Monday, October 29, 2018

Colorado Coaching Collapses Against Oregon State! Head Coach Blames Everyone but Himself

Colorado once promising season completely collapsed against Oregon State on Saturday. And head coach Mike MacIntyre demonstrated yet again that his clock management skills are among the worst in the country.

Earlier this season, Oregon's first year head coach Mario Cristobal let a sure victory against Stanford slip away by continuing to running the offense "up-tempo" despite having a big lead. A couple of incredible fluke mishaps (along with typically horrible Pac-12 officiating) and Stanford was able to come back to tie the game, and then win it in overtime.

Cristobal acknowledged after the game that he now understood that all the Ducks needed to win after the fluke turnovers was take the snap and take a knee to run out the clock. Instead, they risked a handoff that became a fumble. Stanford recovered the fumble and then tied the game.

Colorado's collapse made Oregon's look quaint by comparison. And sadly, MacIntyre has had almost a decade as a head coach to learn some clock management skills. Colorado led 31-3 in the second half against the one of the very worst teams in the country. They led 31-10 at the beginning of the 4th quarter.

As Oregon State mounted a spirited comeback, Colorado continued to run "up-tempo" in the 4th quarter. On one series alone, Colorado snapped the ball with more than 20 seconds on the clock each play and then punted with 38 seconds left on the 40 second play clock. The next series, the idiotic non-understanding of the play clock continued.

The whole thing looked bizarrely like something out of the Twilight Zone. MacIntyre's team, trying to protect a lead, kept snapping the ball with oodles of time on the clock and running plays out of bounds that stopped the clock over and over. Meanwhile, Oregon State was using much more clock than Colorado. 

How did it all turn out? Colorado had the worst collapse in their long and storied history. Against a team that had not won in the road since 2014, and had not beaten an FBS foe in almost two years. 

Oregon at least suffered the indignity of losing to a perennial Top 20 team when they lost to Stanford. And Oregon had two freak plays leading to their collapse. One was a touchdown on a returned fumble when the Ducks were at the Stanford goal line.

Colorado just stopped being able to make a stop on defense, and to completely forget that when the clock runs out the game is over. Keep stopping the clock and the game takes longer to end. Keep giving the ball back to the opponent without stopping them and they will keep on scoring.

Of course, MacIntyre blamed the players for not making enough plays. Nothing was said about clock management or play calling on offense or defense. It was all on the players. The record setting national coach of the year in 2016 doesn't believe in taking responsibility. The buck stops somewhere else, always. And, by the way, that "record setting" is not a good record to have. MacIntyre is the first COY to have a losing record the next year.

On top of that, Mac's teams are 0-6 the last two years in games where they could earn bowl eligibility.  Mickey Mac is also 0-17 at Colorado against teams that are ranked (or higher ranked). Two of the next four are against ranked teams. The other two are on the road. Arizona just knocked the snot out of Oregon in Tucson, and Cal just beat Washington in Berkeley. It's pretty certain after Colorado's collapse against Bottom Ten Oregon State that none of the teams remaining on the schedule are trembling in their shoes at the prospect of facing MacIntyre's team. They know that if given the opportunity, MacIntyre will find yet another way to mess it up.

When will Rick George finally realize that 6 years is more than enough time for MacIntyre to prove himself? 

He's had one anomaly year where the Buffs won 10 games. Every other season  before has been last place. We'll find out in the next four games if it's another trip to the basement this year.

MacIntyre has tried incredibly hard his entire tenure in Boulder to lower expectations for the program and himself. We as fans are supposed to aspire to six win seasons and bottom tier bowls as the best we can hope for.

If that's what the University of Colorado Regents and Athletic Director believe is acceptable, then they have succeeded in making one long time fan become microscopically close to no longer caring. And it's pretty certain the casual fans have already crossed into that realm.

If the Buffs don't make a remarkable turnaround the next four games, the program may never recover if nothing is done.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Is it Time to Cut Darrin Chiaverini Some Slack?

Is is time to cut Darrin Chiaverini some slack?

