A feeling of mixed emotions was the storyline for the Colorado Buffaloes in 2012. The basketball team was coming off the biggest height the program had experience in several years wasn’t the biggest headline. Colorado football was in decline with uncertain times going forward. Here’s a look back at 2012 in Boulder.
One-and-done, but building a better program
The Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team came into the season with a renewed optimism as defending Pac-12 Champions. Coach Tad Boyle’s third season in Boulder started out with an undefeated 6-0 record that included a win over No. 16 Baylor in the Charleston Classic, a non-conference tournament the Buffaloes would go on to win.
When it came down to conference play, CU struggled a bit as they lost four of the next six contests, most notable the 92-83 overtime defeat at the hands of the 18-0 Arizona Wildcats, a game CU actually won in regulation, but Sabatino Chen’s buzzer-beater was inexplicably disallowed. After shaking off the jitters, future NBA talents Spencer Dinwiddie and Andre Roberson led the team to wins in ten of the remaining sixteen games to help secure a NCAA Tourney bid. Colorado beat eventual Sweet-16 teams Arizona and Oregon (twice) down the stretch before losing in the second round of the Pac-12 tournament to Sean Miller’s Wildcats.
The Buffs went to their second straight NCAA Tournament, this time in the East Region as a No. 10 seed set to face the No. 7-seeded Illinois Illini. Colorado was outscored out of the gate by a halftime score of 37-21, but had a furious comeback to make a game of it within the final 20 minutes. Illinois was held scoreless for over an 11 minute period early, relinquishing a 16-point lead to Colorado who went on a 21-0 run. It was all for nothing, however, because the Buffs decided not to score in the final ten minutes of the game. Colorado ended up losing by a score of 57-49.
Boyle’s entire starting five would return to Boulder for another run the following season and it would be their most promising.
Jon Embree - Take Two: CU Football’s worst season in the program’s 122-year history
A new beginning for CU football was met with significant growing pains for second-year head coach Jon Embree. The alum was trying to adapt to operating a major college football program with a young team along with the challenge of playing in the Pac-12. The 2012 offseason began on the heels of a small accomplishment for Embree and his staff by scrapping together victories in two of the last three conference games to end the season with some momentum. Embree knew what he was up against going into the 2012 season, but how bad was it for the Buffaloes? The team led the nation with a total of 57 true freshman, 21 first-time starters and eight seniors.
Texas transfer quarterback Connor Wood gave the Buffs a lot of promise as the potential incoming starter. The 6’3”, 225-pound four-star recruit was highly sought by many schools after being a top-five prospect from Second Baptist HS (Houston, TX). Wood decided to leave Texas in favor of Colorado due to UT coach Mack Brown naming him a third-string option behind Garrett Gilbert and Case McCoy. Wood redshirted in 2011 and was eventually named the backup to one-time Kansas quarterback Jordan Webb. A decision that many scrutinized Embree for making and not allowing Wood to get reps under center from the start of the season.
As for Webb and the Buffs offense, the struggles were evident early in the season when they lost to FCS opponent Sacramento State. Even for a team that ranked 118th in total offense by the end of the season, this was a dismal effort; the only reason they even scored that much on Sac State was because Christian Powell, who had never played running back before, had the best game of his career that day.
Not only were the Buffs unable to score on anyone, but they also allowed points at an apocalyptic rate. CU ended the season giving up an average of 46 points per game, allowing their opponents to score 50+ points five times throughout the season.
For the all failures that 2012 season brought on CU, a silver lining was the stockpile of mostly young future NFL talent on the roster. They had a total of six players who went to the NFL: WR Nelson Spruce, LT David Bakhtiari, C Daniel Munyer, TE Nick Kasa, DT Josh Tupou, and CB Ken Crawley.
Colorado finished with a 1-11 record representing the worst mark in the school’s history and it was the first time they ever went winless at home. The lone win came on Sept. 22 at Washington State in a back-and-forth barnburner. Webb helped the Buffs rally from a 17-point deficit by scoring the game-winning touchdown on 4-yard run with :09 left, escaping Pullman with the 35-34 win. He finished the game going 32-of-60 for 401 yards passing, 4 touchdowns and two interceptions. That win didn’t do anything to help the team, but it was at the very least something we could cheer for.
Athletic Director Mike Bohn relieved Embree of his coaching duties on Nov. 25, 2012 after posting a 4-21 record in two seasons. Less than a month later on Dec. 10, San Jose State’s Mike MacIntyre was named the next head coach of the Buffaloes ushering in a new era of football in Boulder.