Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tuesday Grab Bag: Hold My Beer and Watch This

With four games left to play in the regular season, the Colorado Buffaloes have dispatched with the formality of qualifying for bowl eligibility.  From here on out, the only question on the board is 'how far can they ride this beast'; or, as I'm calling it, the 'Hold my beer and watch this' run for the Roses.
At this point, there's no reason to doubt this team or their ability to achieve everything they covet. With three of the four games remaining scheduled for Folsom Field, and the other on the road against the worst team in the division (Arizona), their destiny is decidedly in their hands.  Regardless of how it plays out, it should be a fun journey.


Today in the bag, I'm talking the win over Stanford, how the rest of the Pac-12 fared, and a stunning last-second win for the Women's Soccer Team in Berkeley.

Click below for the bag...

Buffs break off two axeheads, but eventually chop down Tree - 

Mid-way through Colorado's grind-it-out 10-5 win over the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday, I couldn't help but asking myself the age-old question: is what I'm watching good defense or bad offense?  The sporting equivalent of 'if a Tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound,' it's as much an existential exercise as anything.  Certainly, something was the cause of Stanford spinning their wheels for 60 minutes, including seven drives of fewer than 10 yards.  Blame must be assigned!
Defense wins... championships?  From: the Post
If you listen to Stanford's hometown scribe, Jon Wilner, the answer is 'twas the Cardinal that did it. "Stanford made it easy for Colorado to play defense," he proclaimed this week.  That reasoning even makes a little sense.  The Cardinal looked disorganized and poorly coached for much of the game, using reductive playcalling to negate what little explosiveness they possessed on offense.  Case-in-point, they almost exclusively ran McCaffrey up the middle on first down (16 of their 30 play calls on 1st), with the Buffs holding the in-state product to less than four yards gained 11 times on those plays.  Even when they did manage to squeeze water from the stone, there would come the penalty flags (seven for 60 yards) to cancel out the meager gains.  This was not the Stanford offense as I'm used to seeing it.  Sure, they've always run the ball almost exclusively , but I've never had reason to think of it as 'simplistic.' That's what we saw Saturday, however: a simplistic offense that was out of ideas. The Tree simply fell down when no one was watching.

That said, this isn't the first time that Colorado has happened to be on the same field as an opponent incapable of doing anything offensively.  There is a reason, after all, that they're #12 nationally in defense after eight games; at some point you need to give them credit.  Call up woebegotten squads like little brother, Idaho State, Oregon State, or Arizona State, and ask them what they think of the CU defense. I'm sure they'll curl up into a ball at the mere mention and start crying for momma. There was nothing Saturday that looked out of the norm when the Buffs were on 'D.'  They forced the Cardinal into passing downs and then pounced, like the good defense they are. Or, upon noticing the Tree fall, the CU defense scrambled up with axes and chainsaws and got their Nick Offerman on.  All things considered, I see no reason to look past their ability to make a bad offense look even worse; the Buffs earned that showing, holding the Cardinal to just 4.2 yards per play.
Phil Lindsay was a rare offensive highlight for either team.  From: CSN Bay Area
Regardless, years from now, people are going to marvel at this scoreline on the 2016 schedule page. It's just unnaturally ugly, 10-5.  Like a hippo walking by with a mellon-sized pimple on its ass -- you're going to notice, and your nose is going to crinkle in revulsion.

This was the kind of game that results in gifs celebrating key blocks on random 1st down runs.  Oh, certainly it was football, and there's a weird beauty in two bulls butting heads for 60 minutes, but I just feel weird for having watched it. The pinnacle of the affair was a deep Stanford drive into Colorado territory early in the 4th quarter.  By this point, CU had missed three chip-shot field goals, and there was a dawning sense of dread that the 'same old Buffs' were going to emerge to trip the team into defeat.  A dropped snap on a 1st-and-goal from the four-yard line, however, swooped in to save Colorado.  There was simply no reason for the dropped snap at that moment; the Buffs played no part in it, other than the quick-minded recovery.  It was just a thing that happened, the kind of fluky happenstance that usually went against the program over the last few years.
Sure, bring on the In-N-Out.  From @CoachChev6
Maybe in that light, then, this was the only way this program was ever going to achieve bowl eligibility.  A blowout win, of the style secured over Arizona State the week prior, wouldn't have felt right.  No, the final feat needed to come in a test of wills, questioning the very soul of the Buffs who dared climb this middling peak of mediocrity.  In years past, these are the games that the program would've meekly coughed up, allowing poor special teams and inconsistent offensive execution at the goal line spoil the one-run gem being pitched by the defense.  Not so this year, not so with this team. They made the plays when they needed them, got some luck when it looked like the tide was turning, and walked away with the 'dub.  As we say in basketball season, 'a win is a win,' and you never look those gifted horses in the mouth.

The Bulle(i)t points - 
  • In case you forgot, the Buffs are now bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007.  They're also back in the national rankings, slated at #23 in both polls.  Ain't this fun?
  • Let's talk about those missed field goals.  Not a single one of the three was what I would consider difficult, coming from 42-, 28-, and 31-yards, respectively.  They were all just Finkled.  Maybe the coaching staff should've game-planned around the problem and just planned to go for it on 4th with Davis Price out with mono. Chris Graham ain't the guy, and neither is the punter Alex Kinney.  The inability to make from anywhere on the field nearly cost the team a game they needed to win.
  • In happier news, Phil Lindsay remains insane.  On just 12 carries, he put up 131 yards on the Cardinal.  Along with his offensive line, he made the pedigree Stanford front-seven look foolish.  Had he not tweaked his ankle, Phil would've finished off a couple of those drives that ended in field goal disasters.
  • Tedric Thompson got the hardware, getting named Pac-12 DPOW for his two pick effort, but the entire defensive back corps deserves heaps of credit for mocking the Cardinal with their play.  They blanketed the field, and owned the action in the 4th.
  • The Buffs now enjoy a well-deserved bye week before hosting the UCLA Bruins on a Blackout Thursday.  With USC and Utah both facing difficult challenges this weekend, their divisional standing could improve just by sitting idle.  Again, it's all in front of them, they just have to take it.