For most of the time that Mike MacIntyre has been coaching at Colorado, longtime Buff fans were incredibly frustrated by the play calling of former offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren (now the offensive coordinator of this week's foe, Oregon State). Most of the complaints were that Lindgren's play calling was utterly predictable. It was indeed predictable, but many folks were also put off by Lindgren's quiet demeanor.

Some of the critics likened that quiet demeanor to a "deer in the headlights" look while his supporters (mostly rumored to be friends or relatives) chose to call his demeanor "cerebral" instead of quiet. Going back and reading some of the 39 articles written by myself on Colorado Buff Watch where Lindgren is tagged lead me to believe that Lindgren is certainly not cerebral unless the word is included in the phrase "cerebral hemorrhage" or something similar.

Last year, Lindgren suffered the indignity of having to share offensive coordinator duties with Darrin Chiaverini. The whole thing was kind of a farce, however. Lindgren still called the plays during the games. He still insisted on throwing long out passes into stiff winds to no avail. He still insisted on throwing over and over again against the worst rushing defenses in the Pac-12, and running straight up the middle over and over again against the best rushing defenses.

Lindgren was one of the main reasons that Colorado fell from 10 wins in 2016 to only 5 in 2017. All this despite the claims of head coach MacIntyre that Colorado would have one of the best offenses in the entire country. Mac was wrong and Lindgren was encouraged to seek other employment after the season. Thankfully he found it at Oregon State.

This season, Darrin Chiaverini stayed as offensive coordinator (along with recruiting coordinator) but he has shared the job with offensive line coach Klayton Adams. This year, however, Chev gets to call the plays. After Colorado started 5-0 behind Chiaverini's play calling and the emergence of WR Laviska Shenault as a bonafide superstar, delusions of grandeur started taking over.

Many folks forgot that one of the main reasons behind Colorado's record was a stalwart defense that was one of the best in the country in the 2nd halves of games. Instead, Chev and QB Steven Montez shared the spotlight with Shenault, with national media even mentioning Viska as a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate.

After starting the season 5-0, with all the glory and rankings that came with it, Colorado ran into two very talented and strong defenses from USC and Washington. And all of a sudden, the offensive exploits came to a stop.

Did Chiaverini all of a sudden forget how to call plays? Or did he just run into two really good defenses? Or, more likely, did he find out the hard way that sometimes you have to adjust your play calling based on what the defense is giving you?

We all need to remember that calling plays at the Power 5 level is certainly a learning process. No one starts out at the top. Chev started strong in his first year, but he was exposed as a novice by the outstanding defensive coordinators at USC and Washinton (Clancy Pendergrast and Pete Kriatkowski).

Does that mean that Chiaverini cannot continue to improve as he gets more experience? Of course not.

One of the worst years ever in Colorado football was 2012. The offensive coordinator that year was Buff legend Eric Bieniemy under the guidance of head coach Jon Embree. One of the many lowlights from that season was Colorado calling a quarterback sneak on first down because the coaches had not realized that the Buffs had gotten a first down the prior play.

That same sort of snafu happened earlier this season when Colorado attempted a two-point conversion because the coaches had not realized the Buffs had scored a touchdown the prior play. Some call this kind of mistake inexcusable. Some notice that it is an acceptable mistake from a young coach.

For those who only pay attention to college football, you should know that the hottest offensive coordinator in the NFL this year, in his first year as coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs is none other than Eric Bieniemy. It shows you can go from a rough beginning in the college ranks to the very highest levels of coordinator in the NFL.

Chiaverini is just beginning as a coordinator. He is bound to make some mistakes in his play calling. The most important thing he can do is to learn as he goes along. He's already done something that Lindgren never did when he took the blame for his play selection and vowed to get better.

Those of us who are Buff fans hope he gets better sooner rather than later.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

What the Hell is Wrong with Mike MacIntyre and Darrin Chiaverini?

What the hell is wrong with head coach Mike MacIntyre and offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini? Maybe the defensive coordinator should smack them each upside the head! Another good defensive effort was wasted by Colorado's bizarrely conservative play-calling.

