Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: The Pac-12 Struggles Continue

It's homecoming week.  That means old fogies doing all sorts of things in an attempt to re-capture the glory days of their collegiate careers.  In honor, I'll be picking my dusty, forgotten tuba once again, struggling to remember the fingerings to Fight CU, and just generally hoping not to fall over on the field. Should be a helluva show.

On Saturday, if you're looking for me, I'll but the one in the Chris Brown/Nelson Spruce Jersey at the back of the formation, desperately trying to stay upright.  Stop by, say hello, and... well, it might be wise to bring some ear plugs.


Today in the bag, I'm talking the loss in Tempe, the upcoming schedule, and some US Soccer thoughts.

Click below for the bag...

Buffs engineers of the own demise in Tempe - 

It's an uncomfortably familiar tune to call, but the Buffs, once again, were their own worst enemy in a conference game.  This time, under a number of turnovers, general mistakes, flukes, poor offensive line play, and related mishegas, CU fell 48-23 under the heel of the ASU Sun Devils.  Situation: normal.

You could tell right away that this wasn't going to be CU's night.  As Neill Woelk highlighted in his writeup, ASU's first score was entirely flukish, completely out of left field, and devastatingly back-breaking.  On their first possession, after a long-pass-and-penalty combo had them in Colorado territory, Sun Devil running back Demario Richard took a hand-off off the left side for the second straight play.  CU swarmed to the ball well, and knocked him around for a short gain, seemingly on their way to setting up a 3rd-and-long situation. Instead, however, Richard fumbled (normally a good thing) into the waiting hands of ASU TE Kody Kohl, With the Buffs busy gang-tackling Richard there was no one in front of the junior from Gilbert, AZ, who waltzed into the endzone untouched.  7-0 Sun Devils, and the rout was on.
Sefo was on his heels from the start.  From: the BDC

The Buffs would cut it to two scores right before half, show some life in the 4th, and put up 401 yards of passing on the day (albeit with a cost... more on that later), but they were never really all that close after that play. Sails slacked against the onrushing tide, as CU simply failed to do the things that make them successful -- protect the quarterback, run the football, win the turnover battle, and otherwise limit mistakes.  This team, while talented in many aspects, is not nearly talented enough to overcome mistakes, and a bevy of them popped up after that fluke score.

And maybe that's the point.  Regardless of the narrative, the toll is now 13.  That's 13 straight in-conference losses, and an overall Pac-12 record of 1-19 since the start of Coach MacIntyre's tenure.  Some of them have been throwaways, some of them have been close, but the result has almost always been the same: a frustrated and deflated BuffNation.  At some point, being simply 'better' isn't enough -- the gulf between them and the rest of the conference remains too wide to cross with a normal effort. This is why I never took the talk of a bowl trip too seriously.  The home schedule was too tough this year, and the Buffs still a proven ugly commodity in-conference.  While the program continues to improve in many areas, the only metric that counts (hint, it starts with a 'W') remains an enigma.  The only thing left is to break through - with authority - to snap out of this mess.  Nothing less is going to do it.  They're going to have to go gonzo on a league opponent to snap this streak, because, as we've seen in recent weeks, even wins against struggling opponents are tough to earn.  We'll see if they can pull it off against Arizona on Saturday.

The Bulle(i)t points -
  • Sefo (again) took a beating -- eight sacks, bringing the total to 13 over the last two weeks, and numerous other little knocks throughout the last 120 minutes of football.  I know it's easy and popular to blame him for the team's woes of late, but it's not all his fault he spends more time on the turf than running across it. And, before you complain, there's no better option currently on the roster.
  • The issue is the offensive line.  Banged up and out-of-sorts, they're letting their QB take a pounding, one that's keeping the team from being successful.  These Pac-12 pass rushers aren't going to let up anytime soon, so they've either got to figure their shit out, or switch to the Wildcat.  Even though Sefo's verbally OK with the abuse, I don't know if it's medically safe to continue to let the young man get hit time and time again.  Dude has his whole life a head of him...
  • Elsewhere on the injury watch list, backup LB Ryan Severson played almost the entirety of the Saturday's game with an ankle injury.  While he was able to shake off the pain enough to get through that evening's affair, he will be on the sideline for the Arizona game.  Already without the services of Kenneth Olugbode and Addison Gillam, that means the Buffs are down to 3rd and 4th string starters this week... should be 'fun.'
  • Lost in the shuffle of the blowout headlines, young wideouts Shay Fields and Devin Ross had nice games.  The duo combined for seven catches, 193 yards, and a score.  Sure, with the score lopsided early, and Sefo having to throw almost every meaningful down, there were lots of opportunities to go around, but these two impressed, none-the-less.
  • Despite nine kickoffs and three punts from the home team, CU didn't have a single yard of return in the game.  I know the kickoff return has gone the way of the dodo, and the punt return is equally as scarce, but 12 opps and no yards.  Not even a single attempt? *raises eyebrow*
  • I don't want to beat the dead horse that is Mac's conservative tendencies, but, suffice to say, I was a little frustrated with the first possession decision to punt on 4th-and-2 from the Sun Devil 45 and the clock management at the end of the 1st half.  It is what it is.

