Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tuesday Grab Bag: One win away...

What a wonderful Homecoming Weekend it was in Boulder.  I got to play my tuba a little, see some old friends, and watch a triumphant effort at Folsom.  Really, my only regret from Saturday was that I could not take in the annual open basketball scrimmage, held up at the CEC while I was otherwise preoccupied with alumni band business.  The Ralphie Report has a write-up for those interested, and everything I've heard indicates that it was a pretty decent showing for this stage of camp (though Tad, as ever, was unimpressed with the defense).

Looking forward, those of you who are season ticket holders should've already begun to receive your stubs for the coming year in the mail -- the surest sign yet that basketball season is almost upon us. Just 24 more days... this is getting serious! #RollTad


Today in the bag, I'm talking the win over Arizona State, how the rest of the Pac-12 fared on the gridiron, and the continued dominance of the soccer team.

Click below for the bag...

Buffs finally snap Sun Devil curse - 

On a typically serene fall evening in Boulder, Colorado, #TheRise claimed its latest victim in the form of Arizona State.  Taking full advantage of a hobbled starting QB and a vulnerable defense, the Colorado Buffaloes put grain to millstone, churning the Sun Devils to dust over 60 minutes of gritty football.  The final margin, a 40-16 whitewash, could've been more dramatic, but it was entirely definitive.
The Colorado defense was simply unfair on Saturday.  From: the Post
The story starts on defense, where the Buffs allowed no quarter to ASU QB Manny Wilkins, who was still recovering from a high ankle sprain.  With the normally elusive dual-threat leader subdued in the pocket, CU brought the heat from all manner of angles, sacking him five times and rushing him a further six plays.  As a result, the potentially effusive Sun Devil attack was held to just 199 yards of total offense, only 50 of which came on the ground.  That's right, a week after getting chewed up by USC, the Colorado defense responded by holding a conference opponent, one who had been enjoying a pretty good season, to just 3.2 yards per play.  They simply burned ASU to the keel.

Over on offense, the return of Sefo Liufau meant the return of the high tempo attack, and the yards flowed.  CU would earn 580 total on the day at a clip of almost seven per play.  Most impressive was the work done on the ground, where the Buffs got 315 yards on 52 carries, highlighted by a 75-scamper by Phillip Lindsay on the second half's opening play from scrimmage.  It was a breakthrough that sent an already frothing Folsom Field over the edge, and essentially ended the game.  All that success on the ground came against the #5 rush defense in the country, a team that had held UCLA the week prior to negative one yard rushing.  ASU head coach Todd Graham was left to say afterwards, "my hat goes off to them because they ran the ball on us unlike anyone has ever run it the whole time I've been at Arizona State."  Overall, the unit left some points on the field, stalling out in the redzone three times and missing on a trick play, but no real complaints when all is considered.

As the final seconds of the rout ticked down, those students still left in the stands inched closer to the railings.  On the final whistle, a trickle of revelers turned into a stream as thousands poured onto the field. Yes, the students rushed, as well they should have.  Besides being the first ever win over ASU (who came in ranked, by the way), it was also the first win on Homecoming since 2007.  It was a moment worthy of celebration, and the kids took that moment to share in the joy with their fellow students on the field.  Coach MacIntyre was on board, saying after the game that "It was a lot of fun, I was glad to see the kids on the field enjoying that."  The acolytes of Sean Miller, those with no soul or understanding of what it means to have fun and enjoy your 20s, can have a seat.

MacIntyre, it should also be noted, made a point of grabbing his charges and herding them through the mob of students after finishing his television commitments.  Not to the locker room, mind you, but over to the waiting arms of the marching band for a rendition of the fight song.  It was a special moment, especially as those students still on the field joined in.  The dude gets it.
Sefo diving back into your DMs like... From: the Post
With the win, Colorado now sits on the precipice of cracking the glass ceiling of bowl eligibility for the first time in nine years.  While I certainly eye the more glamorous mile posts past that designation, I won't celebrate a job done until the sixth victory is earned.  The Buffs will take their first crack at what once felt impossible this week in Palo Alto against the Stanford Cardinal.  A win there, and #TheRise will hit hyperdrive.  Teaser to come Thursday...

