Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer
Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer ( PAUL AIKEN )
The last time the 2001 Buffs were all on Folsom Field together, the student body joined them for a raucous postgame party to celebrate an afternoon simply known in these parts as 62-36.

Believe it or not, Colorado's 2011 team has a few things in common with the program's only Big 12 championship squad.

Before beating No. 12 Kansas State on the road, making No. 2 Nebraska suffer through six Chris Brown touchdown runs, upsetting Texas in the conference title game at Texas Stadium, or coming within decimal points of the BCS championship game ...

CU lost the opener to a WAC team on ESPN2.

Fresno State, with the help of five turnovers, escaped Folsom Field with a 24-22 victory to drop Gary Barnett's best team to 0-1.

Now Jon Embree, a talented young CU assistant 10 years ago, must rally the Buffs and keep championship dreams alive after Saturday's 34-17 loss at Hawaii.

"The thing I recall about that year is losing to Fresno State," Embree said during his weekly press conference at the Dal Ward Center. "The first game ... right where we run out behind Ralphie (is) that corner where we threw that pick and lost 24-22. Just the resolve that team had. Realizing that everything they still wanted to obtain, all the goals they wanted were still out there."

Another similarity between the 2001 and 2011 Buffs is that both rosters are loaded with seniors.

Dan Graham, Andre Gurode, Justin Bannan,Jashon Sykes and Michael Lewis desperately wanted a championship ring before moving on to the NFL.


Tyler Hansen, Rodney Stewart, Ryan Miller, Conrad Obi and Anthony Perkins simply want to experience a brick-worthy moment or two after suffering through three losing seasons.

Let's face it, other than dynamic sophomore wide receiver Paul Richardson, there aren't very many members of the 2011 Buffs who would be locks to start on the 2001 team.

Which makes it unfair for Embree to compare the different eras.

"With the exception of us talking about getting the bricks, I really have not talked about the past too much," Embree said. "I want to be careful about trying to compare them with past players, past teams. We need to find our identity. We're at a different stage."

Barnett and his Buffs will be making public appearances on the Pearl Street Mall Friday night and during a halftime ceremony at Folsom Field Saturday.

Perhaps they will point out to the new generation in the pregame locker room that once upon a time they were able to bounce back from a bitter opening day loss with a 41-14 mauling of then-No. 24 Colorado State in Denver.

Or that they quickly shook off a 41-7 drubbing at Texas with wins over Oklahoma State, Missouri and Iowa State, which gave them the momentum to stun the Huskers and Longhorns.

Imagine that? A decade ago the Buffs actually delivered 10 wins and no excuses.

"It was a great year and a group of guys, similar to this group from the standpoint that there were a lot of seniors on that team," Embree said. "And they just decided that they were not going to have their senior year end any other way than with a successful year."

The story of the 2011 Buffs has yet to be written. There are still 12 games remaining on the schedule, including Saturday's non-conference home opener against future Pac-12 rival Cal.

Barnett's teams were at their best when he was able to create an us-against-the-world mentality. Considering there were still 7,000 tickets left for Embree's Folsom Field debut, maybe the current Buffs can adopt a similar mantra.

"We have to get to where we can compete and be consistent and play at a certain standard and practice at a certain standard every day," Embree said. "I don't think we're at a place in our program where we can say, 'Hey, let's be like this team or that team.' ...

"I've really tried to stay away from doing that to them. And I've stayed away from talking about when I was a player or Eric (Bieniemy) was a player as much as possible. I want them to understand that it is about them."

Embree has made it clear from the start of camp that he wants the focus of this season to be on the senior class and not about his return to Boulder. Although the fan base believes in the new coach, outside the gates of the CU practice fields nobody really thinks this team will make a splash in the Pac-12 or go to a bowl game. 

Of course, the bandwagon was pretty empty one game into the 2001 season. And the year ended with a Fiesta (Bowl).