Battle for the Basement

In 2015, Colorado, with an 0-3 Pac-12 record, traveled to Corvallis to play Oregon State, which was also 0-3 in Pac-12 play. The Buffs squeaked by with a 17-13 win, breaking CU school records for conference losing streaks (14 straight losses) and losses in conference road games (13 straight).

It was a low scoring affair, as can happen with poor teams. The Buffs were led by CU legends Sefo Liufau (with all of 157 yards passing), Phillip Lindsay (51 yards rushing) and Nelson Spruce (60 yards receiving).

My Essay for the game was entitled, “We’re No. 1(1)!!“, a play on words which had more than just of dose of reality. Far from being relevant nationally, Buff fans had to be content with the fact that, for at least one more weekend, Colorado wasn’t the worst team in the conference.

And now, here we are, six years later … back clinging to the “happiness” of not being the absolute worst team in the Pac-12.

Now, it’s true that the Buffs have enjoyed some success since that 2015 win in Corvallis. The 2016 team broke the school-record streak of consecutive losing seasons at ten long years. The 2020 team also finished with a winning record and an Alamo Bowl berth.

But … since opening the 2020 season with a 4-0 record a No. 21 national ranking, the Buffs have gone south. Since giving No. 5 Texas A&M a game at Mile High, the Buffs have not only been bad, but have been Jon Embree 2011-12 bad.

CU not only lost to Minnesota, Arizona State and USC, but the Buffs were out-classed in each game. A 30-0 embarrassment against Minnesota was followed in quick succession by maulings by the Sun Devils (35-13) and the Trojans (37-14).

The Buffs were not only losing … they were not competitive. The offense, against FBS competition, was averaging 8.5 points/game … and looking confused and inept. Dating back to the fourth quarter of the Texas A&M game, the Buffaloes had been outgained, 1,975 yards to 818.

Yes, CU has been that bad.

Enter the bye week.

Head coach Karl Dorrell did not endear himself to the Buff Nation by not making wholesale changes to the offense during the week off. The coaching staff did not see any changes. There was no change at starting quarterback.

All Dorrell allowed was that there were “subtle changes” to the game plan.

“Hopefully the changes we made are going to help us play more efficient and effective football,” Dorrell said without going into detail about the changes. “We addressed a lot of things: coaches’ roles in terms of what the expectations are, the expectations we set for our players. So far so good with that mindset of addressing the issues that are in front of us. We are moving forward with the subtle changes that we did make.”

“Subtle changes”???

For an offense which was dead last in the nation in first downs? 129th (out of 130 teams) in passing offense? 129th in total offense? 129 in scoring offense?

How could the Buffs turn it around with only “subtle changes”?

Enter the Arizona Wildcats.

Arizona came into the contest on a school-record 17-game losing streak. The Wildcats hadn’t won a game in over two calendar years, dating back – as we were constantly reminded – to a 35-30 win over Colorado in Boulder on October 5, 2019.

The Wildcats came to Boulder with an 0-5 record, but had at least shown some signs of life this season. Arizona had only been down to No. 3 Oregon, 24-19, in the fourth quarter in Eugene. Arizona had hung with BYU (24-16) and UCLA (24-16 in the fourth quarter).

And it was only 6-0, Colorado, at halftime.

With a 34-0 final, it would be easy to gloss over the fact that it could well have been a different game had the Buff defense not turned a first-and-goal the CU one-yard line into a turnover on downs. Late in the second quarter, everyone in the crowd of 49,806 expected an Arizona score when the Wildcats had the ball at the Buff one yard line. Three Wildcat runs, however, netted no gain, with the Buffs regaining possession after a fourth down pass by Arizona quarterback Gunner Cruz fell incomplete.

The era of good feelings didn’t last long into the third quarter, as the Buffs went three-and-out twice. Both drives were what CU fans had become accustomed to during the four-game losing streak: Jared Broussard runs netting seven yards, followed by an incomplete Brendon Lewis pass on third down.

Then, the CU fortunes for the game … and perhaps the season … changed.

Trevor Woods blocked the Arizona punt, with a scoop-and-score covering 36 yards … CU’s first blocked punt for a touchdown in 17 years.

Just like that, it was a two-score game.

Just like that, the crowd was back into the game.

Just like that, the Arizona Wildcats folded.

In the next few minutes of game clock, the Buffs also had scores on defense – a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown by Carson Wells – and a score by the offense – a 62-yard touchdown pass from Brendon Lewis to Brenden Rice.

The intense 6-0 game was, quite suddenly, now a 27-0 laugher, with only the final score in doubt.

And Buff fans really needed the laugh.

“That was a really good win for us as a program,” Dorrell said. “All three phases scored touchdowns … We had two weeks of really doing some things in detail. I just felt like the dam was going to break at some point and it did today.”

But … Did the dam really break?

Midway through the third quarter, the CU offense was being outscored by both the Buff special teams and Buff defense. The Buff offense had a grand total of 161 yards of total offense in the first half, and had gone three-and-out and three-and-out to open the second half.

Had it not been for the goal line stand at the end of the second quarter, followed by special teams and defensive scores in the third quarter … it could have bene a much different game.

CU, and its fans, owe a debt of gratitude to the Arizona Wildcats … the cure for the common offense.

Arizona was giving up 219.4 yards rushing per game (122nd in the nation), but gave up only 117 yards rushing to the Buffs.

Arizona was giving up 373.4 yards of total offense per game … with the Buffs working hard in the second half to get to 365 for the game.

Arizona was giving up 31.6 points per game (104th in the nation), but gave up only 20 to the Buff offense (and only six points before the CU special teams and defense broke the game open).

“As soon as the offense scored in the first quarter we said if they don’t score again they don’t win,” Carson Wells said. “So that was our philosophy for the whole game.”

It may take that philosophy from the defense going forward, as the CU offense is still very much a work in progress.

“I think his body of work today was pretty good,” Dorrell said of Brendon Lewis, who had a career-best 248 yards passing, with two touchdowns. “He still does a great job of protecting the football. He’s very excited about the things that have happened today, no question, but there’s always a handful of things that we’re still going to try to shore up as he moves forward. The big thing about it is the fact that he made a huge step in progress”.

Whether Lewis, the CU offense, and the CU team, have made a “huge step in progress”, will be determined over the second half of the season.

For now, Buff fans can enjoy, at least for a week, not being in the discussion as having the worst team in the Pac-12. The Wildcats have set up camp in the basement, locked now in a race with Kansas for the worst Power Five conference program.

It’s now Colorado and Cal, locked in a battle to see which team is No. 10 in the Pac-12, and which team is No. 11.

Cal is 1-5, but has only one loss of more than a touchdown. The Bears gave a game to TCU (34-32) and Washington (31-24), and had a 17-10 lead over Oregon – at Autzen – Friday night before ultimately falling, 24-17.

ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Cal a 64.8% chance of beating the Buffs.

Let the battle for No. 10 in the Pac-12 be joined …


14 Replies to “Battle for the Basement”

  1. So I was at the game and I have rewatched it once and here is what I saw.
    1. I saw a defense that can be great. It is not there yet. But it might be able to get there this season if given room. They still don’t pressure the qb enough and deep coverage can still be problematic. The question will be can they continue to improve.
    2. Lewis threw the ball at 3 seconds. A lot. He is hitting the back foot and throwing to his first read. He is actually throwing the fade. He actually threw the ball when recievers were in there break. I gotta be honest. I didn’t think Lewis would get here. He is far from perfect but it was so much better. If he can continue doing what he did in this game, we can win some more games. I am not sure if this is a mirage let’s watch Cal and see how they look. At least I am interested to see it instead of beaten down. He is throwing from his back foot more often than he needs to but his arm talent allows him to do so.
    3. Chev play calling. So you cannot run consistently into the defense we have being seeing. The defense is taking away the run and daring you to pass. You have to beat them passing. You can tell they are practicing the crap out of the first series. I also saw a play that was designed specifically against Arizona that worked. I liked the jet sweeps. So Arizona was flipping in and out of 2 deep safety for some reason…. and that 2 deep safety look can be run against…. But at the end of the day you are going to have to break them using the pass. I would really like us to be more multiple on 2nd and short. I think we ran it 100% of the time at 2nd and short. We gotta throw the ball. The tight end curls is covered. Everytime. That route likely needs to go away except as a way to clear the zone above….
    4. Offensive line. Needs work. I need to watch the game in more detail but man it felt like they were getting beat consistently and all over. Lewis is finally helping them out and getting rid of the ball in 3 seconds. But there were places we should have been able to run and we were taking losses.