Upcoming schedule update - 

Arizona 44 - Oregon State 7 - 

Oh, and just how about those incoming Wildcats?  Well, they spent last weekend walking over a hapless squad from Oregon State (wouldn't you like to have the Beavers visiting Boulder this year...), ripping them open for 644 yards of offense and allowing less than 300 in return.
Solomon back on the field means good things for the Wildcats. From: the AP
With Anu Solomon back at the head of the attack, the UofA looked much more like their usual selves.  His concussion-related absence a week ago was barely a memory as he efficiently measured out the yardage among a plethora of talented backs and receivers.  It's daunting to see the Wildcats back on a roll headed into town, but I can't help but appreciate the work they can put in when they're at their best.  The wounded, bewildered CU defense will have their work cutout for them.

Washington 17 - USC 12 -

Ooooooh boy, USC is a hot mess.  I knew these guys weren't really upper echelon, but never, not even for a second, did I entertain the thought that they would lose at home (!) to the Washington Huskies.  Yet, there they were Thursday night, struggling to eek out 350 yards against an average defense.  Cody Kessler, their vaunted pro-style QB, went for 16-29 and 156 yards and two picks.  Entirely sub-par from a team capable of so much more.
The Huskies roughed up the Trojans in a shocker.  From: the Seattle Times.
As if the loss wasn't bad enough, the Trojans will also have to deal with the removal of their head coach. Steve Sarkisian, who vowed to seek treatment after an alcohol-fueled tirade at a pre-season booster event, reportedly came to a Sunday practice with alcohol on his breath, and was fired.  There's nothing funny about addiction, and I take no joy in the story of the troubled coach, I just hope he gets the help he needs.  For now, the team will be lead by interim head coach Clay Helton.  He has a big job ahead of him.

Washignton State 45 - Oregon 38 (2OT) - 

Speaking of hot messes, the Oregon Ducks seem to still be spiraling out of control.  They managed to circle the wagons in Boulder, but couldn't take care of the frickin' Washington State Cougars in Eugene, falling by a touchdown in two overtimes.  What used to be 'Coug'd it,' may now becoming 'Duck'd it.'
A thriller in Oregon sees a reversal of fortune for the typically hard-luck Cougars (From:
For our purposes, however, the Ducks are in the past, and an opportunity missed.  Wazzou remains on the schedule, and could be a tougher test that originally planned for.  They used and abused the weak Oregon secondary throughout the action, throwing for 505 yards and five scores on 74 attempts.  Mike Leech may not have the answer for everything, but if you can't stop the pass, he will light you up.  Colorado defensive backs better come to play when CU eventually trips up to Pullman.

US Soccer in need of a change - 

That's it, I've had enough. The US men's soccer team's 3-2 ET defeat in the Rose Bowl to old nemesis Mexico has me wanting a change at the helm for the program.  It's not the loss itself, capped by a world-class wonder strike from El Tri's Paul Aguilar in the 118th minutes, but this summer's continual frustration on home soil against continental opposition that has me looking towards the exit.  The time has come, Jurgen Klinsmann has to go.
The Mexico win leaves me unhappy with the current direction of US Soccer.  From: ESPN
The simple fact is that Klinsmann missed out on each of the goals he set for the program this summer.  The U-23 team missed out on the Olympics, and the USMNT struck out at both attempts for enterance into the Confederations Cup.  You can wave each away if you like, but, in his fourth year at the helm, I expected more from Jurgen and his hand-picked teams.  These were, after all, the only things the program had to play for this year, and they were humbled in each venue.

I, too, get frustrated by the inability for US stars to stick in opportunities abroad, and understand that Klinsy has only so much influence over those decisions, but he still has talent at his disposal, talent that should be capable of succeeding against CONCACAF rivals, at the very least.  Who really cares if he can stun European giants in wide-open friendlies if he can't win the in-federation games that really matter.  When's the last time the team really looked good on home soil?  I'm seriously asking, because I can't remember.  US Soccer must, first and foremost, dominate North America.  If they can't even do that, then what's the point?

Happy Tuesday!

No comments: