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Credible Evidence – How the Win over Stanford Changes the CU Narrative

Colorado head coach Mel Tucker is a confident man.

You can see it in his look. You can hear it in his voice.

If you are going to be a head coach at the FBS level, self-confidence is a given. You can’t rise through the ranks and become a head coach if you don’t have confidence in yourself and your plan.

Fans, however, are a fickle bunch. They can be very confident in their team and their coach one minute, then down on their team and their coach the next.

Such was the case after the 31-14 loss to UCLA last weekend. The Buffs not only lost their fifth straight game, they looked bad in doing so. UCLA had a 17-0 lead before the Colorado offense generated its first first down of the game. The outcome of the contest was not seriously in doubt over  the final three quarters … and this was against a UCLA team which was, like CU, living with a 3-5 record coming into the game.

For Mel Tucker, who has spent most of his collegiate coaching career competing for championships, having a team which is out-classed from the opening gun has been a new experience.

For Buff fans, however, the feeling is all too familiar. Over the past 15 years, the Buff Nation has been witness to countless routs, with despair and resignation far too often being the mood of the fan base.

Still, Mel Tucker was not shaken by the defeat. A five-game losing streak was no reason for panic.

“We’re going to stay the course,” Tucker said after the UCLA game. “I’m looking for guys that are going to compete, continue to fight, work to get better, do what we ask them to do. There’s a lot of film study, a lot of corrections that need to be made. We have to have a really good week of practice. We’re going to continue to look for guys that have the type of behavior on a consistent basis that we need to get this job done.”

Nice sentiment, but it’s not as if Buff fans hadn’t heard that speech before.

Many, many times before.

The 16-13 victory over Stanford, though, will reignite the fan base, and will give greater credibility to Mel Tucker and his plans for the program going forward.

The Buff Nation 

We’ve been sold on Mel Tucker almost from minute one.

Hired on December 5, 2018, Tucker immediately infused Buff fans with a sense of confidence not seen since the end of the 2016 season (and not seen for a decade prior). Tucker brought a no-nonsense, get-the-job-done tone to the program, and the team seemed to be buying what Mel Tucker and his assistants were selling.

That confidence grew when the Buffs rallied to beat the hated Huskers in overtime, and returned when Mel Tucker won his second game in as many tries against a ranked team, beating Arizona State on the road to move to 3-1.

After the ASU game, however, the Buffs’ fortunes, and confidence in the program, waned.

The 35-30 home loss to Arizona was distasteful, but there were other opportunities for victories ahead. Then the Buffs lost to Oregon and Washington State by a combined score of 86-13 … and the bad Buffs were back. The 35-31 loss to USC was a gut punch, with the Buffs wrestling defeat from the jaws of victory.

Then there was the yeah-we’re-just-as-good-as-they-are loss to UCLA, in which the Buffs played to a 14-14 tie with the Bruins … after falling behind, 17-0, in the first 11 minutes of the game.

Which makes the win over Stanford all the more important. The Buff Nation can only get excited about what their team can become, but what they already are … a competitive bunch which, though undermanned, will continue to fight and, more importantly, improve.

The Stanford game was, perhaps, a watershed moment.

“When that field goal went in I was like, ‘thank God, finally’,” said Laviska Shenault, speaking for the entire Buff Nation. “Everybody in the middle [of the field] was celebrating and I was on the sideline like, ‘finally’. I think this will help the team, big time.”

The fourth quarter of the Stanford game was all that the fourth quarter of the USC game was not. Against the Trojans, the Buffs entered the fourth quarter with a ten-point lead and the ball. One long drive for a score – at any time in the fourth quarter – would have brought a victory.

Instead, the drive chart for CU in the fourth quarter against USC went as follows:

  • Four plays, 14 yards, punt;
  • Three plays, zero yards, punt;
  • Six plays, 22 yards punt, and
  • Five plays, 21 yards, downs.

Compare that drive chart to the fourth quarter drive chart of the Stanford game.

After the Cardinal took the lead from the Buffs in the first minute of the fourth quarter, the Buffs went on a 14-play, 69-yard drive which resulted in a game-tying field goal. After forcing a three-and-out from the Stanford offense, the Buffs went on a 13-play, 61-yard drive which resulted in Evan Price’s 37-yard field goal to win the game, 16-13.

In the final 14 minutes, CU had the ball for 27 plays and 130 yards; Stanford for three plays and nine yards.

Time of possession in the fourth quarter? Colorado 12:31; Stanford 2:29.

Pretty significant upgrade in two weeks, which certainly lends credibility to the “stay-the-course” philosophy Mel Tucker espoused after the UCLA game.

Which brings us to …

Recruiting

Saturday was a big recruiting weekend for Colorado.

It was a bit of a gamble for the CU coaching staff, not knowing how the Buffs would be playing in mid-November … or knowing what the weather would be like.

The last time CU played a home game in November was November 17th of last year, the home finale against Utah. The “tickets sold” number was 39,360, but fewer than half that number braved the 28-degree (wind child 19-degree) game in which the Utes blew out the Buffs, 31-7.

Instead, recruits were treated to a sunny, 77-degree day … not bad for the second weekend in November … and a Buff victory.

Some of the notable recruits on hand included three four-star prospects:

  • Running back Ashaad Clayton, from New Orleans, who has offers from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, and LSU;
  • Defensive end Jason Harris, from Gilbert, Arizona, with offers from over two dozen Power-Five schools (including eight from the Pac-12); and
  • Defensive tackle Jordan Berry, from Harbor City, California, who has six other Pac-12 schools after him, along with programs like LSU and Georgia.

Now, the fact that Colorado beat Stanford doesn’t mean that the Buffs will be picking up any of these recruits, but the fact that the Buffs won an exciting game in front of these players – and on a beautiful afternoon in Boulder – certainly doesn’t hurt.

Add the benefits of this weekend’s game to the Financial Aid Agreement signed this week by five-star defensive lineman Antonio Alfano … and suddenly the sun is shining again in Boulder.

Nationwide perception

Admittedly, this means more to me than it does to many of you. But when you spend time everyday during the off-season scouring for news about your team to post on your website, you can’t help but wish for a more positive narrative from the national media when it comes to your program.

After the UCLA loss, the storyline for CU’s off-season seemed to be set … “Colorado hired a new head coach last season. Mel Tucker followed up Mike MacIntyre’s seven-game losing streak to end his stint in Boulder … with an eight-game losing streak of his own. The Buffs finished in the cellar of the Pac-12 South – for the eighth time in nine years since joining the conference – and seem destined to repeat that feat again in 2020 … “.

Blah, blah, blah.

Now, if the Buffs go on to lose to Washington and Utah – and the prognosticators will certainly forecast that to be the case – the Buffs will finish 4-8, 2-7. As every other team in the Pac-12 South already has at least two conference wins, the Buffs will, in all likelihood, again finish in the basement of the division this fall.

But what the win over Stanford shows is that – when combined with woulda,coulda,shoulda games against Arizona and USC – the Buffs are not that far off. They are, in Year One under Mel Tucker, a competitive program in the Pac-12. And, with every other team in the Pac-12 not named Oregon and Utah waking up this morning with four or more losses … it won’t take much for the Buff to rise up and be a player in the Conference race.

The national preseason magazines for the 2020 season may not see it, but we already do.

Despite the five-game losing streak, the Buffs under Mel Tucker in 2019 are not the Buffs under Mike MacIntyre in 2018.

These Buffs are building towards a bright future, and the win over Stanford is credible evidence that believing in a bright future for Colorado football is no longer just a hope … but a reasonable expectation.

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10 Replies to “Credible Evidence”

  1. This was in that form article

    Wow

    A winner’s drive. A man’s drive. A drive that left Stanford bruised. A drive that left those 80-some recruits in the stands dreaming.

