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

This season is taking a physical toll on the Buffs.

And not just on all of the injured players.

Jon Embree has to cough his way through postgame comments. Colorado's head coach is literally sick of losing and it has been that way for weeks.

Eric Bieniemy's voice is as raspy as a life-long chain smoker. The offensive coordinator would benefit from a lengthy vow of silence, but there is so much coaching and hollering to do.

Greg Brown looks like he hasn't slept since July, which probably isn't too much of a stretch. The defensive coordinator's tired face turned white as a ghost when he noticed Chidera Uzo-Diribe limping into the locker room with a painful high ankle sprain.

This CU coaching staff is doing its best. Unfortunately, that hasn't been good enough to make any progress in their second year on this job together.

The video department can't make a motivational presentation powerful enough for the Buffs to will their way to victories over the Pac-12's more talented teams as they did in the fourth quarter at rebuilding Washington State.

UCLA was the Harlem Globetrotters and CU was the Washington Generals on Saturday at Folsom Field.

Bruins 42, Buffs 14.

The September Jon Embree was hoping would put the program in position for a bowl game ended with a 1-4 thud.

If the Buffs could play Colorado State, Sacramento State, Fresno State and Washington State after the bye week, they'd probably do pretty well.


But as Bill Parcells once said: You are what your record says you are.

CU's Rock(ed)-tober schedule features games against Arizona State, at USC and at Oregon.

The Buffs had better have one hell of a bye week.

"We're growing up," Embree said. "We don't have a lot to show it, but we have taken strides. There were tears in the locker room. Guys still care and are still competing and fighting.

"At times, we're just over-matched."

So what are these improvements that the coaches are seeing?

Well, CU's run game has been upgraded from invisible to inconsistent.

Christian Powell looked unstoppable early, but at the end of the game the Bruins had held the Buffs to 83 net yards rushing and 2.8 yards per attempt.

"I don't know," Jordan Webb said when asked about the lack of balance. "We have been working really hard at it and we will continue to work hard at it. I expect us to get better."

Webb has shown flashes of brilliance.

The junior quarterback led the dramatic comeback in Pullman, Wash., and was 6-for-6 for 72 yards on the second quarter drive Saturday that was capped with a 17-yard pass to Dustin Ebner to bring CU within 14-7. Webb was also sacked four times and threw an interception in the third quarter that led to seven points for UCLA.

"We will keep moving forward," said tight end Nick Kasa, who caught a late touchdown pass from Nick Hirschman. "We are disappointed in how we played, but we can't reflect on turnovers."

There is great potential on the defense with the emergence of redshirt freshman Kirk Poston on a line that includes talented freshmen Josh Tupou, Justin Solis and Samson Kafovalu.

Freshman cornerback Kenneth Crawley, who led the Buffs with eight tackles (all solo) against UCLA, has future Pac-12 star written all over him. Marques Mosley and Yuri Wright gained some valuable experience early in the season, and slowly but surely the secondary is getting healthier with the return of Greg Henderson and the looming return of Ray Polk.

Of course Brett Hundley (redshirt freshman) is also young and didn't go through any growing pains on Saturday against the Buffs, completing 25-of-38 passes for 281 yards with two touchdown passes, two touchdown runs and no interceptions for the Bruins.

"There is improvement being made. We'd like it to come much faster," Brown said. "We kind of thought as a defensive staff that up into a certain time in the third quarter, 'Hey, you know what? We can play. We can handle ourselves.'

"But we didn't. The scoreboard doesn't lie."

The cracking voices and weary eyes also tell the cold, hard truth. This had already been a long season for the Buffs, and there are still seven games to play.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanThorburn