No. 19 Buffs focused, ready for challenge at Trojans
BOULDER » Although Colorado has been playing football for nearly 130 years, the Buffaloes can’t match Southern California’s rich history.
USC has won 11 national titles, featured six Heisman Trophy winners and 168 AllAmericans and plays in one of the game’s most historic venues, the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Will any of that matter Saturday night when the No. 19 Buffaloes (50, 20 Pac12) square off with the Trojans (32, 21) in the Coliseum?
“No,” CU quarterback Steven Montez said this week. “I don’t think so. Every year is a new year.”
Forget USC’s history, and don’t focus too much on the fact that CU is 012 in its history against the Trojans. This might be the best chance CU has ever had of walking off the field with a victory against USC.
“I think that USC has a lot of confidence because historically they have been good and they’re good year in and year out,” Montez said. “I think they should be confident because they win games and they do well.
“I think we’re a confident team this year, as well.”
CU continues to gain confidence each week. Off to its best start in 20 years, the Buffs have already exceeded many outside expectations, but realize they’ve done nothing to warrant going into this showdown overconfident.
“If we lose this game, people are going to be saying it’s the same old Buffs from last year,” senior safety Nick Fisher said. “We just want to really go in there and play our ball. It’s all about Colorado. That’s what we’re mostly focused on is playing good ball for us.
“(Starting 50) definitely feels good, but we understand that things can be taken from us. The more we win, the more people want to knock you off.”
To get to 50, the Buffs have played exceptional defense, Montez has been sharp all season, and receiver Laviska Shenault has been one of the brightest stars in college football.
What head coach Mike MacIntyre really likes, however, is how this group has approached the season.
Ironically, one of the best qualities about this team is that it has taken on the personality of Montez, whose maturity and leadership were question marks before the season.
“They’re focused but they’re loose,” MacIntyre said. “Sometimes guys get real focused and get real tight, and to try to overcome it they get real loose and they can’t focus. This group can focus and be loose, which is a great attribute to be able to perform at your highest level. It’s pretty rare when you have a whole group that can do that.
“The true leader of that is Steven. That’s Steven. He’s focused, but he’s loose. He enjoys playing, he loves practicing, he loves being around the guys, he’s got a great personality. They’ve taken to that. At the same time they see how much he’s studying now and he comes prepared and he comes focused. They see that you can do both.”
Doing both has put CU in position for a golden opportunity this week. Beat the Trojans and the Buffs will be in the driver’s seat for the Pac12 South title. They know that, but they aren’t getting ahead of themselves.
“Practice was intense,” Fisher said after a workout this week. “You would think we were 05 instead of 50.”
Defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson said he felt a higher level of intensity this week. AFA: at San Diego State, late Friday. CSU: vs. New Mexico, 2 p.m., AT&T Sports UNC: at Portland State, 3 p.m.,
CU: at Southern Cal, 8:30 p.m.,
Wyoming: at Fresno State,
8:30 p.m., ESPNU
“I think the key factor in this whole thing is that we don’t let it get to our head,” Johnson said. “Our coaches do a good job of letting us know during practice that, yeah, we’ve been winning, but ... we have more games to play, and we want to keep this going, so we can’t get a big head and start thinking past what we have next.”
What’s next is a chance to put history aside and write a new chapter.
“(Football) is dudes on the field between the white lines,” MacIntyre said, “and they always have good dudes. How we play, how we handle it will be important.”
This just might be the CU team best equipped to handle it.