Friday, September 28, 2018

Hot or Cold, the Buffs Roll Again -- UCLA Falls at Folsom 38-16

Two weeks ago, the temperature was 92 degrees at Folsom Field for the game against New Hampshire. Tonight, the game against the UCLA Bruins started with the temperature a less than balmy 46 degrees. Welcome to Autumn in the Rockies.

UCLA came to Boulder sporting a record of 0-3. It hasn't been the auspicious start that Chip Kelly and the Bruin faithful had been hoping for. Meanwhile, the Buffs entered the game 3-0 and alone in first place as the only unbeaten team in the Pac-12 South.

For the first half, most watching the game had to be wondering if  Colorado really was the undefeated team. After last year, many of the Colorado fans have been wary of getting too confident. In 2017, Colorado started 3-0 and then stumbled to a 5-7 record.

When the first half ended with a 14-13 Colorado lead, no one in the crowd was thinking that the Buffs had the Bruins right where they wanted them. Turns out, though, that the 2nd half would belong to Colorado. The Golden Buffs outscored the Bruins 24-3 to cruise to a decisive victory.

Colorado is 4-0 for the first time since 1998. Yes, it's been that long. That means that about half the student section at Folsom Field had not even been born yet the last time it happened.
The win means that Colorado has now beaten UCLA two out of the last three years. If they keep that up, they will finally start to create some real rivalries in the Pac-12. Finishing last in the Pac-12 South on a nearly annual basis since joining the league has done little to throw a scare into the other teams. 

Even this win, against a reeling UCLA squad, has to be taken with a grain of salt. The Buffs need to keep pushing to get better. It doesn't get anything but harder from here.

The next three weeks present the gauntlet of Colorado's schedule. Arizona State - USC - Washington.

The Buffaloes can't afford to lose the next three games if they want to have a chance to win the Pac-12 South. Arizona State already has a win against a Top 15 team. Washington is on the cusp of the Top 10. And USC is USC, meaning they have as much talent on the field as any team in the nation. It's going to be a tough stretch that will test the mettle of the Buffaloes.

For tonight, Mike MacIntyre and his Golden Buffaloes have earned the right to celebrate. The turned it on in the 2nd half and turned a close game into a decisive victory.


Look later this weekend for looks at the the players who have been instrumental in making the Buffs 4-0.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Early Midterm for the Colorado Buffaloes

Who would have thunk it? Four weeks into the 2018 season and Colorado is undefeated while UCLA is still searching for their first win of the season.

Remember, this is the UCLA team that lured Chip Kelly back to college football. The same Chip Kelly who built the Oregon juggernaut that won 46 times and lost only seven times in his four years as head coach. 

There is not a question of whether Kelly will be successful at UCLA, he will be. The question is: How soon?

Remember, he is taking over a Bruin squad with lots of talent but who never learned to play together and reach their potential under ex-coach Jim Mora. However, one thing that Mora excelled at was recruiting the very best in the country to come to Westwood and play for the Bruins.

The last four recruiting classes at UCLA boast a total of 40 four star players and one five star player. Kelly has a LOT of talent to work with. The key is getting them to develop into top notch college players who play as a team. Kelly will do that. And when the Bruins do turn the corner, they will get much better very quickly.

The Colorado Buffaloes are fortunate to be playing a struggling UCLA squad so early in the season. The latter half of the Pac-12 season might look a whole lot different to UCLA opponents.

In the meantime, the Buffaloes welcome UCLA to Boulder on a cool autumn evening. How cool? Possibly forty degrees less than the last game they played two weeks ago. With the high in the mid-50's tomorrow, the Buffs cannot count on the Bruins being overwhelmed by the conditions. They will still be at a mile above sea level, but they won't be cramping from the heat.

What the UCLA game will show is whether Mike MacIntyre truly has his Buffs playing as a team, or whether they have looked good beating inferior competition.

Will UCLA expose the Buffaloes? Or will Colorado put a hurting on a Bruin squad already reeling from unmet expectations? In less than 24 hours, we'll know the answers to those questions.


