Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer
Ryan Thorburn, Camera Sports Writer ( PAUL AIKEN )
Believe it or not, a healthy number of Buffs don't want this season to end.

And others feel like this is just the beginning of something special.

The combination of a large senior class thirsty for success and 13 true freshmen having already been thrown into the mix has created an interesting chemistry on the Colorado football team.

From outside the gates of the practice field, it would seem only natural that a 1-5 record would be devastating for morale.

Especially given the fact that CU has already let home wins against Cal and Washington slip away late and suffered lopsided road losses at Ohio State and Stanford.

But first-year head coach Jon Embree doesn't have to give Knute Rockne speeches to motivate these Buffaloes to roam from Saturday to Saturday with their heads up.

"The seniors understand how the clock is running," Embree said when asked about the mental state of his team during a Tuesday press conference. "Part of it that helps is having a lot of young guys that are playing. It's still their first time going through it, so there's natural excitement on their part.

"It's been a good blend. Our staff has done a good job of keeping them focused on the task at hand and keeping them focused and energized."

Deep down, Tyler Hansen and his classmates realize the odds of finishing their careers in a bowl game are about the same as Kyle Orton's chances of starting for the Broncos in aSuper Bowl.

That doesn't mean they can't leave the program with a smile on their faces.

"We still have a lot to play for. The good thing is we're still playing football," Hansen said. "It hasn't gone the way we wanted it to, but we're still having fun and playing the game we love. ... Hopefully, these last seven games we can get some good, positive experiences and end this thing with a bang."

This is the time of year when college football teams either get busy living or get busy dying.

Typically, 1-5 teams are ready to have dirt shoveled on them.

"What is your motivation has a determining factor in that. Obviously, teams that have a lot to play for are going to continue to improve," Embree said. "There are a lot of different things that go into it, but ultimately I think it comes down to what you are playing for."

So what are the Buffs playing for?

"As I said after the game, 'The seniors, a lot of you only have seven guaranteed opportunities left to play the game, not just for this year, but I'm talking about forever,'" Embree said. "If they love the game, they are going to miss it. If they love the game, they are going to sit back three or four years from now and reflect on this year. So they have seven opportunities left if they are lucky and stay healthy and go all the way through it."

If all goes according to Embree's long-term plan, what doesn't kill young players like Greg Henderson and Tyler McCulloch and Will Oliver this season will only make them stronger when they're finishing their careers on the other end of the standings.

"For some of the younger guys, it is their first time playing and there's the excitement of getting to go play another game," Embree said. "You just have to continue to do that and find different ways to help your team improve, because the guys that are coming back, you don't want to be starting all over again next year on the same things. As you build this program, you want to keep instilling certain values, whether it is how you practice, how you play, being prepared, all those things.

"You can't change that, you have to keep reinforcing the standard and you have to keep holding the players to that standard."

To their credit, the team leaders vow not to add insult to the many injuries the Buffs have sustained already.

Losing a small army of cornerbacks and a dynamic player like Paul Richardson will not be an excuse to roll over for Washington on Saturday at Husky Stadium.

CU's next road win, if it were to take place this season, would be a game the senior class would be able to remember fondly at reunions in the decades to come.

"When I think back to my senior year, I really don't think you begin to reflect on it until your last couple games, then you realize that it is about to be over," Embree said. "We have seven games left, we've played six, it's a long season and I don't think they have gotten to that point where they are kind of reminiscing yet."

The Huskies were 0-12 in 2008. The seniors on the 2009 team were not able to quite get over the hump during Steve Sarkisian's first season in Seattle, finishing 5-7.

However, the four Pac-10 wins the group celebrated helped jump start the rebuilding project at Washington. The Huskies beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl last season and are 4-1 this fall (2-0 in the Pac-12).

CU's senior class still has a chance to lay a similar foundation.

"We're great," senior safety Anthony Perkins said of the Buffs' attitude. "There's definitely a sense of urgency right now. We have seven more games to play for this university. Everyone's aware of that. We want to make sure we make the most of those opportunities. ... In all reality, the season isn't halfway over yet."