Monday, November 11, 2019

In Big Stanford Win, Mel Tucker's "Complementary Football" Begins to Take Hold

All season long, Colorado head coach Mel Tucker has talked about the Buffaloes needing to play "complementary football" to give themselves a better chance to win.

It may have finally sunk in for offensive coordinator Jay Johnson what the phrase actually means. Instead of the steady stream of low percentage "superman passes" that predominated during Colorado's five game losing streak, the Buffaloes' OC finally figured out that dominating the clock in the 4th quarter also gave them a chance to win.

It not only gave Colorado the win, but it also took all the time off the clock so that Stanford did not even have a chance for a comeback. 

Paradoxically, that style of clock management has been a staple for Cardinal coach David Shaw ever since he took over the Stanford program. And the style of play Stanford has used is based on solid defense and controlling the line of scrimmage from both sides of the ball. Usually the team that can control the trenches wins the game.

The best way to control the line from the offensive standpoint is to be able to run the ball. Tucker likes to use the phrase "on our terms" when describing his dedication to the running game.

Holding on to the ball, and milking the clock for all it's worth, is the best way to keep the opposing offense off the field. And it's incredibly important when you have a defense that was undermanned and decimated with injuries. 

During the Stanford game, it was the much maligned defense that dominated the game for the Buffaloes. Stanford made three trips inside the red zone on the day and came came away with only two field goals. Their lone touchdown was on a 85 yard catch and run.

The outstanding job the Colorado defense did was helped greatly by the offense's dedication to moving the sticks and running the clock. Solid special teams play combined with the O and D to have the best all-around, complementary football, since the Arizona State game.

It's probably too much to predict that the Stanford game was the turning point for the season (especially since there are only two regular season games left), but it will most likely be a turning point for Mel Tucker's Buffaloes going forward into next year.

The year has been a process for Tucker. He's had to get his men to understand and embrace what he's trying to do. And it's not just the players, it's his fellow coaches as well. But his steady hand is already paying dividends.

Those dividends will be greater next year. His charges will have a full year under their belts with his program. And the new players he brings in will be specifically recruited to fill the needs that Tucker needs them to fill.

The Buffaloes now have two weeks to get ready for the Washington Huskies to come to town. Many of the lingering injuries will be able to heal.

But most importantly, the guys on the team have time to focus on how dedication to Tucker's principles will bring them even greater success in the future.



Thursday, November 7, 2019

It's Been a Tough Stretch for CU Football, but Help is on the Way

It's been a roller coaster of a week for Mel Tucker and his Colorado Buffaloes. Lots of ups and downs.

Last Saturday, CU traveled to Pasadena to play UCLA. The Bruins started the season 1-5. Their only victory in the first six games was when Washington State collapsed and gave up a 49-17 lead late in the 3rd quarter and LOST to the lowly Bruins.

UCLA used the victory as a springboard to losing their next two games to Arizona and Oregon State. But then something unexpected happened. The Bruins started to win.

First it was Stanford. Then it was Arizona State that fell to UCLA. Chip Kelly finally had his team buying into what he was trying to instill in them.

And when Colorado rolled into Pasadena, the Buffaloes offense played like they didn't care one way or another. UCLA jumped out to a 17 point lead before Colorado got their initial first down. 

Bad play calling and lazy quarterback and wide receiver play doomed the Buffs before the end of the first quarter. 

By the 3rd quarter, the offensive line seemed so bothered that their "record setting" QB and some of the star wideouts were so clearly going through the motions that they stopped putting so much effort in themselves.

The defense, after a slow start, played well. But the offense was so incredibly bad that Colorado never had a chance.

Final score was UCLA 31, Colorado 14. It wasn't really that close. 

What really annoyed many of the fans is that Colorado's QB was clearly "off" that night and that Colorado's coaches never gave their other quarterbacks a chance to play.

Being "off" is not something that is surprising for Steven Montez. It's happened A LOT in his career. He has started and almost always finished more than 30 straight games for Colorado. 

The Buffaloes have lost 13 of their last 16 games with Montez at quarterback. He is done at Colorado after three more games. None of his backups has ever played  any real snaps with a game on the line... yet no matter how bad or "off" Montez is on any given day, he stays in the game.

To be fair, football is a team sport. Montez is not solely responsible for all those losses. Most of the blame goes to the coaches of course. But as far as which players had the most to do with those losses, Montez shoulders the load by far.

We have to assume the coaches know that Colorado will be playing football next season. Right?

The Buffaloes already have six losses this year, and after Stanford this weekend they play Washington and Utah. The Utes are #8 in the country and Washington entered the season as a candidate for the National Championship playoffs. 

If the Buffaloes lose to Stanford, they will likely end the season having lost eight straight games. More importantly will be that they will enter 2020 without a quarterback who has ever played a meaningful down at Colorado. 

It doesn't make 2020 look very promising. At least not from the quarterback position.

But maybe Tucker and his coaches already know that none of the backups currently at Colorado will ever be a starter at CU. 

Maybe they plan to go after a graduate transfer for QB. Or maybe they have decided to give the reins to an incoming high school quarterback.

Boise State is 7-1 and ranked with a true freshman quarterback. Hank Bachmeier was a former CU recruit who visited Folsom Field for a game. I spent an hour talking with Hank and his dad, uncle and best friend at that game when they came into our suite. He's a very nice young man and I wish him all the best for the future.

Point being, a true freshman QB can lead a team at the collegiate level. Colorado's current QB recruit is Brendon Lewis. He's a four star recruit out of Texas who could very possibly be the future of the position at Colorado.

There's another recruit who has committed to Colorado making national waves this week. His name is Antonio Alfano. 

He is a five star defensive lineman who committed to Alabama last year. He was considered by many to be a Top 20 recruit, and some services had him rated as the #1 recruit in the country. Due to some family health issues, Alfano left Alabama before the season and has now committed to Mel Tucker and the Colorado Buffaloes.