Without Laviska Shenault, Colorado was forced to spread the ball around with forward passes. It worked until Colorado got a lead and then went into total conservative shutdown mode. They stayed in that mode even AFTER Washington got the lead. 

How many times can the Buffs run up the middle for no gain or a loss before they change what they are doing? 

They even went as far as letting the running back run from the wildcat for no gain not once but twice, including on fourth down. What happened you may ask?

They gave the ball to Washington at midfield and let them march down the field to extend their lead. It could have been worse if not for an offensive pass interference penalty on Washington at the 2 yard line.

The defense has to be getting pissed off at the offensive coaches by now. Can the offense at least act like they are interested in scoring. Or will Mac II and Chiv see if they can run out the clock even though Colorado is behind. We'll see.

17-13 Washington, with 3 minutes left in Third Quarter.

Alright, down by 11 with less than four minutes to go. Will the Buffs try going down the field? Or will they be happy with their moral victory of losing again but being closer than everyone thought they'd be?

Will it even matter? By now, it's way too little and way too late. 

Interception by Washington. If they score again it will be the 18 point loss that everyone predicted. 

Buffs get lucky and Washington settles for a field goal. Washington 27-13. Two minutes left.

 Offense line now shows they don't care. This game is over for real, even though it was effectively over when the offensive coaches stopped trying to score. 

What a pathetic game from the offensive coaches. The players deserve better.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Can the Colorado Buffaloes Learn From Their Bad Week?

The Colorado Buffaloes had a bad week last week. 

Not only did they lose to USC to drop their first game of the season, they were also unceremoniously dropped from the AP Top 25. They woke up Saturday morning as one of only 11 unbeaten teams in the country, and the only one west of the Mississippi. The ended the day with all the pundits who said that Colorado would be horrible this year to finally have the chance to say, "AH HA! We knew it!"

It's funny how things change.

If you looked at the first seven games of Colorado's 2018 schedule two years ago, most people then would have spoken about how tough it projected to be. Nebraska in Lincoln, USC in Los Angeles, Washington in Seattle, the always tough games against Arizona State and UCLA, and the in-state rivalry game with Colorado State. That gauntlet of a schedule was one of the reasons that Colorado was predicted to win only four to five games this year.

Of course, after starting the season 5-0, the angry pundits thumbed their noses at Colorado's record and claimed they hadn't played anybody. Never mind that USC won the Pac-12 last season and was favored to win the South again. Never mind that, historically, beating Nebraska in Lincoln is one of the toughest tasks in college football. Forget that Colorado had only beaten UCLA and Arizona State once apiece since joining the Pac-12.

Now, the game against Washington awaits. The Huskies were favored by the football writers to make it to the national championship playoffs again. But sometimes things don't work out the way the pundits planned. First they lost to Auburn, had some close games with Arizona State and UCLA, and then lost at Oregon. 

Despite their two losses, Washington is still ranked in the Top 15. And yes, they are the highest rated team in the country with two losses.

Colorado has never beaten Washington since joining the Pac-12. In their six games this decade, Washington has averaged more than 44 points per game to Colorado's less than 13. It's one of the reasons that the Buffaloes are expected to lose by 16.5 points. For those who think the Buffs are being "disrespected" -- remember that Washington has traditionally beaten them by closer to 31.

Last week, the Buffaloes seemed tight against USC on offense. They could not get anything going, including the coaches. Maybe the pressure of finally (possibly) being able to beat the Trojans was too much to bear. Although USC was favored, it was close enough to make the game a toss up. 

No such closeness in the point spread this week. Washington is expected to roll over Colorado. There are no expectations from fans or pundits that Colorado can win this game. Does that mean the pressure is off? Of course not. Football is, after all, a sport that is dependent upon wins and losses.

But a loss by a touchdown or two would be seen by many as a moral victory by fans. The players are not buying into that for a moment. They want to leave Washington with a victory. 

Having no expectations from the media or fans may allow them to focus and play smarter than they did against USC. That means the coaches too.

If the defense can play like they did for 50 of 60 minutes against USC, Colorado can be a very tough team. If the offense can play like they did for every game other than USC, the Buffs can put up points on Washington.