Around the world of Pac-12 football - 

- Utah 52 - UCLA 45 - 

Utah kept pace with Colorado by out-lasting the UCLA Bruins on the ground.  The big story was the un-retired Joe Williams, who burst out of the telephone booth to rack up a record 332 yards and four scores in the Rose Bowl.  It was an incredible performance, one that makes you wonder how he ever got to the point that he was retiring in the first place.
'Momma, there goes that man again.'  From:
For UCLA, it was endemic of an ugly season made only worse.  They continue to be ineffective on both sides of the ball in the run game, losing the rushing battle on Saturday 360-46.  While the Bruins still put up yards and points, thanks to 71 passing attempts with their backup quarterback, they were getting housed every time Utah got the ball. Their offense simply couldn't keep it long enough to give their defense a rest. Things just don't look right in Westwood. Oh, and Josh Rosen, it has been revealed, is struggling with a nerve issue in his throwing shoulder, and might continue to be out for and extended period of time... the 3-5 Bruins aren't making a bowl, are they?

- Cal 52 - Oregon 49 -

Speaking of teams not going to a bowl, the Oregon Ducks continue to get their heads caught in an un-clipped six-pack ring, and look destined to bottom-out in the Pac-12 North.  The issue is their defense, which surrendered 636 yards to Cal in a marathon Friday night affair.  The Golden Bears were allowed to shoot 50% on third downs and completed 69% of passes to overcome 14 penalties. As Bill Walton would say, 'The worst defense in the history of Western Civilization. Make a play, let's go.'
Cal slipped past the Ducks in overtime.  From:
Give Stanford and Colorado this, they kept their game short and sweet, finishing the whole thing in under three hours.  Cal and Oregon, instead, started late and went even later, needing four and a quarter hours to slog to a final well after midnight on Friday.  I'll admit, I went to bed way ahead of the end in Berkeley. Long-winded football is bad football, stats be damned.

- Washington St 37 - Arizona St 32 - 

You have to love a game which features mutual coaching animosity.  Such was the case in Tempe this weekend, where WSU's Mike Leach and ASU's Todd Graham continued to spat over comments made by Leach which called the Sun Devils out for stealing signs.  This is a fight that goes back over a year, and one that cost Leach $10,000 for speaking his mind.  I don't think it was really settled Saturday, either, as Graham made a point in the post-game handshake of lobbing 'chickenshit' and 'bullshit' at the Cougar's head pirate.  Can't wait for the next iteration of this series.
As to the game, Wazzou stayed red-hot in Pac-12 play thanks to another brilliant performance from QB Luke Falk.  The aerial artist twirled it up for near 400 yards in the win, relying heavily on the superb Gabe Marks on the edge (8 catches for 107 yards).  For the Devils, they continue to plunge from the heights of a 5-1 start with quarterback issues.  Replacement freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole was rushed into action after Manny Wilkins left the game after the opening drive, and did not play well.  If the QB situation remains as is, ASU will struggle to win another game this season.

SoccerBuffs salvage a split in the Bay Area - 

With title hopes on the line, the Buffs needed to get something out of their weekend trip to the Bay Area.  A rough Thursday result against national title contender Stanford, however, left them only the opportunity for three points against Cal on Sunday.  It didn't look hopeful, with the game pushed to overtime thanks to a pair of late goals from the Bears, but a stunning header from Taylor Kornieck with just two seconds remaining in the extra period found the back of the net, and the Buffs stole out of Berkeley with the much needed 3-2 victory.
The Buffs pulled a rabbit out of their hat on Sunday.  From: @CUBuffsSoccer
This one was a roller coaster of emotions.  CU had built a two-goal lead in the second half, and looked assured of the win in regulation headed into the 88th minute.  A double gut-punch of two goals in the span of a 75 seconds, though, looked to doom a season's worth of effort.  I know I was shell-shocked, and it couldn't have been easy for the team to regroup in enemy territory.

But, re-group they did, playing the #10 Bears straight-up in overtime and pressing for the win just as much as they were defending their own net.  The winning goal, off a Stephanie Zuniga free kick, was just a masterful effort.  The ball was coming almost straight at Kornieck, making it a difficult angle to redirect with power and accuracy.  The contorting forward, however, cranked the thing home past the sprawled Cal goalie, just the latest in a line of spectacular moments from the Black and Gold this season.  The celebration it set off showed exactly what the goal meant for CU.
The win leaves the #22 Buffs with 21 points out of a possible 24 after eight games, tied for 1st place in the Pac-12 with Stanford and USC.  The long and short of it is that the Buffs need to win out and hope for some help if they want to claim the improbable crown.  Luckily for them, their last three games are at home, and Stanford still has to play Cal in Berkeley.  Unluckily, those three home games are against three of the toughest teams in the country - UCLA (ranked 9th nationally), USC (4th), and Utah (26th).  No one said this was going to be easy.  That's why it's important to pack Prentup the rest of the way, particularly this weekend against the Bruins (Thursday @ 3p) and USC (Sunday @ 12p). C'mon Buffs, get it done!

Happy Tuesday!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I really enjoy your writing! However, you should get a handle on "which" versus "that." Go Buffs!