The game this week against Stanford is Homecoming. It's also one of the biggest recruiting weekends of the year. Colorado will have many of the young men who are high on their Christmas list in attendance. Early signing day is only six weeks away.

Let's hope the Buffaloes can have a big win over Stanford, and convince some great young players to come to Boulder.

Go CU!


Sunday, October 27, 2019

Time is NOW for Colorado Fans to Change Their Expectations

When is it time for Colorado Buffs football fans to hit the refresh button and change their expectations?

Mel Tucker's Colorado team came out on the short end of a 35-31 score  to Southern Cal on Friday night. It was the 14th straight time that USC has beaten Colorado. CU has never beaten the Trojans.

Before the game, most of talk heard around campus and on the fan sites like this one was that Colorado was likely to be blown out by USC. WTF are these people thinking?

USC was 5-7 last year. Their head coach Clay Helton has woken up every morning for the last year wondering if that was the day he was going to be fired. The immense shadow of Urban Meyer has been darkening the days for Helton for many months now.

Despite that, Colorado fans and the local media seem to still be stuck in the belief that USC is a Top 10 team on their way to another national championship led by yet another Heisman Trophy winner...

USC has not won a national championship in 15 years. That's a really long time in Trojan years. It's the reason so many of USC's deep pocketed boosters are trying to get Helton out. 

Things haven't been the same in Trojan land since Pete Carroll bolted for the NFL's Seattle Seahawks in 2010. Before he left, however, he led USC to three national championships and had three Heisman Trophy winners.

Those are NOT the USC teams that Colorado lost to on Friday. Sadly, many of the fans and local media still believe that is who came to town. That is not the case.

While Mel Tucker rightly does not believe in moral victories, many of Colorado's fans and local media have been so indoctrinated into believing how good USC is that they have no sense of reality.

All Colorado Buffaloes fans, media and PLAYERS need to know in their heart that the USC team this year is mediocre at best on the national scene and downright unacceptable to USC standards.

Colorado did NOT lose to a powerhouse team on Friday. They lost to a middle of the road team at best. It's sad, because beating USC this year was probably their only chance in the foreseeable future.

The USC boosters who give BIG BUCKS to the program want Urban Meyer. They will most likely get him. And if that happens, the rest of the Pac-12 will soon find USC at the top of the conference mountain once again.

It may take a year or two (or maybe not even that long) for Meyer to restore order in Trojan world, but it will happen. USC is set right smack in the middle of the largest collection of high school football talent in the country. 

All those flights that coaches around the country have to take for recruiting are short drives for USC coaches. With the right head coach, USC will be unstoppable.

The same goes for UCLA, by the way. If Meyer joins Chip Kelly in Los Angeles, SoCal will again be the center of the college football universe.

Colorado had a great opportunity to beat a very down USC team in Boulder. That should have been their expectations. USC is not down for long and it doesn't happen very often. 

For Colorado to have beaten USC on Friday, all they had to do was play the way they are capable. It would not and should not have been a huge upset.

What is upsetting is that Colorado let a 10 point lead in the 4th quarter collapse. What is upsetting is that Colorado offensive coordinator/QB coach Jay Johnson always seems to abandon Colorado's successful running game when the games get tight, and starts calling really bad, low percentage "superman" passes instead of running the clock.

What is upsetting is that fans are seemingly happy that we came so close to beating a bad USC team.

For six years, Colorado had a bad head coach who spent every opportunity he had with the media trying to lower the expectations that fans had for Colorado football. He kept saying how difficult it was and CU fans should know in their hearts that five wins was pretty good and that once in a while the program would make it to a bowl game.

Thankfully, Mel Tucker is in town now and he's not buying into any of that. Most of Tucker's players have had years of indoctrination by the old coach that mediocre is the best they should hope for. 

Tucker's job is to change that mentality among his players. It's up to the media and fan sites to change that feeling among the fans.

It's gonna be a process. And the competition from Los Angeles schools is about to be a whole lot stiffer. It's taken a year and a half for Chip Kelly to get his UCLA team rolling right, and next week they host Colorado.

When opportunity knocks, Colorado needs to learn to answer. Because it may not knock again for a good long while.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Colorado's Mel Tucker Has A Problem at Offensive Coordinator in Jay Johnson

The problem facing Colorado's offense is two deep. Or maybe it is too deep. Either way, things do not look good for the Buffaloes offensive prowess the rest of the way this season.

It's not the two deep at the QB position. It's the one deep at QB and the one deep at QB Coach/Offensive Coordinator. Jay Johnson is the man to blame here.

Head coach Mel Tucker keeps saying (and saying and saying and saying) that the coaches need to get Steven Montez "right" and then everything will be better.

The problem there is that the man charged with that is Jay Johnson, and he's the one that's not right. How can we expect anything more out of Montez? Johnson is the guy in charge of the offense and the QB.

Johnson's job is to mentor his QB's and design an offense to help the Buffs win. He's doing a bad job lately. Montez has a long history of throwing lazy passes off his back foot, yet Johnson keeps calling plays that feed right into that tendency.

The head coach has stated repeatedly that he wants to run the ball with authority. Against Washington State, number one tailback Alex Fontenot averaged 9.5 yards per carry. Johnson called his number only 11 times. That's a disgrace for the offensive coordinator.

Colorado had drive after drive ended by Johnson turning his back on running plays that were working just fine (thank you) so that his guy (the QB) could keep trying to throw passes that were not working.

In less than four quarters of play during the Oregon and Washington State games, Johnson's guy Montez threw SIX interceptions off of Johnson's play calls.

This has been said over and over again this year to Mel Tucker, "The ball is in YOUR court!" Johnson is obviously not spending enough personal time with his quarterbacks. Their heads aren't right and their mechanics are not right. That ALL falls on the QB coach.

Most of the really good teams at Colorado in the last 35 years had a couple things in common. They focused on running the ball... and they DID NOT have QB coaches or WR coaches as offensive coordinators. The best coordinators at CU in those years were guys who were offensive line coaches.

If you want to win at Colorado, you need to run and control the line of scrimmage. Nobody knows what's going on in the trenches better than the offensive line coach.

