Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: #ItIsFinallyNovember

As a good son should, I called my mother the other night. Among other things, she asked my thoughts on the basketball team and their upcoming season. To my surprise, I could on stammer for a full minute before finally saying 'I don't know.' In retrospect, I feel that's just not a very good preview, so I'm hard at work turning those three words into 15,000. Expect the sixth iteration of the Massive Basketball Preview to drop next Tuesday, November 10th. Prepare yourself accordingly.


Today in the bag, I'm talking the goings on at the Rose Bowl, the Banana Stand getting up to its old tricks, and a newly crowned champion in baseball.

Click below for the bag...

Buffs back to outside looking in at victory - 

Saturday afternoon in the Rose Bowl, the Buffs dominated every corner of the stat sheet.  They more than doubled the Bruins in first downs, out-gained them overall 554 to 400, dominated time of possession by essentially 22 minutes, ran 55 more plays, and outscored them 25-14 in the second half.  Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, as a number of critical first half mistakes in the red zone dug a hole that proved too deep to climb out of.  In the end, an emphatic comeback, including a fourth quarter lead (of all things!), went for naught as Colorado fell 35-31 at #24 UCLA.

Oh, that first half.  I've never seen anything like it.  CU would march the length of the field, all the way down to the UCLA red zone, and then shoot themselves right in the foot.  Late in the first, three straight incompletions inside the red-zone turned into a missed 35-yard field goal.  In the second, a 2nd and goal from the UCLA 3-yard line finished with a loss of five on a sweep play and a 96-yard pick six. On the very next possession, a 57-yard march stalled inside the 10 as the team settled for a 25-yard field goal.  Right before half, another drive, this time a 72-yarder, died into a 23-yard field goal.  Four visits to the red zone: six points for CU, seven for UCLA.  How does that even happen?  I could tell you it was a combination of 'interesting' play calling and terrible execution, but even that doesn't do it justice.  To be fair, there was also some awful spates of bad luck, including a dropped sure-touchdown pass, but holy hell in a hand basket.  At the break, thanks to their red zone issues, and despite running 40 plays than the Bruins, CU was down 21-6. At the bare minimum, they should've been only down 14-9, with arguments to be made for an outright lead. Just another tiresome case of the team beating itself.
So close, yet still so far away.  From: the BDC.
Into the second half, the thing I found encouraging was that the run of strong offensive play in the first continued into the final frames.  CU did not take their poor luck at face value, and kept pushing for a lead. They scored out of half to make it 10 straight points scored, and tacked on another 17 unanswered after a UCLA score. That last run included a semi-miraculous fumble-six scored by Samson Kafovalu, which seemed to signify a permanent momentum shift in the game.  When the Buffs scored on their next possession, taking a lead with four minutes to go, even the doubters began to believe.  Colorado might just be pulling something awesome off!

Unfortunately, there was to be no joy for Mudville as the Bruins responded, scoring immediately after another CU three-and-out in the forth quarter with a lead.  Faced with yet another up-hill climb, the Buffs ran out of gas in the final minutes, turning it over on downs with three and a half minutes to play.  CU would get the ball back with just under two minutes left, but QB Sefo Liufau got dinged up on a sack, and stayed in just long enough to throw an interception at midfield.  Colorado had done so much, in many ways dominated the game, but still slumped into defeat - a stunning new chapter in #TheScript. 
Sefo lead a ferocious comeback, but stumbled at the end.  From:
I experienced the comeback, the lead, and the eventual letdown from the Boulder Creek Path.  Wishing to experience a gorgeous fall day first hand, and expel more than a little gameday anxiety, I had taken to the trail with vigor and a tuned radio.  As the team started doing well, I decided to keep walking, passing Folsom and winding my way towards downtown.  In that way that only sports fans know, it became important that I keep walking, lest my walking have some karmic importance to the team's fortunes. By the time the Bruins re-took the lead, however, I figured it was about time to head home, and turned back eastwards; I ended up back at Folsom for the final drive.  With the fall sunshine spilling down, I sat listening as work on the new facilities continued overhead.  Right about the time of that final interception, it occurred to me: much like the team itself, as impressive as the facility looks right now, there's still plenty of work left to be done.  The process has been long, and I'm as impatient as anyone, but the realities must be observed. Indoor practice facilities aren't built in a day, and neither are football teams.

