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!