Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! I hope that you are having a great holiday, filled with friends, family and great food. If you are anywhere close to being happy and healthy, there is much for which you can be grateful.

As a Buff fan, I hope you are grateful for the joyous times the team has given us this fall. Yes, the finish to the season has been disappointing, and yes, there are reasons to be concerned about how the future will unfold.

But we do have one thing to be grateful for which we did not have this time a year ago … hope.

In preparing my “Friday Fast Facts” for this weekend’s game against Utah, I went back into the CU at the Game Archives, and took a look at some of the facts and figures from last season’s finale. I found myself getting caught in the despair of the moment. The tone was one of not only little excitement, but little reason for hope.

One year ago … it was a depressing time …

The Buffs were 1-10, and lucky to get the one … After pulling off a 20-13 overtime win over Cal in the first game after Karl Dorrell’s firing, the Buffs reverted to form. In losing the final six games of the season, the CU defense never gave up less than 42 points in a game, surrendering at least 50 points in each of the last three games.

The average score of the four games played in November: 55-14.

The finale against the Utes was played in Boulder. It was a beautiful afternoon in late November, with the temperature for the 2:00 p.m. kickoff 58-degrees. And yet the game attracted a crowd of only 33,474. The Utes had no trouble with the bungling Buffs, winning 63-21 in a game which wasn’t that close.

The Buffs finished the season 1-11, the second 11-loss campaign in CU history. Colorado ingloriously became the first Power Five conference team to finish No 1 in the ESPN Bottom Ten rankings, and atop the CBS Sports Bottom 25. Colorado was in the bottom ten in almost every major offensive and defensive statistical category, finishing 127th in the nation (out of 130 FBS teams) in total offense; 129th in total defense.

The Buffs were out-scored, on average, by a score of 44-15.

Even more depressing, the CU athletic department seemed unwilling to make any moves to bring about change … 

Remember the October press conference, announcing the firing of head coach Karl Dorrell? Chancellor Phil DiStefano, when asked about updating CU’s transfer policies, making it easier for the next head coach to bring in transfers, had this to say;

“I don’t think it is a matter of altering any of the rules and policies. I believe that you can have excellent academics and excellent student-athletes coming together. They are not mutually exclusive.

“On the transfer piece, it is just based upon the degrees we offer. And the way that faculty own the curriculum, they own the degrees so when a student wants to transfer, for example, we do not have physical education here, and we do not have general education, and to be honest, that’s not going to change.

“What we must do is go and recruit those student athletes coming from junior colleges who can play for us and can transfer in the credits. It may take a little bit more work, but I have confidence in our coaches to be able to do that. I mean we have brought in transfers and that has worked. And I think we will continue to bring in transfers, it is just the transfers must have the transfer credits that will transfer.” 

To make matters worse, the “NIL Collective” was a foreign term to CU athletics. Little effort was being made to formulate a collective outside of the athletic department which could assist in luring transfers to Boulder, and the Champions Center was mute to calls for the athletic department to wake up and take a look at the new world of recruiting.

With a roster devoid of talent, and an athletic department seemingly indifferent to change, it was no surprise …

There was little reason to assume CU was going to make a splash hire

With the 2022 season at an end, CU remained tight-lipped about its coaching search. Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders was not on anyone’s list of potential coaches for Colorado (when Coach Prime was mentioned, it was usually in connection with openings at Georgia Tech and Cincinnati), and little national attention was paid to investigating CU’s options.

And why would the national media care … when it appeared that the University of Colorado didn’t care?

From an ESPN article posted on year ago today, on November 23, 2022 …

Athletic director Rick George has been very active the past few weeks, talking to candidates with many different profiles. Until recently, two former FBS coaches not currently working — Bronco Mendenhall (BYU, Virginia) and Tom Herman (Texas, Houston) — had generated the most attention for the Colorado job. But sources told ESPN earlier this week that momentum has cooled considerably with both.

Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters, a former team captain at Colorado with deep roots at the program, remains a strong candidate to watch. But Colorado has leaned more toward candidates with head-coaching experience, including Texas co-defensive coordinator Jeff Choate, the former Montana State coach. Current FCS coaches such as North Dakota State’s Matt Entz and Sacramento State’s Troy Taylor, a graduate assistant at Colorado in 1995, could get closer looks. 

One year later, Bronco Mendenhall and Tom Herman remain outside of the coaching world, Ryan Walters is 3-8 as the new head coach at Purdue, Jeff Choate is still at Texas, Matt Entz is still the head coach at North Dakota State, and Troy Taylor is 3-8 as the head coach at Stanford.

Meanwhile, the tsunami which is Coach Prime has taken over CU, Boulder, and the rest of the college football world. The Buffs went from rags-to-riches in meteoric fashion, but have since returned to earth. National rankings and ESPN College GameDay have been relegated to our memories, and we are left wondering if the first month of the 2023 season was just an illusion.

I don’t believe so. There are those who are wondering out loud why CU can’t be more like Arizona, which is 8-3 and nationally ranked. Why can’t Deion Sanders build a team more like the one put together by Jedd Fisch?

What’s easy to forget is that Jedd Fisch is in his third season as Arizona’s head coach. In his first year, the Wildcats went 1-11. Even as we speak, Fisch’s record as the head coach at Arizona is 14-21.

Think CU fans will be satisfied if Coach Prime, currently 4-7 at CU, goes 10-14 in his next two seasons? Probably not.

As we discussed in last weekend’s Essay, “Do You (Still) Believe?“, projections for CU for the 2023 season were low in August, but reached unreachable proportions in September.

Is it fair to be disappointed this Thanksgiving, with CU sitting at 4-7?


But only because our expectations have been raised.

There will be plenty of time this off-season to wring our hands over whether Coach Prime’s recruiting and coaching methods will bring sustained success to the University of Colorado football program.

For this weekend, though, there are plenty of reasons to give thanks about where the program is compared to the despair and uncertainty we were enduring just a year ago at this time.

And, if you don’t believe me, posted below is my Essay for the Utah game a year ago. At the time, we weren’t talking about CU having a nationally ranked team, national publicity on an unimaginable scale, and selling out every home game for the first time in school history.

Not even close.

The discussion a year ago was whether the Buff Nation had just lived through the worst season in program history …

CU in ’22: The Worst Season in School History?

It’s finally over.

The November from Hell has come to a close, bringing to a close one of the worst seasons in Colorado history. The Buffs finished the 2022 season with a whimper, falling behind No. 14 Utah 42-0 at halftime, finally falling 63-21. The CU offense went three-and-out seven times in the first half alone, accounting for one first down and 18 total yards at the break.

After upsetting Cal with a 20-13 overtime win in the first game under interim head coach Mike Sanford, the Buffs went south the remainder of the season, Colorado lost the final six games of the season by an average score of 51-16, giving up 54+ points in each of the final three games. Colorado finished the 2022 season with a 1-11 record, joining the 2012 Jon Embree team as the only 11-loss teams in Colorado history.

Awful … just awful. Clearly the 2022 campaign was one of the worst seasons in CU history.

But was it the worst?

It’s all subjective, of course, and while it’s painful to look back at the Buffs’ 2022 campaign, we can at least do it now in the past tense. No more blowout losses to endure this fall. No more Bottom Ten rankings. No more “last in the nation in … ” to rehash week-in and week-out.

The 2022 season is now relegated to history. There are folks like me who will have to keep referencing the facts and figures from the year, and we will all have to endure the preseason magazines next summer. Regardless of who is the new Colorado head coach, and how much optimism there may be around the fresh start for the program, these prognosticators will still start their previews with language along the lines of:

“Coming off one of the most statistically abysmal seasons a Power Five school has ever posted, the Colorado football program in 2022 was not only the worst Power Five conference school in the nation, but one of the worst programs in the entire FBS … “

Like we needed to be reminded.

But, the past now includes the 2022 Buffs. So, it’s now fair, with a bit of relief – and perhaps a bit of whimsy – that we can chart whether the 2022 season was, in fact, the worst season in Colorado football history.

Let’s chart some of the contenders …


Record and Significant Games … 

The only winless season in Colorado football history, the Buffs – who in fact weren’t known as the Buffs until 1934 – went 0-4 in the first season of football in Boulder. The Colorado football team not only didn’t win a game in 1890, the team didn’t even come close.

The first game in school history was played on November 15, 1890, with CU falling to a team from the Denver Athletic Club, 20-0. Not great, but that would be as good as it would get for the “Silver and Gold”. In the next game CU, which played without a head coach for the first three seasons of the program’s existence, fell to Colorado Mines, 103-0 … a score which, as you might have guessed, is the worst defeat in program history.

It didn’t get any better in the final two games, a 44-0 loss to Colorado Springs Athletic Association, and a 50-4 loss in the rematch with Colorado Mines. The four points in the finale were the only points scored by CU that first season, with the final tally being 217-4.

