Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: Same Old Buffs

It's a shortened week, which means we're straight to the action today.  In the bag, I'm wrapping the loss to Hawai'i, looking ahead to next few opponents on the schedule, and discussing the K-State Marching Band.

Click below for the bag...

Buffs stumble (again) in Honolulu - 

Late last Thursday evening, long after the more sensible people in the country had gone to sleep, the wayward Colorado football program took the field in search of their first solid road win in years.  Buoyed by improved physiques, taught rhetoric, and renewed hope, it was expected by many in the fanbase that the season opener against the Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors was to be the start of the revival of football at the Foot of the Flatirons. Instead, behind a comedy of errors, the third year of the Mike MacIntyre era started with a miss-fire, as the Buffs never could find solid footing throughout a frustrating 28-20 loss.

The opening possession set the tone for the evening/morning.  A quick three-and-out, followed by a blocked punt, leading to a short-field TD for the Warriors.  To add insult: the Buffs didn't defend the two-point try at all, and found themselves down 8-0.  CU would recover, partially, from that opening embarrassment, but never tied the score or took a lead.  The cry, almost immediately from the fanbase - "Same Old Buffs" - was not far off; we've all seen this before.  
Uh oh, that's not how this was supposed to go...
The long and the short of it was that the team did not look as advertised.  Through a roiling special teams dumpster fire, an abandonment of the running game just as it was starting to take effect, poor QB play, and key lapses in the secondary, nothing was as expected in year three of a rebuild.  Sure, there were some officiating miscues, and this is as bumbling and inexcusable as anything I've ever seen from the #Pac12Refs, but the Buffs were the engineer of their own demise.

The Bulle(i)t points:

  • The defense played well.  They had success against Hawai'i last season, too, but this seemed different. Caveat for the secondary, especially Ken Crawley, who looked foolish on a few plays (like Marcus Kemp's 79-yard TD reception in the 2nd quarter), but, for the most part, the overall performance appeared to be legit. They held the Warriors to 223 yards without that Kemp strike, only gave up 10 points that wasn't the direct result of a special teams or offensive nightmare, and even forced a few turnovers. A positive sign, going forward.
  • The offense, however, did not.  Centered on some very shaky offensive line play, the offense sputtered into bursts of occasional competency, but seemed miles behind where they were last fall. QB Sefo Liufau, now in his third year under the same system, really struggled to feel what pocket there was, or look downfield when given the opportunity.  Sure, he was running for his life on most plays (four sacks and four recorded hurries will do that, though it did gross him over 100 rushing yards), but he didn't play to expectations.  
  • RB Michael Adkins, though, was a stud, scoring twice and racking up 90 yards rushing on 22 carries. For whatever reason, however, the Buffs shied away from leaning on him and fellow back Phillip Lindsay late in the third and into the fourth.  This lead to stalled drives as Sefo's desperate tosses fell wide.
  • The special teams were abysmal.  Their day included a blocked punt, a miss-defended two-point try, a muffed kick return, and three back-breaking short punts.  The group, as a whole, cost the team field position and momentum.  One bright spot: placekicker Diego Gonzalez, who nailed both of his 40-yard attempts.

And with that, it's time for my first, full-throated 'football sigh' of the year...


It's become a well-worn trope, but there's a lot of heartbreak behind that reaction.  I desperately want the team to succeed, or at least not spike themselves on a weekly basis, but it always seems to end up looking like Keystone Cops anytime they get close to a statement moment.  And that *sigh* also comes from a place of understanding that we've come to yet another year of treading water (or worse).
An ascendant Michael Adkins was one of the few bright spots Friday morning.
Now, I'm not ready to pound the panic button just yet.  As I said in my preview, I was very worried about the threat Hawai'i posed at home, and was not at all surprised that CU took a loss on the Islands.  I've also been saying for months that the rush for the program to reach for a bowl trip was premature, and potentially dangerous.  I still expect the same from the team this year - five or six wins - that I did in the lead up to the game.

Still, I am concerned with the way CU lost Friday morning.  Shooting themselves in the foot, repeatedly, is not what should be expected of a program that projects to be blossoming with veteran depth.  I guess the old problem continues, unabated: the Buffs don't yet know how to win football games.  Until that chestnut is cracked open, the result from Honolulu will be situation: normal for Colorado, and any hopes of a bowl berth will be pure fantasy.

Upcoming schedule update - 

CSU 65 - Savannah State 13 - 

The UMass Minutemen were still enjoying the preseason this weekend, so I'll start in Fort Collins.  The Rams throttled the historically awful Savannah State Tigers by 52, putting up 598 yards of offense in the process.
Little Sisters of the Poor?  Conquered.
However, before you get too excited, little brother, please remember that the Tigers have been, consistently, one of the worst teams in all of Division 1 football since moving up from D2 in 2000.  They've also lost each of their last seven games against FBS opponents by an average of over 66 points, including the three last year by a combined bloat of 208-16.  CSU, in fact, becomes the first FBS team ever to allow them to crack double-digits.  So, congrats on the win. (Their game against Minnesota this week will be much more informative.)

Oregon 61 - Eastern Washington 42 - 

Nicholls State was also lounging week one, so the Ducks are up next.  They put up the perfunctory 61 points and 731 yards of offense up on EWU, no worry there, but looked a little shaky on defense. The Eagles torched the UO secondary for 438 passing yards, and found the end zone six times.
The defense wasn't championship caliber, but the Ducks eventually took flight in Week 1
Oregon will always be able to move the football, so there's no concern of them laying an egg this year, but the defense may be leaky enough to cost them the Pac-12 title.  Something to watch as the season develops...

Texas A&M 38 - Arizona State 17 -

*smirks*  I'm not-so-sorry to report that the Sun Devils had a rough go of it in Houston over the weekend, stumbling out of the block against the Aggies.  If you though CU had offensive line troubles, please note that ASU QB Mike Bercovici was sacked nine times on the night, which is pure insanity.
I've heard QBs are important; you might want to protect him a little better, next time.
In total, the Devils' high powered offense was held under 300 yards of offense, presumably knocking coach Todd Graham's silly play chart armband into oblivion.  I guess they're not the dark horse playoff threat everyone was whispering about, *cough*.

On the K-State Marching Band 'thing' - 

Back in the heart of old Big XII country, there was a kerfuffle over, of all things, a performance by the K-State Marching Band.  Whilst playing a Star Trek themed tune at halftime of the season opener against South Dakota, the band tried to make the form of the Star Trek Enterprise battling a Jayhawk.  Some people, however, saw what was on the field, and took it to be a cock & balls being shoved int he face of the KU mascot. A $5,000 fine was even levied.  Merde alors!

I knew right away that something was up when the idea was first presented to me.  If this was Stanford, sure, I could see them plowing a big cock in the face of the Cal mascot (although scatter plotting would make that difficult...).  But Kansas State?  I've shared the field with that band before, and they aren't exactly an adventurous type, let alone the kind of group that would intentionally try to pull something like that off. Something didn't add up.

KSU Marching Band Director Frank Tracz released a statement after the fact, even including the drill sheet, which is helpful for an examination of the events. Looking at the drill, and comparing it to the video of the performance, it appears the issue was a seriously ill-timed case of poor dress (essentially, making sure you're in position with the rest of the group).  When the form in question snaps into place (roughly the 16 second mark), the alto saxes that form the top part of the 'body' of the Enterprise have sagged too deep, while the clarinets and piccolos of the base have thrust upwards.  Instead of the sweeping curves of a starship, we now have something that kind of looks like balls (although I maintain you really have to be looking for balls to see it). No one appears to be off their mark by more than a few feet, but that's all it takes, sometimes.
You really have to be looking for balls here.
Hey, the form was off.  Guess, what, the form is always off.  Even at the highest collegiate level (for example, tOSU), something is always wrong.  Something is bound to be screwy when you're asking 200ish college kids, most who are already thinking about the next party, to do something in tandem.  It kind of sucks for these kids, who are not used to getting any attention, to suddenly have to answer questions about something they, frankly, fucked up, but that's the rub.  The internet can be a cruel bitch.

In this case, I feel the blame should really fall on the director's shoulders.  Not for, as he put it "the inability to teach the drill in a manner that these young people could have succeeded," but because he got a little too cute with the drill.  That's a tough form for the clarinets and pics at the bottom of the enterprise, and they're being asked to back into it.  Marching and playing ain't exactly easy, and I can't help but wonder how many of the players in that area were first year players in their first halftime show.  I bet they could've spent another few weeks on that show, and it would still be off in some way on gameday.  Essentially, he called for a flea-flicker in week one, and it got blown up.  Next time: less 'creativity,' and more meat and potatoes drill.

Happy Tuesday!

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