BOULDER – Saturday will mark the Folsom Field finale for 14 Buff seniors, and nothing would mean more to Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre and his staff than to help those seniors culminate their careers with one final victory in front of the home fans.
All 14 players will be honored on the field prior to Saturday’s kick-off against the Southern California Trojans. It is a long-standing college football tradition to celebrate the careers of the seniors prior to their final home game, but that penultimate finale may have somewhat of a different meaning for this Buff senior class. They have each fought through constant coaching instability and a lack of on-field success with nothing but a consistently positive attitude and the hearts of champions.
“They’ve been through so much with us being the third different staff that they’ve had here, so it would be extra special to send them out on a high note,” said MacIntyre. “I made it clear to them right (when I arrived) that this is their team and this is their year.”
They all arrived during the tumultuous final two years of the Dan Hawkins era. After he was fired with three games remaining in a lackluster 2010 season, they played out the remainder of the schedule under interim-head coach Brian Cabral and headed into the subsequent offseason with a great deal of uncertainty swirling over the program. Jon Embree was hired as head coach shortly thereafter but just two years later he too was gone due to a lack of success.
The sense of instability once again reared its ugly head. In the midst of all that change and with the option to transfer a possibility, those 14 players stayed and fought. And after four years of futility, they have helped make the 2013 season an encouraging one which may set the table for the resurgence of the program in the years to come.
“It’s been hard on them,” said MacIntyre. “Even when we came in they looked at us sideways because they had been through this before and they weren’t sure it would work. But they believed in what we were doing and trusted us and we have trusted them. They all have stayed very positive (throughout their careers) and to me that’s been very impressive by them. I want to win this one for them more than anything.”
If that Buffs’ senior class is to get that final home win, it will have to be done against one of the nation’s hottest teams. The Trojans are riding high after a four-game winning streak and will come to Boulder equipped with one of the nation’s most high-powered offenses and a stifling defense that has limited their opponents to just 15.5 points per game during that span.
The Buffs will practice again on Thursday morning as they continue to prepare for Saturday’s matchup (7:30 pm, Pac-12 Network).
HANDLER, HARRIS CONTINUE TO IMPROVE: During Wednesday’s post-practice media session, Macintyre spoke highly of senior offensive linemen Jack Harris and Gus Handler, both of whom he believes have shown enormous signs of development during his first year on campus.
“I think both of them have progressed,” MacIntyre said. “I think that from the spring when I got here, we moved Jack from right tackle to left tackle. That’s a little bit different because you usually get the best pass rusher most of the time. I think he has handled that well.
“Gus, from the spring to now, has been a lot more physical at the center spot. I thought as the year went on he’s been getting better and better. At the center spot, you have to think a lot. You have to get the snap then you have to make the block so, I think the reason he may not have been as sharp in the spring as he has been in the fall is because he was learning everything. It paralyzes you when you have to think, snap, correct and I thought he really has had a good senior year for us.”