This year's Buffaloes have ended the long bowl drought, and CU is headed to play in a conference title game for the first time since 2005.
Fourth-ranked Washington, Colorado's upcoming opponent in the title contest, was one of the two Pac-12 teams the Buffs did not face in the regular season. With one less day to prepare for the Huskies, Colorado began its game week on Sunday.
“We had our meetings that we normally have on Monday on Sunday instead, so today was like a Tuesday,” said CU sophomore cornerback Isaiah Oliver following Monday's practice. “We celebrated Saturday night but we were all ready yesterday morning, all focused on Washington. We are not happy to just be in the game. We will only be happy with a win.”
Mike MacIntyre called the Huskies “one of the most well-rounded teams we've seen all year.” And the statistics certainly back up that statement by the Buffs' head coach. Washington ranks first in the Pac-12 in scoring offense, scoring defense, rushing defense, pass efficiency, turnover margin, red zone offense and penalties.
“Their offense is definitely as good as we've faced,” Oliver said. “I wouldn't say they are as prolific in the passing game as a Washington State or as dangerous in the run game as a Utah, but as a whole, they have the most balanced offense.”
Said junior wide receiver Shay Fields of the Huskies' defense: “This would probably be the best defense we have played all season because they have a great line, good linebackers and a good secondary. But since they are also so good offensively, we know we are going to have to be able to put up some points. It is going to be a matter of who comes out and wants it more.”
Friday's game will kickoff at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., at 7 pm (MT) with national television coverage on FOX.
Colorado offensive line coach Klayton Adams played as an offensive lineman at Boise State when Chris Petersen was the Broncos' offensive coordinator. And Adams served as an offensive graduate assistant at Boise State in Petersen's first year as the Broncos' head coach in 2006.
The two have stayed in contact in recent years, and Adams sent Petersen a text message before the season that read: “See you in Santa Clara.”
“He is just a really, really, really good person,” Petersen said of Adams. “He is a lot of fun to be around. I can't say enough about that. There just aren't enough guys like Klayton out there that have fun and keep it in perspective. He has turned into a heck of a coach.
“I remember when he came to us way back when. I remember the first day he was there on our recruiting trip and to see where he is now is really cool. It is awesome for me to watch that happen.”
Petersen on the Buffs
The Buffs and Huskies last faced off more than two years ago, when Washington defeated Colorado 38-23 in Boulder. MacIntyre's squad had a third quarter lead over Petersen's team in that game before the Huskies pulled away in the fourth quarter.
“I remember thinking the last time we played them that they were right there,” Petersen said. “You get a few more players, a few more breaks and you keep building and you are going to do some things. So it is not really surprising to me what they've done.
“I just think [Mike MacIntyre] does a great job. He obviously knows how to build a program and I think it is awesome that he was given time with all those really good coaches he has over there for that philosophy to set in and for his players to run with it.”
When talking about this year's Colorado team, Petersen shared his admiration for the Buffaloes' secondary. Colorado finished the regular season ranked first in the Pac-12 in both pass defense and pass defense efficiency. And Alabama is the only team nationally that has recorded more pass breakups than the Buffs this season.
“I see an experienced group with really good athletes back there and a scheme they know inside and out,” Petersen said of CU's' defensive backs. “There are no gimmes, no easy passes. Everybody all year long has had to earn it. And when you have to earn it down after down, that is tough to do. That is why they don't give up many points. You put the tape on and you say, 'I see why [Colorado is in the championship game] now.'”
Additional notes -
*** Buffs defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt is one of five finalists for the Broyles Award, which honors the top assistant coach in college football. The other finalists are Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venebles, Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown and Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
*** Junior wide receiver Bryce Bobo practiced on Monday, according to MacIntyre, but he is still questionable for Friday. Bobo suffered an ankle sprain against Washington State on Nov. 19 and missed the Buffs' game against Utah.
“He is on a day-to-day basis,” MacIntyre said of Bobo. “We'll really make a decision at game time.”
*** The Buffs will be without two special teams contributors this Friday as Chris Hill and Jaleel Awini are suspended following an off-the-field incident last weekend, as reported by the Boulder Daily Camera.
*** Quarterback Sefo Liufau and defensive back Chidobe Awuzie shared team MVP honors at the team's annual senior banquet on Sunday morning. There were co-winners for four other awards, including outstanding freshman, which right guard Tim Lynott Jr. and quarterback Steven Montez shared.
“So many guys have done so many things and had excellent years and are well deserving,” MacIntyre said. “On a lot of those we were splitting hairs so we decided they should be co-winners. Everybody on our team would agree for sure.”
*** Walk-on quarterback Casey Marksberry was named the Offensive Scout Player of the Year, while outside linebacker Sam Bennion and walk-on defensive back Lucas Cooper shared the Defensive Scout Player of the Year honors.
“Another impressive scout team player this fall has been Derrion Rakestraw, a freshman receiver from Georgia,” Oliver said. “He has definitely given us some great looks and I am excited to see what he can do in the future.”