It's Division I football! It's the Big 12! ... Go play intramurals, brother. Go play intramurals.

Outside of Colorado, the previous Buffs' head coach is known more for those words than his failure to bring any of the Boise State magic to Boulder.

Mike Gundy has built a top-10 program in Stillwater working in the shadow of the Oklahoma Sooners. Unless you're a football junky, he's just the "I'm a man, I'm 40" lunatic.


My guess is that most coaches -- aside from Coastal Carolina's David Bennett, who gave us this beauty: "Meow! The cat's still going crazy in there. And I told our players, 'You need to be more like a dog. We don't need a bunch of cats in here.' Meow!" -- are going to make sure going forward that they use clich├ęs at press conferences instead of ending up on YouTube.

But Jon Embree, while lacking the cartoonish delivery, isn't afraid to express his inner football feelings when the cameras are rolling.

Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer
Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer ( PAUL AIKEN )

Before delving into the first-year Colorado head coach's Tuesday presser, let's revisit Mike Singletary's emotional plea to the San Francisco 49ers three years ago ...

"I'm from the old school. I believe this: I'd rather play with 10 people and just get penalized all the way until we have to do something else, rather than play with 11 when I know that right now that person is not sold out to be a part of this team," the Hall of Fame linebacker said after a lackluster performance by some of his star players. "It is more about them than it is about the team. Cannot play with them. Cannot win with them. Cannot coach with them. Can't do it.

"I want winners! I want people that want to win."

Three days removed from CU's unsavory 37-17 loss to Ohio State, Embree was able to calmly express a similar view.

Contrary to what the 1-3 record screams, the Buffs have some good football players on the roster who are sick and tired of losing. There are also players in the program who work as hard and want to win as much as Embree and Eric Bieniemy did when they were wearing shoulder pads.

How many winners are there? We'll find out who has bought in and who's out this Saturday when CU plays its first official Pac-12 game against Washington State at Folsom Field.

"It's not a right, it's a privilege to play for Colorado. We're not just going to suit you up to suit you up. You've got to earn it and prove that it's important to you," Embree said. "We might be like an NFL team, all of a sudden there are 48 (players) out there."

Embree takes the blame for the special teams fiasco in Columbus. Due to an overall lack of depth in the program, and a fear of losing key players to injuries, inexperienced and/or backup players were given the opportunity to help the team on the kick and coverage units.

"I thought we would have little more depth at certain positions," Embree said when asked about his preseason expectations gone awry. "I thought there are some guys who are backups that would be better and keep pushing themselves. There are some guys that seem to be content being No. 2. I've never understood that."

Now veterans who proved themselves on special teams years ago, like starting safety Ray Polk, will be asked to do more dirty work, in addition to handling their regular responsibilities.

"We've got the conditioning to do it. It's just a new role that we have to fill," Polk said. "I think for a lot of fans it's hard to watch, too. Most of the guys that are playing special teams for us ... they're young, they're still trying to figure out their role on this team, and it was hard to watch.

"But we've got a bunch of upperclassmen coming in on special teams, so it should be a different look this week."

CU's running game, a point of emphasis during spring drills and fall camp, has failed behind an offensive line weakened by injuries.

CU's pass defense, which is preparing for the nation's fourth-ranked air attack, is super model-thin with cornerbacks Parker Orms, Travis Sandersfeld, Vince Ewing, Arthur Jaffee and Jered Bell spending more time together in the training room than on the field this fall.

CU's most talented player, Paul Richardson, has been limited to eight catches and no touchdowns since grabbing the complete attention of opposing defenses with a record-setting performance against Cal.

Despite all of the adversity, Embree still believes in these Buffs. Or at least some of them.

"The right guys are still excited and enthusiastic," he said. "That's a good sign."

Another positive sign, according to Ohio State interim head coach Luke Fickell, is that the big, bad Buckeyes were bruised and battered after Saturday's game.

The Buffs are playing a physical style this season. Now they need to play a smarter brand of football.

And the players deemed worthy of taking the field need to believe they can be successful as much as the head coach believes they can.

"I expected to be sitting here 4-0, that's just me. That's how I go into stuff. If I'm playing Michael Jordan in hoops, just figure out a way. Foul him or something. Make him shoot with his left hand. Whatever it is you can do, right? That's just my mentality," Embree said. "To me, it's getting the rest of the team to truly have these same expectations, to truly have the same feeling or passion that I have about it.

"There's guys that do ... obviously not enough of them feel that way. So I have to continue to try to get everybody to feel that same way."

As Herm Edwards, who Embree worked for with the Kansas City Chiefs, once put it:

"You play to win the game. Hello!"

The fragile Buffs still have a chance to realize their dreams with a fresh start in the Pac-12 looming.

But they've got to start playing like winners, beginning Saturday.