Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Tuesday Grab Bag: #TheRise Explodes Onto National Television

Before I get to the bag, celebrating a strong start to the new football season, I would like to take a moment to admonish those of you removing the brakes from the hype train as it begins to leave the station.  Yes, the Buffs looked good Friday night, and, yes, the rest of the Pac-12 South looked suspect throughout the remainder of Week 1.  However, anyone insinuating (or out-right stating) that the Buffs, after just one game against weak competition, are suddenly players in a league and a division they have routinely played whipping-boy to has lost their damn mind.

I don't want to throw cold water on a performance that certainly deserves recognition and excitement - this is, after all, the best Colorado has looked after a game against FBS competition, such as it is, since... what, Wyoming in 2009? The 2010 RMS? - but let's keep some perspective.  This team was never going to be defined by the way it performed in this game; it will be defined by how they take to the conference slate, something that is still far from known.  Basically, on this happy Tuesday, my message is this: call me after that trip to Oregon at the end of the month.


Today in the bag, I'm talking the Rocky Mountain Beat-down, notable action around the world of college football, and how the rest of the CU Athletic Department fared.

Click below for the bag...

#TheRise claims its first victim - 

Well now, wasn't that a hell of a show?  The 2016 Colorado Buffaloes got their season off to a fantastic start in South Denver, checking nearly every box against little brother en route to a 44-7 final that, even in its substantial margin, belies how total the victory was.

The wide gulf in class, form, and preparation was evident from the opening drives.  Whereas, just a year ago, the Buffs struggled to find early footing in the 2015 RMS, this time around they seemed ready for the fight from the get-go.  Colorado would score touchdowns on their first two possessions, while holding their opponent to three-and-outs on their opening six opportunities.  It just appeared too easy; I kept waiting for the curtain to drop, and the Rams to try and get into the game, but the counter punch never came.  They were too inept on offense and too placid on defense to find a foothold. Accordingly, the Buffs would take that opening momentum and turn it into a 31-0 halftime lead, leveraging an offense that looked solid and a defense that was maniacal.  From there it was all whitewash on a set foundation; CU was never going to lose, it was only a matter of degree.
CU easily pushed aside little brother in the season opener.  From: USA Today
Really, what I'm most surprised about is that CSU scored at all.  The Colorado defense was utterly dominant throughout, confusing the pair of State QBs, and attacking the ball ferociously.  In total, over 65 plays, the Rams were only able to earn 225 yards of offense, of which just 79 yards came in the opening half.  CSU finally found the endzone in the final frame, with their backup QB in, but it was long after the Buffs had stopped putting their whole ass into the effort.  The CU front-seven remains a concern (4.6 rush yards per attempt allowed), but that secondary is the grim reaper made flesh.  Almost every Ram passing attempt was into tight coverage, and what completions were made were what Colorado was comfortable allowing; I didn't even know it was possible to average just 2.2 yards per attempt.  Downfield looks were all but non-existent, and Chidobe Awuzie looks the Thorpe Award candidate we all thought he would be.  Full marks.

Compared with their defensive counterparts, the CU offense was solidly short of perfect on the night, but still more than effective enough, given the circumstances.  With the tweaked scheme getting its first run-out, the unit chewed out 578 yards on a 6.5 per snap clip.  There were a number of foibles evident (three total fumbles, including two lost), and you could tell the tents were folded, schematically, after halftime.  Still, I was happy with the performance; the up-tempo looked nice when employed, Phil Lindsay looks like a stud, and the receivers were able to show off their ability to fill the Spruce-less vacuum.  Really, the only nit I have to pick is that QB Sefo Liufau, who was taking far too many hits in a game that was clearly in-hand, stayed in until the final offensive drive of the game.  Coach Mike MacIntyre was playing with fire here, and it could have cost him dearly.  If the offensive scheme was being dialed back, due to the margin on the board, then why have him out there?  Not like he needs the reps.
Obligatory.  From: @RicoBlank
Small quibbles aside, it was a breezy night for the Buffs.  It's odd to note that State failed to show up for their biggest game of the year with anything resembling a pulse, but I'm not going to spend a second's more thought on it.  Next up: the home opener against FCS Idaho State.  While the program has had its issues with similar opponents through the years, if Week 1 was any indication, this game shouldn't be an issue.  Essentially, another dress rehearsal before the real action starts. Bring it on!

