Vickers said he was glad to be going home for the holidays to play football, but that he had his sights set on the Fiesta Bowl. Oklahoma's 42-3 drubbing of the Buffs Saturday erased that possibility.
The team hit the practice field Tuesday for the first of three sessions this week. Coaches are stressing that with today's practice begins a new season. Vickers echoed that idea.
"We're going to take advantage of this opportunity," he said. "It's going to be the beginning of a new season for us. We're going to make this the beginning of the 2005 season.
"Instead of making this the last game, we're going to make it the first game. We're going to finish off strong to start off strong."
Another point of emphasis in bowl practices will be getting a longer look at some of the team's younger players. Vickers said the extra practice time is valuable in that regard alone.
"It is a big deal because you get an early look at some of the players you want to put in certain places," he said. "It's all about making plays in football. We have some playmakers that are leaving, so we're looking for some more playmakers to fill those shoes.
Vickers hasn't yet watched much film of the Miners, but knows they are 8-3 and will be looking for a win.
"You can't take anybody lightly, you can't take anybody for granted," he said. "This is a big game for us, to kind of weave out the loss (to OU)."
That loss put the Buffs in the Houston Bowl, and gave Oklahoma the right to play USC for the national championship in the Orange Bowl.
"They're a good team. But at the same time, we didn't play up to par; we didn't play like the Colorado Buffaloes," Vickers said about Oklahoma. "Not to say that was the reason we lost. They came out to be the hunters, and we got hunted."
Houston has traditionally been a recruiting ground for the Buffs, and the game vs. UTEP could give Colorado even more visibility. Vickers prepped at Forest Brook High in Houston
"This will give people a chance to see us in person, not just on TV," Vickers said. "It'll give the (high school players) a chance to really walk around and get a feel for how we are."
Also on Tuesday, Gary Barnett held his usual weekly press conference. Below are excerpts from the gathering.
On the Houston Bowl
I think this bowl game, for us, is a really good match from a standpoint that we get to go to Houston. For a lot of our players – being from the Houston-Dallas area – it will be great that their families will get to be at that game. Those guys will get to spend some time at home and then time around the bowl right after.
I think it's a great opportunity. We get to play a very good football team. We get ourselves about seven more days of practice this way, which if anybody watched the (Big 12 Championship) game last Saturday you could tell we need a little practice. We need to take advantage of that as much as we can.
We'll spend a lot of the time working with a big emphasis on our young guys, and that won't be hard since we are a young football team. But, we are going to put some more emphasis into our freshmen and sophomores to get them ready even prior to spring ball.
The game is played in a great venue; we played there in the Big 12 Championship two years ago. It's a great place to play, and we know the locker room.
I think the good thing about this bowl game is that we don't have to live with our (previous) game being our finale. That's what I see about this bowl game. I think our players won enough games to earn a bowl spot, and now we have to go play and earn a win. Everything has got to be earned during this time. I'm just thankful for our players that we don't have to end the year with the performance that we had last Saturday.
On the loss to OU in the Big 12 Championship
The question that has to be answered now is how we are going to respond from Saturday night. We were disappointed, obviously, in the way we played. We were disgusted is more like it, but it was what it was. We just have to get over it.
I know a year ago Oklahoma suffered a similar defeat almost identically, so now we just have to get beyond it. That's not going to be easy; there will be a hangover from it, but we'll get beyond it as coaches and players.
On UTEP, CU's opponent in Houston
I don't know if I can tell you much about them yet because I haven't been able to watch much film. They are a lot like Washington State scheme wise. If there is anybody I'd compare them to it'd be Washington State, athletically and scheme wise. They'll do the exact same things on offense. Their defense is a little bit different, but they're pretty close to Washington State.
On to motivate the players after Saturday's loss
It just becomes your total focus. You don't talk about anything else. They don't want to hang on that stuff either. They want to get it off their minds, they want to get rid of it, get the taste out of their mouths and get going. They want you to push them forward. So, that's what we're doing – pushing them forward.
On advice for USC against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl
It's their problem now. It was mine last week, but it's theirs now. That (Oklahoma) is a good football team, and they were on a mission. That running back (Adrian Peterson) is really impressive. He's Downhill Bill. There isn't any dancing with him. We're going to find out (who's the best). Oklahoma has to play the best (to win). Being ranked 1 or 2 doesn't make any difference. It's how you play, so we'll find out in that game.
Russell could play in Bowl game
Despite earlier speculation, Barnett said defensive back Chris Russell, who tore a quad muscle on special teams against OU, may be ready for the bowl game.
"He may not be as bad as we thought," Barnett said.
Senior defensive tackle Matt McChesney (elbow/arm) will most likely miss practice this week, while sophomore linebacker Thaddaeus Washington (concussion) will be sidelined a couple days, as well. Freshman linebacker Jordon Dizon (shoulder/neck stinger) "will mss most of the week and start back up next week," according to Barnett.
The team practiced Tuesday, and will continue Wednesday and Thursday before taking time off for finals. The Buffs also are tentatively scheduled to practice Dec. 16, 17, 18, 20 and 21 in Boulder. Players will be given the days after that off to join their families to celebrate the holidays. The team will depart late Christmas Day afternoon for Houston.