Sunday, September 16, 2018

Colorado Rolls - And Becomes Only Undefeated Team in Left in Pac-12 South

After big wins over long time rivals Colorado State and Nebraska to start the season, Colorado's Golden Buffaloes finally played their first home game of the season and thumped New Hampshire 45-14.

The win was not unexpected. How the rest of the Pac-12 South played out was indeed a big surprise, however. USC lost for the second time in three games, and were manhandled by Texas 37-14. UCLA lost once again (38-14 to Fresno State) and now stand 0-3 on the year. Ranked Arizona State lost on the road to a tough San Diego State squad 28-21. Arizona finally won a game but still stand at 1-2. Utah lost at home to Pac-12 standard bearer Washington 21-7.

Strange as it might sound, three weeks into the 2018 season, Colorado is the only team in the Pac-12 South that has yet to taste defeat. If you claim to have predicted this before the season started, please stand up and receive your prize: You are either an idiot savant or a world class liar.

Colorado gets to hold on to this amazing distinction at least until UCLA comes to town on September 28, since they have a bye week next week before their Pac-12 opener against the Bruins.

Not only did Colorado roll in their game against New Hampshire, they did so while emptying their bench, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Twenty six different Buffaloes were credited with a tackle.

That may seem like an anomaly due to a game against a FCS school, but the Buffaloes first three games all have the high number of players making tackles. The Colorado State and Nebraska games also saw at least 25 Buffs making tackles. Compare that with last year, where the Buffs usually only had about 17 players making tackles.

More guys on the field means the Buffs can stay fresher and more guys are getting real game experience. That can only help moving forward into Pac-12 play.  

But, for now, the Buffaloes have earned a day or two off to heal and rest. Then it's back to the practice field and the film room. The real games are next on the agenda.

Go Golden Buffs!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Colorado's Golden Buffaloes Face the New Hampshire Wildcats in Home Opener

Two games into the 2018 season, the Colorado Buffaloes have already defeated their two oldest and most bitter rivals. 

Colorado manhandled Colorado State 45-13 in the Rocky Mountain Showdown in Denver to open the season and then went to Lincoln, Nebraska to spoil the Huskers first game playing for new coach and savior Scott Frost. The left Nebraska 2-0 after a 33-28 win over the hated Huskers.

The Buffaloes finally get to host their first home game tomorrow, against FCS powerhouse New Hampshire. Although New Hampshire comes to Boulder with an 0-2 record, they have made the postseason 14 straight years. By the same token, the Buffs have only been to a bowl game four times in the same time span. Indeed, the Buffs have only been to a bowl once in the last 10 years.

Does that mean that the Buffs are in danger of losing to New Hampshire? Probably not... but it would not be unheard of. Colorado has lost to TWO FCS teams since 2006. They lost to Montana State in 2006 and to Sacramento State in 2012.

New Hampshire's head coach Sean McDonnell has won more national coach of the year awards than Colorado's Mike MacIntyre.

Head coach Mike MacIntyre won National Coach of the Year Awards in 2016 after leading Colorado to a 10-2 regular season record.  He brought the Buffaloes from worst (2015) to first (2016) in the Pac-12. Unfortunately, Colorado fell all the way down to 5-7 last year.

In the FCS, the National Coach of the Year awards are named for Grambling's legendary coach Eddie Robinson. New Hampshire's head coach Sean McDonnell as won the Eddie Robinson COY award twice in the last 13 seasons.

Should all these tidbits of information make a difference to the outcome of the game? No, they won't.

New Hampshire may be a traditional FCS powerhouse, but Colorado is a program at the highest level of college football, FBS. Not only that, they are a member of the Pac-12, a Power Five conference.

Colorado should roll handily in this one. They should win by 40, even with 2nd and 3rd stringers playing half the game.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Open Letter to Nebraska Fans: Fear Not Husker Faithful, Better Days are Coming

From 1969-2001, Nebraska won nine or more games per season every single year. In 20 of those years, the Huskers won 10 or more games.

