Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Grab Bag: A Step Backwards

I'm deep into the writing of my 2014-15 Massive Basketball Preview.  As always, the word 'massive' barely does it justice.  For example, I've spent 1,000 words, so far, on Ski Booker alone (Spencer only got 650 last year, FWIW).  'Tome of excellence' is probably more apt, but I'm probably stuck with 'massive,' at this point...  but, I digress.  If you're eagerly awaiting the completion of this beast (why wouldn't you be?), look for the final release around November 11th.  Til then, it's back to football...


Today in the bag, I'm talking the letdown in Los Angeles, the upcoming football schedule, and the Banana Stand doing Banana Standy things.

Click below for the bag...

Momentum lost in the City of Angeles - 

If there was any short-term momentum generated by a string of strong performances in the opening weeks of the season, it seemed to have disappeared entirely for Colorado's weekend roadtrip to Southern Cal. Given an extra week to prepare, the Buffs came out weak and flat against their much more heralded foe, shooting themselves repeatedly in the foot throughout a disastrous first quarter.  They would play the Trojans even the rest of the way, but, by the time they could regroup, it was far too late to mount a serious challenge.  As a result, CU bowed out meekly, losing 56-28 in the Coliseum.
CU had a hard time slowing down the USC attack on Saturday.  From: the Post
Echoing their shaky post-bye week performance against OSU last season, Colorado failed to answer the opening bell on Saturday.  The Trojans would score 28-unanswered points in the first quarter, taking advantage of a deluge of CU mistakes along the way.  The Buffs couldn't get out of their own way, committing crippling penalties, gifting a pair of head-shaking turnovers, and generally playing haphazard football throughout the first half. It was strange, given how well CU had stayed with their opponents to-date, to see them fall so flat. This was the 2012 Buffs, not the bunch who had captured my imagination in weeks 1-6.  The return of this brand of football was unwelcome, as well as frustrating.

It was a damn carbon copy of modern efforts against Southern Cal.  Their QB went off for a record day (this year it was Cody Kessler's turn, throwing for a school record seven touchdown passes in only three quarters of action), CU waited til it was far too late to put up a fight, and the game was well over by the end of the second quarter.  In total, the Trojans out-gained the Buffs by 130 yards, including the production of nearly nine yards per play. However you want to look at it, this game was a return to the worst aspects of the previous three years.
Kessler sure had himself a day.
To be clear, I'm not ready to spike the season after one bad weekend, I'm just a little taken aback by how Embree-esque the team looked on Saturday. The whole situation is enough to make me question what was going on over the break.  Was it a matter of over-preparing, and putting too much pressure on the kids, or was it a situation where the coaches eased off the gas too much?  Either way, this is two years in a row that a bye week before a road trip has spelled a performance letdown, which is one too many.  Colorado will face a similar situation next month when they travel to Eugene to take on the Ducks.  I've never deluded myself to the point that I think CU would have a chance in that one, but, hopefully, they'll learn their lesson, and use the bye week better.

Upcoming schedule update - 

UCLA 36 - Cal 34 - 

The Bruins managed to use their road trip north to get up off the mat after two-straight weeks of homestand frustration.  Against a shaky Cal defense, UCLA turned to Brett Hundley (who else?) to spur a prolific offensive attack.  The one-time Heisman hopeful threw for 330 yards and two scores while running for 94 and one more touchdown. Overall, his team would put up 567 total yards of offense, which is pretty impressive considering that they were only 2-13 on third down.
UCLA survived a scare in Berkeley
This was a big win for the Bruins, who had been slipping in the race for the Pac-12 South title.  Had they lost this one, I'd be hard-pressed to see them walk away with anything higher than a 3rd place finish.  At least now, with their win in Berkeley, they're still in the hunt.  They may want to cut out the turnovers, however.  A trio of UCLA errors produced short touchdown drives for the Golden Bears.  Against a better team, that would be a decisive blow.

Washington 20 - Oregon 45 - 

No surprises here, as the Huskies were rolled by the Ducks.  Oregon has now won 11-straight in this series, closing the gap on what was once a very one-sided Washington lead.  UO's freshman running back Royce Freeman lead the way, rushing for 169 yards and four scores, which allowed many of the fans (and reporters) in attendance to leave early.
UW just couldn't keep up with the Ducks in Eugene.
The Huskies really struggled to find any semblance of an offensive rhythm.  One-time CU recruiting target Cyler Miles only threw for 147 and a score against a pair of turnovers, and it took a total of eight runners to get up to the team total of 133 net rushing yards.  It's always an uphill climb for teams walking into Autzen stadium, but UW showed me relatively little this weekend.

Arizona - bye week - 

The Wildcats hit the bye fresh off of a traumatic last-second defeat at the hands of the USC Trojans.  The UofA had been the league's lone remaining unbeaten squad, but may have relinquished control of the South Division with that one.
The Wildcats are a missed field goal away from still being perfect.
Still, with a top-five offense, they figure to be able to make some waves over the last month and a half of the season.  Powered by freshman QB Anu Solomon's 356 passing yards per game, they are certainly capable of putting points on the board at the drop of a hat.  With a road trip to Pullman to face the WSU Cougars on the plate, I don't doubt that they will get back on track this weekend.

The Banana Stand continues to produce - 

There's always money in the Banana Stand, and this weekend was no different as CU's harriers took pre-nationals by storm in Terre Haute, IN.  Said Coach Wetmore, “It was as pretty good day overall. The course was heavy and slow due to recent rains and long grass, so the times were not what we have run here in the past, but positions are what matter and the women looked good and the men looked good.”

The seemingly unbeatable men's team lead the way by easily claiming a collective first in their race.  Running in their traditional pack, the Buffs slotted five finishers in the top-12 to tally only 31 team-points - beating Pac-12 rival Oregon by 56.  Senior Blake Theroux paced the squad with a second-overall finish, just a second and a half behind the first finisher.  His teammates followed quickly on his heels, however, giving Colorado more than enough cushion to claim the team title.  Given this result, there's no doubt in my mind that the Buffs will remain the nation's unanimous #1 for at least the rest of the month.
Strong running from Theroux helped CU claim another team event.
The ladies, while not as successful, still ran a strong race, finishing 4th behind Georgetown, Oregon, and Michigan.  Sophomore Erin Clark paced the Buffs here, as the Eugene, OR native came in 7th overall.  The team would finish 76 points back of first, but still ran well, considering that they came into the event ranked 7th nationally.

The Buffs will have a few weeks to prepare for their next competition, the Pac-12 Championships in Oakland.  Based on the results here, there's a decent chance that the squad could earn another conference double on Halloween.  Go get 'em, Banana Stand!

Happy Monday!

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