There was no NCAA in 1890 – there wouldn’t be until the 1930s – and CU wouldn’t play in a conference until 1893, so there are no comparable stats for that miserable first year to show just how bad that first team was.

Probably for the best …

Other Pre-NCAA seasons 

1891 … 1-4 … Another miserable season, with the Buffs out-scored by a combined score of 106-30. Colorado did, though, pick up the first win in program history, with a 24-4 win over Colorado Springs Athletic Association in the ’91 finale (So, for those scoring at home, Colorado football didn’t win its first ever game until the ninth game in school history);

1915 … 1-6, 0-5 in Rocky Mountain (Faculty) Athletic Conference play … The final season for legendary coach Fred Folsom, CU’s only victory was a 30-0 win over Wyoming. The Buffs were shutout three times, including a season-ending 46-0 loss to Washington as CU ventured to the Northwest for the first time. The 0-5 conference record marked the last time CU finished winless in conference play until Mike MacIntyre’s Buffs suffered through an 0-9 Pac-12 run in 2014;

1916 … 1-5-1, 1-5 in Rocky Mountain (Faculty) Athletic Conference play … The first season under head coach Bob Evans wasn’t much better than the final season under Fred Folsom the year before. After opening the season with a win over Wyoming, and a tie against the Alumni, the season went south pretty quickly. The Buffs suffered three straight shutout losses by a combined score of 93-0;

Again, the NCAA didn’t exist until 1937, so – mercifully – there are no national statistics to show just how bad these teams were when compared to their peers nationally.


Record and Significant Games … 

1-10, 1-6 in Big Eight play … CU opened its second season under Chuck Fairbanks by falling behind UCLA 56-0 in the opener … at halftime (56-14 final). If anything, the season went downhill from there, with the home opener a 49-7 loss to Lee Corso’s Indiana Hoosiers. That same week, insult was added to injury as Sports Illustrated issued a damning article, condemning CU for cutting sports like gymnastics, wrestling and baseball – sports which have still yet to return to Boulder. After losing to Drake – Drake! – for the second season in a row, the Buffs “participated” in the record-setting 82-42 to Oklahoma. After back-to-back identical 45-7 losses to Missouri and Nebraska, the Buffs salvaged the season with a 17-9 win over Iowa State.

Statistically in 1980

The Buffs were out-scored on the season, 451-160, or an average score of 41-14 … Colorado was ranked 78th in total offense nationally (out of 139 Division I schools), which was actually the best offensive output of the Chuck Fairbanks era (CU was ranked 112th in total offense in 1979; 105 in 1981) … The 160 points on offense, though, was no better than 114th in the country. The defense was porous, with Colorado ranked 138th nationally in yards allowed, and 139th in the country in scoring defense. Oh, and as noted above, there were 139 teams in Division 1-A in 1980, so Colorado was dead last in the nation in scoring defense in 1980, and second-to-last in total defense.


Record and Significant Games … 

1-10, 1-6 in Big Eight play … After posting 2-8-1 and 4-7 records in Bill McCartney’s first two seasons, the Buffs slid backwards in Season Three, matching Chuck Fairbanks’ 1980 team to become CU’s second-ever ten-loss team. The Buffs opened the 1984 campaign with two frustrating losses – 24-21 to Michigan State and 27-20 to Oregon – with the second loss compounded with the near-death injury suffered by tight end Ed Reinhardt, Jr., in Eugene. The heavy-hearted Buffs were blown out the next week by Notre Dame, 55-14, in CU’s first – and still only – trip to South Bend. Saving CU from its first winless season since 1890 was a last-minute 23-21 win over Iowa State.

Statistically in 1984 …

The Buffs were doubled up by their opponents over the course of the season, being out-scored by an average score of 33-16. The offense was ranked 89th in the nation in total offense, but no better than 93rd in scoring. The defense was equally inept, coming in at No. 88 in the country in total defense; 101st in scoring defense. Despite the failings, Bill McCartney, with a 7-25-1 three-year record (one less victory than Karl Dorrell managed in what amounted to two full seasons – 8-15 – and just barely ahead of the 7-26 record posted by Chuck Fairbanks), was nonetheless given a contract extension. The following season, 1985, McCartney switched to the wishbone, posted a 7-5 record, and was off to the races …


Record and Significant Games … 

1-11, 1-8 in Pac-12 play … Jon Embree’s first campaign in 2011 did not go well, with the Buffs finishing with a 3-10 record in CU’s first season in the Pac-12, but in Embree’s second season, the bottom fell out. A 22-17 loss to Colorado State in Denver was an ominous opening, but the real sign of things to come came in the home opener, a 30-28 loss to Sacramento State of the Big Sky Conference. The following week, the Buffs fell behind Fresno State 35-0 … in the first quarter. When the dust settled, the Bulldogs had a 69-14 victory, and CU was a laughingstock. A last-minute win over Washington State kept the Buffs from an 0-12 season, but CU still had its first-ever 11-loss season with routs by scores like 51-17 (Arizona State), 50-6 (USC), 70-14 (Oregon), and 48-0 (Stanford).

