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Utah football: Colorado trying to regain respectability

Published November 28, 2013 9:42 pm

College football • Buffs have improved under coach Mike MacIntyre.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When Utah and Colorado joined the Pac-12, league officials envisioned a big rivalry forming between the two programs.

They're still waiting.

Over the past three seasons the two, um, rivals, have been more like sympathetic brothers as both have struggled to rise from the bottom of the league standings.

Supposedly the rivalry is the "Rumble in the Rockies," according to the Pac-12, but it has been more like the tumble in the cellar. Utah (4-7, 1-7) is closing out its second losing season in a row on Saturday while Colorado (4-7, 1-7) has suffered losing seasons ever since it went 6-6 in 2007.

That year also marks Colorado's last bowl appearance, with the Buffs losing to Alabama 30-24 in the Independence Bowl.

Since then, the Buffs are 21-51 and have gone through three coaches, with Dan Hawkins (2006-10), Jon Embree (2010-12) and Mike MacIntyre all taking turns at the helm.

The Utes at least have the excuse of moving from a mid-major conference to a BCS league as the source of many of their struggles.

Colorado doesn't have that luxury. Instead, the Buffs went from a solid program that won four Big 12 titles and a split national title with Georgia Tech in 1990 to obscurity.

The decline started during the end of Gary Barnett's tenure, with the Buffs going 5-7 in 2003, 8-5 in 2004 and 7-6 in 2005. Barnett was forced to resign in December of 2005 amid recruiting violation charges and sexual harassment allegations.

Football has been a struggle for the Buffs ever since.

MacIntyre has at least breathed some life into a program that was coming off its worst seasons in school history under Embree.

The Buffs still rank near the bottom of the national rankings in several categories but have won the same number of games this year than they did in the two previous years combined.

Wisely, MacIntyre declined to put any kind of timeframe on Colorado's rebuilding, taking a stance similar to Utah coach Kyle Whittingham in stating he just wants to see improvement.

"It takes time to build a program in an elite conference," he said. "As long as you keep seeing progress, everybody is doing well in school and everybody is moving in the same direction it will and can be done...We have to keep working and it happens when it happens."

Hearing MacIntyre's response, Whittingham nodded in agreement. He has been there and is there.

"It is a very competitive environment and it takes time," Whittingham said. "It's a process, like most everything else is."

MacIntyre has faced a similar coaching challenge, having resurrected San Jose State during his three-year stint with the program earning a 10-2 record in 2012 and making its first appearance in the BCS poll.

But winning in the WAC was one thing. Winning in a BCS conference is a whole other challenge, MacIntyre said.

"You don't wave a magic wand in a BCS conference and get it done," he said. "You keep showing improvement and progress. We have shown that and we will continue to do that and it takes perspective and perseverance, daily, and we will get there."

MacIntyre said he sees improvement in the physicality of the defense as well as the offense too.

"We're seeing them be more consistent and having kids make plays," he said. "As they get more and more comfortable hopefully they'll continue to make plays."

The headliner for the Buffs is receiver Paul Richardson, who is seventh nationally averaging 117.2 receiving yards a game. His quarterback for the last seven games has been freshman Sefo Liufau, who is 126-of-205 for 1,538 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions since replacing Connor Wood who struggled in the first half of the year.

Lacking star power, MacIntyre said the Buffs needed to get better through recruiting, but feels confident in the direction of the team.

A win against the Utes would be a good way for the Buffs to go out, he acknowledged.

"We are playing harder and better in the Pac-12 as the year's gone along," he said. "We have to keep improving. It's a process and steps are being made daily. We need to finish off strong and hopefully get a 'W,'" he said.

lwodraska@sltrib.com

Buffaloed

Colorado's record since 2005 season:

2005 • 7-6, 5-3 (Big 12)*

2006 • 2-10, 2-6

2007 • 6-7, 4-4 (includes loss to Alabama in Independence Bowl)

2008 • 5-7, 2-6

2009 • 3-9, 2-6

2010 • 5-7, 2-6

2011 • 3-10, 2-7 (Pac-12)

2012 • 1-11, 1-8

2013 • 4-7, 1-7

*Includes loss to Clemson in Champs Sports Bowl —

Colorado at Utah

O Saturday, noon

TV • Pac-12 Network