on the Oline.
    Just praying we do something differently this Sat. b/c I continue to question Mac2.0 and am a firm believer that we will never be top tier in the Pac until we have a new HC.

  4. “We were a little cautious at the first of the drive because I didn’t want to all of a sudden have another turnover,” MacIntyre said.

    Wonderful…………..This offensive understanding led to nothing. Mein Gott. In this case it is “I” not we. But he uses “We” when the decision was all his. Teflon as sticky as a low level teller

    Flimming and Flamming all the way to the bank.
    Head SouthEast Please


  5. The biggest disappointment for me was the conservatism and strategy on O play calling. I understand that the USC D is good but please do not revert to Lindgren era predictable and sideways play calling. Coached and played tight from the top on down. Be aggressive in every game, win or lose. If Buffs start playing not to lose, the fun will start to go out of the game and the losses will start to pile up. No one expected a perfect season but I sure don’t want to see a return to passionless, passive, conservative game management. Still a good season. Let’s keep it that way. 7-5, 8-4 still probable but only if playing with the attitude of first 5 games. Go Buffs!!

  6. Hey ya can only play the teams on the schedule. The Mighty Buffs did not play their best last night from an execution standpoint. DB’s as stated moons ago are the weak point of the D and it showed. And from a coaching standpoint whoa. Clancy Pendergast ate Chev alive. Now the defense again adjusted giving up just 3 points in 2nd half. Very nice now don’t ya think.

    Buffs are a nice football team. Middle note: Mickey has slid down the COY) list.

    The Oline has some youngsters. Well this oline play was not good and it wasn’t all because of the upperclassman.

    Six to go. can they win 3? Not gonna beat the Huskies. But hey somebody just beat Auburn.
    Leaves 5
    3 home games.

    After Washington they will be (5-2 and 2-2 )
    then the win over OSU….(6-2 and 3 and 2) And a low level bowl game.
    If they lose to AZ, which who knows) the 6 and 3 and 3 and 3
    Now these two home games WSU and UTAH will tell if all this family, brotherhood, blah blah blah is real or BS like last year.

    California is only for a better bowl game.


    Note: Last year the coaches and the players mailed it in early.
    Note 2: Mac was a lowlevel play not to lose coach in this game. He was not loose and the rationalization he gave for some of his decisions was unremarkable. But that has been his way since he got here.
    Note 3: Some low level with no knowledge of the game and lots of babble phony fan asked me if Mickey had a good season say 9 wins if he might not be here next year. I stated, “watch that broken screen door cause those little needles will get you right in the arse.” Mac has done his job. Turned it around. Got to coach his son and see him play and graduate. Nothing left to see here.

    Note 4: The last 2 touch downs by the buffs were basically garbage time.

    1. O line was also hampered by coaching . After Rob Thompson’s comment after the ASU game I watched the O line a little more closely. Pulling and trapping looked like the keystone cops and there were a couple of times the entire O lone was a chorus line moving in the opposite direction of the play. They could have had their arms on each other’s shoulders been kicking up in radio city and no one would have been there. The entire D was converging on the buff’s ball carrier

  7. Yo Stuart,
    I don’t know. I place this all on the offensive coaches and MacIntyre. It seemed as if Chiaverini was channeling Brian Lindgren with his play calling. And do none of these folks know how to call a time out? Before halftime, even Montez was looking at the sideline in amazement that the coaches were not calling timeouts.

    After USC went up 14-7, Colorado went back to their old tried and failed tactic from last year to seemingly try to run the clock out before halftime despite there being plenty of time on the clock. My son pointed out then that Colorado would give the ball back to USC with plenty of time for them to score again. He was right. When the Buffs wouldn’t call a timeout in the last minute, it showed that the coaches had given up and the game was essentially over.

    The Buff coaches broke every single rule of how to deal with a fast team. You don’t try to run away from them, you run straight at them. No dancing, no juking or faking until AFTER passing the line of scrimmage.

    And why did we continue to load the box offensively, giving USC the easy option of loading the box defensively? Why didn’t CU spread the receivers out to open up the middle? Why did the coaches think the same “speed” plays that worked on New Hampshire and Colorado State would work on a blazingly fast USC squad?

    And why did they call plays over and over and over to Shenault? It got pretty amazing to watch incomplete passes time and time again to Laviska when he was surrounded by three or four Trojans. USC obviously designed their defensive strategy to stop Shenault, yet Colorado refused to change until Laviska was out of the game.

    Note to CU coaches: The Buffs are not good enough to beat good teams with the same old plays. They have to adjust their offense to attack what other teams are giving them. Since Laviska was double and triple teamed, that meant other guys were probably wide open. Haven’t they ever heard of using someone as a decoy?

    Complaining about the offense aside, I think the defense was amazing up front. The line and linebackers were top notch. I wish the same could be said for the defensive backs. Actually, most of the time they played well too… as long as they kept the USC receivers in front of them. Once Colorado’s DB’s let them go by (way too often), it was a whole new ballgame.

    The defensive backfield coaches HAVE to know that the USC receivers are just as fast (actually faster) than our defensive backs. The only way to limit long passing plays is by keeping those fast guys in FRONT of the defensive backs. But over and over we saw guys beat early and then desperately trying to catch the USC player to no avail.