Strangely enough, if Heisman candidate Laviska Shenault cannot play, it might be better for the team's chance to win. Offensive coordinator (and play caller) Darrin Chiaverini last week could not find a way to NOT call play after play for Shenault, even though USC stacked their defense to stop Shenault. He faced double and triple team coverage on every play. Despite that, Colorado continued to go to that well so often that Laviska ended up injured.

Colorado has a lot of offensive weapons, but they are of no use unless their numbers are called. 

If Shenault is on the sideline, maybe Chiaverini and MacIntyre can get away from their tunnel vision. And maybe they've learned the lesson that you do not try to run away from a speed team. You run right at them. Washington has lots of speed. 

Colorado needs to adjust. If not, the Buffs will come back home with another loss. Even if they adjust correctly and still lose, at least they will know going forward that they have the ability to adjust on offense. All they need to do is look at their own defense and see how well they have adjusted over and over again this season.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Ghost of Brian Lindgren Returns to Call Plays for Colorado; USC Rolls for 13th Straight Over Colorado

Please note that this was written at halftime. It reflects how certain the end would be.

Much has been made this year about the amazingly efficient passing of Steven Montez and the great play calling of Offensive Coordinator Darrin Chiaverini. All that acclaim must now be taken with a grain of salt, because a mediocre (for them, anyway) USC team exposed Colorado as not really being worthy of being in the Top 25. 

The Trojans themselves are not worthy of being in the Top 25, but Colorado is a lot farther away than USC. The Buffaloes came in undefeated, but the Trojans came in with an eye toward winning the game. The coaches at Colorado never gave their players a chance.

The DEFENSE started strong by intercepting two passes, but the Colorado offense did nothing with the opportunities. Chiaverini seemed to be channeling his old co-offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren. He called plays over and over that seemed completely telegraphed and seemed to think that the only receiver that should be thrown to was Laviska Shenault. It strongly reminded everyone why Colorado has had only one winning season since Mike MacIntyre came to town.

How frustrating to fans and players alike it was to watch Shenault triple teamed (or more) and still have Montez and Chiaverini insist on throwing to him over and over and over. Come on guys, if four DB's are on one guy then SOMEONE else must be wide open. They also relegated their star receiver to having the snot knocked out of him.

Now, remember than Shenault is an amazing talent. We understand that. His 51 yard run for a TD from the Wildcat was a thing of beauty. We know how good he is. But he cannot beat USC by himself. The offense needs to use more people. 

Most importantly, the coaches need to try to SCORE. After USC took a 14-7 lead, Colorado called plays that looked like they were trying to run out the clock before halftime even though there were timeouts available and plenty of time. How much time? Enough for Colorado to go three and out, punt, give up yet another touchdown and then seemingly try to run out the clock again. Although they were moving down the field in the last minute, Colorado seemed uninterested in using their timeouts.

In the second half, the defense seemed to stop caring. What good was it to play the Trojans tough defensively (95% of the time) if the offense continue to do absolutely nothing. At one point, Montez had completed 8 of 10 passes for a grand total of 18 yards. It must be pretty easy to complete 80% of passes if they only average 2 yards a pop.

It was easy to feel sorry for the players, because the coaches looked completely intimidated by playing USC in Los Angeles. The Buffs had no chance in this game from the get go. After the first turnover, the Colorado coaches seemed totally unprepared to call plays.

The coaches gave up on this game before it started.

It was a sad effort from the guys making so much money. The players deserve better from the coaches.

Nebraska Falls to 0-6; Frost and NU Need to Examine Their Values

Scott Frost has a long road ahead. Not only does he have a new system to teach to his team, but he also needs to get them to stay focused for 60 minutes.

During parts of the game against Northwestern, Nebraska looked like the dominant Huskers of years past. During other parts of the game, the Huskers looked every bit the part of a team that is 0-6.

Unfortunately for the Nebraska faithful, the game ended a few minutes too late for them to hold onto a 10 point lead with three minutes left on the clock.  

By the time overtime got going, the offense was sputtering, and Nebraska lost after a Northwestern field goal.

