BOULDER - Football teams, particularly young ones, can linger on losses. Exception to the rule: The Colorado Buffaloes. They didn't linger on the three unsightly defeats they absorbed before opening Pac-12 Conference play last weekend at Washington State, rallying from 17 points back in the fourth quarter to win by a point.
Now, the questions become: Will the Buffs linger on a 'W?' Can they handle a short but satisfying swig of success?
The Buffs and their coach believe so. They are at home on Saturday against UCLA (4 p.m., Pac-12 Network) and they're still oh-fer this season at Folsom Field, where Sacramento State shocked them (30-28) earlier this month in their only home game to date.
CU quarterback Jordan Webb said he and his teammates are "feeling confident, hopefully not cocky. But that's not the (right) word, that's not how any of us are wired. So I don't think it should be a problem, we have to put (the WSU win) behind us. It won't matter on Saturday whether we had won or lost the previous Saturday. We just have to go out there and give it our best shot."
Tight end DaVaughn Thornton called the dramatic 35-34 win in Pullman, Wash., "a great, beautiful victory that we'll still reminisce on . . . but it's over. If we don't win on Saturday, that one was all for nothing. We'll be back to where we were.
"But I believe wholeheartedly that was a stepping stone. I've been here for four years now and there was something about that win . . . not to take anything away from Utah, but there was something about that Washington State win. It was like, 'OK, let's go.'"
Added fellow tight end Kyle Slavin on the win at Wazzu: "I think it's already in the past. All it really does is get our energy level back up and everyone around us back up. But I think we're already focusing on UCLA; that's no easy task this week. We believed in ourselves, but it still was a good thing to get that victory."
Next on the to-do list is a home win. With consecutive Pac-12 road wins, counting the season-ending trip to Utah in 2011 and 17-14 triumph, one of CU's priorities is re-creating a home-field advantage - something that Buffs teams of late have let slide. CU was 1-4 at Folsom last season. The most recent winning record at home was compiled in 2010, a 4-2 record that was matched in 2008.
Webb said if the Buffs' frustration from the previous weekend - a 69-14 smackdown at Fresno State - could be pushed behind them, then surely they can properly deal with the season's first win.
"As athletes we were about as frustrated as you can be, disappointed with how Fresno went," he said. "It speaks volumes of how we are as a team, being able to bounce back and not only win but come from behind and win. It felt really good to win; it was a little bit of a monkey off our backs. But we also know that game's over; we've got another challenge coming up this weekend with UCLA. Every week you've got a challenge. We know that."
The Pac-12 offensive player-of-the-week for his four-touchdown performance (two passing, two rushing) at WSU, Webb said the Buffs "played with energy the entire (WSU) game, which is something we haven't done and been consistent with. That's great. The whole time we kept our heads up . . . it was great to see the whole team working together and kind of being one cohesive group."
Coach Jon Embree didn't seem concerned about his young team digesting its first win and re-focusing on UCLA. He said it was discussed in the jubilant locker room last weekend: "It's 24 hours and then we move. They'll be handled appropriately . . . I'm not worried about it; they're going to respond how they're going to respond. Whatever happens Saturday, whatever happened last week is not really going to have a bearing on it. It's going to be another step in our process with these kids. We haven't won a home game yet. There's a lot out there for them to go out and get."
Through his team's three consecutive losses to open the season, Embree said he had detected no red flags that his younger players had lost focus or confidence in how they were being coached. Telltale signs would have been tardiness or absences from study table and class, slacking in the weight room, even in dress, he noted.
"The things you look for as a coach - are they still doing the little things," he said. "Those, to me, are the red flags saying 'we're giving up' or 'oh well' - whatever it is you want to say. Those things have never dipped. We've had great class attendance, great effort on that side of the program . . . same in the weight room, same in when they get on the field."
The Buffs, said Webb, aspire to be "the kind of team that plays to the very end no matter what the score is . . . moving forward, we just have to build on it."
NOT A DOUBTING THOMAS (OR JORDAN): Webb scored CU's game-tying touchdown last weekend on a 4-yard quarterback draw with nine seconds to play. He also scored in the third quarter on a one-yard sneak and completed 29-of-42 passes for 345 yards and touchdowns of 16 yards to receiver Nelson Spruce and 70 yards to tight end Nick Kasa.
Webb also took a helmet to the mid-section that forced him out of the game for a play in the fourth quarter. But he bounced back to guide the Buffs on their game-winning march.
After three frustrating weeks, it was easily Webb's finest game as Buff. The Kansas transfer said he never doubted he eventually would experience success at CU: "No, I'm not that type of person . . . I'm here for a reason, the coaches believe in me for a reason. I think that reason is because I'm a good player. I'm definitely not going to doubt myself now."
At KU, Webb started 19 games and won four. Before Saturday's game, he was the QB in 13 consecutive losses. Embree wasn't aware of that statistic and said from day one in Boulder, Webb had exhibited leadership and a swagger throughout August practice.
"I think a lot of it with Jordan was probably in how he was raised," Embree said. "When you have a good support system, good coaches around you when you're growing up and people telling you you can and helping you believe in yourself and helping you see the positives in some of the setbacks you have, that adds to it.
"There's no way you can play at this level - whether you're losing or winning - if you don't believe in yourself at the end of the day. We have some guys in that locker room down there that haven't played a down, but they're going in the Hall of Fame if you asked them. That's got to be within your DNA, your makeup . . . and you've got to be able to block it out. When they're saying bad things about you, you can't listen; and when they're saying good things about you, you can't listen."
He said keeping an even keel while pushing to improve were critical elements, and Webb "does a good job of that."
BUFF BITS: This is Breast Cancer Awareness week and the Buffs will wear a pink accessory Saturday against the Bruins. Embree said the disease has hit close to home with the football program, athletic department and school. "We want to do all we can to help with awareness," he said. "So wear your black and your pink." . . . . Embree is familiar with UCLA. He was an assistant there under Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel and knows some of the Bruins assistants who coached in the NFL and elsewhere. But he is not as well-acquainted with first-year head coach Jim Mora, Jr., having been with him only on a couple of occasions . . . . UCLA tailback Jonathan "Jet Ski" Franklin had strung together three consecutive 100-plus yard rushing games before being held to 45 by Oregon State. Still, Franklin ranks fourth nationally in rushing (146.5 yards a game) . . . . Freshman Brett Hundley is the first Bruins QB to throw for at least 300 yards in three consecutive games. He's second in the Pac-12 in passing offense (299.7 yards a game) . . . . CU leads the series with UCLA 5-2, but the Bruins won in a breeze (45-6) last season in the Rose Bowl.