Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tuesday Grab Bag: The Rumblinmobile lost a wheel, and the Sun Devils got away.

Were you stuck in a traffic jam coming into Boulder yesterday afternoon around 5pm?  Yeah, that's my bad. You see, the Rumblinmobile suffered a blowout (doubtful for the rest of the week, btw), stranding me on the right lane of west-bound US 36, and backing up traffic for miles.
Haha, the sidewall disappeared. Wait, that's not funny...
On the plus side, no one was hurt, the rest of the truck is fine(ish), and courtesy patrol was relatively quick in getting me out of there.  I guess if you're going to wreck during rush hour on 36, that's the way to do it.

Hopefully, your wait time was kept to a minimum.  If not, I sincerely apologize, and owe you a coke.


Today in the bag, I'm talking Saturday's performance against the Sun Devils, the upcoming football schedule, and the release of the full men's basketball slate.

Click below for the bag...

Comeback bid comes up short against ASU - 

Late in the 4th quarter, with the Arizona State offense stuck in neutral and the Buffs knocking at the door of making it a one score game, I turned to a friend and said three defiant words: 'we're gonna win.'  Of course, mere seconds later, CU quarterback Sefo Liufau miss-read a guaranteed touchdown opportunity, and threw what was essentially a game-ending interception.  While it would take a few more drives to make it final, at that point Arizona State's 38-24 win was all but assured.
The Buffs very nearly pulled a shocking upset out of thin air.  From: the BDC
Both my comeback etiquette SNAFU and Sefo's botched read were endemic to a CU performance on the cusp of something memorable.  Repeatedly, the Buffs put themselves in a position to claim a statement victory, yet, repeatedly, they managed to find ways to spoil their otherwise fantastic performance.  For a program still relearning to function at the FBS level, it was an unsurprising opportunity lost.

There's plenty of positives to take away from Saturday's defeat.  Deeper than Colorado out-gaining the vaunted Sun Devils by 119 yards (545 to 426), however, it was the fight and determination the team showed that impressed me the most.  They had as many opportunities to pack up the tents as they did turnovers (six), but they stuck it out, and battled the ranked Sun Devils tooth and nail.  Two years ago, this program loses that game by 35+, easy. Yet there the team was with five minutes to go, on the doorstep of making it a seven-point game.  That, in and of itself, is progress.
There was a lot of fight in the Buffs. From: the AP
That inspiring comeback bid was more than the disappearing crowd deserved, unfortunately.  The streams towards the exits began at halftime, and continued up until early in the fourth quarter when the flood gates opened after a missed fourth down.  I don't necessarily blame the fans for bailing at various points - it was a very late game, after all, and the fanbase has been routinely battered and bruised over the last decade.  But BuffNation let the team down Saturday.  When the defense needed a boost over the final frames, there was only the echoes from the marching band to greet them.  When the offense deserved applause, there were too few in the stands remaining to give it to them.  WE bailed far too cheaply on Saturday, and the team had earned better through the first half.

The Bulle(i)t points:

  • That miss-read. *smh* Tyler McCulloch would still be running if Sefo had just looked past the underneath route to the double-move.  There were a couple of moments Saturday that I was reminded of Liufau's youth, but that one hurt the most.
  • Turnovers: way too many.  Two picks (both avoidable), a painful fumble from Michael Adkins just when CU had gained the momentum, and three failed fourth down attempts were the difference between victory and defeat.
  • Nelson Spruce is a beast.  Three games, six touchdowns.  Not only is the kid the national leader in receiving scores, but he's doing it in spite of constant attention from opponents.
  • Some great burst from the running attack, but they need to follow through and get in the endzone when they break into the open.
  • The defense didn't shatter (!).  It helped that veteran ASU QB Taylor Kelly went out with an injury, and the Sun Devils still ticked off over seven yards per play, but CU held them to only 4 of 13 on third down and four three-and-outs.  Not good, per se, but soooooo much better than I expected.
  • Say it loud, the offense is Pac-12 caliber.  Yes, the Sun Devils will absolutely get ripped by many in this league, but that just shows that the Buffs' attack belongs.

Upcoming schedule update - 

Hawai'i 27 - Northern Iowa 24 -

The Warriors finally broke into the win column with their three-point survival over the UNI Panthers. It wasn't, however, a particularly dominating performance against the visiting FCS competitors.  Hawai'i finished a woeful 4-21 on third down, and had to survive 14 fourth quarter points from Northern Iowa.  At least the Warriors managed to end their three-game homestand on a positive note
The Warriors are on the board in 2014.
The big star was Steven Lakalaka, who was ridden hard and put away wet through 32 carries and 124 yards.  Lakalaka was filling in for star Joey Iosefa, who suffered a ankle injury in the Oregon State game and will be out for the foreseeable future. While he did crack the 100-yard barrier and found the endzone for a huge score late in the third quarter, Lakalaka seems to be a major step down from Iosefa.

Cal - Bye Week -

The Golden Bears took the week off to prepare for a tough cross-divisional road trip to Arizona.  They've been a pleasant surprise in the early going, finishing their opening fortnight 2-0.  The key has been the passing of sophomore QB Jared Goff, who has been spinning the ball at a 68% clip, with a solid 7-1 TD-to-INT ratio.  He has yet to face a really strong defense, but it's clear that he's more comfortable in the starting role than he was last season.
Goff has been a difference maker this season.

Oregon State -

The Beavers were also taking a rest this weekend, as they await the arrival of San Diego State.  I don't have much of a read on OSU, yet, but they continue to be lead by fourth year starting QB Sean Mannion.  He may not have last year's favorite target, Brandin Cooks, to look to anymore, but Sean is still a dangerous passer with an NFL future.
Mannion is one of the Pac-12's best.
With Cal looking strong(er) in the early going, Mannion may have a fight on his hands to keep the Beavers in the Pac-12 North's third place slot.

The full 2014-15 basketball schedule is released - 

Just over a month after CU announced the men's basketball non-conference schedule, the Pac-12 finally got around to publishing the finalized set of conference games.  At last - the final piece of the basketball schedule is in place:

  • Jan 2nd - UCLA
  • Jan 4th - USC
  • Jan 7th - @Utah
  • Jan 15th - @Arizona
  • Jan 17th - @ASU
  • Jan 22nd - Washington
  • Jan 24th - WSU
  • Jan 29th - @USC
  • Jan 31st - @UCLA
  • Feb 7th - Utah
  • Feb 12th - Cal
  • Feb 15th - Stanford
  • Feb 18th - @Oregon
  • Feb 21st - @OSU
  • Feb 26th - Arizona
  • Mar 1st - ASU
  • Mar 5th - @Washington
  • Mar 7th - @WSU

The first thing to note is that the Buffs will start at home and finish on the road for the third time in four Pac-12 campaigns.  For whatever it's worth, that kind of schedule balance has propelled the team to fast starts and at least a semi-final appearance in the Pac-12 tournament over the last few years.  The only time the reverse was true - starting on the road and finishing at home - CU started conference play 1-4, and stalled out in the quarters in Vegas.  The correlation is speculative, at best, but I've used thinner evidence to draw conclusions before; take it for what you will.

Really the only problem I have is the opener.  I cringe to see the home game against UCLA (who the Buffs have yet to beat) in the middle of winter break, meaning a demure student section and a state generally distracted by bowl season.  Follow that with an extremely difficult road trip to Salt Lake City (where the Utes figure to challenge for the top-quarter of the league), and it's a rough start to the campaign.  Given the choice, I'd switch the SoCal visit for the Washington set in a heartbeat, but that's not how this works.

Overall, nothing too scary or surprising.  You know who the Buffs will play, and who they won't (only one set a piece against the Oregons and NorCals, same as last season); it's just a matter of where and when. Simply circle January 2nd (UCLA), February 7th (Utah), and Feb 26th (Fucking Arizona) in red, and keep counting the days til November.

Happy MondayTuesday!

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