In his first year as Alabama's head coach, Nick Saban led the Crimson Tide to a 30-24 Independence Bowl victory over the Colorado Buffaloes. In the 8-plus seasons since that game Alabama and Colorado have been on two completely different paths. Saban's Crimson Tide program has won 106 games and 4 National Championships, and they are well on their way towards adding another. Meanwhile the Buffs have tasted victory only 33 times and haven't played past the month of November, until now.
Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre couldn't even get through his postgame interview with the Pac-12 network's Jill Arrington. "I want to go celebrate" he said before running off to go be with his team, cutting the sideline reporter's second question short. With a hard fought 10-5 win at Stanford on Saturday, Colorado moved to 6-2 overall (4-1 in Pac-12 play) and became bowl eligible for the first time since 2007.
So how did the Buffs celebrate? By going to In-N-Out burger of course.
MOST VALUABLE BUFF: TEDRIC THOMPSON, DEFENSIVE BACK
Colorado's front seven did exactly what they needed to do versus the Cardinal, shut down star running back Christian McCaffrey (92 rush yards; 26 receiving yards vs Colorado). This allowed the Buffs secondary to make some plays, and that they did, intercepting Stanford quarterback Ryan Burns three times and just missing on a fourth. Two of those interceptions came from this week's Most Valuable Buff Tedric Thompson. The senior from Valencia, California now has 4 interceptions this season and 10 for his career, 6 behind Colorado's all-time leader John Stearns (1970-72).
BUFF FROM THE PAST: JOHN STEARNS
Nicknamed "Bad Dude," Stearns was one of the fiercest hitters in Colorado history in two-sports (baseball & football). Upon graduating, the Denver native was the 2nd overall pick by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1973 amateur draft. The next year Stearns was traded to the New York Mets where he played mostly catcher for 10 seasons, amassing 695 hits and 312 runs batted in before retiring in 1984.
MOMENT OF THE GAME: OLUGBODE'S FUMBLE RECOVERY!
Entering Saturday's game, the Buffs were tied for 17th in the nation with 14 turnovers gained. Colorado added four more to that total versus Stanford but none was bigger than Kenneth Olugbode's fumble recovery. With the Buffs leading 7-3 early in the 4th quarter, Stanford was in prime position to take the lead with a 1st-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Burns however mishandled the snap from Jesse Burkett and the senior inside linebacker from San Jose, California pounced on the pigskin, ending Stanford's scoring threat.
NEED FOR IMPROVEMENT: KICKING GAME
With redshirt-freshman Davis Price out with an illness, Colorado place kicker Chris Graham missed 2 field goals (42 & 28 yards) before being replaced by punter Alex Kinney, who missed a 31-yard field goal in the 3rd quarter. Graham finally connected on a 22-yarder in the 4th quarter to give the Buffs a 10-3 lead, but the damage was already done.
Thankfully Olugbode and the Colorado defense responded by holding the Cardinal out of the end zone. "As a defense, we kind of just shrugged our shoulders and said alright, ‘Let's pick up our lunch pails and go to work'" said the Buffs captain.
Since losing senior place kicker Diego Gonzalez to a torn Achilles in the 3rd game of the season, Colorado place kickers are 8-12 on field goal attempts. Those four misses have come the last two weeks. To put it simply, if the Buffs hope to achieve their goal of winning the Pac-12 Conference, they will need someone to step up in the kicking department.
NEXT UP: NOVEMBER 3 vs UCLA (3-5, 1-4), 7:00PM MT, FOX SPORTS 1
The Buffs have 12 days before they host UCLA in a Thursday night tilt on Fox Sports 1. UCLA quarterback Mike Fafaul's 464 yards passing (on a school record 70 attempts) was not enough to take down Utah Saturday as the Bruins lost for the 4th time in their last 5 games. Entering the game vs Utah, UCLA ranked 126th out of 128 teams in rush offense at just over 91 yards per game. If Tedric Thompson and the Buffs secondary can contain the UCLA passing attack they should improve to 4-0 in Boulder this season.