Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tuesday Grab Bag: So... Punting? *balances hands*

Sit tight, but the revolution's years away
I'm losing faith and I'm running low on things to say
So, I guess I have no choice but to regurgitate
The tired anthem of a loser and a hypocrite

- Streetlight Monifesto, A Moment of Silence

Ugh, that turned ugly quickly.  All the hope and optimism developed over the offseason dissolved into outright panic somewhere in the middle of Friday night's third quarter at Sports Authority Field.  All that's left is a long, hard look in a mirror that shows nothing but reflections of every lost season spent since 2010.

Honestly, what else is there to say?  If CU couldn't put up a fight in the season opener, how do they have a hope in hell of improving against quality Pac-12 competition?  November seems a whole lot farther away then it did Friday morning. *sigh*

Of course, I can't hold any of that against @Phyltopia and @LovelyCorrin, who shared the gameday experience with me on Friday.  Thanks to the incomparable @JennBerg (and a 'deal' struck with @SkyeSnowBuff), the three of us had the best seats in the house Friday night.  A perfect view to an imperfect performance.  While I can't say that I 'enjoyed' the game, Phil and Corrin at least made it palatable. Thanks all!


Today in the bag, I'm talking Friday night, CU's upcoming opponents, and some soccer and volleyball.

Click below for the bag...

The optimism balloon: deflated - 

Like an engine with a bad battery, the Colorado Buffaloes came out of the gate with a start, but were unable to hold a charge throughout their faltering performance in the 86th Rocky Mountain Showdown.  What had started with a quick lead and all the momentum in the world, faded away into the somber reality of a 31-17 defeat that wasn't even that close.  As a result, 2014, a season that was supposed to be about the upward swing of the rebuilding project, has taken a quick swerve into 'potential disaster' with 11 games still to play.

The primary culprit was the defensive line, which, even after only one game, appears to be a train wreck. Under-sized, and given little relief from a linebacking corps already under siege, the Buffs allowed 266 yards of rushing (at nearly six yards an attempt) against an offensive line that returned zero starters from the previous season.  This unit will face many more advanced challenges in the weeks ahead, and I can't help but expect those numbers to get worse and worse as the difficulty level rises.
The Buffs were gashed on the ground.  From: the BDC
Once the opponent finally figured out that they were a weakness to exploit, the D-Line's inability to even hold their ground kept the defense on the field to the point of exhaustion.  Then came the flood of points; 24 unanswered from the middle of the third quarter on.  It wasn't over-aggressivness that burned them (only two tackles for loss and two QB hurries recorded), they were just getting whupped off the line.

Even still, CU had an opportunity to survive the eventual onslaught, but failed to press their early advantages. Already up 7-0 (thanks to a picture-perfect 54-yard strike from Sefo Liufau to Nelson Spruce), the Buffs took the ball deep into opposing territory late in the 1st quarter, only to stall at the goal line and settle for a disquieting field goal attempt.  This seems to be the MO for Coach MacIntyre - take the points early, regardless of circumstance - but the Buffs lost a golden opportunity to go up two touchdowns early.
Early success soon turned into opportunity lost.  From: the BDC
Minutes later, CU would miss a field goal from 41-yards out.  Leaving points on the field, when the opponent is swimming for solid ground, has always struck me as begging for a counter attack, which is exactly what happened.  That missed field goal turned into the first opposing score of the game, flipping momentum on its head headed into the break.  Once out of halftime, it was clear which team had made the necessary adjustments (hint: not CU), and the rout was on.

For some positives:

  • Sefo Liufau had a solid day, throwing for 241 yards and two touchdowns on 61% passing. 
  • Nelson Spruce was the CU offense early, hauling in seven catches for 104 yards and both touchdowns (including this highlight-reel grab).
  • Freshman wideout Shay Fields appears to be a solid possession target already, hauling in a team-high eight catches for 46 yards (yay, bubble screen).
  • The offensive line didn't give up a sack, and allowed the running game to stay on schedule for 3.9 ypa.
  • Darragh O'Neill is a damn weapon from the punter's slot, coffin cornering his kicks all night.  He's a legitimate Ray Guy award candidate.
  • Freshman defensive end Derek McCartney caused a sack/fumble that lead directly to CU's lone second half score.
Negativity aside, there's a lot to take from this game, but that defensive line looks to be an Achilles' Heel waiting to be exploited week in, week out.  Without a patch-over, CU could be floundering all year.

Upcoming schedule update - 

Here's how CU's next three opponents did this weekend:

Boston College 30 - UMass 7 -

BC was only up 6-0 at half, but steamrolled after the break.  They produced 243 yards of offense over the final 30 minutes, scoring on their first four possessions of the second half.  For those wondering, the Minutemen only notched 55 rushing yards on 22 attempts, including three allowed sacks.
UMass struggled to win at the line against the Eagles.
UMass is, in and of themselves, nothing that appears to be too daunting, but this will be the longest road trip in program history.  CU is notorious for poor performances in the eastern timezone, so don't go taking this one for granted.  I still like the Buffs to win, however, pending a closer look at this tilt later this week.   UMass is just not a very good football team.

Arizona State 45 - Weber State 14 -

The Sun Devils did the deed against their FCS competition, rolling up the game's first 38 points, and rarely struggling against the poor Wildcats.  Since rushing attacks are now the focus, ASU put up 267 yards on 45 attempts.  Star tailback DJ Foster accounted for most of that, getting 147 and three scores on only 15 carries.  It's all against a Big Sky defensive line, however, so please consume with a grain of salt.
Nothing surprising in the desert.
Said head coach Todd Graham, "I thought we dominated a team we needed to dominate." Indeed.

Washington 17 - Hawai'i 16 -

Hawai'i always plays teams tougher on the Islands, but if that score doesn't quicken the heart rate, I don't know what will.  The Warriors could'a, should'a won.  They only trailed by seven at half, and didn't allow a point to the Huskies after the break.  All told, a very Hawkins-esque start for newly minted Washington coach Chris Petersen.
Hawai'i held their own over the weekend.
Interestingly, Hawai'i was more offensively balanced that I am used to seeing them be.  They had 54 rushing attempts to only 43 passes.  All told, they put up 424 yards on Washington, which is certainly a worrying sign for the Huskies who live in the high-flying Pac-12 North.

Up and down weekend for soccer and volleyball - 

Elsewhere in CU athletics, both the soccer and volleyball teams hit the road for their first away action of 2014.

For the soccer team, who headed out to Las Vegas and the UNLV Nike Invitational, it also marked the first hiccup of the young season.  The trip started out well enough, with a dominating 3-0 win over the home-standing Rebels Friday evening that featured a pair of goals from senior midfielder Carly Bolyard. Sunday, however, brought something that hadn't happened yet in 2014: an opposing goal. Late into the game against the Kent State Golden Flashes, the tilt remained goalless. Unfortunately, with only five minutes to go, KSU broke on a 2-on-2 counter.  While CU goalie Kate Scheele saved the initial shot, the rebound landed, conveniently, at the feet of Golden Flash Karli Paracca, who hammered home the game winner.
The soccer team returns from an up and down trip to Vegas.
While CU took the 1-0 loss, it has been a strong start to the season.  With the always difficult Pac-12 slate looming, however, they need to continue to pile up the wins if they hope to make the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight year.  To that end, the Buffs will return home for a six game home stand, starting with Kansas this Friday.  Kickoff is at 4:30 from Prentup.

Volleyball opened their 2014 campaign in DeKalb, IL, as a part of the Northern Illinois Invitational.  After dropping the season opener to a three set rally Northwestern Wildcats, they rebounded against lesser competition to salvage the trip.  Back-to-back wins over NIU and Presbyterian on Saturday made for a nice cap to the weekend.  Senior Taylor Simpson lead the team with 51 kills over the three games.

For those interested, the volleyball team will play in their home opener this Friday against Portland State. The action starts at 7pm, as the Keg gets tapped for the first time in '14-'15.

Happy MondayTuesday!


Aaron Jordan said...

The defensive line is basically a dumpster fire in football pads.

If the Buffs can't get them up to par, do you see any wins besides UMass?

RumblinBuff said...

There's always a performance gap between Hawai'i in Honolulu, and Hawai'i on the mainland. We should be able to clip them in Boulder. I'm seeing 2-10, unless something changes.