Another week, another loss for the Buffs. Same team. same soul-crushing season, right? Wrong. How dare you suggest that. Sorry, that was a bit harsh, I'm still reeling after the Cal game. But I'm here to tell you that this Cal game represents the 2014 in so many ways. Everything that's wrong with this team, everything that's exciting, all of it was on display yesterday. Way back when I wrote that the Buffs will go to a bowl game, and I was jumping the gun. A lot. This team is not ready for a bowl game. That's what 2014 is ready for. Growth and preparedness for 2015, which I've dubbed The Year of Reclamation. Back to the Cal game. Colorado's young talent showed lots of promise, the vets showed up big time, and most importantly, this team looked like they were having fun out there. They played with passion. They played with intensity, and they played until the end, none of which were true in recent years. All of this points to one fact: this team is on the right track, and they are ready to win. Whether that comes in the second half of this year or next year (it's probably gonna be next year), CU is on the rise.
HOLY GOD THIS OFFENSE WAS FANTASTIC. On the back of Nelson Spruce, Sefo Liufau had himself a day. Over 500 yards of offense by himself. He looked comfortable, healthy, and decisive, which is important for a young quarterback. I know there has been a lot of questioning of Liufau from the fan base, and some of it well-deserved. He looked like a quarterback that could take the Buffs to a bowl game. If you watch these highlights, you can see what I'm talking about. Sefo and Brian Lindgren made a concerted effort to use the middle of the fields, and that made a huge difference in moving the ball downfield. McColluch, D.D. Goodson and Sean Irwin all made a difference, after previously being under-utilized. "But Jack, how does this represent the whole year?", you may ask. Well, this shows growth, not just from the players, but from the coaching staff as well. Sefo Liufau has completed less than a full season as starter, and he looks more and more seasoned by the week. Shay Fields, while underwhelming in this game, looks to be an absolute stud at WR, and we finally got to see some #BoboMojo (use it folks, let's start a trend). The future is very bright, and hell, the present isn't so bad either. If this keeps up, we could scare some teams later in the year.
Notice how I didn't mention the running game. The run blocking yesterday was subpar to say the least. Plus, my boi Michael Adkins isn't showing much, Powell underperformed, Lindsay did nothing, and Tony Jones looked fantastic. As of right now, Jones is the only one running with vision and authority, and as far as I'm concerned he should be in on every play. They aren't showing much growth, and I hope we can land Donald Gordon.
Now, this one is a little bit harder to write about. The final score and the stats show a team that got stomped on, but in the first half, this defense held up very well. Now, instead of focusing on the unit as a whole as I did for the offense, I will focus on a few players. First, Tedric Thompson. Good lord, has he improved. He is leading CU in tackles, which honestly isn't a good sign for the defense if a safety is tackling the most, but Tedric plays so much on the line that it's less worrisome. He can play the ball, play centerfield, and can play in the box. He can hit, cover, and spy on the QB. Now for the best part: he's only a sophmore. Like the rest of the team, the theme for him this year is growth, and so far he has sprouted up. The next player I will focus on is Addison Gillam. His stat line is still impressive, but boy, has he looked his less athletic, less aware twin brother, Maddison. Whether it's the injuries, the weight loss, or the dreaded sophmore slump (Adkins :( ), Gillam just looks slow out there. Hopefully he can get this sorted out later this year, or else we will have to wait until upperclassman Addison balls out to see him again. Once again, the theme is growth, and this is an example of regression. The last player I want to highlight is Derek McCartney. He has grown exponentially in just this year, and he's only a freshman (!). He was living in the backfield against Cal, and I can't wait to see what he does when he adds twenty pounds and gets faster. He could turn into an all-Pac 12 performer, but keeping with the theme of this article, the Cal showed his 2014 season will be filled with TFL's and sacks.
Overall, this unit might not be performing well, but they have grown together, Crawley is playing like a 4-star, Henderson is solid as ever (though he is slipping a bit), and Tupuo has gotten it together. All four members of the secondary could end up playing on Sundays, and a few more up front have the potential to be in the NFL. Here's the kicker: one, ONE, starter will graduate after this season, 2014 sets this D up well for an experienced, tough group in 2015.
If Colorado doesn't win another football game this year, I would still call this season an improvement over last. Looking at stats, this is the farthest CU has gone in a season without a twenty point loss. First, that shows how undeniably bad the Buffs have been, but more importantly, it shows how far they've come. The Cal game was an excruciating loss, and I haven't yelled that much at my TV since the 2008 Chargers-Broncos game (screw you, Ed Hoculi). But there's so much damn silver lining that you decorate a Christmas tree. Purely from a fan's perspective, I cared that CU lost. I know I don't speak just for myself when I say caring about a loss is a step up from being numbed by it. MacIntyre has woken up a sleeping fan base, and that was a rude awakening. From an (amateur) analyst's perspective, CU has a bonafide star in Spruce, young talent at most every position, and it making the mistakes a young team is expected you make. Tedric Thompson is balling out, Sefo Liufau played out of his mind, and the improvements of the vets (Crawley, John Walker) are astounding. This team lost, and lost one they should have won. However, there types of losses show hope for future wins. They show improvement over the hopeless crevasse that was. And, most importantly, they show growth. CU has gotten better every week, and I don't see that trend stopping. 2014 may end early, but it will not end poorly. There is fight in this team. It's only a matter of time before they start landing the knockout punch.