And it's not just those years that Nebraska football has stood out. They are #6 all time in victories for Division 1 schools. The only teams with a higher winning percentage all time join the Huskers in being college football royalty.

You all know these teams in the highest division of college football. Decade after decade they represent best that NCAA football has to offer. Not counting this season, those teams are:
  1. Michigan  - .729  winning percentage, 943 wins
  2. Notre Dame - .729 wp, 907 wins
  3. Ohio State - .725 wp, 898 wins
  4. Texas - .705 wp, 897 wins
  5. Nebraska - .695 wp, 893 wins
The next five teams on the list are also golden examples of the best in college football history: Alabama, Oklahoma, Penn State, USC and Tennessee. 

Some folks seem to think that Nebraska has been down for a long time. For sure, they had a horrendous year last year with a 4-7 record. But in the ten years prior to that the Huskers won 10 games three times and won nine games in four of those seasons.

It's a measure of the success and standards that Nebraska has long held that winning at least nine games seven times out of 10 years qualifies as a bad stretch.

There's a new sheriff in Lincoln, and his name is Scott Frost. He is absolutely the right man for the job.

He's not new to Nebraska, of course. He's a local QB hero who came back home after playing at Stanford for two years. He had the brains to get into Stanford and the skills to lead Nebraska to the national championship in 1997.

After five years in the NFL, Frost got into coaching. It quickly became evident that he learned a lot from his coaches. And what a list of coaches he had to learn from: Bill Walsh (3 Super Bowl wins), Tom Osborne (3 National Championships), Bill Parcells (2 Super Bowl wins), Bill Belichick (5 Super Bowl wins). 

He also learned a lot from offensive guru Chip Kelly, who led Oregon to a 46-7 record in four years as head coach. In fact, Frost's offensive philosophy and style probably most resembles that of Kelly from his coaching tree.

Here in 2018, Scott Frost has returned to Lincoln, and Chip Kelly has returned to college football at UCLA. Their combined records this year so far is 0-3. That won't last for long. Kelly has to change the culture at UCLA and Frost has to introduce a new style of playing to Nebraska. The change is coming.

After the Nebraska players learn what their new coach has to teach, the next national championship that Nebraska wins will be with Scott Frost at the helm (that is, if the "fans" are patient enough). 

It won't be this year, and it might be several years. The Big 10 is the toughest conference gauntlet to get through for any team in the country. Last year, the top five teams in the conference had a combined record of  56-11. Getting through the Big 10 unscathed is incredibly difficult, and doing so pretty much guarantees a spot in the four team playoffs and a real shot at the National Championship.

One of the keys for Nebraska will be get more and more wins over the top teams in the Big 10. Changing conferences is tough. There's no more Oklahoma and Colorado on the schedule. It's going to take time and wins to build those new rivalries. But as college football royalty, history says Nebraska football will get over their bad year and get back to doing what they do best -- winning.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Colorado's Rivalry Games are Over - Now What?

Nothing creates a rivalry quite like time and repetition. Colorado opened the season with big wins over the two rival teams their fans care about most.

The first time Colorado played Nebraska was in 1898. Since then they have played 70 times. From 1948 - 2010, the Buffs and Huskers played every single year as members of the same conference (Big 8 and Big 12). Even though Nebraska leads the series 49-19-2, the rivalry had many years where both teams were upper echelon schools and the game had national or conference title implications.

The rivalry against Colorado State goes back even farther. The Buffs first played the Rams in 1893. Since then, they have played a total of 90 times. The Buffaloes own a commanding 66-22-2 edge in the series, but there have been numerous years where high expectations in Boulder were dashed by the upstart Rams.

In 1986, often called the turnaround year for Bill McCartney's Buffs, the season started with a 23-7 thrashing by Colorado State at Folsom Field. 

The Buffs went on to start the season 0-4 as grumblings about the direction of the Buffaloes were starting to grow ever stronger. Then the Buffs went on the road and beat Missouri. It was the first of five straight wins for Colorado. One of those was games was against #3 Nebraska. It was a shocking win and changed the program for a long time. 

