CU Games of the Day – September 16th

September 16thThe Buffs have a 3-2 record on this date over the past 40 years … 1989: No. 10 Illinois and loud-mouth quarterback Jeff George fall (with the death of Sal Aunese coming during the following bye week) … 1995: Buffs set a modern record for scoring with 66-14 rout of NE Louisiana … 2000: Rick Neuheisel makes a successful return to Boulder as Washington’s head coach … 2006: Buffs fall to 0-3 with 21-3 loss to No. 22 Arizona State … 2017: Steven Montez throws for a career-high 357 yards in a 41-21 win over Northern Colorado …

Check out the stories for all five games below …

September 16, 1989 – Boulder      No. 8 Colorado 38,  No. 10 Illinois 7

The University of Colorado served notice to the football world that the 1989 Buffs were for real, dominating No. 10 Illinois, 38-7.

For the third straight game, the Buffs scored on their first possession.  A 74-yard pass from Darian Hagan to wideout Jeff Campbell set up a one-yard scoring run by Eric Bieniemy to give Colorado the early lead, 7-0.  After the Illini tied the score on a two-yard run by Howard Griffith, Colorado took the lead for good as Bieniemy took a pitchout from Hagan, then lofted a halfback pass to a wide-open M.J. Nelson for a 48-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead.  Later in the first quarter, halfback J.J. Flannigan celebrated his 21st birthday with a 45-yard run to put the Buffs up 21-7.  Colorado never looked back after that, posting its first win over a top ten team since the 1986 upset of Nebraska.

The Colorado defense completely negated quarterback Jeff George and the Illinois’ offense. After the Illini tied the score at 7-7 on an 80-yard drive, the Buffs did not allow Illinois to cross midfield again until midway through the fourth quarter.  George was sacked four times and intercepted twice, with both picks leading to Colorado touchdowns. The second half was more of the same for the Buffs, as a 45-yard field goal by Ken Culbertson was supplemented by touchdown runs of nine yards (by J.J. Flannigan) and four yards (by Bieniemy).

On the afternoon, Colorado out-gained Illinois 475 yards to 193, completely dominating both sides of the ball.  In a radio interview earlier in the week, quarterback Jeff George had made the mistake of calling the Buffs “an average team” and perhaps overrated.  “I think for an ‘average’ team, we did pretty good – even by his standards,” said outside linebacker Alfred Williams after the game.

It was now proper to consider Colorado as a national championship contender.  “We proved to the nation we’re for real,” said tailback Eric Bieniemy.  “It’s fun.  Top 10 and moving up.  You can’t beat that.”

The Buffs were now 3-0, and had a bye week before facing Washington in Seattle.  Colorado was now attracting nationwide believers.  In his column for USA Today, Steve Wieberg began his column:  “About those great expectations for Colorado this season:  Maybe they weren’t great enough.” Weiberg even went so far as to speculate about an Orange Bowl between an undefeated Colorado team and top-ranked Notre Dame (a 24-19 winner over Michigan in the most recent “Game of the Century”).  “I wouldn’t go so far as to say that,” cautioned Colorado  head coach Bill McCartney.  “Washington should tell us a lot.”

Colorado was now the No. 6 team in the nation, leap-frogging over Clemson and Arkansas.  Washington had risen to No. 11 in the AP poll after upsetting Texas A&M and handling Purdue.  The Huskies, though, would fall the next week to 21st after losing 20-17 to 23rd-rated Arizona in Tucson.  That same week, an idle one for the Buffs, would see Colorado rise to No. 5, trading places with Michigan after the Wolverines needed a last-second field goal to defeat UCLA.

But the week was anything but an idle one on the University of Colorado campus.

Farewell to Sal

On Saturday, September 23rd, shortly after 9:00 p.m., Sal Aunese died.

The 21-year old honorary captain of the 1989 Colorado Buffaloes finally succumbed to the cancer which had been diagnosed in March.  Although not unexpected, the announcement hit the team hard.  “He was the heart and soul of this team,” said senior wide receiver Jeff Campbell.  “He meant a lot to us”, said defensive co-captain Michael Jones, a senior linebacker.  “God, it hurts, just to see him go like this … I just can’t imagine him being gone.”

Aunese had attended each of the Buffs’ first three games, watching from a private box high above Folsom Field.  Colorado players had saluted him before the Illinois game, and Jeff Campbell saluted Aunese after his 74-yard catch on the game’s first series.  It would become the signal for the remainder of the year that the Buffs were thinking and remembering their fallen leader.  An emotional memorial service was held the next Monday, a service wherein Bill McCartney spoke not only as a coach, but also as the grandfather to Aunese’s child.

While the Buffs were saying the right things about preparing for Washington “I know Sal would want us to win this one (against Washington),” said Michael Jones, “so there’s no reason to lay down now” – it could only be speculated that the distraction would take its toll on the Buffs.  Colorado was playing after a bye week, were playing for the first time on the road, and were up against a quality opponent.  But the Buff players had a secret weapon –  a twelfth man – in Aunese.  Aunese dictated a letter to the team before his death.  Each Colorado player was given a copy before the Washington game:

Dear Brothers and the family whom I hold so close ….”  it began.

Aunese closed the letter:

Hold me close to your hearts as you know I do you.  Strive only for victory each time you play and trust in the Lord for He truly is the way.  I love you all. ‘Go get ‘em’ – and bring home the Orange Bowl.

 Love, Sal”

Alfred Williams remembers Sal’s last game

When Alfred Williams was notified that he had been selected to as a member of the 2010 Class to be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame, he was asked by to select a few memories from his playing days. The 1989 Illinois game was one which stood out to Williams:

“Looking up and seeing Sal (Aunese) in the press box stairwell.  I’ll never forget before the game Sal was standing up with his oxygen tank, pumping his fist, cheering us on”, recalled Williams. “That was the last game he saw before he passed way, so it was a special moment to sack (Illinois quarterback) Jeff George, look up at Sal and give him a fist pump. For me, that was the absolute best moment for me as a player, because how important that game was, how good Illinois was (ranked No. 10), how good Jeff George was and Sal being there, still fighting in what would be the last week of his life.  It was amazing watching Illinois on film and we knew we had a helluva challenge.  We had to get pressure on George, and we got after him pretty good.  We beat them up bad (38-7) and held a really good offense to under 200 yards (193). That game kind of cemented us and got us going, told people we were for real.”

With heavy hearts, the No. 5 Colorado Buffaloes had to prepare to travel to Husky stadium to face Washington the following Saturday.  The weatherman predicted a gray and gloomy day in Seattle.

It was not just the weather forecast.

September 16, 1995 – Boulder          No.9 Colorado 66, Northeast Louisiana 14

Class: Get out a fresh piece of paper.

It’s time to start noting all of the new school records set by the Buffs in mauling the Indians of Northeast Louisiana (now Louisiana-Monroe), 66-14.  The point total for the game set a modern record, besting by one the 65 points put up against Arizona back in 1958.

Prior to the Northeast Louisiana “contest”, the highest total offensive output ever by a Buff team in CU football history was 676 yards (v. Oklahoma State, 1971).  The 1995 Buffs obliterated that record, posting 758 yards of total offense.  The 35 points scored in the first quarter tied a school record; the 49 points on the scoreboard at half set a new one.

Get the picture?

Perhaps NLU head coach Ed Zaunbrecher summed it up properly when interviewed the week leading up to the game.  “I’ve been sleeping like a baby all week”, said the Indians’ coach.  “Sleeping for four hours and then waking up and crying the rest of the night.”

Individually, quarterback Koy Detmer quite literally had a field day.  Before leaving the game early in the third quarter, Detmer had tied the team record for passing touchdowns in a game (4) and the school mark for passing yards in a quarter (192).  The 426 yards passing for the game set a new standard, as did his passing yards for a half (352).

There were more records set, but in deference to the Northeast Louisiana players, they won’t all be recounted here.  Colorado starters played just 12:38 in possession time before being pulled with less than a minute gone in the third quarter.

CU used big plays to score early and often. A 38-yard pass play from Koy Detmer to James Kidd set up the first score, a three-yard touchdown run by Herchell Troutman five minutes into the game. Less than two minutes later, Troutman scored on a nine yard run, and the rout was on with the Buffs up 14-0.

The Buffs scored three more times before the first quarter was over, on a 72-yard pass from Detmer to Rae Carruth, a 40-yard Marlon Barnes run, and an 11-yard touchdown pass from Detmer to Troutman. Five touchdowns in the first fifteen minutes … a record output for the CU football program.

