After a 45-2 crushing at the hands of the explosive Oregon Ducks, Colorado Coach Jon Embree challenged his seniors to create a legacy that they can be proud of as the Buffs close out the 2011 campaign.
“What do they want?” asked Embree. “I had everyone stand up who is going to be here for 2012 so the seniors could see. It is up to them because they are the leaders. It is their team, and [they need] to continue to create a sense of urgency, a purpose.”
The season hasn’t been easy on any of the Buffs, but it’s undoubtedly been especially trying on the seniors, who, after the Oregon game, know that any chance of participating in a bowl game has drifted away. However, the class of 2012 has maintained a positive attitude, despite their dismal record in Boulder.
“There are guys that want to leave a legacy and help show these kids how to win,” said Embree. “[They want to] try and help springboard us into 2012. There have been some varying things, but the one common theme is that they still want to win, they still want to prepare, they still want us to coach them hard and prepare them hard, and that is what we will continue to do.”
Colorado goes into their next game against Arizona State as major underdogs, a common trend this year. The Sun Devils’ offense isn’t quite as prolific as Oregon’s, but CU’s piecemeal secondary will likely struggle to defend against the ASU passing game, led by quarterback Brock Osweiler.
Osweiler, a 6-foot 8-inch junior, completes passes at close to a 67 percent clip and ranks second in the Pac-12 with almost 300 yards of total offense per game, leading the Sun Devils to 34.1 points per game. CU’s defensive backfield, which has been torn apart the past three weeks, both by opponents and by injuries, will have another long day.
Added to the injured list this past weekend was starting quarterback Tyler Hansen, who suffered a concussion on an uncalled late hit by the Ducks, much to the chagrin of Embree. Hansen’s status is in question for Saturday.
However, Colorado’s top deep threat, Paul Richardson, could return this week, interjecting some desperately needed speed into the Buffs’ offense. Richardson has missed the past three games, nursing a sprained knee suffered in practice.
With or without Hansen or Richardson, the Buffs figure to be tormented by Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict, considered by many to be the best defensive player in the Pac- 12.
“He is the straw that stirs the drink with them,” Embree said. “He brings the emotional energy. If it moves, he is going to hit it. That will be conveyed to our team, so don’t be jogging out there and relaxing and thinking the play is over. He plays to the echo of the whistle.”
While CU will likely be looking at its sixth consecutive loss, there is no doubt that the Buffs have been extraordinarily resilient and selfless throughout the course of the season, with freshmen volunteering to burn redshirts midway through the year, giving up a year of eligibility.
“I think that says a lot about this team, and I think it says a lot about some of these guys, because they have burned their redshirt,” said Embree. “But at the same time, I think they see it as a way to get ready for the future. They have done a good job.”