After 1986, Colorado reeled off 8 straight wins against the CSU Rams and went 2-2-1 against the Cornhuskers. That was shocking because the Buffs only beat Nebraska once between 1962 and 1985. 

Winning three out of five against NU helped make Colorado a national powerhouse that would play for two national championships. They lost their first attempt to win the national title in 1989 but won the following year. In 1994, the only thing between another national title for the Buffs was a lone loss against... Nebraska, who did win the national championship. That's how fierce rivalries are made.

The next game is against New Hampshire. Yawn.

New Hampshire comes to Colorado with an 0-2 record. They lost to Maine and Colgate in their opening games. Safe to say that Colorado SHOULD win this one even if they let all their starters 
have the day off.

However, "should" does not always mean "will" in college football. In 2009, Colorado went on the road and played Toledo and got shellacked 54-38.

In 2011, the Buffs were roasted on the road by Hawaii 34-17.

In 2012, the worst year in the history of CU Buffs football, the teams started the season with a loss to Colorado State in Denver. They followed that with a 30-28 loss to FCS Sacramento State in Boulder. They next week they gave up 69 points to Fresno State in a 55 point loss.

What's the moral of the story here?

The Golden Buffs need to run roughshod over New Hampshire. Rest the guys who are dinged up after two big emotional wins. And, most importantly, let the backups get some real time playing. Let the backup QB's throw some passes. Let some freshman who they want to redshirt find out what it's like to play in a college game.

Most of all, get the win and get the team ready. Pac-12 play starts the following week and Colorado needs to start beating THOSE teams once in a while. That's the only way they will start building some rivalries in their new conference.

CU won only three conference games in their first three years in the Pac-12. All against the worst teams in the league. In 1986, the Buffaloes finally beat some good teams on their way to the Pac-12 South crown. They finally beat Oregon, Arizona State, Stanford, Arizona and UCLA for the first time since joining the Pac-12.

Last year, the Buffs fell backwards. They only won two conference games. Both against the worst teams in the league. This year the Buffaloes need to be a team worthy of building rivalries in the Pac-12. They've still never beaten USC. 

For the Buffs to be taken seriously in the Pac-12, they have to start winning conference games more often. Doing so builds rivalries. And rivalries are what makes college football so much fun.


Sunday, September 9, 2018

Colorado 33, Nebraska 28 -- All That Matters

The Colorado Golden Buffs went in to Lincoln, Nebraska and defeated the Huskers 33-28.

It was a game that started with a roar for the Golden Buffs as they turned two Nebraska turnovers into touchdowns and stormed out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

Scott Frost's return to Nebraska then took off in earnest. By the end of the first quarter, the Huskers had cut the lead to 14-7. Over the rest of the first half, Nebraska played smashmouth football and had their way with Colorado.

Shortly before the end of the 2nd quarter, the Huskers were up 21-14 and looked like they would dominate for the rest of the game.

Fortunately for the Golden Buffaloes, they started to tighten things up. Colorado added a field goal before the half to cut the Nebraska lead to 21-17. They added another FG early in the 3rd quarter and were only down by one, 21-20.

Each team added another TD in the 3rd and entered the 4th quarter with Nebraska up 28-27. Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre raised a few eyebrows when he decided to kick an extra point instead of going for two to tie the game. 

Both teams kept threatening to score in the 4th quarter, but a trio of failed attempts on 4th down (two for the Buffs, and one for the Huskers), kept the ball out of the end zone.

The key play helping to decide the game was a bizarre unnecessary roughness penalty on Nebraska. Colorado's last minute drive was seriously stalled and they faced a 3rd down with 24 yards to go. All Nebraska had to do was keep the Buffaloes from getting a
first down and the game was all but over.

The pass from Steven Montez to Jay MacIntyre sailed high and incomplete, and then a Nebraska player inexplicably leveled MacIntyre with vicious hit. That penalty gave the Buffaloes an automatic first down.

On the next play, Montez hit Laviska Shenault Jr. on a beautiful 40 yard touchdown pass to take the lead, 33-28. A valiant effort by the Nebraska backup QB ended with a pass out of the end zone as time expired.

It wasn't pretty. Nebraska put up 565 yards on the Buffaloes, but Colorado caused three turnovers while having none of their own. All that matters for Colorado was that they left Lincoln with a win. 

The close win on the road was reminiscent of their big win over Oregon in Eugene in 2016. It shows the team that they are able to come back on the road in a hostile environment. The Buffs didn't just have to face the Huskers, they also had to face 90,000 extremely loud fans. It was the biggest crowd they will face this season.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

It's Nebraska Week in Colorado... "I'd Rather Be Dead Than Red"

Those of us who were in Folsom Field on October 25, 1986, will never forget that game against Nebraska. After more than two decades of futility, the Buffaloes finally defeated the Huskers in Boulder by the score of 20-10.

Head Coach Bill McCartney had raised quite a few eyebrows and not a few guffaws when he announced that he was designating Nebraska as Colorado's main rival. The game was even listed in RED on the schedule to underline its importance.

All this happened more than 30 years ago, and I am going on memory, so take any quotes with a grain of salt as to how accurate they are word for word. The gist is accurate though.

When asked why he wanted to make Nebraska the red letter rival for Colorado, McCartney made no bones about it. The Huskers represented long term excellence in college football. 

From 1969-2001, Nebraska won nine or more games per season every single year. In 20 of those years, the Huskers won 10 or more games.

McCartney knew that if the Buffs could play on that level consistently, they would be an elite team in college football. 

McCartney built his teams to compete with and beat Nebraska. And in doing so, he made Colorado vs Nebraska a nationally known rivalry. 

Nebraska fans laughed when Mac publicly announced that the Huskers would be Colorado's rival. Colorado had done nothing to give any indication that they were worthy of that. The last time Colorado had beaten Nebraska in Boulder was in 1960. 

For you history buffs (wink, wink) Eisenhower was still president. Colorado hadn't beaten Nebraska in Boulder through Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and the first term of Ronald Reagan. That fact hardly put any fear in the hearts of the Husker faithful.

The fans from Nebraska LOVED coming to Boulder. It was sure win and they got to visit something a whole lot prettier than Nebraska. They came by the tens of thousands. Folsom Field usually had as many fans in Nebraska red as black and gold.

McCartney finally issued a public appeal asking Buff fans to quit selling their tickets to Nebraska fans so that his players didn't have to feel like it was an away game. It was a hard thing to do. Many of the Buff faithful basically paid for their season tickets by selling to the deep pocketed Husker fans.

Nebraska fans were long proud of how gracious they were as winners. 

They would come into Boulder smoking their stinky cigarettes and tell us how well our Buffs had done despite yet another loss. They would pat us on the back and tell us to "wait until next year."

That graciousness went out the window when Colorado finally won. Their smarmy attitude was exposed that day. From '85-'91, the Buffs won three games to Nebraska's two, with one tie thrown in for good measure. All the games were close and usually had national implications.

When Colorado quarterback Sal Aunese died from stomach cancer during the 1989 season, some sick Husker fans wrote "Sal is Dead, Go Big Red" on the highway at Colorado-Nebraska state line.

One of the reasons the Colorado fans would rather be dead than red. The Nebraska faithful first tried to deny the atrocity, and then said the misdeeds of a few bad apples had nothing to do with the rest of them.

They stuck with that line until the next year when Colorado won the 1990 national championship. Sadly, the Buffs had to "share" the national championship with another team. Why didn't they win the title in the coaches poll like they had in the media poll?

Well, they should have. But one voting coach left #1 Colorado completely out of their final Top 20 following the bowl games. That coach was Nebraska's own Tom Osborne. He later said that he didn't actually fill out the poll, but let one of his assistants do it. It showed that classlessness started at the very top in Lincoln.

When Nebraska finally won big (just like the good old days) in 1992, the Husker fans were literally frothing at the mouth. So much for denying the existence of a rivalry.

The last time the Buffs and Huskers played football was in 2010. Nebraska was about to leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten. And Colorado was about to leave the Big 12 for the Pac-12.