With the score 35-0, Northeast Louisiana finally got on the board early in the second quarter, but the Buffs posted two more scores (a one-yard run by Marlon Barnes and a 13-yard pass from Detmer to Blake Anderson) before the break, giving Colorado a 49-7 lead at the break.

After the Buffs needed all of 57 seconds to score to open the second half (a 31-yarder from Detmer to Phil Savoy), the offensive starters were pulled, with second-teamers getting significant playing time. In the final 29:03 of playing time, the Buffs, who had 56 points in the first 30:57 of the game, settled for ten more points, with Jason Lesley connecting on a 44-yard field goal and backup quarterback John Hessler contributing a ten-yard run.

“All week long people asked whether or not our team was going to come out flat,” said Neuheisel, referencing Colorado playing two tough opponents (Wisconsin, CSU) before facing two more (Texas A&M, Oklahoma).  “As I tried to explain to those who were asking the questions, and as I tried to implore on my team, it was that you only get 11 shots …. So, I’m proud of ’em, and we’re ready for upcoming contests.”

Up next was third-ranked Texas A&M, in the last contest between the two squads before they were scheduled to became conference foes in the new Big 12.

September 16, 2000 – Boulder           No. 9 Washington 17, Colorado 14

Former Colorado head coach Rick Neuheisel made his return to Boulder a successful one, as Neuheisel’s 9th-ranked Washington Huskies defeated Colorado, 17-14.

Playing before 50,454 sweltering CU faithful, Washington overcame four turnovers to turn back winless Colorado. Husky quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo passed for 200 yards and rushed for 43 more to lead the undefeated Huskies, while Bobby Pesavento, making his first career start for Colorado, managed 174 yards on 15-of-27 passing.

Washington dominated the first half of the game, but it was Colorado which took a 7-3 lead into the break. Colorado produced nothing but punts on each of its first half drives, with Washington faring little better. The Huskies did mount one drive, settling for a 22-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead late in the first quarter. It appeared that lead would hold before redshirt freshman cornerback Phil Jackson cut in front of a Tuiasosopo pass with 1:37 left in the second quarter, taking the interception 28 yards for a score and a 7-3 Buff lead.

For the third consecutive game, Colorado went to the break tied or in the lead.

Then, for the third consecutive game, the Buffs lost in the fourth quarter.

The Buffs lockerroom motto for the week of the Washington game was “FINISH”. It was Washington, however, which demonstrated closing power. The Huskies scored two touchdowns in the first six minutes of the final stanza to take a 17-7 lead, using two eight-play drives to cover 63 and 69 yards.

Only after the second Washington touchdown, coming with eight minutes to play in the game, did the dormant Colorado offense begin to show signs of life. The Buffs responded to the ten point deficit with a ten-play, 97-yard scoring drive, highlighted by a 53-yard completion from Pesavento to Javon Green. The pair capped off the drive with a 19-yard touchdown connection with 3:46 left to play in the game.

Down 17-14, the Buffs did get the ball back with a chance to pull out an unlikely win. With only 57 seconds to play, Colorado did push the ball to midfield before a fumble by senior wide received Eric McCready sealed the win for Washington.

“It was an unbelievably hard-fought football game,” said Rick Neuheisel after the win. “My congratulations to Colorado and Coach Barnett. They have great character in their program. I wish them nothing but the best and I hope they win every game in their conference schedule.”

Neuheisel could afford to be conciliatory. He was now 2-0 against his former team, with no games (barring a bowl match-up) scheduled between the teams for the foreseeable future. Neuheisel was also now 10-5 at Washington, while his counterpart across the field, Gary Barnett, slipped to 7-8 as the Colorado head coach.

What could Gary Barnett, with No. 5 Kansas State up next after a bye week, say?

“They made the plays when they had to, and we didn’t. That was the bottom line.” Actually, the bottom line was that Colorado was 0-3 for the first time since 1986, and was faced with the real possibility of its second losing season in four years.

10:25 in the first quarter

For some reason, I felt compelled to check the scoreboard clock to mark the time. 10:25 left in the first quarter, just 4:35 into the game against Washington.

And I already had a feeling of discomfort.

