“It is always nice to be recognized but our focus is today, tomorrow and all the work that we've done,” said Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre on Monday, a day after Colorado came in at No. 21 in the AP poll and No. 23 in the Coaches poll.
Added running backs coach Darian Hagan: “You honestly can't even take a moment to enjoy it because you still want to have that fire in your belly. You don't want to rest on your laurels. Coach Mac[Intyre] says all the time, 'You have to be the best you can be at all times, on and off the field, to be Pac-12 Champions.' This week is all we're worried about. We're just trying to accomplish what we set out for.”
MacIntyre admitted people would laugh at him prior to the season when he talked about their goal of winning the conference. And while a 2-0 start certainly does not make a conference season, Colorado came in at No. 2 on ESPN's Pac-12 Power Rankings this week. Only Washington has a better scoring margin in the conference through five weeks.
“I want them to have humble confidence. There is a big difference and I think they understand and do that,” MacIntyre said of his players. “They are focused. They had an excellent practice today. I have been impressed with how they have responded.”
While Colorado has been unquestionably the fastest rising team in the Pac-12 early on this season, USC has been the biggest disappointment. The Trojans were ranked in the top 20 in both polls entering the season, but USC lost three of its first four games before seemingly getting back on track with a 41-20 victory over Arizona State.
“They played Alabama and Alabama might win a game or two in the pros, they are so talented. And they lost that heart-breaker on the road at Utah which was a crazy game,” MacIntyre said when asked about the Trojans' early season struggles. “I think they have settled in with their offensive identity and they were very, very impressive on Saturday night.”
USC has moved from a hybrid offense to a spread attack recently. The Trojans racked up 523 yards of offense against the Sun Devils.
“They basically completely changed their offense in the last game-and-a-half. They did it in the Utah game but this last game was almost like a complete different offense,” MacIntyre explained. “They are getting the ball out and the quarterback (freshman Sam Darnold) is an excellent athlete and he is getting the ball out to their playmakers. And they have a phenomenal athletic tight end. … That is why I am not sleeping.”
Additional Colorado notes -
*** Senior quarterback Sefo Liufau continues to work toward a full recovery from the ankle sprain he suffered at Michigan in week three. He practiced “a little bit more” and “did well” during Monday's practice, according to MacIntyre. For the third straight week, it is unlikely the Buffs' coaches will make any type of announcement on who will start at quarterback.
Liufau ranks seventh in the nation in passer rating, and following his second strong performance, redshirt freshman Steven Montez now ranks 11th. Does MacIntyre view their quarterback situation as a “good problem”?
“I don't call it a problem, I call it a great thing,” he answered. “You have two quarterbacks that you know you can win with. And to me, that is really good. There are a lot of schools that don't know that, or wish they did. So we do know that.”
*** Davis Price earned Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his performance against Oregon State. The true freshman walk-on kicker from Evergreen set the CU record for the longest field-goal made by a freshman, a 54-yarder, on his first career field-goal attempt. He scored 11 points overall, on five extra points and two field-goals, and had four of his eight kickoffs go for touchbacks.
*** The last two weeks, junior Ryan Moeller has spent more time in an outside linebacker role as opposed to his typical safety role.
“With Derek [McCartney] going down, we needed to find a little bit of another answer to help us out some depth wise,” MacIntyre said when asked about Moeller's new role. “He has done really well at it. He knows how to blitz and play near the line of scrimmage. Most of the teams we play in our league are a 10 or 11 personnel group, which allows him to be able to stay out there and match up pretty well.”
*** The Buffs now rank tied for third in fewest sacks allowed in the Pac-12, after giving up the most sacks in the conference a year ago. Colorado also ranks third in the Pac-12 in rushing offense.
“They had one little spurt there in the Michigan game where they knew we were having to throw and they have some dudes, but I think they have played well,” MacIntyre said of the offensive line.
“I do think last Saturday the pocket was really clean a lot and they gashed some holes. The run down at the goal line on fourth-and-one, I told Phillip [Lindsay] I could have run through the hole. He goes, 'I don't know about that.' I go, 'Yeah, I could have run through that hole.' They knocked it out the way and cleared it out. It was excellent.”