Maybe it's time... No, scratch that. IT IS time that Mel Tucker asks Jay Johnson to focus on the QB's and let someone else call the plays so Johnson can be with the QB's there on the sideline.

Interception after interception, there is Montez getting on the phone to talk with Johnson up in the booth. Obviously the phone contact is not working. Johnson needs to be on the field with his guys to both motivate and calm them down when they've made a mistake. 

So many of the mistakes could have been so easily avoided if Johnson was doing a better job calling plays. He has set up Montez to fail again and again. Things need to change.

Mel Tucker said after he was hired that you can't hire friends. You have to hire the best guys for the job and hold them accountable. It's time for Jay Johnson to be held accountable.

Johnson's first priority is to Colorado winning. Period. His second priority is to making CU's offense as good as possible. His third priority is to his position players. He's failing all across the board.

The clock is ticking. We are not going to blame the players. It's the guys making the money who get the blame. It's part of the paycheck. 

The USC Trojans will be here Friday. Colorado has NEVER beaten them. Tick, tick, tick...

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Colorado's Thrashing by Oregon Exposes Serious Mental Shortcomings

The Colorado Buffaloes limped into Autzen Stadium in Eugene and had their proverbial hats handed to them by Donald Duck and his band of nasty yellow highlighters to the tune of a 45-3 beatdown by Oregon.

Few expected Colorado to win this game, but many expected a more disciplined effort. Mel Tucker and his coaching staff now have a week and a day to instill some semblance of order on his team.

The Pac-12 is a league of intense parity. That being the case, all the league coaches know that they need to gain any physical or mental advantage they can muster to get wins.

The cheap shot by Arizona State to get Mustafa Johnson off the field comes to mind. Also, every Pac-12 game has featured numerous after-the-whistle shenanigans by opposing teams. Colorado needs to expect this kind of thing.

Colorado's league opponents are also flagrantly manhandling of the Buff's receivers to prevent big plays. Why are they doing it? Because it is working! 

One of Oregon's defensive strategies was take pass interference penalties for 15 yards rather than give up long or TD passes. And they were not ticky-tack fouls. They were blatantly holding and shoving the Buff wideouts and tight ends. They weren't even trying to be subtle.

The Ducks and other Pac-12 opponents are also engaging in some serious trash talking. They are doing it because it works against Colorado. It works quite well, thank you.

Mel Tucker let his team know in camp that he would not abide trash talking from his team. That's good. But they also need to learn not to listen to or respond to other teams and players when they start talking crap during the game. 

You would think that telling the Colorado players not to trash talk would also mean not to react physically to the trash talk. But numerous players on the offense reacted badly. One was tossed for throwing a punch or two. And another was lucky not to have been called for shoving an Oregon player after the Duck was called for pass interference.

It's not like the trash talking should have been unexpected. Mario Cristobal played for the Miami Hurricanes from 1989-92. They won two national championships during his playing days.

And, for those of you not old enough to remember, those Hurricane teams brought trash talking to a level never before seen in college football. They also got involved in numerous on-field brawls, including one against Colorado at Folsom Field. 

That's the background that Cristobal brought to Oregon. And his Ducks just blatantly demonstrated to the rest of the league how to get inside the Colorado heads.

Note to Mel Tucker and the Colorado Buffaloes: The word is out on your team among the Pac-12 coaches. The team from Boulder is getting the reputation as a tough, physical team... but that it's easy to get under their skins and into their heads.

Next week the Buffaloes travel to Pullman to take on the Mike Leach and his Washington State squad. Leach has a reputation as a one of the smartest coaches in the country. He always seems to have good teams even when his player talent level is not as high as other teams in the league. Rest assured that he will be watching tape of Colorado games and noting how easy it is to get them unfocused.

Mel Tucker, the ball is in your court. Time to make your guys comfortable with being uncomfortable on the field of play as well as in practice. If they don't learn quickly, the season will quickly spiral out of control.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Mel Tucker and his Buffaloes Try to Get Heads Right Before Oregon Game

Mel Tucker has his work cut out for him.

Colorado heads for a Friday night game in Eugene to play the #13 Oregon Ducks. Oregon is favored by 21. Seems like a done deal, right?

Fortunately for Colorado, the Pac-12 this year has been a feeding frenzy. And nothing seems to happen the way the pundits predict. That's good, because they predict a three touchdown defeat.

Not too long ago, the Pac-12 had six teams in the Top 25. 

  • Surprising California was in the Top 15. They've lost two of their three conference games since then.
  • USC was back in the Top 25. They beat Stanford and Utah... and then came back to earth with losses to BYU and Washington.
  • Washington was rumored to be a dark house for the post season playoffs... and then promptly lost to both Bay Area schools, Stanford and Cal.
  • Arizona State made it to the Top 25, then got beat by Colorado and dropped out. They are back again after beating Cal.
  • Washington State won 10 games last year. This year they are 3-2 and 0-2 in conference play. They gave up 66 points and lost to a horrible UCLA team, most of those in the last 20 minutes of a game they were leading by 30. Then they were throttled by Utah.
The Pac-12 has some terrific and scary parity. Nobody seems to know who is going to win which games. That's good for fans and bad for bettors and pundits.

Colorado heads off to Eugene to face Oregon this Friday. OU is favored by 21. That makes sense, right? After all, Oregon did not score against Cal last week until almost the end of the 3rd quarter. 

And last time Colorado came to town, Oregon thrashed them... right? Nope! A young Steven Montez led Colorado to a 41-38 victory.

And nobody knows which team will show up and be disciplined. 

Will it be the Oregon team which was dominating until it collapsed against Auburn in the same manner as they did against Stanford last year?  

Will it be the Colorado team who kills itself with penalties? Or the one who came roaring back to beat Nebraska or went into Sun Devil Stadium and beat Arizona State?

We will see. It's why they play the games.