The Buffs were going to lose.

Not that Colorado had started the contest poorly. In fact, the Buffs had taken the opening kickoff and had put together a pair of first downs before being forced to punt near midfield. Colorado punter Jeremy Flores connected on a high spiral which came down inside the Huskies’ five yard line. The Washington return man, defying the rule all punt returners are taught (to let all punts inside the ten yard line go), attempted to field the ball. He fumbled. The ball squirted into the end zone as several Colorado and Washington players scrambled for the loose pigskin.

For a frozen moment, the ball laid there, unattended. Over 100,000 eyes in Folsom Field fixated on it, but it was out of our grasp. Finally, a Washington player fell on the ball. By rule, the muffed punt was ruled a touchback. Washington was given the ball on their 20 yard line.

The Buffs could have had a touchdown. But didn’t.

The Buffs could have had a safety. But didn’t.

The Buffs could have had the Huskies pinned down in the bowl of Folsom Field, right in front of a still revved up student section. But didn’t.

Instead, Washington had the ball at their own 20-yard line.

Granted, that play was not the turning point in Colorado’s third straight loss. Washington missed on several opportunities throughout the game to put Colorado away, including a fumble inside the Buffs’ five yard line.

Still, a break like a fumbled punt early in the game is often a tonic for a team on a losing streak. An early touchdown could have propelled Colorado to an inspired win. Instead, the Buffs went on to a second consecutive moral victory against a top ten team.

For some reason, I saw it coming with 55 minutes still left to play.

September 16, 2006 – Boulder          No. 22 Arizona State 21, Colorado 3

The Colorado offense continued to struggle, posting only a 29-yard field goal in a 21-3 loss to No. 22 Arizona State. The Buffs posted a “season-high” 219 yards of total offense (after posting 216 vs. Montana State and 146 against CSU), but could not make use of four Arizona State turnovers as the Sun Devils slowly pulled away.

In the first-ever game played between the two schools from neighboring states, the Buffs had an opportunity to take advantage of early mistakes by Arizona State. The Sun Devils fumbled the ball away on the third play of the game, with the Buffs taking over at the ASU 17-yard line. The CU offense, though, managed only five yards of offense before Mason Crosby was called upon for a 29-yard field goal. Just over two minutes into the game, Colorado had a 3-0 lead.

On Arizona State’s next possession, the Sun Devils drove to the Colorado two-yard line, but ASU quarterback fumbled on the next play. The ball hit the end zone pylon on its way out of bounds.

Touchback. CU’s ball at the 20-yard line after the turnover.

Perhaps it would be the Buffs’ night after all.

Instead, ASU’s second turnover in as many possessions would prove to be the highlight for the Buffs.

The Sun Devils went ahead for good on their next possession. Arizona State put together a ten-play, 71-yard drive, capped by an eight yard scoring run by Ryan Torain. A few minutes later, after a 48-yard punt return, ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter hit Chris McGaha for an 18-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead.

The Buffs responded with their best drive of the game, making it as far as the Sun Devils’ two yard line before quarterback Bernard Jackson fumbled the ball away. Thereafter, neither team scored on the next 15 possessions, with Arizona State getting a second Rudy Carpenter touchdown pass with less than two minutes remaining in the game.

The Colorado defense, for the most part, held its own, keeping Arizona State at 14 points for the first 58 minutes, and limiting the Sun Devils to 136 yards of total offense in the second half. The Colorado offense, however, continued to struggle, failing to score in the second half for the third straight game.

Those numbers did not bode well for a team facing its first true road game of the season … against the No. 9 team in the nation, Georgia.

The last link to 1989

I’ve often stated that if I could have the job of anyone else in the country, I would take Dave Plati’s. Dave is official title is that of Associate Athletic Director / Sports Information for the University of Colorado. His real job title, though, is that of No. 1 Buff fan – and he gets to tell his stories from the inside.

Dave’s specialty is quirky statistics, and those are my favorites. Want to know Colorado’s all-time record against 22nd-ranked teams? Or Colorado’s all-time record on September 16th? Just check out this week’s handout. I savored his weekly press releases, and awaited the August release of the annual media guide the way an eight year old anticipates Christmas (at least I did until 2005, when the morons at the NCAA arbitrarily determined that all media guides could not exceed a specified length, severely restraining Dave’s creativity).

