Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday Grab Bag: Bowl hopes dashed

Late in the third quarter, with the game against Arizona quickly slipping away, CU faced a must-convert fourth-and-goal from the Wildcat four yard line.  Down 14 at the time, the Buffs needed the conversion just to stay within reach.

True freshman QB Sefo Liufau walked up to the line to survey his options before the critical play, announcing to the crowd CU's intention to forego the field goal try.  Suddenly, out of the stands in the south end of the stadium, came an obnoxious blare - the band had started playing.  Somehow, wires had been crossed, and the drum major had called a tune prior to this critical play.  Now, CU had a freshman QB trying to bark out signals to his teammates through a wall of unnecessary noise.  It was a major breach of band protocol.

After a frantic series of cutoff signals, the band eventually stopped playing before the snap.  The resulting play, an incomplete pass from Liufau to D.D. Goodson, put the Buffs only further behind the eightball, and CU soon fell apart in the final quarter.

Now, did the band playing cause the resulting incompletion?  No, it did not.  In all honestly, the team was probably so focused they didn't even notice, but the band needs to be smarter than that.  There was no reason to even have something called, let alone actually start playing. As a band nerd, sitting amongst other band nerds, it was probably the most heated I got all game. 


Today in the bag, I'm talking the football loss against Arizona, the volleyball team's weekend sweep, and the walk-off obstruction.

Click below for the preview...

'Because we can beat that team' - 

Missed tackles.  Failed coaching gambles.  An inability to finish drives.  CU came up short in multiple facets, dropping a winnable game at home to put to bed any hopes of bowl eligibility.
P-Rich got loose early, but it wasn't enough to save CU.  From: the BDC
A visibly frustrated Mike MacIntyre addressed the media after Colorado's 44-20 loss to Arizona.  After a curt opening to the press conference, he bemoaned instances of poor execution and missed chances 'because we can beat that team.'  I completely agree.  CU should've been in position to seal a homecoming win Saturday night, but they couldn't get into the endzone when it mattered most, and, despite a few key plays on early third downs, couldn't stop the Arizona offense.

The Buffs took a 13-10 lead with five minutes to go in the first half, but it could've, should've been more.  Near the end of the first quarter, after being gifted great field position by a 'Zona fumble, the Colorado offense stalled just inside the Arizona 40-yard line, resulting in a career-long field goal make from Will Oliver.  After two more drives started with great field position, but stalled in Arizona territory after untimely incompletions, CU was gifted great field position for a fourth consecutive drive when Arizona QB B.J. Denker was picked off by Colorado safety Jered Bell.  Again, however, the drive stalled too early in Arizona territory, and the Buffs had to settle for another Oliver field goal.

Four drives, all starting with good field position, and all finishing in Arizona territory, only resulted in six points.  It was a critical failure to capitalize on the opportunities provided by the defense.  True Freshman QB Sefo Liufau went a poor 6-15 passing on those drives, only notching 43 yards.  His running game didn't provide much support either, only adding 47 yards on 12 carries over that stretch.
The freshman Liufau struggled when CU had a chance to cement a lead.  From: the BDC.
Arizona would go on to put up 14 quick points before halftime, completely flipping momentum.  With CU's best chance at victory in their rear-view mirror, the Wildcats began to Bear Down on the Buffalo defense.  In the second half, despite a mild threat to push back in the third quarter, it only got worse for Colorado as Denker began to get loose on running plays for big yardage.  In total, after Oliver's second made field goal Arizona scored on six of their next seven drives, chewing up 409 yards of offense, and putting the game out-of-reach.

The stat sheet looks a lot more lopsided then the game really was. Behind 405 yards of rushing (8.1 per carry), Arizona out-gained CU 670-349.  Ka'Deem Carey, who lit up the Buffs last season for a Pac-12 record 366 yards, was held to only 121 yards and four scores this time around.  In fact, it was the QB Denker who ended up leading the 'Cats in rushing (192 yards).  

CU had their chances, both on offense and defense, to earn the win.  A painful truth to stomach as the Buffs stare down the barrel of an eighth-straight losing season.

Volleyball sweeps the Arizonas -

While CU athletics stumbled on the gridiron against a team from the Grand Canyon State, the results emanating from inside the CEC were much friendlier.