Last year was a bad year for both programs. Nebraska won only four games and Colorado won only five. To put things right in the football pantheon, those numbers need to change.

While fans on both sides are hoping for a victory. We can all hope the game helps spring both programs back to prominence. What fun is it to hate a team that's not very good?

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Colorado 45, Colorado State 13... Let's Not Get Too Excited

The 2018 Rocky Mountain Showdown (RMS) is over, and the Buffs are on their way back to Boulder with a 45-13 win. Good win. Big win. After last year's abysmal 5-7 record (including a 17-3 win over CSU), a win over Colorado State is good but not unexpected. Let's not make it bigger than it really is. 

Colorado has better athletes than CSU, and they play in a Power Five Conference. The Buffs are supposed to beat teams like Colorado State. Remember please that CSU lost at home last week to a Hawaii team they were favored to beat by 17 points.

Colorado was only favored over CSU by 7.5 points. That number, more than anything, shows that Colorado has not proved anything yet to the football betting community. Last year was a big disappointment and the bettors have not forgotten.

An important point to remember is that CU has won the last three RMS's by a combine score of 106-23. One of those years was the magical ten-win 2016 season. The other was the horrible 2017 season that featured only five wins. A big win this year was not out of the ordinary.

All that is guaranteed about the 2018 season is that the Buffs will win at least two of their games. The other non-conference game, on the road in Lincoln, Nebraska, presents a completely different issue.

Many fans are harping loudly on fan sites like this one that Colorado is sure to win because Nebraska is also down. They like to point out that Nebraska only won four games last year... but forget to mention that Colorado only won five. 

More important than the comparative won-lost records of last year is that fact that the game is being played in Lincoln, not Boulder. That means that the Buffs will be playing in front of around 90,000 fans, only a smattering of which will be rooting for Colorado.

Can the Buffs beat Nebraska in Lincoln? Sure they can. They've done it before. But they will need to be a whole lot better than they were against Colorado State.


Lest anyone think that I am just being negative, here are some positives. Remember though, that some of them could have been written before the game.

Steven Montez is a stud of a quarterback. His line against CSU was one of the best in the history of Colorado football. Now that Montez has a real QB coach, take advantage of his talent.

If I hear or read another comment about how great Sefo Liufau was, I will want to puke. Some of us are old enough to remember the great Colorado quarterbacks of the glory years. Darian Hagan, Kordell Stewart, Koy Detmer,  and Sal Aunese bring back such fond memories. I have no such memories of Liufau. Watching him have tizzy fits on the sideline so that he could stay in games against lesser teams to run up his stats made me sick.

Those other young men were devoted to their teams and winning. They only stat they were interested in was wins and losses. Sadly, Liufau was saddled with a QB coach and offensive coordinator (Brian Lindgren) that was obsessed with lesser stats than wins and losses.

Lindgren is gone now (thankfully), and the Buffs have Darrin Chiaverini calling the plays. I'll give Darrin this, I was happy with the variety of Buff plays... until they got way ahead. Then it reminded me of Lindgren.

Note to Darrin, when you finally let the backup QB's play, let them play the position. Handing off 20 straight times to run out the clock will not help if Montez gets hurt in Lincoln and you need Noyer or Lytle to lead the Buffs to a comeback victory.

When the dominant Colorado teams under Kordell Stewart got ahead, they didn't expect Koy Detmer to just hand off. They let him run the whole offense. Let the backups now do the same thing. The backups will be much happier and the Buffs will be in a much better position if they have to play with a game on the line.

The real test for the Buffs starts in Lincoln next weekend. A win would be stupendous. A loss would be hard but understandable if the Buffs play well. A beat down would be horrendous in the long term. The Pac-12 is one of the strongest conferences top to bottom in the country. If the Buffs want to earn a bowl game, they have to up their game immensely.

A win over CSU is expected. A win over Nebraska would be startling. A win over half their opponents in the Pac-12 would be amazing.

One step at a time, Buffs, one step at a time.