    It shows what making adjustments can do. USC tried to manhandle the Buffs up front early and it did not work. So they changed until they found the key. Deep passes to the outside because the Buffs DB’s were getting beaten deep over and over again. It worked like a charm.

    More disheartening than the loss, however, is how far the expectations for Colorado football have fallen. Although team was 5-0 less than 24 hours ago, fans and players are supposed to be excited that will still probably make it to a bowl game (and apparently any toilet bowl game will do).

    The players talk about learning from their mistakes going forward. Good for them. After so many years, I’m losing confidence that MacIntyre and his band of coaches can learn from their mistakes.

    USC just showed the conference how to beat Colorado. Design you defense to stop whatever CU thinks they want to do and make them adjust. Over the years they have shown they don’t adjust well on offense.

    Colorado would probably have confused USC to no end yesterday if they had not gone to Lenault at all in the first 20 minutes. Instead he should have been the decoy split wide by himself while the Buffs loaded the other side. After a half dozen catches to other wideouts, USC would have moved the double and triple coverage off of Shaviska, which would have opened up everything for the offense.

    I fear that Washington will watch this tape and have a blueprint for beating Colorado. Chances are they won’t need the blueprint, but it never hurts to have one. We know they are already going to be fired up after losing to Oregon. If CU is unable to change, it could get ugly. Washington is a lot better than USC.

    Sign me as severely disappointed.

  8. Somebody has to say it. We suck.

    Sure we can beat some of the 10 worst teams in the country (barely getting the W in Lincoln) and pat ourselves as being the 11th worst team in the country but what’s the point?

    As soon as we played a real team with actually talented players all our cutesy gimmicky plays collapsed. We let the narrative of Laviska being some unbeatable weapon get to our heads and have become a one trick pony and against an even mediocre defense in USC it’s not that good a trick.

    All our juiced up stats are bogus and have asterisks. High completion percentage? Many of those passes are behind the line and should never be missed. Viskas receiving yards etc? Ya because nobody else even knows how to catch the ball or they have been left out in the cold. Good rushing? Ha, ya against some of the worst run defenses in the country.

    When it comes to actual football, stout defense, lockdown secondary, completion percentage of passes actually thrown forward, line play against equivalent sized lines, actually running the ball down their throat instead of just a bunch of smoke and mirrors that only work on JV level teams… We suck.

    1. Horse pucky. The first play of the game was an interception by Colorado and another one soon followed. What did the coaching staff do in response? As every coaching staff in the country does; try to establish the running game. Remember, in football, you can’t pass the ball till you get the ground game going. CU has one of the best QBs in the country and is LOADED with ball catchers. That interception on the 1st play of the game put USC right where they didn’t want to be. ATTACK with the pass and take no prisoners. CU-14 USC-0 in the first quarter. Open up the passing game and the run game will soon follow. Could have been a win. GO BUFFS!!!

  9. Come on, Stu! This is not the time, nor the place for a measured, rational, and realistic assessment of where this team is. These fan sites are here for instant over reaction, right?

    It’s clear to any and all of us that Mac ran the offense last night. Totally hamstrung Chev’s genius. 100%. His emotions on his sleeve are not because he’s passionate, it’s because he’s out of control. Run the bum out of town, and turn the keys over to Chev or anyone else, really.

    As to the defense actually keeping the Buffs in the game last night? Nah. Not a chance that DJ’s actually a good DC. No way. After all, he’s a Mac clone and crony.

    Oh, and that Adams, and Bernardi? Get rid of those guys, and the offense will dominate. Every time.

    Either that, or, what we have here is a team that is still clawing back from the lost decade of CU football. They are by no stretch elite, nor dominant. They have to show up every week with their best game. They’ve got some guys who can coach, across the board. They’ve got some guys who can recruit. Across the board. They’ve got some guys who can develop the kids they get. Across the board. They’ve got a smattering of next level talent, across the board. Finally.

    Have they arrived? No chance. In fact, unless CU becomes this era’s ‘Bama, they never will. But, what is abundantly clear is they have a program in place, with the staff (admin, recruiting and on the field) that is building from the ground up. They’re past the first floor. Maybe even into the third floor.

    I’ve mentioned this a few times now – it’s hard not to look to next year – but the team they’ll have on the field should be the best group, all around, in a true two or three deep that they’ll have had since last century (granted, that’s only 20yrs, but… you get the point).

    It’s a process. Always ongoing. And, they’re at least into the much more fun part of that process now, than they have been in a looooong time.

    And, as you pointed out, sometimes a good beat down is a great teaching moment. And, as ugly as that game was for our Buffs, they actually still made it interesting at the end. That says something about them, too. By tomorrow, I’ll have convinced myself they can steal a win in Seattle, for sure. Just depends which team shows up. Like every Saturday.

    And, at least now, CU’s best version of itself actually has a shot, every Saturday, even against the best teams in the conference. There were years when their best version really had little to no shot. That was the “lost decade”. That is behind us now.

    They are at least a good, top 30 or so team. And, they can still finish this season top 20, which would exceed almost everyone’s expectations. Even our friend VK’s.

    Go Buffs

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