Undiscplined Colorado Buffaloes Fall to Arizona

Those watching the Colorado vs Arizona game had to be experiencing some serious deja vu as Colorado kept getting nailed for personal fouls early in the game. It was the same propensity for getting penalties that derailed the effort against Air Force. 

Like the game against the Falcons, the penalties highlighted the fact that the Buffs were not mentally ready to play. Over and over, Colorado's own drives or big plays were negated by a penalty. On the defensive side, they also kept extending Arizona drives with penalties.

Like the Air Force game, Colorado lost a close game to an opponent they should have defeated. 

But the news is not all bad here in the Golden Buff land of Boulder. As was pointed out in this Sports Illustrated article, Colorado is only two or three plays away from being undefeated and likely approaching the Top 10. My estimate would be four or five plays, but you get the point.

Colorado has demonstrated an ability on offense to move the ball on everybody they have played. What they cannot overcome is their own penalties and other mistakes.

Three times against Arizona, Colorado had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns due to penalties or dropped balls. Other times, they had to punt from inside Arizona territory for the same reasons. That's a hard thing to overcome.

Arizona came into the game as the most penalized team in the Pac-12. But they played smart, disciplined football and were only penalized once for five yards. Colorado had EIGHT penalties for 85 yards. That's a hard stat to beat.

Mel Tucker has his work cut out for him. His team has won three times when the CU players have been disciplined on the field. In the two games where they played recklessly, they have lost both times.

It's a short week for the game at Oregon on Friday. Which team will show up? We will see.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Arizona Wildcats and Colorado Buffaloes Battle for First Place in Pac-12 South

Mel Tucker's Colorado Buffaloes have had two weeks to mend their bumps and bruises since their big win over (now) #20 Arizona State in Tempe.  

The bye-week break came at a good time, with both Mustafa Johnson and Laviska Shenault having been injured early in the ASU game. Both are listed as game time decisions for the game tomorrow.

The 3-1 Arizona Wildcats will take on Colorado tomorrow and the Buffs are hoping to have Johnson and Shenault back on the field. Likewise, Arizona also hopes to have two of their best players back as well for the big game to decide first place in the Pac-12 South.

Quarterback Khalil Tate and running back J.J. Taylor both missed last week's game. Despite their absences, Arizona still managed to beat UCLA 20-17.

Tate has been nursing a bad ankle and sore hamstring. It's likely he desperately wants to be on the gridiron tomorrow. Two years ago, it was at Folsom Field that Tate burst upon the college football scene.

After Colorado knocked Arizona's starting QB out of the game, Tate came in and had a game for the ages. He rushed for 327 yards (an NCAA record for QB's) and four touchdowns. He also completed 12 of 13 passes for 154 yards and another touchdown. Despite the fireworks, Arizona just squeaked by, winning 45-42.

Last year in Tucson, Tate again lit up Colorado. But that game he did most of the damage with his arm. He threw for 350 yards and five TD's against the Buffs. Arizona won 42-34.

This year, first place is on the line. Nobody is sure if the star players from either team will play. But as Mel Tucker likes to preach, "Next man up!"

No matter who plays or who doesn't, the game will still count. And if the Buffs want to continue their winning ways, they need to take down Arizona for the first time since 2016.

A great deal will depend on Colorado QB Steven Montez. If he completes more than 65% of his passes, Colorado is 8-0 during his tenure as starter.

Whether or not Colorado can establish their own run game will matter a great deal as well. Likewise, stopping (or at least containing) Arizona's running game will be a key for getting a win.

Lastly, both teams are among the best in the country at creating turnovers. The team that wins this battle will greatly enhance their ability to win this game.

Go Buffs!

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Priceless Trip to Arizona State Rewarded with Big Colorado Win!

Some things are just absolutely priceless.
  • Traveling back to your hometown to see family.
  • Going to a game in the stadium you grew up in as a kid.
  • Proudly wearing our Colorado gear at an away game.
  • Watching our Buffs win a game against Arizona State in Tempe for the first time ever.
  • Being there for Colorado's first win on the road against a ranked opponent in 17 years.
  • Watching Mel Tucker rocking the sidelines in shorts as his CU team moved his record against ranked teams to 2-0.
  • Sharing all that with your spouse and son and Arizona family.
  • Celebrating with other CU fans during and after the game.  
While Colorado had never beaten Arizona State in Tempe before, it was NOT the first win ever for CU in Sun Devil Stadium. 

That distinction came at the end of the 1994 season, when Bill McCartney's final Colorado team beat Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, 41-24.

Happy to say, I was there for that game as well. So, my Buffs are 2-0 in the Valley of the Sun with me in the stands.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Trial By Fire in Tempe for Colorado Against #24 Arizona State

The Colorado Buffaloes fly off today for a desert showdown with #24 Arizona State in Tempe. Game-time temperatures are expected to be in the mid 90's. 

That heat may be hard to fathom for Buff fans who have never been to Sun Devil Stadium, but it's actually a breath of fresh air for ASU fans. Their last game at home kicked off with a temperature of 108 degrees... even though it was a night game!

After their lackadaisical loss to Air Force at home in Boulder last weekend, the Buffs have had to deal with a coaching staff that has taken their already tough practices and ratcheted them up a great deal.

Head coach Mel Tucker has been after his charges all week to take their game to the next level. He was overhead very loudly imploring and warning his players of his seriousness.

"You'd better be comfortable with being uncomfortable, with that sense of urgency to do it right every time, or you can take your ass to the [NCAA transfer] portal right now."

The above quote was taken from a great article in The Bleacher Report about Buff wide receiver Laviska Shenault. Click the link to see that article.

That quote is why so many long-time Colorado fans are so excited to have Mel Tucker as their coach. He's making it clear that the most fun they are going to have each week is playing the game. Practice is to harden them physically and mentally.

Sun Devil Stadium's field is named in honor of legendary ASU coach Frank Kush. He coached in Tempe from 1958 to 1979. His teams were 176-54-1 during his tenure. He was also known as the toughest coach in the country. 