A little advice for Frost: Start focusing on YOUR team and quit complaining about others. If you are 6-0 and saying those things, it sounds like you are protecting your program. When you have yet to win a game, however, it sounds like whining and excuse making.

 Your teams needs all the help it can get in taking responsibility for their play. If you keep giving them opportunities to blame others, it's a much easier path to follow and will not help them become a winning team.

By now, Frost must know that this will not be a winning team. At this point, the Huskers may not win more than one game. Frost needs to use the latter half of this season to teach the Huskers the value of hard work, focus, and personal responsibility.

If they continue to accuse others and try to blame everyone but themselves, the difficulties of this season might very well spread into 2019.

Frost needs to look at the values he is trying to promote. And most importantly, remember that the test of those values is NOT when things are good, but when things are bad. If Nebraska abandons their values during tough times, it only shows they were never values to begin with and merely public relations advertising.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Colorado Buffaloes Keep Annoying the Pundits, Move to 5-0 after 28-21 Win Over Arizona State

To the surprise and annoyance of pundits all across the country, Mike MacIntyre's Colorado Golden Buffaloes won AGAIN and moved to 5-0 on the season with a 28-21 win over the Arizona State Sun Devils.

Of course, the pundits hate being proven wrong. You'd think they'd be more accustomed to it since they are wrong so often. You know how they are, the predicted with all certainty that Colorado would win 4 games this season. Five games in, Colorado is 5-0 and is one of only 11 FBS teams in the country who are still undefeated. 

Although most of the pundits have either never played the game (or taken a few too many hits to the head if they did), their certainty in their predictions and their amazement when they are wrong always brings a chuckle. These guys are NOT Nate Silver.

One of these chuckleheads (Tom Fornelli at CBS) not only picked Arizona State in an upset (which was reasonable), but went on to call it his "Lock" of the week (which was idiotic). Makes you wonder if this guy bets on his picks?

Colorado was picked to be on national television earlier this season as the presumed roasted buffalo for the debut of Nebraska Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost. Didn't work out for the Huskers or the pundits. Colorado wins 33-28.

When Colorado played the UCLA Bruins, it was supposed to be the first win in the return of Chip Kelly to college football. It didn't work out that way as Colorado rolled 38-16.

Surely Arizona State, recently ranked and defeater of Michigan State, would bring the college football world back into focus and send Colorado a message that they are not considered a "have" in college football anymore. Didn't work again, as Colorado held ASU scoreless for the last 29 minutes of the game.

Now, the pundits are breathing hard with excitement. Surely the Colorado Buffaloes will get their comeuppance, right? 

They play USC, and the Trojans are 12-0 against Colorado. USC must surely win, right? It's what the pundits are hoping and praying for. Why? Because the pundits live in the past.

USC won the Pac-12 last year and Colorado had a bad year. Therefore, USC must win this matchup, right? Let's see.

Colorado this year is 5-0. USC is 3-2. USC has lost soundly to both Stanford and Texas. They scraped out wins against Washington State and Arizona. They won big against UNLV. Apparently the Runnin' Rebels play football in addition to basketball.

The problem for the pundits with this Colorado team is that they play the games one week at a time. The biggest game of the year is the one they are playing this week. It's the same every week. It's one of the reasons the Buffs are 5-0. 

History will have no bearing on this game. This isn't a computer matchup of teams from years gone by. This game is this year, with these teams. It will be decided on the field.

Can USC beat Colorado? Sure they can. Nobody outside Alabama has more 4 and 5 star talent than the Trojans. But that doesn't mean the Trojans WILL win. It means they CAN win.

UCLA has roughly five times the 4 and 5 star talent that Colorado does. How did that work out? Oh, yeah, CU rolled 38-16. For those who want to say that the Bruins are horrible, how is it they only lost to #7 Washington by seven points?

There is a reason they play the games. It's because pundits don't know the future and sometimes they barely know the past. It's what they THINK they know that messes them up.

Bring on the Trojans. No matter how the game ends up, we can all be sure that this is the game that Colorado is focused upon.