It started Friday night when CU earned a three-set sweep over 25th ranked Arizona. The win was Colorado's third win over a ranked opponent this season, a feat not matched since 2006.  Starring for the Buffs, once again, was Taylor Simpson, who has been the difference in the three ranked upsets.  She notched 15 kills on a .444 attack rate.  She was responsible for 17.5 of the team's 55 total points.
Another happy home weekend for CU in volleyball.
Following up on Sunday was another strong effort to push past ASU in four sets.  It was a much more team-oriented attack for Colorado, as four Buffs had at least eight kills.  CU controlled the net, notching 13 team blocks.  The match turned in the third set, when the Buffs battled back from multiple deficits and a pair of set point to steal a 26-24 win. 

The victories move CU to 14-6 overall, 6-4 in Pac-12 play.  The Buffs are an impressive 5-0 at home in Pac-12 play, and, overall, CU has only lost five conference sets at home by a combined total of 24 points. Of course, the flip side is they only have one win on the road.  They'll look to improve on that mark this week as they travel to Washington and Washington St.

Walk-off obstruction - 

I haven't had a lot of time to watch baseball this fall, but, via an early exit from the Arizona game, I got an opportunity to watch the final few innings of Game 3 of the World Series. I'm glad I got the chance, as it finished in one of the weirder endings to any Series game in history.

Tied 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth, the St Louis Cardinals got runners on second and third with only one out.  Eschewing the opportunity to load the bases with a walk to create a force play around the horn, the Boston Red Sox decided to pitch to Cardinal outfielder Jon Jay.  The BoSox were rewarded with a weak chopper to second, which Dustin Pedroia read well.  He threw home to nail a sliding Yadier Molina for the second out.  Everything normal so far.

Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia then sensed an opportunity for a inning-ending double play, and winged the ball down to third in the hops of nailing the hobbled Allen Craig, who was slowly stumbling in from second.  The heave was well wide, and Boston third basemen Will Middlebrooks had to make a vain dive to his left in an attempt to stop the ball from getting to the outfield.  Craig, seeing the ball get away, scrambled to get up after an awkward slide to run home.  Widdlebrooks, clearly in his path, tried to both get up and lift his legs at the same time, and Craig collapsed over the sprawled fielder.  He would regain his balance, but it was too late, as good backup from Boston was well placed to throw out the Cardinal runner at home.
A clear-cut case of obstruction.  From: SBNation
It wouldn't matter, however, as Craig was awarded the plate via an often miss-understood rule called obstruction.  Middlebrooks, whether intentional or not, had impeded Craig's path to home plate.  Third base umpire Jim Joyce saw it, and had immediately made the call (a delayed dead ball call, since no play was currently being made on Craig).  Despite the excellent backup and the throw home to nail Craig, he was to be awarded the game-winning run.

The reaction across the baseball universe was immediate and frantic.  Cries of 'out-of the baseline,' and 'unintentional,' rang out from across the country.  Both are groundless, as Craig was entitled to establish his own line (no play was being made on him at the time), and intent is immaterial.  Yes, Middlebrooks was put in an impossible position by the poor throw from Saltalamacchia, and there was nothing he could do to get out of the way, but he compounded his position by flailing around as Craig approached him, and clearly obstructed the Cardinal's progress home.  The rule is clear, was applied correctly, and the Red Sox, with their notoriously obnoxious fanbase, are left without recourse.

I saw the play live, and instinctively shot my left hand out to signal obstruction.  As a practicing baseball and softball official since the age of 13, it was a clear-cut, simple call for me to note.  Umpires in America's Pastime frequently deserve criticism for blowing calls on the field, and there is an argument to be made for replay, but in this instance, when they got it right, they should be praised.  Joyce was in great position, kept his head on a swivel to keep multiple aspects of the play in his eye-sight (the Middlebrooks/Craig fiasco, the ball going down the line), and quickly made the correct call.  Home plate umpire Dana DeMuth immediately noted the obstruction call, judged that Craig would've scored without it, and was clear at the time of the tag to keep mass confusion from reigning through a conference.  Good job all around.

Happy Monday!

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