Remember when the Buffs were 17 point favorites? That sure was fun. After a miserable showing going into halftime, Colorado actually came out and won, 41-38. Now, there are some positives here, the most obvious being winning, but there are huge question marks that this game didn't answer. Let's get to the game.
The 1st quarter started out well for the Buffaloes, as we moved down the field pretty easily. Then, just like last year, we stalled near the red zone. Oliver bails us out with his leg and we get 3 points. I'm not going through each drive, as this game does not deserve that, and that would take a while. To boil it down, for the 1st half, our defense was awful. Just horrendous. On the offensive side of the ball, we could move the ball at will, then we would stop moving when it counted, as if there was a magic barrier that stopped us from going past the 20-yd line. After completely wasting their final drive of the half, Kenneth Crawley almost singlehandedly gave the Minutemen their touchdown drive before the half ended. Their last play was a beut, to be fair. You'll see this on the Top 10 tonight. Buff faithful entered the halftime break with a sour taste in their mouths, imagining a winless season and a neverending stay in football hell. We all saw what was coming. CU would fold again, and resign themselves to a depressing season. However, they did something that surprised me. They fought back. Now, granted, the play was nowhere neat PAC-12 worthy, and ASU should be a bloodbath, but in this scenario, the Buffs showed heart. At the end of the day, a win is a win is a win, and the Sun Devils will be facing a 1-1 team next Saturday.
- Shay Fields. Oh boy, does he have wheels. Someone who can turn a screen into a touchdown like this has a bright future. He looks firmly slotted into a starting spot, and he deserves it. His stat line of 6 catches and 93 yards don't tell the whole story. If Liufau hits him near the end of the 4th quarter, it's likely we put up another 7 on the board and Shay Fields get over 100 yards and 2 TD's. He will be fun to watch over the next few years.
- Christian Powell came up big today. Michael Adkins, my man-crush, struggled through the 1st quarter, and Powell got his shot. He got a lot of tough yards for the Buffs, and he showed his value. Perpetually falling forward, Powell carved 4 yards out of nothing plenty of times in this game and he deserves to be commended. Also, Tony Jones did well this game. He showed an extra gear in front of his family, and looked like the most dynamic back out there for CU.
Liufau to Spruce. This looks like a golden connection for the rest of the year. The ultimate security blanket, Spruce bailed out Colorado and was their most consistent threat against the Minutemen. I don't mean to ignore Sefo, either. He extended a lot of plays with legs, and the 70 yard bomb to Nelson was absolutely perfect. Another improvement over last week, Sefo took no unnecessary hits this week and kept his jersey mostly clean. Liufau took this chance to pad his stats, too. 318 yards and 3 touchdowns is nothing to sneeze at.
Honorable Mentions: Play-Calling (at times), Bryce Bobo
You're smart, and by now you've noticed that there is no defensive or special teams positives. There's a reason for that...
- What the hell is Toby Neinas being paid for? He doesn't bring in any recruits, and we sure as hell can't cover kickoffs, so I wonder what he was doing during practice. I am convinced that he spent that time actively convincing our kickoff coverage team to not do their jobs. He needs to go at the end of the year unless drastic improvement is made. I don't even know how that was possible. If any other team tried, they could not get UMass to start at the 40 each drive, but we are naturals. That was disgusting.
- Another coaching note, we suck at penalties. Every time CU was about to step on UMass's throats, they found a way to make sure the Minutemen got back in the game. What a regression from last year. The penalties before the end of the half absolutely killed any chance of covering the spread. While some of that is on the players, a lot of that falls on the coaches not putting them in the right position to make plays legally. Equally as gross as the special teams.
- Rounding out the trifecta of disappointment, I'll put the defense on this one. However, I will limit it to the first half, as Coach Baer finally figured out that a blitz can somehow generate more pressure than a 4-man rush. We let them pretty much run at will against us in the 2nd quarter. Our defensive ends are just too damn small, and once again, two games late, Coach Baer figured out that bigger bodies out there (Wilson and McCartney) might help stop the run. It's insane how the Buffs consistently get dominated at the line of scrimmage. Also, Gillam looks really hampered by his elbow and significantly lighter. I wish we could rest him a little bit more, but beggars can't be choosers.
Dishonorable Mentions: DD Goodson &T.Y. McCulloch, Ahkello Witherspoon
The Buffs had to claw their way back, but a road win for a team that has virtually none is a good sign and a good thing for our extremely young team to learn how to do. There was certainly way too much sweating in this one, and it shouldn't have ever been close. Winning can dress up the sh*t we dropped on this game and make it look a lot better than it was. Make no mistake, Toby Neinas must go and the defense must step up to the plate consistently for this team to have a prayer in conference play. i will end with this: Washington almost lost to Hawaii and Eastern Washington, Arizona almost lost to UTSA, and WSU lost to Nevada. All of those teams, better than us, struggled against teams worse than them. Anything can happen in football, and if Coach Mac can get any momentum this season, CU could look a lot better than it does now. That's all we can ask for, right?