Statistically in 2012

There were 124 FBS teams for the 2012 season, and the Buffs were close to the bottom in a number of categories. CU gave up 552 points, while scoring only 214, or an average score of 46-18. Out of the 124 teams, Colorado was 116th in total offense; 117th in scoring offense. The defense, if anything, was worse. Colorado gave up 5,862 total yards, an average of 488.5 yards per game and 7.1 yards per play, surrendering 67 total touchdowns, with those numbers leaving Colorado at 117th in total defense, and 120th in scoring defense. All four of those stats set all time low numbers for the program … until …


Record and Significant Games … 

1-11, 1-8 in Pac-12 play … The third season under Karl Dorrell started poorly, with the Buffs turning a 7-6 halftime deficit against TCU in the opener to a 38-13 thumping. Four more losses, with each opponent scoring over 40 – with the Buffs never scoring over 20 – ended the Dorrell era. Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford opened with a 20-13 overtime win over Cal, but the Buffs finished the season with six more losses, never coming close to a second win. The month of November was especially brutal to the program, with Colorado facing four straight ranked programs. The Buffs limped to the finish, with a 49-10 loss to Oregon, a 55-17 pasting by USC, a 54-7 pasting by Washington, and a 63-21 thumping by Utah.

Statistically in 2022

The year end numbers from the NCAA are still being compiled but safe to say the Buffs are at the bottom of the 131-team FBS. CU came into the Utah game 125th in total offense and 127th in scoring offense. The Buffs may edge up after their 21 second-half points against Utah, but the 185 yards of total offense won’t help. And … the defense … yuck. Colorado was 130th in total defense (495.4 yards/game) and 131st (42.6 points/game – dead last in the country) in scoring defense, and that was before the Utes put up 662 yards and 63 points.

What we do know is that the 2022 team broke all of the (bad) records the 2012 team set on defense. The 2012 team gave up 5,862 total yards … the 2022 team gave up 6,117. The averages per game: 488.5 yards/game in 2012; 509.7 yards/game in 2022. The 2012 team gave up 67 touchdowns; the 2022 team surrendered 70.

So, which team is the worst in school history? 

Let’s eliminate the teams between 1890 and the modern era, because there are not enough stats to compare the teams to other programs nationally, and they all won at least one game.

I think we can eliminate the 1984 team as well. The Buffs went 1-10, and barely beat Iowa State to get their only victory, but there were four one-score losses in there, and the Buffs had to overcome the Ed Reinhardt Jr. injury.

Which leaves … 

1890 … For the purists. This team remains the only winless team in school history. The 0-4 squad was out-scored 217-4, and suffered the worst loss (103-0) in program history. But … it was the first-ever team, they didn’t have a head coach, and they only played four games;

1980 … My personal favorite for years, as it was the team for my freshman year. Down 56-0 at halftime of the first game, the loss to Drake, the infamous 82-42 game … the 1980 1-10 had it all;

2012 … The first 1-11 team in school history. There was the 69-14 loss to Fresno State (down 35-0 in the first quarter), the loss to Sacramento State, together with routs along the way by 51-17 (Arizona State), 50-6 (USC), 70-14 (Oregon), and 48-0 (Stanford); and

2022 … There is recency bias, of course, with the four embarrassing losses to ranked teams in November still fresh wounds. But the numbers speak for themselves. Jon Embree’s teams were awful, and were not competitive … and the 2022 team posted numbers which were even worse.

So … the winner is … 

2022 – The worst season in Colorado history.

Thank God it’s over …


2 Replies to “Giving Thanks”

  1. Thanks to you Stuart for the dedication and articles, and for a place for the Buffs community to share, vent, celebrate, argue, agree and disagree.

  2. I was curious. Was 4 wins after a 10 or 11 loss season exemplary, average, or disappointing? Looking at the record for the Buffs over the years, 4 wins after a 10 or 11 loss season is about the average. Still so much work to do.

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