The discourse is ridiculous right now. Even before the Colorado Buffaloes lost to Arizona in an embarrassing (defensive) performance, people have taken to Twitter, comment sections and internet forums to express scorching hot takes. A significant subset of fans are furious that the Buffs are only 3-3 right now. Here’s what we have to say: Calm down.
This was always going to be something of a transition year for the Buffaloes. Last year’s run was spectacular, but that team was (1) propped up by the defense, (2) lucky in close games, and, (3) if we’re being honest, they probably outperformed their talent level. It was absurd to expect the same from the 2017 Buffaloes.
Colorado’s defense was dominant last year. They beat down explosive offenses like Washington State, destroyed decent offenses like Colorado State, and even gave the Buffaloes offense chances against great teams like USC. But the CU defense of 2016 graduated 9 starters and lost their defensive coordinator. The coaching staff had to hustle on JuCo recruiting because every contributing defensive lineman left, so it’s absolutely no surprise CU is continually dominated in the trenches. The back seven has been terrific considering the circumstances, but they’re still on the inexperienced side and lacking somewhat in depth. Aside from getting gashed by Khalil Tate, the 2016 defense has looked better than expected, they just need to find consistency and better gameplans to resemble last year’s group.
The Buffs of 2016 were fortunate to win 10 games. Against Oregon, the Buffs needed backup quarterback Steven Montez to have the game of his life, they needed touchdowns on two impossible catches that could have easily been called incomplete, and they not only needed Oregon to call a fade route on 1st & Goal, but they needed Ahkello Witherspoon to make the perfect play to seal the win. Against Stanford, CU needed a fumbled snap in the red zone, plus two ridiculous interceptions from Tedric Thompson and Isaiah Oliver to stop the Cardinal. Against UCLA, CU needed Oliver to bail them out on a punt return touchdown in the final minutes. Against Utah, CU needed Chidobe Awuzie to stop a kick return, multiple goal line stands to hold the Utes to field goals, and a defensive touchdown in the final minutes. That’s four games that could’ve gone either way and it took a magical season for CU to make the perfect play every time and come away with all four wins.
The Buffs of 2017 are two plays away from being 5-1 at the moment. CU lost to UCLA because of two drops in the end zone and a fake field goal attempt, and they likely needed only one of those three plays to go their way to get the road win. CU lost to Arizona because they injured Brandon Dawkins on a late hit. Also because they couldn’t tackle Khalil Tate. But if the Buffs had gotten one more stop or forced one more turnover to stop Arizona, or if Steven Montez overthrew one fewer deep pass, that too is a win.
We’re reliving memories joyous and painful because we need to remember just how fickle football is. We never should have expected the 2017 Buffaloes to perform like the 2016 Buffaloes, because not even the 2016 Buffaloes should’ve played like they did. Instead we can maintain perspective and focus on the re-growth of Colorado football as a program. They’re still working to maintain last year’s success, and in this transition year, it was always going to be a struggle. They just have to learn from their mistakes and improve with experience. In the meantime, maybe some swings can go the Buffs’ way and we’ll have more to cheer about.