    (Tucker) was like, ‘Look, we’re building right now, and we need guys like you to come and help recruit,’ ” Alfano continued. “He keeps it honest

    Bare cupboard

    And not building with builder grade materials

    Buffs are Up

  2. Beating UW would be huge. As others have pointed out, the way Summers is blitzing lately seems to cause more problems for pocket passers. That’s Eason. And, he’s shown that despite an NFL arm, he can get rattled and miss quite a few throws.

    It’s been a while since we’ve beaten the dawgs. ‘Bout that time again, I reckon.

    Go Buffs

  3. Coach Tucker is a class act. We got real lucky to find him and he will
    change the CU program for hopefully a long time. It’s a great time to be a
    Buff fan now. Lots of exciting things to look forward to.

  4. Stu, you are right on the mark yet again. Following the UCLA debacle, Coach Tucker made it very clear the type of player and the commitment needed to win. And the team went all in. For a change, the fourth quarter possession time was dominated by the Buffs and they simply would not let another one get away. The coaching staff took big chances on the play calling, the team responded with fight and heart, and were able to put this one away, GO BUFFS!

  5. Stuart,
    nice write up…..and spot on. My feeling comes from the post game interviews……so many players when asked why…..this coach is making a difference. Also….I’ve noticed they can play a complete game…..and win. Although some of the losses are bad….the good games are better than our good games in the past. Good things are coming ……JP

  6. Yo Stu,

    No pic sorry. But I will get you one.
    Aft er reading this several times, it is apparent the “shrooms” are strong in your neck of the woods. Nice.

    But lo and behold I totally agree with this write up. HCMT is the man. Having that throwback logo on the helmet was pretty cool.
    Yup gotta to finish strong. Can they get 2? Ya know I think they can. The team will have to play like they played yesterday and Montez needs to have the two best games of his career. Bar none. Has to happen.

    But with two games left (Mein Gott let there by three.) mine eyes are drifting to the future. Yup we all know the current commit list. And most of the targets. But, and Stu you need to let me show this.

    They are called “crystal Balls on 247” meaning the 247 gurus believe they know the recruits choice. All in good fun actually. Now they of course ain’t always right.

    So here they are (ain’t speculation for the in formed CU fan cool.)

    Toren Pittman OLB / 6-3 / 190 0.8562
    Montana Lemonious-Craig ATH / 6-2 / 185 0.8315
    Jordan Berry DT / 6-2 / 323 0.8689

    And of course there are the other 5 that no crystal ball has yet been “guessed” or as they say in the business “crystal balled” Ha!

    And Stu is correct, they will take a full class 25 and there will be a couple of grey shirts which will count against the 21 class.

    Ain’t this fun

    Up the Buffs.

    Note: How lucky we are to be part of

    BUFF NATION

  7. Wonderful write-up Stuart!

    What is most exciting is that this team has shown fight and grit even though there has been plenty of reason to tank. Our first win in November in two years, is that correct?!?! And didn’t Stanford hammer Washington earlier this year? Why couldn’t CU do the same.

    Utah on the other hand…….. If HCMT wants to get a rivalry going with them, a win against the Utes this year would be a good start.

  8. My concern is the Pac-12 officiating. The crews suck and almost cost CU a well deserved victory. At least three non holding calls against Stanford. Out of position and the wrong official making call over and over. While we got a few breaks in the 2nd half the officiation still sucks, kind of like our conference commissioner. What a joke college officiating is, just check out the non interference call when Iowa State went for two against Oklahoma

    1. No reason to blame the officiating. It’s that line of thinking that keeps us from changing the culture at CU. You don’t hear the top teams in the county blaming the officiating for their problems/losses. And we shouldn’t either.

      1. HB Buff, Here Here. While the officiating is at times inconsistent a marginal team (CU) that is walking that fine line between success and failure seems to be more affected by a blown call. Your comments though are totally correct. A top team that is well coached and plays good solid football should not blame the officials for their losses.

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