One year, when Kush was unhappy with the lackadaisical play of his team in a rare home loss, he kept his players on the field after the game and made them go through a full two hour practice right there in Sun Devil Stadium.

We will see if Mel Tucker's Buffaloes have learned their lesson. It's a process, and Tucker and the coaches know that. But one thing they will not stand for is lack of effort.

The game is Tempe will be a trial by fire for the Colorado Buffaloes. They've already beaten one ranked team this year. And defeating a higher ranked team is something that Colorado never did under the prior coach in six years.

Mel Tucker knows that for Colorado to compete for championships in the Pac-12, his team is going to playing a lot of ranked teams. The P-12 has six teams ranked in the AP Top 25 this week. Beating ranked teams has to become ordinary and expected. There is no other way to be the best.

It's a process, and it will not happen overnight. Losses will happen. But the players now know it will not be for a lack of effort or concentration. 

Go Buffs!


Sunday, September 15, 2019

Air Force Win Will Force Colorado Coaches to Make Some Tough Decisions

After the Colorado Buffaloes walked off the Folsom Field gridiron with their first loss of the season, they got to the locker room and realized that blame for this game was on everyone.

Quarterback Steven Montez, the senior three year starter, continued to make mistakes like a rookie. He missed wide open receivers over and over. Once hit, like he has done way too often, he became gun-shy and tentative.

Kicker James Stefanou has been a beacon of steadiness in his Colorado career. The streak of never missing an extra point came to a dramatic end in the 4th quarter. A low kick and bad blocking ended the chance that Colorado would come back for a one point victory in regulation.

The entire offense seemed unhinged. Over and over, a Buff would move before the snap and send the Buffs backwards five yards. This kept the Buffs from getting into a rhythm all day long.

The defense continued to be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They continued their ability to cause timely turnovers, yet they didn't force Air Force to punt until deep into the 2nd half. They also allowed the ground and pound Falcons to turn into a quick strike offense. 

Air Force had three scoring plays of 25 yards or  longer (25 yard run, 32 yard pass, and an 81 yard pass). Coming into the game, the Air Force QB had thrown a total of ONE pass. He threw 12 on Saturday, including two touchdowns.  If it hadn't been for the turnovers, Air Force may well have scored 40 points or more.

The Colorado coaches are mostly to blame. They said the right things about getting their guys ready. They talked about how dangerous Air Force was. But apparently no on the team was taking them seriously. They should have known. Maybe they did, who knows?

Colorado was not ready for a team as well-conditioned as they are. The Falcons did not tire like Nebraska and Colorado State. They kept on coming through overtime and the Buffs were not ready. Once again, that blame falls on the coaches.

And it was not just the preparation by the players. It was the play calling by the offense coordinator. It seems everyone talked about how difficult it would be to stop Air Force, but it looked like no one spent any time devising a way to score against the Falcons.

The Falcons may have a difficult offensive to scheme to defense, but they also have to play defense. With Colorado's skill players, they should have been able to score a lot more points and move the ball a lot more consistently. They didn't.

The offensive play calling was extremely vanilla the whole game. Every effort to stretch the field for a deep ball failed because the Montez was vastly overthrowing his wide open receivers.

It's the coaches who have to make the tough calls. When Montez was obviously having an off game, maybe they needed to bring a backup in for a series or two... or the rest of the game if they play well.

Montez is a senior with all the talent in the world. He has the size and skill-set that NFL teams love. He also plays often as if he doesn't realize that his NFL dreams may be fading before his very eyes. 

To paraphrase an old coach, "If you can't manage to get yourself mentally motivated for a game that's only played once a week, maybe you need to find another sport".

There is a reason that football is often compared to war. You are either all-in and ready for battle... or you become a casualty. Colorado was a casualty on Saturday.

That said, it's the coaches jobs to get their guys ready. They are the ones getting paid. The players are college students with two full time jobs. It's the coaches who also have to make the tough decisions.

All summer and camp, Mel Tucker and the other coaches have preached that the guys who practice the hardest  and make the most plays will play. We've seen that with just about every position except quarterback.

Maybe a quarter or a half on the bench will motivate Steven Montez. If not, leave him there. Yes, he's a senior. But he is not ENTITLED to be the starting quarterback at the University of Colorado.

Serious fans care about wins and losses. Another season without a bowl game will not be made less painful if Montez breaks the rest of the QB records. We'll be happy for Laviska Shenault if he becomes a first round draft pick. But we'll be much happier with a winning season.

Personal records mean NOTHING without a winning season. Since the Colorado streak of futility began with the firing of Gary Barnett in 2005, one thing Colorado has had was a string of "record setting" quarterbacks.

Cody Hawkins, Tyler Hansen, Sefo Liufau and Steven Montez all made big marks in personal stats and records at Colorado. 

Since 2006, however, the Buffaloes have LOST 50 MORE games than they have won. Or to put it another way, the Buffs have lost almost twice as many games as they have won in that time. Their record since the 2006 season began is 57-107.

Forget the individual records. Winning the games needs to be the focus. 

If anybody thinks this is too drastic, look at Alabama in the 2017 season. They had a dynamic, experienced, quarterback in Jalen Hurts. He had led them to an 11 win season and the national championship game. He had played in the national title game the year before as well.

In the title game against Georgia (Mel Tucker's last team), Alabama could not get untracked offensively and trailed 13-0 at halftime. Nick Saban made the hard call and brought in true freshman QB Tua Tagovailoa. He sparked the Crimson tide to catch up in the 2nd half and a win in overtime for another National Championship.

Was that the proper decision to make? Thrusting a true freshman onto the biggest stage in college football instead of relying on a seasoned veteran? The "playing it safe" crowd would say absolutely not. 

But the playing it safe crowd does not own five national championships like Nick Saban does. Mel Tucker watched that game from the Georgia sidelines as defensive coordinator. His guys had held the vaunted Alabama offense scoreless in the first half. But a change in quarterback gave the Tide the spark they needed to come back.

Closer to home, in the Pac-12, both USC and Arizona State are starting true freshman quarterbacks. USC was ranked last week and Arizona State is ranked this week.

