BOULDER - The numbers are ugly, the mood outside the locker room even uglier. After a game that saw the Colorado defense allow most of Fresno State's 69 points and all of its 665 yards, Buffs strong safety Terrel Smith understands the outside frustration that has reached the boiling point.

But it's nothing compared to what's bubbling within.

"I am aware of it, but I don't let it affect my play and none of these players on defense or offense are affected by that either," Smith said Monday. "The outside people aren't on the field, so they can say whatever they want but we still believe and still have faith. We're still going to go out and try to improve after last week."

As did several of his teammates following CU's 69-14 loss on Saturday night, Smith shouldered blame that's being heaped on the defensive staff - particularly on coordinator Greg Brown.

"Every player in the locker room knows it's not the coaches, it's us," said Smith, whose five solo tackles (six total) topped the Buffs Saturday night. "Coach Brown has been doing everything he can, every game this year. It's not the coaches, it's us. We know that. We've put it on our shoulders to get some of that heat off of his shoulders. It makes us players mad . . . we have to change it."

Change needs to happen soon. Saturday night's humbling loss dropped the Buffs to 0-3, with Pac-12 Conference play opening Saturday afternoon at Washington State (2 p.m. MDT, FX).

Coach Jon Embree said Monday there is a chance that starting cornerback Greg Henderson (ankle) can return this week. But he made no mention of free safety Ray Polk (ankle) coming back. In the absence of Henderson, a sophomore, and Polk, a senior, CU's secondary has featured true freshmen Yuri Wright and Kenneth Crawley at cornerbacks, with freshman Marques Mosley playing safety/nickel.

It's OJT for the young Buffs, and it has been far from painless - which Smith, a junior, understands."When I was a freshman I made mistakes back there trying to get in the groove of things," he said. "They're improving, learning. It's going to take bad plays for them to learn what to do and what not to do . . . it is unfortunate, but you learn by mistakes. Hopefully they'll improve every game for the rest of the year."

CU is the Pac-12's only winless team and is last in the league in a handful of team categories and next-to-last in several others. In major categories, the Buffs are No. 12 in total defense (476.3 yards allowed a game), scoring defense (40.3 points allowed a game) and total offense (289.7 yards a game).

Washington State (2-1) hasn't yet produced as prolific an offense as first-year coach Mike Leach desires, but with Leach it seems inevitable that he finds a quarterback and transforms him into a record-setter. His offense at Wazzu is averaging 21.7 points a game and 346.7 total yards (284.7 passing). During his 10-year stay at Texas Tech, Leach's spread offenses led the nation in passing six times.

In the Cougars' 35-27 win last Friday night at UNLV, backup Connor Halliday completed 26 of 45 passes for 378 yards and four touchdowns (two interceptions). Leach hasn't said whether Halliday or injury-prone starter Jeff Tuel will open on Saturday.

CU faced Tuel's backup last season in WSU's visit to Boulder. Marshall Loebestael threw two of his three TD passes in the final 2:35 - the last with 1:10 to play - to lead the Cougars to a 31-27 win and spoil the Buffs' Pac-12 debut.

Whoever starts on homecoming weekend for Wazzu, he'll have one of the conference's top receivers among his targets. Marquess Wilson, a 6-4, 185-pound junior, had a pair of TD receptions against UNLV and caught the 63-yarder that beat the Buffs last season. He's made 13 receptions for 218 yards and two TDs this season, but he's had help from Isiah Myers (16-153, 3 TDs) and Gabe Marks (12-219, TD).

Smith promised improvement from the secondary against the Cougars: "Looking at film of last game, we know what mistakes were made and we'll correct them for this game and the rest of the season."

QB COMPETITION: Embree said weekly quarterback competition will continue and he will "know more Thursday," but he added, "I still imagine Jordan (Webb) will be the first one out there (Saturday)."

Webb has started all three games, but backups Connor Wood and Nick Hirschman were used at Fresno State. None were effective, with the trio combining for these passing stats: 11-of-30 for 173 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.

Hirschman threw the fewest number of passes (three, completing one) and didn't throw an interception. Webb and Wood threw two apiece, with each throwing a pick that was returned for a score.

It was Hirschman's first game duty of the season. "I felt very comfortable," he said. "I've been in the offense for a while now and had some live snaps last year. They didn't throw anything at us that we didn't practice for. So in that respect I felt good. Of course, you don't feel good about the loss . . . but other than that I felt pretty good."

He said he hopes for another opportunity this weekend: "There's nothing better than going out on a Saturday no matter where you're playing. It's a real privilege to go out and play college football. We're working on improving some things and getting better."

Hirschman underscored the obvious about the winless Buffs: "Everybody's down, of course," he said. "It's not the way we were taught to play football from the time we were little kids up to now. This team hasn't lost faith in each other, we haven't lost faith in our staff and we haven't lost faith in our game plans. So we're going to continue to grind and make next week a better situation."

NO SURPRISES ON TAPE: Upon further review, Embree saw nothing different in watching the Fresno State tape than he witnessed on Saturday night.

"Same thing I saw on the field," he said. "We got jumped on early. It was 28-0 . . . there were too many explosive (plays), short play drives for them. Now you're in a game offensively where you've got to throw and do all kinds of stuff. We're not a team that just drops back and throws it from a protection standpoint. For us to move it down the field we need to play-action and all that."

He said he was scheduled to meet with his staff and several players on Monday night, and those meetings could produce personnel changes for this weekend's game: "I'll know more after some more dialogue with certain people . . . we've had some scheme discussions already (on) different things we can do better or differently that will help us do better on game day. We get it done on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; we've got to get it done on Saturdays."

The Buffs' effort at Fresno State was satisfactory "for the most part," Embree said. "It's just details. If you're supposed to be inside a guy, be inside the guy. A 12-yard route isn't an 8-yard route - it's those kinds of things. Sometimes you get out there and get going and you don't execute. You get excited and don't do your thing. That's not all the problem. It's everybody, it's all of us. We've all got to be better."

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU