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!