The Bulle(i)t points:
  • Liufau finished 23-33 through the air for 318 yards and a score, along with 66 rushing yards on 14 attempts.  Good enough to earn him Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors, which is pretty damn cool.  However, to me he seemed to be a step-shy of on-target throughout the night; a number of his throws were sailing wide, forcing tougher catches from his receivers than what needed to be.  Far from his best night, to be honest.  That said, if that's the worst Liufau plays all year, Colorado will be in pretty good shape.
  • Phillip Lindsay is a beast.  95 rushing yards and two scores to go along with 23 receiving on three grabs, he shone early and often as the Buffs compiled their insurmountable halftime lead.  He's capable of so much this season, and it's good to see him out on the right foot.  A few fumbles, though, are not a good sign.  Expect the whole offense to be focusing on holding onto the ball this week.
  • Woah, let me tell you about Chidobe Awuzie.  Eight tackles on the evening (lead the team) with a pick, a break-up, and a tackle for loss.  He seemed to be on a completely different plane from everyone else; his ability to tackle on the edge is beyond this level.  Enjoy the season this kid is going to have, you won't see anything like it for some time.
  • Anyone else notice how good the outside blocking was on offense?  Both on edge runs and screen plays, the blocking by the wideouts was some of the best I've seen in Black and Gold.  Caveat for competition applied, but it's something to follow as the season progresses.  With the spread offense the Buffs are running, it's vital that the receivers are capable of, legally, keeping the opposing DBs out of the action at the point of attack.  So far, so good.
  • Diego Gonzalez: nine kickoffs, eight touchbacks.  Yo.  Add that to three of three on field goal attempts, and 'Dinero' might finally be capable of living up to his nickname.
  • Colorado was eight of eight in the redzone, with five TDs.  After an offseason spent emphasizing scoring chances, it's a sight to see. 

Around the world of college football - 

- Texas 50 - Notre Dame 47 (OT) -

Easily the game of the weekend, UT survived a second half comeback from the Irish (which had previously culminated in a bizarre blocked extra point return to tie late in the 4th) to stamp their mark on the early season.  Behind the solid play of freshman QB Shane Buechele (280 yards passing, 33 rushing), Texas boasted a fast-paced offense that looked *gasp* fun, which is something wholly unnatural for the typically staid confines of DKR.  Could the Burnt Orange, after years wandering the wasteland, finally be back to playing quality football?
The 'Horns barely edged out Notre Dame in the weekend's best game. From:
On the other sideline, ND did themselves no favors by continually swapping quarterbacks Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer early, putting themselves in a hole that I thought would be insurmountable on the road.  Kizer was clearly the only kid for the job, and Zaire's drives were usually disastrous.  Credit to them, then, that they were able to forge the comeback and force overtime.  Don't shed a tear for ND in the tough loss, however; they'll only go on the road four more times this year before, undoubtedly, getting some sweetheart NY6 bowl bid.

- Michigan 63 - Hawai'i 3 - 

Looking ahead in the schedule, past Idaho State, Colorado's next opponent will be Michigan.  The Wolverines did little to comfort the hearts of BuffNation with a romp over old friend Hawai'i, who looked about as bad as an FBS team could.  Sure, the Rainbow Warriors have an excuse - they're just a week and some 9,000 miles from their last game against Cal in Australia - but they were flat awful in the Big House this past weekend.  By extension, UM looks damn tough two weeks out of CU's trip to Ann Arbor.  As decent as the Buffs look right now, I'm not liking their chances to be competitive out east.

