The Colorado football program held its senior banquet Sunday evening one day after the season came to an end with a disappointing loss at Utah.
Coach Mike MacIntyre will meet with reporters one final time for the 2013 season on Monday to discuss his first year leading the Buffaloes and the future of the program.
MacIntyre guided the Buffs to a 4-8 overall record, a three-win improvement over last season and matched the total number of wins produced in the two previous seasons combined. It should be noted that two of those victories came over teams from the Football Championship Subdivision, but the Buffs lost their only game against an FCS team under MacIntyre's predecessor Jon Embree.
It was the third best debut season by a CU football coach in the past 31 years and the best since Gary Barnett went 7-5 in 1999.
We take a look at some of what went wrong and what went right for the Buffs in MacIntyre's first season. The list isn't meant to be all encompassing but rather snapshots of where the Buffs fell short and where they excelled in 2013.
What went wrong: Once again this season the Buffs were blown out in far too many games, losing eight of nine Pac-12 games by an average of 29 points. Take away a seven-point loss to Utah in the season finale and the average margin of defeat in the Pac-12 rises to 32.1.
What went right: Unlike 2012 when it was obvious the Buffs quit in the second half of a handful of games, there was never any quit in this team. The Buffs scored 130 fourth-quarter points this season compared with 59 in 2012. CU outscored opponents in the fourth quarter by 60 points this fall. Sure, a sizeable percentage of those points might have come against backups, but it's still a sign of a team competing for four quarters.
What went wrong: Quarterback Connor Wood finally earned the starting job he coveted coming out of fall camp and he looked promising in the early going. He threw for 1,103 yards in seven games with eight touchdown passes and seven interceptions. But he lost confidence once Pac-12 play arrived and lost the starting job to a true freshman.
What went right: Sefo Liufau, the greenhorn who took over when Wood faltered, limited his mistakes most of the time and by the end of the season he had the respect of all of his teammates. He set new true freshman passing records at CU for yards, attempts, completions and touchdown passes and goes into 2014 as the expected starter.
What went wrong: The running game was consistently sluggish outside of a few games. CU outrushed four opponents and only one Pac-12 team. Running backs Christian Powell and Michael Adkins had their moments but it was tough going behind an offensive line that never really dominated opponents, not even those two FCS opponents. This was much more three-yards-in-a-cloud-of-dust than Oregon or Arizona-like rushing efficiency.
What went right: Wide receiver Paul Richardson turned in a record-setting season and Nelson Spruce also shined giving Wood and Liufau two solid weapons on the perimeter. Richardson set new single season receiving records in the program in receptions (83) and receiving yards (1,343). Spruce set new career highs with 55 catchers for 650 yards and four touchdowns.
What went wrong: The Buffs' inconsistency in the running game led to inefficiency in the red zone, scoring only 14 touchdowns in the 32 times the offense penetrated the opponent's 20-yard line. MacIntyre and offensive coordinator Brian Lingren firmly believe a team has to be able to run the ball in the red zone to be good in the red zone. It might be true, but they also might have been guilty of trying to force that issue too much when a little creativity might have helped get the Buffs in the end zone more often.
What went right: While CU struggled to punch the ball into the end zone when it drove into the red zone, the offense produced more big plays. CU scored 11 times this season on plays of 30 yards or more compared with just five scores of that length in 2012. If you're keeping score, that's 14 touchdowns in the red zone and 11 touchdowns on big plays.
What went wrong: The defense struggled with tackling. MacIntyre was particularly frustrated after a 59-7 loss at Washington when he said his team missed nearly 40 tackles in one game. He said 20 would normally be a high number. Time in the weight program and adding more speed to the defense through recruiting will help as will continued improvement in technique and ball leverage.
What went right: The defense was much more successful creating turnovers and even scored points off some of those miscues by opponents. In 2012, the Buffs had one non-offensive score on a kickoff return in the final game of the season. This year, CU had five non-offensive scores, four of which came from the defense. The Buffs forced 20 turnovers this season, 10 fumbles and 10 interceptions compared to 15 turnovers in 2012.
What went wrong: The defensive line struggled to put pressure on the quarterback without help from blitzing linebackers or defensive backs. The Buffs finished the year with 18 sacks based on unofficial numbers after the Utah game. It was a small decrease from 21 sacks a year ago.
What went right: The offensive line dramatically cut down the number of sacks it allowed from 52 in 2012 to 20 this season. Three regular starters will return next season along with three reserves who earned playing time and a handful of underclassmen who have spent a season under the tutelage of offensive line coach Gary Bernardi.
What went wrong: The Buffs allowed more than 200 yard rushing per game, a number that must be cut dramatically for the Buffs to become consistently competitive in the Pac-12 Conference. Four Pac-12 opponents ran for at least 275 yards against the Buffs.
What went right: Liufau wasn't the only true freshman to make a big impact. Middle linebacker Addison Gillam became the anchor of the defense in a record-setting season, in which he set new freshman tackle record. Defensive back Chidobe Awuzie, defensive end Jimmie Gilbert, safety Tedric Thompson, linebacker Kenneth Olugbode, running back Michael Adkins II, wide receiver Devin Ross and kick return man Ryan Severson also made solid contributions as true freshmen.