Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: Runnin' Wild

It was a weird weekend for the Pac-12.  As a whole, the league went 10-2, which is pretty good, but a number of the games went off in kooky fashion, and the South, especially, is starting to lose a little of its luster.  The biggest culprit was Arizona State, who struggled with FCS minnow Cal Poly for three and a half quarters before pulling away late in a 35-21 final (*smug smirk*).  While still a successful weekend, not the easy non-conference blitz those on the Left Coast were expecting.

To top it all off, the news broke on Saturday that the ongoing talks with AT&T/DirecTV over a Pac-12 Networks carriage deal fell through.  AT&T was trying to squeeze the conference, not without reason, and had put together what was deemed a 'very bad deal' for the league.  Just how bad?  Well, reportedly, it would've forced the league to:

  1. Overhaul its business model.
  2. Rewrite the terms of agreements with current partners.
  3. Potentially subject itself to litigation.
  4. Compromise the entire endeavor and the integrity of the universities (*cough* a bit overwrought here).
Certainly, there's some spin in that assessment, but, none-the-less, that sounds horrible, and the league soundly rejected it - not a single vote in favor.  *woof*

Now, this is not the end-all on the matter, but, as we're already two weeks into the lucrative football season, time is quickly ticking through the window.  Pac-12 Networks has gone on far too long without getting their channel on the satellite leader, and the hand-wringing by the fans and press is taking over El Jefe's legacy. Something is going to give, and my guess is that it will end up being the Conference of Champions.


Today in the bag, I'm talking the win over UMass, some updates on upcoming opponents, and some recruiting news from the men's basketball program.

Click below for the bag...

Buffs run the Minutemen right out of town -

A very happy Tuesday it is, as we all bask in the glow of CU's 48-14 dismantling of UMass. More reminiscent of a time when the now-FBS Minutemen were a D-1AA standard bearer, the Buffs quickly pulled away from the under-powered squad from the east coast, rolling over, around, and through their wilting run defense.  Days like this are few and far between, enjoy it.

The numbers are luscious to pore over.  The headlines: 558 total yards for the Buffs, 390 of it on the ground (the drought of games without that many rushing yards is slightly longer than the bowl drought).  6.6 yards per carry, and five rushing scores from four different backs. You can't get much better than that.  Oh, and the defense continued to play well, too, holding the strong passing attack of UMass to only 250 yards through the air on just about 50% completions.  A complete performance, albeit against a subdued opponent.
Running backs.  EVERYWHERE.
As easy as the game looks on paper, however, adversity popped up its subversive head a few times in the first half.  In the opening frame, on CU's second drive, a conservative decision from Mac to punt on fourth-and-short from his own 40 lead to a shanked punt and short field for UMass.  The Minutemen quickly marched down the field and tied up the ballgame, then proceeding to pin the Buffs deep in their own end of the field via a block-in-the-back penalty; a sequence which sent murmurs through the crowd.  Later, heading towards halftime, and nursing a 10-point lead, CU was defending their red zone when safety Afolabi Laguda put a text-book hit into would-be receiver Sharif Custis at the goal line. The refs, however, saw the play differently (the BDC's Pat Rooney has a good write-up of the incident here), tossing a targeting flag, ejecting Laguda, and putting UMass on the 10-yard line in sight of a tightening score; a sequence that had the smattering of fans at Folsom in a uproar.

However, in each instance, and contrary to their direction in recent years, the Buffs responded positively. They countered the bad field position in the 1st quarter with a 91-yard, seven minute touchdown drive.  In response to Laguda's *cough* bullshit ejection, the defense picked off UMass QB Frohnapfel in the endzone, leading to another long touchdown drive to put the game under control for good.  The story of the game, far more than the rushing yards, is how CU reacted in those moments.  We'll forget the mountain of yards against a shredded defensive line by Saturday morning, but the positive, scoring responses to adversity - both self-inflicted and zebra-related - show a strong move in the right direction for the program as a whole. While still potentially an isolated incident, it's a complete 100% improvement over what we saw in the Hawai'i game, and really every other loss from the past 10 years.
Happy fun times in Folsom!
The context for this one win will come into focus later in the season.  Was it just the long road trip that had the bevy of UMass returners down, possibly a massive regression overall from the visitors, or actually a permanent sign of growth, maturity, and improvement for CU?  Time will tell, both this week for the Buffs, and going forward for the Minutemen.  A look back to Week 2 later in the fall could be very informative...

The Bulle(i)t points -
  • Oh, the rushing yards!  Michael Adkins and Christian Powell each cracked the 100-yard mark, while underclassmen Phillip Lindsay and Patrick Car combined for an additional 128.  That's some old school, Gary Barnett-style shit right there,
  • While the good juju was flowing on the ground, the passing game continued to lag.  Nelson Spruce lead the way, but with only 64 yards and a score on six grabs.  Overall, Sefo Liufau was a pedestrian 15-24 for 168 and a score, and continued to look fidgety in the pocket.  He has turned more into a runner than a pocket presence, completely limiting anything available downfield.  At least there were no interceptions, though.
  • LT Jeromy Irwin suffered a knee injury in the first half on Saturday, and will be out of the rest of the year.  Sam Kronshage will take his place going forward.  If internet rumors are to be believed (AND WHEN ARE THEY NOT?) this may not be the extent of the injury toll from the UMass win, either...
  • Again, a solid job done by the defense, who didn't allow a second half point.  They also forced two more turnovers (a fumble and an interception), keeping the turnover margin in the positive column. Without too many special teams disasters, that'll be more than enough to get this team on the right track in the few winnable conference dates.

Upcoming schedule update - 

It was a bad run for the strength of schedule this past weekend as all three of CU's upcoming opponents took a loss.  Let's go to the tape...