Also, another true freshman starting this season is Hank Bachmeier at Boise State. This writer got the chance to spend much of the 2nd half of a game with Hank, his dad and his uncle, when he made his official visit to Colorado. Boise State is also ranked with a true freshman at quarterback.

Steven Montez, our senior, record setting quarterback, will be gone after this season no matter what happens the rest of the year. The Buffaloes need to prepare for the future. A new quarterback will be playing for Colorado next year one way or another.

Also remember that it was a young Steven Montez who came in and sparked Colorado to some big victories in 2016 when Sefo Liufau got hurt.

Maybe the best thing that could happen for Steven Montez is to spend some time as 2nd string, in practice and in a game. It could be that some bench time is the type of motivation he needs.

If he responds to the challenge and ups his game, he's there when needed. If he instead chooses to sulk and withdraws, it means he's not the leader the position needs him to be.

The clock is ticking. Monday will soon be here. A game on the road against a ranked Arizona State team is looming. And the Pac-12 conference gauntlet is starting.

What will Mel Tucker and the Colorado coaches decide to do? Do they play it safe? Or do they shake things up? We'll see.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Buffs Beware: A Dangerous Air Force Team Comes to Boulder

The Air Force Falcons make their way to Folsom Field from Colorado Springs this Saturday. Head coach Mel Tucker and the Colorado coaches have tried to explain just how dangerous a game this truly is for Colorado to their players. Hopefully, they listened.

Casual fans look at the fact that Air Force won only five games last year and that the Falcons play in the Mountain West and think that the game will be a blowout for Colorado. They better think again.

Air Force may have lost seven games each of the last two years, but so did Colorado. Also, a closer look at last year shows that Air Force lost all seven of those games while being within 10 points. In four of the games, the Falcons were within 4 points at the final whistle.

That means that Air Force is typically in one score games, and that's dangerous for an opponent. One missed tackle or blown coverage, and the Falcons could be able to pull a victory out of the jaws of defeat.

Colorado needs to be dedicated and have their heads in the game. After two big victories over rivals Colorado State and the Nebraska CornWhiners, it would be easy for the Buffs players to have a letdown. It's up to the team leaders and the coaches to make sure that doesn't happen. 

The cadets may not be as big and fast or strong as the Colorado team, but they are incredibly disciplined. And the Falcons play a running game designed on multiple sets designed to eat up clock and keep them in games. 

The Buffs better be ready. 

Go Buffs!

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Mel Tucker Has Already Achieved What Mickey Mac Never Could

Just two games into his tenure as Colorado Buffaloes head coach, Mel Tucker has accomplished something his predecessor never could. His Buffs defeated a nationally ranked team. His record against teams listed on the AP Top 25 is now 1-0.

Compare that if you will with Mike MacIntyre. In six years,  Mickey Mac the Carpetbagger had the distinction of being 0-19 against teams that were either higher ranked than Colorado or ranked at all when the Buffs were not. He also had the horrible record of going 0-10 in his last two seasons in games the Buffs could have become bowl eligible.

Another difference between the coaches is that Mel Tucker stays calm on the sidelines, while Mickey would flip out whenever things went south. That happened a lot in Mickey Time.

Colorado finally has the right man leading their program. Thanks to the football gods for Mel Tucker.

Photo credits to the University of Colorado (Tucker) and the Associated Press (MacIntyre)

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Mel Tucker's CU Buffs Storm Back from 17 Down to Beat Nebraska in OT!

It ended up being a Nightmare on the Pearl Street Mall for Scott Frost and the Nebraska faithful. And it all started out as a dream come true for the Big Red. But like life shows over and over again, sometimes good dreams turn bad.

Give the Husker fans credit, those Nebraskans keep their word. As promised, they delivered a sea of red inside Folsom Field. They paid big bucks to travel to Boulder, pay for lodging, and bought up every available ticket they could find.

Half the double wide trailers in Nebraska had 2nd (or 3rd) mortgages taken out so the Great Red Horde could take over Boulder and the University of Colorado. They succeeded on every count.

They knew it was a steep price to pay. But, after all, how often does one get the chance to attend the coronation  of the boy prince to become the new king?

When their beloved Huskers stormed out to a 17-0 lead, the fans in Red rollicked in the belief that Nebraska football was back. They relished in their faith that head coach Scott Frost was indeed the new savior that they had been praying for.

The Huskers were dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The Red Horde just knew that a world class butt kicking was in the offing. It was just like the good old days.

Then, the 2nd half started.

Husker QB Adrian Martinez, who completed every pass in the first half, all of a sudden had defensive players in the backfield with him. And, shockingly, not every play went for a first down. The Huskers actually had to punt the ball. In a tough defensive 3rd quarter, the Buffaloes finally scored to cut the Nebraska lead to 17-7.

That Colorado touchdown made the horde sit up and take notice, but not become overly concerned. They rationalized that Colorado deserved to score a touchdown for their fans, so they would not leave the game completely depressed.

In their Red-tinted world, losing to Nebraska was something that all the other fans would have to accept, because in their minds Nebraska was the greatest and always would be.

Then the 4th quarter offensive explosion began.

Colorado and Nebraska had combined to score 24 points in the first 45 minutes. In the final 15 minutes, the teams scored 38 collectively, with Colorado scoring 24 to send the game into overtime.

The scoring madness started less than a minute into the final stanza when the Buffaloes pulled a flea-flicker that turned into a 96 yard touchdown pass. It was the longest play from scrimmage in Colorado history.

On Nebraska's next offensive play, a pass behind the line of scrimmage turned into a 75 yard TD that moved the Husker lead back to 10 points. In the span of 13 seconds, each team had scored a touchdown!

Colorado's next possession lasted less than two minutes and ended with another TD from freshman running back Jaren Mangham. That brought the Buffs back within three points.

Four minutes later, Colorado added a field goal to tie the game at 24. Nebraska's 17 point lead had been eliminated.