In more recent years, though, the review of the weekly releases became more of a strain.

Dave, understandably, liked to paint Colorado football in the most positive light. For CU, that meant counting the years 1989 to present, while largely disregarding previous years. This was not an uncommon technique (e.g., Kansas State’s press release would reference the Wildcats’ success under head coach Bill Snyder, citing the years 1990 to present, quietly ignoring his 1-10 inaugural season as head coach in 1989).

Over the years, though, the Buffs back slide into mediocrity meant that many of the statistics Dave was promoting were based largely on past accomplishments.

One statistic Dave promoted on the first page of each week’s press release was “In the Polls“. Colorado was ranked in every single poll from the 1989 preseason until midway through the 1997 campaign. Even long after the Buffs ceased to be a fixture in the national spotlight, the press release would state that Colorado had been in “x” number of polls out of the last “y” weeks, being “z” percent of the total number of polls. As the “z” number continued to dwindle, the “In the Polls” statistic seemed more and more like a reach.

In the 2006 season, it was unceremoniously removed from page one of the release.

Other records quietly slipped in the background as well.

In the 1997 media guide, Colorado was touted as having the best road record of any team in the nation (1989-96). By 2006, though, Colorado had fallen to 8th in this category.

In 1997, the Buffs had the third-best record in the nation against conference opponents over the previous nine seasons. By the start of 2006, the Buffs were down to 9th.

At the start of the 1997 season, Colorado had the 4th-most former players still playing in the NFL, best in the Big 12. At the start of 2006, Colorado was ranked 17th in that category, tied for 3rd-best total in the conference.

The record Dave seemed proudest of, though, was the “Top College Football Records (1989 – present)”. Colorado’s standing in this statistic, the ultimate yardstick of a successful program, always received prominent play in the media guide and weekly releases. Between 1989-96, Colorado had the fourth best record in football, 78-15-4, an .825 winning percentage. By the start of the 2006 campaign, though, Colorado had fallen to 12th in that category. The Buffs, through 2005, had a record of 140-64-4, a .683 winning percentage.

While being the 12th-best team in the nation over a 17-year span is nothing to be ashamed of, the real numbers were these:

1989-96 – eight seasons – combined record of 78-15-4 (.825)

1997-05 – nine seasons – combined record of 62-49-0 (.558)

The emperor had no clothes.

Colorado suffered its first losing season in 11 years in 1997 (5-6), going on to have losing seasons every third year, 2000 (3-8), and 2003 (5-7). With the Buffs 0-3 to start the 2006 campaign, Colorado seemed to be well on their way fourth losing record in the past ten years.

The sole holdout for Dave, amongst all the statistics which had been mired in mediocrity for the past decade, was the “Scoring Streak“. The Buffs were last shutout by an opponent on November 12, 1988, a 7-0 loss to Nebraska. The streak, which had reached 210 games by the start of 2006, was the sixth longest current streak, and 13th-longest in NCAA history.

Not that the Buffs hadn’t made it interesting a few times. Sixteen times during the streak, Colorado had been held to fewer than 10 points. On five occasions, the Buffs managed only a field goal, including three times in 2005 alone. Against Miami, Mason Crosby’s 58-yard field goal in the fourth quarter were the Buffs’ only points in a 23-3 rout.

Against Nebraska, Crosby’s 33-yarder were CU’s only points in a 30-3 disaster. Then, against Texas the following week, the Buffs hit bottom. In a 70-3 debacle, Crosby’s 25-yard effort was the Buffs only score (and those points came off of a turnover – CU actually lost three yards on the “drive”).

When head coach Dan Hawkins brought his “just score” offense to Colorado, I thought my days of worrying about the streak were at an end. After all, at Boise, Hawkins’ teams routinely averaged over 40 points/game. As the 2006 campaign began, there were only five other teams with current streaks longer than the Buffs, but the program was on schedule to pass Arizona (at 214) and Hawaii (219) during the 2006 season to move into no worse than 11th place all-time.

Through three games of the Hawkins’ era, Colorado had raised its scoring streak total to 213 games, but 214 was to be a major challenge.

The Buffs had managed all of 23 points on the season, scoring a grand total of zero points in the second half. And these games were against much less formidable competition than that which was now before the Buffs. The Georgia Bulldogs were ranked 9th in the nation, and were undefeated at 3-0. To make matters much worse, Georgia had shut out its last two opponents, South Carolina (and Steve Spurrier’s offense) and Alabama-Birmingham. Thus the Bulldogs, playing at home, not only had incentive to defeat the Buffs, but to shut them out.

As I prepared to leave for Athens to take it all that was SEC football, I couldn’t help but think about Dan Hawkins and his “just score” offense. I had no real delusions about a win, all I wanted was for the Buffs to do just that … “just score”.

In the midst of a season to forget, the Buffs and their fans needed to have at least one link to the past to remain in tact.

September 16, 2017 – Boulder           Colorado 41, Northern Colorado 21

Steven Montez threw for a career-high 357 yards and four touchdowns, leading Colorado to a hard-fought 41-21 win over Northern Colorado. In the first game between the two teams since 1934, the Buffs generated 569 yards of total offense (to 273 for the Bears), but clung to a 28-21 lead in the third quarter before pulling away with 13 unanswered points to close the contest.

Phillip Lindsay had 151 yards on 26 carries, but was held in check for much of the game. Montez threw touchdown passes to four different receivers, including Devin Ross, who led the Buffs with eight catches for 143 yards and a four yard touchdown reception.

“We need to improve everywhere,” said Mike MacIntyre of the Buffs’ effort. “I think today, I thought Steven made a step forward. We were throwing and catching the ball. The quarterback made some better reads, even on the run. Defensively, we’re still playing pretty stout against the run, which is important. You can’t let a team run on you or you’re going to have a really hard time winning the football game”.

Colorado moved its record to 3-0 for the 41st time in its 128-year history, but for the first time since 2008 and just the second time since opening 5-0 in 1998 (3-0 also in 2004; last time CU was 4-0 was in 1998).

The Buffs opened the game with designs on starting the game with intensity, but it was the visiting Bears who came ready to play. The Colorado offense quickly went three-and-out on its first possession, with the Northern Colorado offense setting up shop at their own 30-yard line.

Six plays later, the Buff defense surrendered its first touchdown of the 2017 season.

The Bears only faced one third down on the drive, and that was converted into a first down when defensive end Derek McCartney was called for being offside on a third-and-three at the UNC 37. Thereafter, the Bears moved quickly, scoring on a 33-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jacob Knipp to wide receiver Alex Wesley.

Slapped in the face by a Big Sky Conference team, the Buff offense responded. Quarterback Steven Montez hit wide receiver Devin Ross for a 37-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage. Two Phillip Lindsay runs went for 11 and 18 yards to get the ball down to the UNC nine yard line. Two plays later, Montez hit Fields for a four-yard touchdown, and the game was tied at 7-7 with 9:19 still remaining in the first quarter.

Just over a minute later, the Buffs were ahead to stay.

A botched snap on UNC’s next possession led to a 26-yard loss, and a recovered fumble for freshman linebacker Jacob Callier at the Bear five yard line. On the very next play, Phillip Lindsay took it in from four yards out. Colorado 14, UNC 7.

Order having seemingly been restored, the 44,318 on hand in Folsom Field settled back into their seats. The game, though, turned into a series of exchanged punts. Neither team generated much offense, with the Buffs slowly gaining on field position as Buff punter Alex Kinney got the better of his UNC counterpart.

After forcing a three-and-out inside the Northern Colorado ten yard line, the defense gave the Buff offense a golden opportunity to expand the 14-7 lead. Instead, on a short punt, returner Jay MacIntyre failed to warn off his blockers. The kick hit a Buff, and was recovered by the Bears at the 48-yard line.

Another three-and-out later, the Buffs did get the ball back, but this time back at their own 20-yard line.

No matter. The CU offense pieced together its second long drive of the first half, covering the 80 yards in seven plays. A 13-yard completion from Montez to Shay Fields on third-and-five kept the drive alive, followed by a 32-yard completion to Devin Ross. Two plays later, on third-and-eight at the UNC 28-yard line, Montez scrambled to evade the rush, eventually directing Shay Fields deep. Montez lofted the ball to a wide open Fields, who walked untouched into the end zone.

Colorado 21, Northern Colorado 7, midway through the second quarter.

Continue reading story here

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?

Continue reading game essay here


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