Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tuesday Grab Bag: Surviving the Bye Week Blues

Hey, happy November!  You know, that month that marks the start of basketball season. It's been a long winding road, but we're almost there.  Two Friday's from now, the season will finally tip off against Sacramento State, and we'll get to see just what Tad and the team have in store for us.  I'll have my annual Massive Preview up for consumption early next Tuesday, but, til then, we'll just have to do with this non-basketball filler.  I apologize in advance.

Oh, and the football team has a sort of big game this week against UCLA.  I guess you can be excited about that, as well...

Today in the bag, I'm reminding you that there are always championships in the #BananaStand, how the rest of the Pac-12 fared in football with the Buffs on a bye, and a stumble on the soccer pitch.

Click below for the bag...

#BananaStand sweeps the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships - 

There are a few constants in the universe.  Gravity, for instance.  People much smarter than myself have determined that this concept has a value, and that it can be measured consistently.  Pi is another. How fledgling mathematicians from Before the Common Era were able to discover this irrational ratio has always fascinated me, but that it exists is not up for debate.  We may now add another constant to their membership, however, which I will dub the #BananaStand constant (the symbol for which is the dancing banana gif).  After all, there are always championships in the Banana Stand.

To prove my point, this past weekend in Tucson, for the sixth straight time, the men's team claimed the Pac-12 team crown; there has been no other Pac-12 men's cross country champion.  If that wasn't enough, the women joined them on the platform, making for their third Pac-12 title.  As helpfully offers, out of the 12 possible conference crowns in the sport, Dear Old CU has claimed nine of them.  Going back to the Big XII days, the program has won 32 of a possible 44 conference championships.  At this point, why even hold the meet?  Just hand the Buffaloes a trophy and move on.
The Stand did their thing again.  From:
The women's race was utter domination.  Senior Erin Clark paced the Buffs, finishing just half a second behind the individual winner from Washington.  She was quickly followed by two of her teammates, Dani Jones and Kaitlyn Benner, giving CU three of the top four finishers.  In all, the squad would place all five of their scorers in the top-15, leading to a 41-point boat race over the Huskies.  The only surprise here was the margin of victory.  Coming in, Colorado was considered the #1 team in the country, according to the USTFCCCA rankings, with UW a close second.  The results in the desert left no doubt as to who will be #1 when the next round of rankings come out.

For the men, the victory was considered an upset by those who are ignorant of both history and fate. CU had come into the meet as third-ranked team in the league, #7 nationally.  The quartet of Ben Saarel, Zach Perrin, John Dressel, and Ryan Forsyth, however, had other plans, and each placed in top-ten to power the group and uphold the Banana Stand constant.  With a fifth finisher placing in the top-20, the Buffs stayed just ahead of Stanford in the final standings, earning a six-point win.  Never in doubt.
My playful moniker for the Colorado cross country teams, notwithstanding, there is a desperate need to recognize the greatness that is the harrier teams in Boulder.  We take these runners for granted far too often, as, with eyes on money sports like basketball and football, it becomes easy to forget about them (or their winter counter parts, the ski team, for that matter).  It's with that in mind that I renew my call for a statue to honor the work being done by head coach Mark Wetmore.  His work on the course is undeniably great, and stands among the coaching giants from any sport around the country. There should be a permanent testament to his teams' success placed on campus.  The sooner, the better.

Around the world of Pac-12 Football - 

- Washington 31 - Utah 24 -

In the conference's biggest game of the weekend, UW out-lasted a game effort from the hosts thanks to a dramatic 58-yard punt return for touchdown from Husky Dante Pettis.  Nevermind the missed block in the back penalty, that was massive.  Credit to the Utes, though, they played a very good Washington team tough.  Mighty Joe Williams continued his torrid pace since his return from retirement, getting 172 yards and a score off 35 carries in the loss.
Pettis hit a walkoff.  From: Gwinnett Daily Post
The reality is this result changes nothing in the South.  CU still needs to keep winning, and would especially need a win over the Utes on the final day of the season to make the Pac-12 title game. Don't expect any more help from Utah, either.  Prior to their visit to Boulder, they visit a tail-spinning ASU team before hosting Oregon -- all games they should win easily.  No, this will all come down to 11/26.

- USC 45 - Cal 24 -

The Trojans continue to lurk behind the Buffs and Utes in the Pac-12 South.  Since figuring out their quarterback situation, they are 4-0 (including that all-important, tie-breaking win over Colorado), and seem to only be getting better.