    I will say these are the sorts of questions that at least make the season interesting. I truly thought Dorrell was crazy trying to get Lewis enough snaps to get over his inability to see the field. I am not sure if he is really seeing the field any better or basically he has a pre snap read and is throwing it and relying on the play design and receiver. Against bad teams this will work. Against good teams it will likely cause issues. Frankly, if we win 2 more games I will be ok. If we win 3 I will be surprised, 4 esctatic.

    1. Nice
      Right on
      I want to be ecstatic!!!!!!!

      Buffalo up.

      Note: Win 2 home games. Win 2 away games
      California and UCLA
      OSU and Washington

      Bowl game

  2. It was nice to see some progress and complementary football. Fun game. But “huge” progress is a stretch. The O put 20 points on the board, came up short again on key 3rd and short followed by coming up short again on 4th down. Love the win but there is still obviously work to do. I looked at this season as a development year and didn’t expect a great year but to see progress throughout the season. The lack of it up to the AZ game was definitely surprising and disappointing . Though AZ is a bad team, I was encouraged by the signs of progress in the passing game and energy of the team. Plus, what about the crowd? Impressive turnout of 49,000+ fans to support the Buffs. This was a critical game to win. And they did. Happy with that.

  3. The schedule will be tough. Utah, UCLA, and Oregon are all good teams. California, Oregon State, and, yes, Washington seem to be”winnable.” Win two of three “winnable” games and one of the tough ones, and it is a 5-7 record. Not bowl eligible, but better than the Las Vegas 4.5 win prediction.

    I am still holding out hope for 6-6 or better. If a bowl game narrowly eludes this team, the two consecutive unsuccessful quarterback sneaks (although the first of the two appeared to be successful) against Texas A & M will haunt C.U. for some time (recruiting,…).

  4. Hey good morning good morning.

    Lawn mowed yesterday (Yup I still do it. Better than being on that peeleon machine). Today a little sprinkler repair and no, I only work on my own stuff.

    Buffs Win…………….Buffs Win.

    Lotta truth to what Stuart and the Rooneyman put out.
    Stuart: How could the Buffs turn it around with only “subtle changes”? Enter the Arizona Wildcats.

    Rooney: <iWhile the promised subtle changes may not have been anything more than taking on lowly Arizona instead of USC………….
    (Arizona’s first and second down calls on a first-and-goal situation from the one late in the first half, a quarterback sneak and toss sweep,were as boggling as anything we’ve seen from the CU catalog this season. That sequence, like the Buffs’ failed and-goal situation against Texas A&M, changed the course of the game.)

    There were still ridiculous play calls by chev. MeinGott he just repeats those stupid runs over and over. Okay a couple new plays but this offensive scheme is way down level………..Can’t wait.

    The kid qb looked like a player eh? He will be so much better next year with a real OC and real Scheme.

    Go Buffs.

    Note: The subtle line was a joke as AZ was the subtle. They are not coming back next week. Is Cal subtle #2…….

    Note 2: The AZ oc must be related to chev or they are sharing schemes…………

    Note 3: HCKD has been taking a lot of heat from some dummies. Really, if you don’t see the leadership then well there is that. And the guy who says yo and wrote those long (alter-earache) posts demanding HCKD be fired for bumping a camera ………..sheesh

    Note 4: The defense and special teams finally told the offense to “get your arses off the field………….we’ll take over………………bout time……………….Hopefully offense and chev got the message going forward.

    Note 5: The household is happy today……………………Buffalo up

        1. Let’s have a moment of silence for your English teacher. Interrogative sentences end with a question mark, not a period. Ellipsis don’t mean what you think they mean, and if you’re going to spew your drivel; do us all a favor and just type a simple paragraph. I don’t know where you got the idea that your stream-of-consciousness ranting needed to be presented with a break after every ill-considered blurted word.

          1. And yet I get his message… I guess communication can work without following strict arbitrary rules that will change given enough decades passing…

  5. Karl Dorrell is delusional. There have been no, “ huge steps in progress” made by this qb /offense whatsoever. The play calling is still horrible. The offense still looks inept. The defense was amazing, but we don’t play Arizona every week. I’m glad we won. Karl can keep saying positive things about the qb/offense, but he is not going to manifest it just because he keeps saying it. His stubbornness is making me hate my own team.

    1. Bigguns.
      You are partly correct
      The play calling is still horrible. The offense still looks inept.

      HCKD is correct. You have to look deeper.

      Go Buffs

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