No. 19 Buffs fo­cused, ready for chal­lenge at Tro­jans

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Brian How­ell

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.,

Pluto TV

CU: at South­ern Cal, 8:30 p.m.,

FS1

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.

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