No. 16 Colorado vows crackdown on penalties
BOULDER, Colo. — The constant stream of personal-foul penalties on No. 16 Colorado last week provided an instant wake-up call.
As in, having to set those alarms for bright and early because 80 reps of up-downs along with a series of timed sprints awaited the Buffaloes the next day. The impromptu workout session was the punishment handed out by coach Mike MacIntyre for eight personal-foul penalties in a 20-10 win over UCLA on Thursday.
The Buffaloes (7-2, 5-1 Pac-12, No. 15 CFP) vow to keep cooler heads Saturday at Arizona (2-7, 0-6), especially in the thick of a Pac-12 South title chase.
“The way we played is not normally how we play,” said senior outside linebacker Jimmie Gilbert, who was flagged for targeting in the first quarter for a hit on sliding UCLA QB Mike Fafaul that carried an ejection. “In order to be Pac-12 champions, we can’t play like that — ever.
“We gave up a lot of (yards) just because of penalties — stupid personal fouls, offsides, things like that. By coach punishing us for that, it’s a way of getting that mistake corrected and putting a message in our head that that isn’t acceptable.”
The Buffaloes averaged the least amount of penalty yards per game in the league before Thursday’s meltdown in which they drew 12 flags for 128 yards. MacIntyre can live with some of the personal-foul calls. Those were just his team being overly aggressive, he explained.
But he took issue with the unsportsmanlike conduct flags such as taunting and hitting a player out of bounds.
“That’s totally selfish and all that does is hurt the team,” MacIntyre said. “After the whistle is blown — those type of plays are what really irritates me.”
The Buffaloes met as a team the following day and addressed it.
“We looked each other in the eyes and in the face and we said, ‘We’re not going to do that again,’” senior running back Phillip Lindsay said. “That will get us beat down the line, making stupid penalties. We’ve got to hold each other accountable.”
And with that, the issue was put to rest.
Now on to the next task — jump-starting a lackluster offense. The Buffaloes averaged 39 points in their opening seven games, but struggled to score against Stanford and UCLA.
“To not be playing our best offense is pretty frustrating,” said senior quarterback Sefo Liufau, who’s set or tied 82 school records in his career. “After the Stanford game, I was upset with my performance. And UCLA, I was striving too much for perfection instead of throwing the ball.
“I want to be perfect and get the ball to the guys, let them make plays.”
Still, the defense and special teams have bailed the Buffaloes out. Colorado’s defense held Stanford to 263 total yards in a 10-5 win and special teams sealed with the victory over the Bruins, courtesy of Isaiah Oliver’s 68-yard punt return for a TD with 5:27 remaining.
That’s just the way things have been going around Boulder this season.
“They can handle the moment now — if it’s good, bad or indifferent,” said MacIntyre, whose team is trying to move to 8-2 for the first time since 2001. “They just keeping pushing through it.
“In the past, when they weren’t sure about that, it was like, ‘Oh, no,’ and panic a little bit and lose a little bit of focus. I think we now crank our focus up. I think we crank our intensity up as a whole group.”
Gilbert couldn’t agree more.
“We’re playing phenomenal,” said Gilbert, who’s tied for the most forced fumbles (5) in the nation this season. “We’ve still got mistakes we’ve got to get corrected. We still have a lot to complete, but we’ve made tremendous strides.”
Notes: Kicker Davis Price (mono) will be healthy enough to play Saturday, MacIntyre said. … Oliver was named the Pac-12 special teams player of the week.
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