In this one, they made Cal look foolish.  USC was allowed to get whatever they wanted on the ground, getting nearly 400 rushing yards on an insane 8.3 per attempt.  The Bears were getting blown off the line for three or four yards on every snap, for Tad's sake.  It got to the point that I thought they were drugged, or something. Regardless, the 24 points allowed seemed to be more for pity's sake, than anything else.  A true blowout, even if the scoreboard only says it was by three scores.

- Washington St 35 - Oregon St 31 -

At a party Saturday night, I made a special request to have this game turned on over the Stanford/Arizona... thing.  I was immediately questioned as to why I would want to watch the Cougars and Beavers; let me assure you that it had nothing to do with OSU.  Quietly, the Cougs are keeping pace with UW in the race for the Pac-12 North.  Oh, and they host the Apple Cup this season.  This is a team you need to pay attention to.
Cougs still dancing.  From: the Spokesman-Review
I get why you would want to forget the Cougars.  Set in the league's lone backwater, playing with an awkward style, coached by an insane pirate-man, and carrying on without nationally recognized talent, they aren't nearly as sexy of a story as their neighbors in Seattle (or SLC and Boulder, for that matter).  They are, however, playing some good, winning football, and, much like the Buffs, host three of their last four games. They could, very well, be the North representative in San Francisco. Seriously, take notice.

- Oregon 54 - Arizona St 35 - 

Heyyyyy, let's all welcome the Ducks to the party.  Finally, after four fruitless attempts, they get their first Pac-12 win of the season, leaving just lowly Arizona winless in conference play.  Their next three are against the murder's row of @ USC, vs Stanford, and @ Utah, though, so keep those bowl hopes on hold in Eugene, for the time being.

For the Sun Devils, their downward spiral continues, unabated.  This is a broken football team at this point, having fallen completely out of the race in the Pac-12 South.  I get it, injuries suck, and few are the teams around the country who could survive 10 starters sitting on the sideline. They were 5-1 coming into Boulder, however, and have looked like utter trash ever since. In this one, they allowed over 700 yards of offense and 54 points to similarly-trash Oregon -- hot damn, is that a dumpster fire of a game or what?  Don't expect things to improve in Tempe anytime soon, either; their next two are against Washington and Utah. Uh oh...

Buffs' soccer title hopes crushed by USC - 

With a packed Prentup in place, the #22 CU Women's Soccer Team took on national #4 USC with an eye towards keeping pace in the race for the Pac-12 title.  The dream finish was not to be, however, as the Trojans came to Boulder and dominated the action throughout the 90 minutes.  Three meekly-placed goals kept the Colorado faithful quiet, and the Buffs never managed a coherent response, falling 3-0 on home soil.

This was a tough one to take.  Throughout the first half, save a brief stretch after the opening kickoff and the final minutes before the break, the game was played entirely in the Colorado side of the field. The Buffs would get possession, but, instead of building out of their own end, got the ball to midfield, and just... booted it randomly towards the USC goal.  I guess the idea was to have someone on the ends of those passes over the top, but not once did there seem to be any cohesion between the midfielders and the forwards on when or where to break.  It was maddeningly sloppy play, and it made life really easy for the Trojans.  All they had to do was collect the random blast forward and re-fire their attack.  It was only a matter of time before they would capitalize, which they did on two gut-punch scores in the 24th and 36th minutes.
Packed stands did little to stem the Trojan tide.  From: @SeeBartRun
Really, the only oddity of those first half goals was how they were scored, rather than the fact that they were scored at all.  Both were what I would consider 'soft,' with the first coming off a spilled rebound, and the second coming off a defensive breakdown. The rebound was unfortunate, and really seemed to shake the normally reliable freshman goalie Jalen Tompkins.  That second goal, though... the USC attacker was allowed to just waltz through the left side of the box until she was mere feet from net.  Ugly, sloppy defense, and it put the Buffs behind the eight ball.  Even the third goal, coming in the second half, was 'soft,' with a cluster of feet somehow getting out of the way of a seeing-eye dribbler from the side of net.  At that point I just threw up my hands; sometimes it's just not your day.

CU mounted somewhat of a comeback in the final frame, showing much improved possession and passing.  It lead to a handful of decent chances that could've sparked some momentum.  None found net, however, and most weren't even on net off the shot.  Again, it just wasn't Colorado's day.

With the loss, the Buffs are eliminated from all but a share of the Pac-12 title.  With some help, they could tie Stanford at #1, but the Cardinal hold the tie-breaker for the crown.  Most likely, CU is playing for 3rd place this week when Utah visits on Friday in the season finale.  Nothing to take away from the incredible season, overall, however.  It's been a fantastic run for the ladies, one that deserves a warm send-off from us in BuffNation.  Kickoff against the Utes is set for 3pm; you should be there.

Happy Tuesday!

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