The Bulle(i)t points - 
  • How about Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week Phillip Lindsay?  Beyond just the game-capping 75-yard TD run, he racked up 216 total rushing yards and three scores.  Just a monster game against a very strong defensive front.  
  • The final CU drive of the game - an 8-play, 47-yard hurt locker - was the kind of drive that Gary Barnett and Chris Brown would be proud of.  The Buffs, with Lindsay, just lined up under center and pounded it straight at the Sun Devils until finding the endzone.  It was a masterpiece of hard-nosed football that brought joy to my heart.
  • The cornerstone of the outstanding defensive effort was the play of the vaunted Colorado defensive backfield.  In all, a cadre of CU corners held the ASU passing game to just five receptions on 19 targets for 35 yards (the rest of their 149 passing yards came out of the backfield).  That's it.  Hell they had as many pass breakups as receptions allowed! Sure, the Sun Devils were never world beater's through the air, but those numbers are violent.  Like Jason Voorhees taking on co-eds violent.
  • The Buffs enjoyed a great turnout from all corners of the fanbase.  Boosted by the return of a number of alums for Homecoming, and a student section who took advantage of an expanded ticketing policy to enter at whatever gate made sense, Folsom was quite filled when Ralphie ran, and stayed stuffed til mid-way through the 4th quarter.  A great showing from BuffNation!
  • The only real problem Saturday night was the punt return game.  A combination of tough lights and high boots from ASU kicker Matt Haack (52 yard average on 10 kicks, a 76-yard long.  Yo.) put returner Jay MacIntyre in a tough spot.  He muffed a pair and let another go by to pin the Buffs deep, leading directly to 13 of the 16 State points.  Jay also took a knock, and could be out extended time with a concussion.  Real rough night, there.
  • I'd be remiss if I didn't tip my cap in the direction of Sun Devil kicker Zane Gonzalez.  The specialist already owns the NCAA record for field goals, and only added to his storied career Saturday by going 3-for-3 from 50-yards out to keep ASU in the game.  You'll be seeing him on Sundays for years to come.

Around the world of Pac-12 football - 

- Utah 19 - Oregon St 14 -

The Utes managed to keep pace with Colorado (yes, I said it) in the race for the Pac-12 South crown with this unsightly road effort over Oregon State.  This is a Beaver defense, mind you, that CU had no trouble with, and otherwise tore through like tissue paper.  Utah, instead, had to work to find 300 yards, only 42 of which came through the air -- some rough weather is partially to blame, but that's, none-the-less, a rough showing.
The Utes shook aside the poor weather to squeak out a win in Corvallis.  From: the SL Trib
Of note for the Utes was the return from retirement, like some middle-aged boxer, of running back Joe Williams.  He gobbled up 179 yards in the victory, and really powered the Utes' offense.  Oregon State, it should be mentioned, continued to struggle under center, suffering through injuries to both quarterbacks (along with star running back Ryan Nall).  Pack it in, Beavs; your season is over.

- USC 48 - Arizona 14 -

Lurking behind both Colorado and Utah is the reinvigorated form of USC.  Now with a solid QB, Sam Darnold, managing things in Hollywood, the team is rolling.  He threw for five scores in leading the road rout over Arizona (of whom the less said the better this season).  The Trojans are a game back in the loss column of the top spot in the division, but could be considered the betting favorite with their gobs of talent.  A probable road loss at Washington still looms on their schedule, however, and don't they have remaining dates with either the Buffs or Utes to lean on.  In the end, I'm seeing them come up short and enjoying another trip to the Sun Bowl.

- Stanford 17 - Notre Dame 10 -  

Colorado's next opponent, the Stanford Cardinal, survived an ugly first half effort with Notre Dame to claim a late win in the classic rivalry.  The game turned on a fourth quarter fumble-six off a rush from backup tailback Bryce Love, capping a performance where the Cardinal failed to score a single conventional point (the others: a pick-six and a safety); pretty much the most Stanford way to win a game ever.
Stanford survived an ugly affair with ND.  From: Fox Sports.
Of note: superstar running back Christian McCaffrey missed the game with an undisclosed injury suffered the week prior.  Head Coach David Shaw, however, is insinuating that he'll see the field against the Buffs on Saturday.  It is what it is.  Either way, CU should have a good shot at claiming the win in hostile territory.

Soccer continues its roll against Washington - 

It's now 10-straight wins for the CU Women's Soccer Team, who claimed a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Washington last Friday.  With the win, they saw their national ranking improve to #22, and stayed out front of the rest of the league in the race for the Pac-12 crown.

A pair of first half goals from senior forward Danica Evans were all that were needed to earn full points.  It was her second goal, however, which stole the show.  Off a cross into the box, she headed the ball to herself on the run, escaping a pouncing goalie, before firing the ball home with a side-flick off her right boot.  Insane stuff which stands aside anything I've ever seen on a soccer pitch.

From there, the game was left in the hands of freshman goalie Jalen Tompkins.  Down the stretch of the second half, the Huskies peppered her net with shots, but the Arizonan responded with five huge saves.  Her last, an 88th minute heart-stopper, had her paddling a runner up off the bar before diving back after what seemed like a sure tip-in.  Are you kidding me!?

As a result, the ladies now stand 6-0 in conference play, alone atop the league's standings.  The quiet secret of their run, however, is that it has all been done against teams from the bottom-half of the Pac-12 table.  In fact, none of their six league wins have come over a team with a current winning record -- hence, some of the hesitation to rank them as highly as the Pac-12 leader would normally be at this point.  We'll find out just how serious this team is, though, when they head to the Bay Area this week; games are Thursday (Stanford @ 7p) and Sunday (Cal @ 2p).  Both the Cardinal and the Golden Bears are in the national top-10 and tough damn teams.  Getting the full six points seems like a monumental stretch, but finding a way to get something out of each game will be critical in the hunt for the cup.

Happy Tuesday!

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