- Stanford 26 - Kansas State 13 - 

Of the 11 Pac-12 teams in action this past weekend, only three can really be said to have escaped with their heads held high; Colorado, Washington (who beat hapless Rutgers) and Stanford.  The rest either lost, played an FCS school, or both (hi, Washington State!).
McCaffrey remains a one-man cheat code.  From: the LA Times.
For the Cardinal, they looked very Stanford-like in a grind-out victory over the Wildcats on home soil.  Christian McCaffrey was, of course, the star with 210 all-purpose yards and two scores (and a third called back via penalty).  We all know what the Heisman front-runner is capable of, though.  The real question mark is the remainder of the Cardinal, particularly under center where senior Ryan Burns is taking the first meaningful snaps of his career.  It'll be interesting to see how this team tracks going forward, especially as they jump right into conference action against USC.  If any team figures out a way to contain McCaffrey, will Stanford have any second/third options?

- Florida State 45 - Ole Miss 34 -

Week 1 of the college football season wrapped up in strong fashion Monday night with the Seminoles marking a dramatic comeback against the Rebels.  With just three minutes to go before halftime, it seemed as if the SEC side had this neutral-site affair in the bag, up 28-6 with momentum on their side.  FSU, however, managed to salvage national title hopes with 33 unanswered points, turning a slew of negative meme opportunities on their heads.  The Seminole star for the evening was freshman QB Deandre Francois, who put up an obscene 419 yards and two scores in tuning the tide against Mississippi.  You'll be hearing this kid's name a lot over the next few years.

Colorado Athletics completes successful weekend across all fronts - 
While the football team earned the headlines in Boulder, it should be noted that the entirety of Colorado Athletics enjoyed a strong holiday weekend.
Wetmore and the Stand opened up their 2016 account in style.  From:
Up first, the #BananaStand was back to their old tricks, romping through Friday night's Colorado State invitational in Ft Collins for their opening action of the season.  All told, the CU men's and women's teams placed 16 of the top-20 finishers in the event, easily earning firsts in each race.  Of course, this is not all that surprising.  The twin pillars of the Stand are each in the national top-five, with sights set on yet another run towards both conference and national titles.  Of the two, the strongest side this fall is probably the women, a group coach Mark Wetmore teased 'might be our best team ever' on media day (which is saying something).  For those interested, both the women and men will next be in action at the Boulder-based Rocky Mountain Shootout on October 1st; expect only more domination, as, of course, there's always championships in the Banana Stand.

Possibly even more impressive, the volleyball team completed a statement sweep over ranked opponents Penn State and Illinois this weekend, vaulting themselves into the top-25, for their efforts.  Both were 3-2 wins for the ladies, and marked a program first: knocking off ranked opponents in back-to-back matches.  It's a great start to the home slate for new head coach Jesse Mahoney, who has the opportunity to make some serious waves with his first year in Boulder.  If they can come out of the non-conference season relatively unscathed, they could be a serious contender not only for the NCAA Tournament, but a good seed and a favorable site come winter.  Their next stop is San Diego, where they'll face yet another ranked opponent, #18 USD, on Friday.
A pair of big home wins has the volleyball team in the national rankings.  From:
Over on the soccer pitch, the up-and-down results continued for the team, who dropped a third-straight heart-breaker on Thursday (a 2-1 overtime defeat to Michigan State), only to turn around and kick the crap out of Drexel throughout a 5-0 laugher on Sunday.  The close losses are becoming a thing for the ladies this fall, as you could make a case that each of their three defeats (all by one goal) could just as easily have been draws or wins.  The result against Drexel, then, comes as a nice palate-cleanser, with the Buffs allowing themselves to breathe easy down the stretch against the Dragons.  Hopefully, with the losing streak booted, the women can stay on the front foot this weekend as they host Hawai'i (Friday) and Iowa (Sunday).

Happy Tuesday!


Anonymous said...

Whipping boy? Hardly.

Beat yes, whipping boy, NO!

RumblinBuff said...

Is 'whipping boy' hyperbolic? Sure. The point stands, however, that CU has never finished higher than tied for last in the Pac-12 South. That's not just getting beat. So, to suddenly start eyeing a division title after one game against a bad CSU squad is a major stretch. It'd be exciting to see, though!