Minnesota 23 - CSU 20 - 

*ahem* The Golden Gophers sucked some air out of little brother's balloon this weekend with a dramatic overtime victory in Ft Fun.  It was close throughout, with neither team ever pulling ahead by more than a single possession.  The Rams struggled early due to dumpster-fire QB play from Nick Stevens, who finished 8-19 for 51 yards and two picks.  His backup, Coleman Key, spelled him in the 3rd, which righted the ship a bit, but the team could still only muster a total of 314 yards of offense for the game.  A final minute drive for a field goal to force the extra frame kept hope alive for the Aggies, but a lost fumble on the first OT possession sealed it, and the Gophers finished off the deed with a chip-shot field goal.  Fire the cannon.
I told you not to take that game against Savannah State too seriously.  Feasting on the football equivalent of Twinkies can be fun and festive, but is far filling or preparatory.  The QB controversy is loosely interesting, only from the standpoint that they claim to be sticking with Stevens, but it's more of a distraction than anything else.  I still feel that the game on Saturday will be decided more on CU's offensive shoulders, than whatever the Rams have going on.  Regardless, point and laugh in a general northerly direction.

Louisiana-Monroe 47 - Nicholls State 0 - 

Finally getting a chance to check in with the Colonels, and... well, the results aren't good.  They got pummeled by Sun Belt feature Louisiana-Monroe, and it wasn't even close.  Nicholls didn't even crack enemy territory until late in the 2nd Quarter, and even then saw that promising drive end with a fumble.  In total, only 260 yards of offense, and 593 allowed on defense.  Ugly stuff.
Nicholls couldn't do much of anything against ULM
This is teeing me up to view the upcoming tilt with these guys as more of the Charleston Southern variety than the Central Arkansas one.  If CU can't manhandle these guys, we'll have a wholly different story on our hands.

Michigan St 31 - Oregon 28 - 

In the biggest game of the weekend, if not one of the biggest of the entire regular season, the Ducks traveled up to East Lansing looking to complete the high-profile double over the Spartans.  Things, however, did not go as planned as the B1G boys from Michigan State held Oregon at arms length for much of the game, killing off any remaining resistance after a Vernon Adams overthrow completely missed wideout Byron Marshall on the final drive.
Sparty muscled up to move past the Ducks.
The Spartans were very efficient in pushing the Ducks around on the ground.  In total, they racked up 197 yards and two scores on only 37 attempts.  Compare to the usually ground-happy Oregon crew, who were held under three yards per carry.  Don't expect similar ground-based results when CU meets the vaunted Ducks in Boulder, but the rushing splits up in Eugene are something to watch as the season continues.

Satterwhite de-commits; Bryce Peters takes the stage -

The news broke over the weekend -- rangy prospect Cameron Satterwhite was de-committing from CU and looking elsewhere.   The 6-3 guard from Arizona had only committed back in January, but had suffered a torn ACL over the summer, and the Buffs had hoped to have him re-classify as a '17 recruit to afford him more recovery time.  Instead, Satterwhite decided he would like to keep his eligibility clock on schedule, and so pulled the trigger on separation. Per the linked Josh Gershon article:
"Tad (Boyle) made it very clear that he made a commitment to them so they're making a commitment to him. Tad was very honest and up front and I respect Colorado; it's not like they pulled the carpet from him. They put it in Cam's hands, he just decided to go in another direction."
While a little frustrating on all sides, the whole process makes some sense to me.  I understand Coach Boyle trying to get in on a recruit with upside early in the cycle, I then understand the Buffs asking him to re-classify in the post-injury stage as the fall commits started circling, and I also understand Cameron looking out for himself by de-committing and looking elsewhere to play immediately.  It's not perfect, it's not pretty, but, as Omar would say, "S'all in the game, yo."
Satterwhite is already out of the picture.
Still, bring on the uncomfortable feels.  Watching a recruit de-commit before they ever reach Boulder is like breaking up with a girl you've only known for a couple of weeks.  There was never enough interaction to really form a connection, but there will always be a sense of 'what if?'  I'll certainly be following Satterwhite's career - and I don't doubt that he will wind up somewhere interesting - wondering what he would've looked like in Black and Gold.  In the meantime, though, the Satterwhite move puts the Buffs back to three potentially open scholarships for 2016 (Deleon Brown is still in the fold), assuming you believe Xavier Johnson is still on track to leave the program in the spring.  But that number didn't hold steady for long...
That didn't take long.  From: AllBuffs
Enter: Bryce Peters.  Just about 72 hours after hearing about Cameron, and in the midst of a big recruiting month for the Buffs, the 6-4 guard out of Los Angeles pledged for the Black and Gold over offers from Wyoming and UNLV.  A three-star prospect according to most services, he projects as a point guard in Boulder, and seems to be the prototypical Tad Boyle recruit - lanky and tall with deceptive speed and a potentially defensive mind-set ($).

I'm not yet in a position to comment on his film, or anything like that, but it's easy to connect the recruiting dots with this one.  With Satterwhite out of the mix, either through injury or de-commitment, CU needed another guard in the 2016 class, preferably one that can play right away.  Bryce more than fits that bill, and should be earning minutes as early as next fall.  The ESPN recruiting reports are especially effusive, talking up his ability to score in all three phases and his fluidity in attack and distribution, making him sound like a latter-day Spencer Dinwiddie (... but can he grow a mustache?).  Sounds like the Buffs, in a pinch, were able to pull out a rising sleeper.  Solid turn from Coach Boyle, putting the recruiting story-line on its head before I even had an opportunity to complain.  Now, all that's needed is a big or two for the class.  Until then, however...

Welcome aboard, Bryce!

... and, as always...

Happy Tuesday!

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