Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: Closer, but still not there... yet.

I'd like to tell you all a story.  It's a story about a pair of friends, let's call then 'Larry' and 'Terry' (to protect the innocent), who had planned on attending the CU/Oregon game Saturday night.  Larry, specifically, had come down from the mountains with an eye towards watching Colorado football this weekend, and had lead the charge to pre-purchase tickets, make plans (including Half Fast!), and generally set their affairs in order -- they were going to this game.  I saw them off Saturday night, planning to take my own route to the stadium with the group I was sitting with.  We made loose plans to meet up at the stadium and afterwards, shared a 'few' beverages, and parted ways.  This was at 5pm.

After winding my way across Boulder and up to Folsom, I headed over to the field house at about 7. Making a beeline for the nearest beer stand, I spied Larry and Terry over by a trash can, significantly more enhanced than they were a few hours previously.  Their state of affairs was a little worrisome for that early in the evening, but I noted that they had, at least, made it to Folsom in time for kickoff.  We shared some drinks, quickly talked over the weather, and generally shot the shit.  I assured them we'd meet up afterwards, and told them to call me.

Well, of course, the weather opened up, delaying the kickoff and spilling many of the fans to the concourses. I'm rarely comfortable in tightly crowded situations, so I left Larry and Terry to their spiraling, drunken state, and forced my way outside into the pouring rain.  Warnings of lightning in the area barely registered with me, as I took in the awesome sight of Folsom bathed in light and precipitation.  As the game eventually got under way, I noticed my phone was really struggling with the moisture and slammed cell towers, so I put it away, and forgot Larry and Terry were even in the stadium until the 4th Quarter.  As the end result of the game became clear, I remembered to turn on my phone again, but noted that L&T hadn't called.  Figuring they were already out on Pearl Street, and no longer in the mood for revelry myself, I tightened my jacket, and trudged home.

Arriving at my door, I was surprised to find the TV and lights were on.  Slipping inside, I was stunned to see the passed out forms of Larry and Terry, completely dead to the world (Larry had been staying at my place while in town, and had a key).  I surveyed the house, finding the kitchen faucet full on and pouring into oblivion, the doors unlocked, and discarded wet clothes strewn about.  Confused, but otherwise uncaring due to the late hour, I turned off the lights, television, and faucet, locked the doors, and went to bed.

In the morning, I found out the truth.  Despite being safely in the stadium at 7, neither one of them had made it to the re-scheduled kickoff.  The two had gone separate ways shortly after I had talked with them, and it had all gone south from there.  Larry, frightened by the lightning reports, had given up early, and took off for home.  Terry, whose phone was also on the fritz and couldn't contact anyone else to sit with, took off into the night, eventually purchasing a plate of curry at Tiffin's, and stumbling back to my house.

The point, I guess, is that a football Saturday is a marathon, not a sprint.  Pace yourselves, accordingly. Don't be like 'Larry & Terry.'


Today in the bag, I'm talking the action against Oregon, a look ahead to CU's next three opponents, and the first few days of basketball practices.

Click below for the bag...

Buff fought well, but ultimately come up short against Ducks -

On a rainy, stormy night on the Front Range, the Colorado Buffaloes put their new-found competitive direction to the test against the wounded, yet still overly-capable, Oregon Ducks.  The Buffs brought a lot of fight to bear, showing well despite a number of miscues and mistakes, but, unfortunately, eventually slid under the heel of yet another tidal wave of UO offense.  The final, 41-24, belies the fact the CU had a solid shot at victory, but still tolls as the programs 12th-straight in-conference defeat.
CU couldn't quite slip past the Ducks into victory lane.  From: the Post
The inclement weather spawned two lightning delays, pushed back kickoff about an hour, and kept Ralphie from running, but didn't otherwise dampen the spirits or quantity of a crowd of over 46,000 that showed up for the after-hours affair.  For a time, the Buffs lived up to the setting, staying with the kings of swoosh throughout the first half.  Taking advantage of a discombobulated Oregon attack that waffled between their second and third string quarterbacks, CU held the Ducks to a relatively subdued 275 yards of offense through the opening frames, and forced four punts (their only four of the game).  Had it not been for a face-palming pair of turnovers on the opening two drives, CU would've held an interstitial lead.  Instead, they would settle for a 17-17 split at the break - a first for Colorado in the modern series with Oregon.

The problem was that CU was only tied at halftime.  Those turnovers left the door open for the talented Ducks, who came home to roost in the form of a tidal wave of rushing yards.  After a frustrating first half, it seemed as if Oregon finally understood that quarterback play might not be their thing, running the rock 39 times for 212 yards in the second half.  The Buffs defense, energy flagging, just didn't have enough left in the tank to stem the flow, and Oregon pounded out a two score advantage heading into the 4th quarter. CU would quickly answer int he final frame to bring it back within a single score, but couldn't find the defensive stop needed, and surrendered with a punt down two scores with only seven minutes to go (Mike MacIntyre just can't seem to kick his passive-aggressive NFL habits...).
Oh no! The rush defense sprung a leak!
It's a loss, and here at the Rumblings of a Deranged Buffalo I have a very narrow interpretation of such things, but it would be irresponsible not to note how competitive Colorado looked Saturday night.  The turnovers are disquieting, and the rush-defense stats are this close to a meltdown, but the Buffs competed with conference behemoth Oregon for the vast majority of a game.  That's a wholly new development in their Pac-12 relationship.  CU were often their own worst enemies against the Ducks, which needs to be addressed and corrected, but, even in a game where they didn't play their 'best,' they hung tough with a strong league opponent.  Last season, it took their best to be close; now, they're just as close on an off night. It's an important distinction, one that bodes well for the future.

The Bulle(i)t Points:

  • The students did an awesome job.  Throughout the delays and the late hour they stayed, were engaged, and lead the charge in creating a suitable environment for a big game.  Good work.  I expect the same in two weeks for the Arizona game.
  • Let's talk about Sefo Liufau.  He made a number of crucial mistakes Saturday night, but still stood as a warrior against a determined pass rush.  Liufau was sacked five times (a huge number in this offense), hurried a number of other times, and generally had to make do with what he had under a flood of pressure.  Knock him all you want for the early interception and the back-breaking fumble in the 3rd quarter (and he does deserve that criticism), but the kid took a number of licks, and kept right on ticking.  Seeing what I deal with on the professional level (see: Cutler, Jay), I can't complain about his toughness - dude's a gamer.
  • One thing that hurt Sefo was that CU's run game never got going.  The Buffs only got 122 yards out of their 36 attempts (less 45 for those five sacks), and the team only earned five of their 18 first downs on the ground.  Not nearly enough from a team that had showed so much promise running the ball through the first quarter of the season (albeit against lesser competition).
  • Alex Kinney!  I've lobbed some bombs his direction, but the freshman punter is coming into his own. He got all six of his attempts off on the evening for an average of 46 yards per.  The Ducks, well known for their dangerous return game, were only able to bring back one of those for a total of six yards.  A great performance from the Ft Collins youth.
  • I was perturbed before the game that the marching bad, in their position at the south end of the horseshoe, wasn't playing during the second lightning delay.  I was told, later, that it was due to concerns that a playing band might bring more fans outside into the storm, but that didn't seem to stop the band in 2003...

Upcoming schedule update - 

Arizona State 38 - UCLA 23 -

Well, color me surprised.  The Sun Devils blew into the Rose Bowl, and laid a thumping down on the vaunted Bruins.  ASU forced nine drives of fewer than nine plays, and scored a pair of safeties.  I don't know where the Bruins were, mentally, but it certainly wasn't in Pasadena.
Bercovici and the Sun Devils enjoyed themselves in LA.
The final, capping score from the Sun Devils was endemic of the evening. ASU running back Kalen Ballage (a Colorado HS product and one-time CU recruiting target) pushed a pile the better part of 20-yards into the end zone.  You'd have expected something like that from an Embree-lead defense in Boulder, but, nope, it was the (formerly) #7 UCLA Bruins in their own building.  I'm not sure what to make of this final for Arizona State, but I sure know it means nothing good for UCLA.

Stanford 55 - Arizona 17 -

Speaking of teams who are not as good as originally thought, the Wildcats got wrecked by 38 in Palo Alto. The Cardinal put up 314 yards of rushing on 46 carries, chewing up 37 minutes of clock in the process. That rushing total equals the overall total put up by the usually effusive UofA attack.  Damn, yo.
At least the Buffs aren't the only team still struggling to stop the run.
With Anu Solomon still out with a concussion, the Wildcats looked completely lost on offense.  It didn't help that the defense still proved incapable of stopping anyone, but Arizona should, at least, be able to score in bunches.  I don't know when Solomon will be back on the field, but, for the 'Cats, it can't come soon enough.

Cal 34 - Washington State 28 -

Oregon State was on a BYE this week, so I'll skip ahead...  the only thing is, I've already discussed UCLA and Stanford, and USC was similarly on the BYE.  I guess the final update will have to fall to Washington State, who the Buffs won't face until November 21st (well into basketball season, btw). The Cougs lead for about 35 minutes of this one, but (you won't believe it) Coug'd it, letting Jared Goff and the Bears off the hook with a touchdown strike at the end of the 3rd quarter.
Goff stayed hot, exploiting the Coug'ing Cougars
The Bears looked completely out of sorts for most of this one.  Goff went off for another great day, throwing for 390 yards and four scores, but the rest of Cal looked off against one of the league's worst at home.  In all, between these two pass-happy squads, there was 779 yards of passing offense and 21 difference receivers.  The best was Cougar Gabe Marks, who put up 10/141/1 in defeat.

BasketBuffs set early tone with first practices - 

Did everyone get a chance to check out my Friday Night Live appearance on 1190 AM?  No?  Well, DO IT NOW!!!! (Hour #2, after Josh Scott)  Thanks again to @A_G_Haubner and @Schapalicious for having me on to talk hoops ahead of a massive football weekend.

For those interested in the abbreviated version, I mostly touched on comments from Coach Boyle and Josh Scott after the team's first practice.  One of the things I picked up on right away was the talk surrounding a renewed commitment to what we call #TadBall.  That is, defense-first basketball focused on maximizing defensive rebounding margin and shot-percentage defense.  CU slipped in these areas last season, unable to make up for the drop in other areas like offensive efficiency, which accounted for a number of the uncomfortable losses.  A return to full-on #TadBall, while not necessarily good for the aesthetic "purity" of the sport, would at least be a return to the style of play that brought the program back-to-back-to-back Tournament appearances.  Maybe dangerous, given the obscene number of fouls expected to be called this year, but the #RollTad version of comfort food, nonetheless.
Josh Scott, Wes Gordon, and the rest of the Buffs are back on the hardwood.  From: the BDC
Additionally, I caught a whiff of continued cleansing of the sour attitude that plagued the team all last season, with Coach Boyle referencing the benefits of the team's summer spent in Boulder, and expounding on the virtues of a more 'even-keeled' leadership style.  This, at least to me, seems to be a jab at the departed Askia Booker, his leadership style, and the erratic play and mentality he brought to the floor.  I love Ski, and think that looking for 'traditional' leadership from him in the first place was a mistake, but certainly understand where the level-headed Josh Scott and a more balanced approach to basketball could be advantageous.

Finally, looking over the depth chart, Coach Boyle came out right away and stated that he expects Dom Collier to take the reigns at point guard over senior Xavier Talton.  Not a big shock, but still news. What was surprising, however, was this tweet from CBS's Jon Rothstein, which seemed to indicate that George King had already earned the starting role at SF, replacing the injured Xavier Johnson.  It was a statement of fact that seemed to come out of left field.
Basketball! Finally! From:
Now, there's a dangling implication here.  Verbatim, the tweet relays that Coach Boyle said that King is an X-factor, which he certainly is.  But, did Boyle really say that he was anointing him the starter on day one of practices?  I'm not convinced; that would be rather un-Tad-like. The140-character-limit hurts and confuses here, as Rothstein used a period, instead of a comma, to link the two thoughts.  A parsing of the sentences leaves two potential interpretations: 1) King was talked up as an X-factor, and has been tabbed to start at SF, or 2) King was talked up as an X-factor, and Rothstein has inferred that he will start at SF.  I didn't talk to Coach (duh), and we don't have the audio, so there's no way to know for sure until this is corroborated by another outlet.

It's a different situation at the point, where the audio is clear and the logic is sound.  Saying Dom is expected to be the starter at this point makes sense, kind of like declaring your QB early to avoid controversy. The battle at SF, however, seems to deserve a more deliberative competition.  Tre'Shaun Fletcher, certainly, would be my first guess over King, who hasn't seen the court in over a year due to a redshirt season. Without XJ, it's a position of glaring need, and to just hand it to someone on day one is weird.  My guess is this is not final by any stretch of the imagination.

Happy Tuesday!

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