The Bulle(i)t Points -
  • I loved listening to Gary Barnett as the color analyst Saturday. This isn't his first rodeo, afterall, having done the rounds on the national radio circuit over the last decade. The most interesting thing he discussed, late in the ballgame, was the fact that in the college game you're rarely playing in the middle of the field. With the wider hashes, as compared to the NFL, there's usually a short field on one side or the other, which often dictates playcalling, sometimes keeping you from being able to go with a play that's working. Not something I've ever really thought of, but something that really struck a cord when he said it.
  • CU had a huge game on the ground, grinding out 242 yards on 52 carries.  The big standout was freshman Patrick Carr, who was running as well as I've ever seen him (i.e., not falling down at first contact).  He cracked 100 yards for the first time in his career, scored the TD that gave CU the lead, and really gave the Buffs a change of pace.  Could use more of that version of the diminutive back going forward.
  • Sefo had a strong game... outside of those two picks.  Both painful, both definitive.  They didn't lose the game all by themselves, but the pick six and the game sealing interception didn't help at all.  The kid's a warrior, though, waving off Cade Apsay on the final drive.  Discretion may have been the better part of valor there, however...
  • The 114 plays run made for a new program record.  I'm still not entirely sure how you have the ball that much and don't score more than 31, but it is what it is.

The Banana Stand does it again -

Luckily for BuffNation, there's always championships in the #BananaStand.  The men's and women's cross country teams were back up to their old tricks over the weekend, sweeping the Pac-12 team titles at Friday's Pac-12 Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Championships.  It was the fifth straight title for the men (no other men's team has won a Pac-12 title), and the second for the women in the five years of the new conference.

The men's team, still #1 nationally, cruised past runner-up Stanford by 11 points, 46-57. As usual, they used a tight-pack strategy, with all five scorers finishing in the top-15.  Senior Pierce Murphy lead the way, ending up in fourth.  But, with teammates John Dressel and Ammar Moussa hot on his heels, CU was never in great danger of slipping from the podium.
Double champs... again!  From:

It was a little tighter on the women's side, where the #2 CU finished only six points clear of Oregon, the defending conference champions.  Placing four in the top-10 helped here, especially the performance of sophomore Kaitlyn Benner, who finished second overall.  Erin Clark, Melanie Nun, Maddie Alm, and Dani Jones rounded out the scorers for the Buffs, who barely survived watching Oregon place all five of their top finishers in the top-15.

I try desperately not to take these teams for granted, and the Banana Stand reference is a joke in that direction, but how can you not, at least on some level, just start to assume dominance from the cross country teams?  The men's group, especially, has been an unbeatable juggernaut, seemingly on top of the polls since their first of back-to-back national titles in 2013.  I just stand in awe at the work done by coach Mark Wetmore, recently named Pac-12 Cross Country Coach of the Century, who, in 21 years at the helm, has lead the teams to 30 out of a possible 40 conference titles, and seven total national titles.  After securing 29 and 30 last weekend, Wetmore and his Buffs will go for eight and nine, respectively, at the National Championships on November 21st.  Good luck!

Royals earn their crown - 

One year after choking away Game 7 at home, the Royals were back in the World Series, looking to claim the title that slipped through their fingers in 2014.  This time, against the youthful Mets, the never-say-die Royals earned their crowns, stealing game after game late.  The final win, a 7-2 stunner in 12 innings at Citi Field in Queens on Sunday, was endemic of the way they had repeatedly nipped New York at the post, and proved why they are the best team in baseball.

For the first 8 innings, Mets starter Matt Harvey had been shutting the Royals down.  He had finished them off 1-2-3 in the 8th, and seemed to be cruising towards a complete game shutout when his team needed him the most.  It only made sense, really, with a 2-0 lead for him to re-take the mound in the 9th.  Kansas City, however, took the opportunity to get their late-inning run producing machine going, and chased him after a walk, steal, double combo got them their first run of the ball game.  
Deserving champs.  From:
Mets closer Jeurys Familia, who had already blown two saves in the series, came in, and, while he recorded three straight outs, still allowed the tying run to score when NY first basemen Lucas Duda couldn't find the broadside of a barn on a throw home.  KC had forced the issue, as they always do, and found some cracks in the foundation, more than enough to send the game extras.  From there, it was fait acomplii.

You see, for the Royals, winning it late is an old habit.  In these playoffs alone, they scored 40 runs in the 8th inning or later.  If that sounds like a lot, it is - no other team had more than five.  These guys know how to poke and prod and find weaknesses.  As they proved in the '15 World Series by winning all of their four in come-from-behind fashion, this team is made of sterner stuff than anyone else.  A dangerous combination of a late-inning offense and a dominant bullpen, how could they not win the title? No doubt about it, they earned their crown, and could be here for years to come.

Happy Tuesday!

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