With under six minutes left in regulation, Husker QB Martinez scored on a short run to give NU a 7 point lead.

With 46 seconds left, Colorado QB Montez connected with wide receiver Tony Brown on an amazing over the shoulder catch in the back of the endzone to tie the game again.

A last ditch effort by Nebraska was foiled by an interception at the 15 yard line. That sent the game into overtime.

In OT, Colorado got the ball first and  settled for a field goal. Nebraska lost eight yards on their three plays from scrimmage in the overtime period. They then missed a long field goal, giving the victory to Colorado.

As thousands of Colorado students stormed the field to celebrate, the 30,000 Husker fans in Folsom Field stood in stunned silence.

What were they thinking? After all their talk by fans, players and coaches, they lost. After a 17 point lead, they lost. After spending so much money, they lost. All their hopes and dreams were scattered in the wind below the imposing Flatirons.

It was yet another road loss for Scott Frost, who has yet to win a game away from Lincoln since taking the helm before last season. Frost and the Husker fans know that Nebraska will drop out of the Top 25 yet again.

And worst of all, the team and their fans know it's a really long trip back to Lincoln, especially after losing once again to the Colorado team that they love to hate.

Mel Tucker told his players not to talk trash. He said play to the echo of the whistle. He said to play hard for all four quarters. He said winning was better than trash talking. He was right.

Go Buffs!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Boulder, Colorado Has Already Beaten Nebraska in the Game of Life

Excitement is a mile high on the Boulder campus for the first home game of a new season. That the first game at Folsom Field is against ex-rival Nebraska makes the excitement all the more palpable. Unfortunately, quite a bit of that enthusiasm in both Boulder and Lincoln is based on unreasonable expectations and outlandish prognostications.

National pundits have made talking about college football a 365 days a year a business… a big business. Unfortunately, they usually don't know what they are talking about. 

They talk about how good Clemson and Alabama are in a self-important reverence as if they were disclosing something they alone attuned from months of high level calculations. Poppycock! Even casual fans know that Clemson and Alabama are likely to end up in the college football playoffs.

When they get past the Top 10, they are mostly just running on history. They aren't (and can't) dig deep on more than 100 teams. They can't even do that with just the Power Five conference teams. So they just blather.

Collectively, the national pundits have determined that Colorado will finish the season at 4-8 or 5-7. Why? Well, they've finished 5-7 the last two seasons, so it's as a good a guess as they can come up with.

But sometimes gut feeling$ overtake $ensibilitie$ even for pundit$. Nebraska has finished 4-8 the last two years. The Huskers lost at home to Colorado last year, yet this year they enter the season ranked #24 in the country.

Why the $ $igns? Punditry is big busine$$. All those hits on the old web site mean $$$. And if you want to get tens of thousands of hits, tell the Nebraska faithful that their team is a Top 25 team. They eat that sh!t up like creamed corn.

In Colorado, lots of us love our Buffs... but Colorado's heart belongs to the Denver Broncos. That's not going to ever change. And besides the Broncos and the NFL, there's Major League Baseball, NBA basketball, and NHL Hockey. The Rocky Mountains provide world class skiing, snowboarding, hiking and rock climbing

In Nebraska, all there is to care about is Nebraska football and endless miles of genetically modified corn. Every time the Huskers play a home game, Memorial Stadium would be the 3rd largest city in the state. Really.

So, if Colorado loses a football game, the entire state doesn't go into mourning. In fact, many in Colorado don't care one way or another about college football, or the University of Colorado in particular. Colorado is a vibrant, fast growing state, that draws businesses and people from all over the globe with no ties to CU. Does anybody actually move TO Nebraska? Willingly? Not likely.

No matter the score of the game, those in Boulder have already won in the bigger game of life. Boulder has the healthiest and most well-educated population in the country. The University of Colorado is widely considered one of the most beautiful campuses in the country and is located in one of the most scenic towns in the USA.

And the University of Colorado has the most awesome mascot in all of sports, a live buffalo named Ralphie!

As the old chant goes, “We don't live in Lincoln!”

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Ex-Rivals Colorado & Nebraska Meet Again in Boulder

Scott Frost is right, Nebraska and Colorado are ex-rivals. That doesn't mean they still don't like each other.

Frost and CU coach Mel Tucker know that the Buffs and the Bugeaters have new sets of rivals now. NU and CU were longtime rivals in the Big 7, Big 8 and Big 12. They played each year from 1948-2010. They were indeed conference rivals.

But the Cornpones left for the Big 10 in 2011, and CU left for the Pac-12 in 2012. They are no longer conference rivals. But they still can't stand one another.

Fusker fans can't stand that Colorado head coach Bill McCartney had the unmitigated gall to name them their #1 rival, and worse than that, managed to lead the Buffs to three wins and a tie from 1986-91.

That stretch broke a Nebraska dominance in Boulder that had run since the Eisenhower administration. Husker fans had become fond of their trips to beautiful Boulder, where they would gaze at the mountains, stink up all the bars and restaurants with cigarette smoke, win another game and then offer their smarmy condolences to the CU faithful.

Those were the good old days to the red horde. Then Colorado had the temerity to start winning. Those smarmy condolences quickly turned to seething hatred. They loved Colorado and their fans as long as they were winning damn near always. When Colorado became a Top 10 team, and winning was no longer a foregone conclusion, they started accusing Colorado fans of being bad sports and ungracious winners.

Nebraska long cultivated the reputation of gracious winners. They had rarely been forced to deal with losing. And when it started happening with some frequency, they exposed themselves to be some of the absolute worst poor-sport losers in college football.

When Colorado quarterback Sal Aunese died of cancer in 1989, Nebraska's "classy" fans painted the highway at the Colorado-Nebraska border with the infamous "Sal is Dead! Go Big Red!"

They tried to blame that on one bad apple, but they also sold bumper stickers with the same disgusting slogan. 
And it wasn't just the fans. Legendary coach Tom Osborne (aka Kernel Tom in Lincoln), was so petty and angry after Colorado coach Bill McCartney beat him to winning a national championship, that he left Colorado OFF of his final UPI Coaches Poll ballot. His childish action deprived CU of a unanimous title.

It's a culture of football worship in Nebraska. In Colorado, it's just a game. That's why the Husker Nu's got so angry when Colorado was no longer just an easy win.

In reality, though, those days are long gone. Also long gone are the days of annual Fusker dominance.  From 1969 to 2001, the Cornholers finished the season ranked in the top 25. In 25 of those years, they finished ranked in the Top 10. Pretty darn impressive.
Then, in 2001, something happened that shook the Nebraska faithful to their very cobs.  They were ranked #1 in the country when they arrived in Boulder to play Colorado. They left with their tails between their corn stalks after losing 62-36. Nebraska hasn't been the same ever since.

That 26 point loss to Colorado was something Red Horde never thought they would see. In their eyes, Nebraska was supposed to always be on top in those kinds of games. Unfortunately for the kernels, it was just the beginning. 

In 2002, the Corn lost to Penn State by 33, Iowa State by 22, and to Kansas State by 36. They finished 7-7 and out of the Top 25.

In 2003, NU lost at home to Kansas State by 29 and at Texas by 24.

In 2004, the Holers lost by 60 to Texas Tech. The
y also lost by 24 to Kansas State and by 27 to Oklahoma.

2005: Lost by 25 to Kansas!

2007 was a very bad year in Husker land. They finished 5-7. They lost by 35 to Missouri, by 31 to Oklahoma State, and 37 to Kansas. Then they finished the season by giving up 65 points to Colorado.

2008: Lost by 35 to Missouri and by 34 to Oklahoma.

2011: Their first conference game in the Big 10 was a 31 point loss to Wisconsin. Michigan later beat them by 28.

2014: Another 35 point loss to Wisconsin.

2015: An odd year, the Fuskers lost 7 times, but six of the losses were by 5 points or less. Or what delusional NU fans would say, a sign that they are a Top ten team… almost.

2016: The horde were shocked when Ohio State destroyed their team 62-3. All of sudden, that 62-36 loss to Colorado didn't seem so bad. Iowa also beat them by 30. (An interesting tidbit, I talked to a Nebraska fan this week, and he felt that Ohio State fans were the worst! I guess giving up 62 points to any team makes their fans the worst.)

2017: A 42 point LOSS at home to Ohio State, a 33 point loss at Minnesota, and yet another 42 point loss at home to Iowa.

2018: The Scott Frost era in Lincoln starts off 0-6. Colorado wins in Nebraska, and Michigan hands the Hucksters a 46 point loss. 

The CU-Nebraska game will start in about 40 hours. One team will win and one will not. Both teams have struggled over recent years. In fact, since 2015, Colorado has a better record than Nebraska. Can you imagine?

The ex-rivals will play, but both are now just struggling to get back to bowl eligibility. They want this game, for sure, but they know their paths back to respectability go through their newer rivals in the Big 10 and Pac-12. A win or a loss to an old rival matters little if neither team can manage to win enough conference games to make it to the postseason.

Both teams face a gaggle of ranked teams this season. Both coaches would trade a loss on Saturday for three wins over ranked teams in conference play and a bowl game at the end of the season.

Go Buffs!


Sunday, September 1, 2019

Some Needed Perspective on the Rocky Mountain Showdown

The final Denver based Rocky Mountain Showdown is over. The Colorado Buffaloes won Mel Tucker's first game as head coach. They put up 52 points on the Rams. CU won by three touchdowns. The Buffs defense caused four turnovers. The Buffs offense had no turnovers.

If you had asked Buff fans before the game if they would take those stat lines, they would have all jumped for joy at the prospect.

After the game, however, many Buff fans on various sites were writing or commenting that the end was near for Colorado. Some were saying that CU was looking at 3-9 record if they continued to play that way. Others opined that the big, bad Fusker machine that rolls into Boulder next week would make a mockery of the the maligned Buffaloes defense. Blah, blah, blah.

I hope some of these people bothered to watch football on Saturday. The #24 Lincoln logs looked absolutely pedestrian against SOUTH Alabama. Sure, they won by 14. But they needed three non-offensive TDs to win the game at home. They were also favored by 36.

And it wasn't just the Huskers. Tennessee was a 25 point favorite over Georgia State, and LOST at home. Iowa State began the season ranked for the 2nd time ever, and promptly needed three overtimes to beat Northern Iowa.

Florida State hosted and thoroughly dominated Boise State to start the game. Boise State's QB was true freshman Hank Bachmeier. Early in the game, the QB looked flustered as the Seminoles took a 24-6 lead. But Boise State kept going as the game went on while Florida State crumbled in the Florida heat. Final Score: Boise State won 36-31.

For the second time since Mario Cristobal took over at Oregon, his Ducks were dominating a ranked opponent, and about to put the game out of reach.... when the unthinkable happened. The game against Auburn yesterday was eerily similar to the game against Stanford last season. Inside the five yard line, about to score another touchdown, touted Heisman candidate Justin Herbert fumbled a snap... and had the ball picked up by the defense and returned inside the five yard line on the other side of the field. In both games, the Ducks collapsed and ended up losing games they were dominating earlier.

It happens. That's why they play the games. 

Did the Colorado Buffaloes look amazing on both sides of the ball on every down? Absolutely not. Did the Huskers? Again, absolutely not.

Will things look different this week in Boulder? Count on it. Neither Colorado nor Nebraska wanted to get too deep in their playbooks in their first games of the season. Husker coach Scott Frost and Buff coach Mel Tucker wanted to give each other as little to work with as possible. And they both wanted to win their games. Mission was accomplished on both sides.

Style points may make a difference when you are angling for a spot in the College Football Playoff. But for teams like Nebraska and Colorado, coming off losing seasons, a win is a win. 

Both coaches know they need to get to six wins to make a bowl game. Crack that six win threshold and then you can worry about style points. And to get those six wins, you gotta play 'em one at a time.

Go Buffs.