In building up the football program at San Jose State, Mike MacIntyre slowly watched his Spartans take steps forward.
San Jose State won just once in MacIntyre's first season, 2010. It took four games in season No. 2 to get the next win. That snapped a 13-game losing streak. The next week, he took his Spartans to Fort Collins and led them to a 38-31 win against Colorado State that broke a 16-game road losing streak.
An ecstatic MacIntyre stood outside of the visiting locker room at Hughes Stadium that day in 2011 and said, "We're taking steps in the right way. We broke the dam down, we're driving the boat now, and we're seeing some success."
Now four games into his tenure at Colorado, MacIntyre is still waiting to break the dam down. His team is taking steps in the right direction, however, and looking for that next one.
CU (2-2, 0-2 Pac-12) will visit Arizona State (3-2, 1-1) today. The Buffs opened the season by snapping an eight-game losing streak. They followed that up with a second win -- their first winning streak in nearly three years.
Coming off of two straight blowout losses against superior opponents, the Buffs are once again trying to move forward. Beating a team they aren't supposed to beat would accomplish that feat.
"If that's the case, then we need to win all of our games because no one expects us to win any of them," junior receiver Paul Richardson said this week.
He was probably only half-kidding. CU won't be expected to win many of its remaining eight games. But, that means the Buffs will have plenty of opportunities to take that next step, beginning today at ASU.
Already, CU has made good progress this season. The Buffs have doubled their win total from last year. Despite lopsided scores during the past two weeks, they also showed a lot more fight and competitiveness than they did a year ago.
"I feel like we have shown that we can play," senior defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe said. "Now, let's go beat a big one. ASU is going to be a big game for us that we all know we can win."
CU's confidence stems from MacIntyre, who has never wavered -- publicly or among his team -- in his belief that they can win.
"I'm a fiery guy at times," he said. "I'm intense. I'm passionate. Sometimes that's to my negative and sometimes I'm too passionate but I do believe in these young men and I do believe it's a process and I do believe we're gaining ground in our process."
Beating CSU on the road two years ago was a big moment for MacIntyre and San Jose State. But, it was just one step forward. The Spartans lost four of their next five games before finally taking off.
CU is still waiting for its launching point.
"Have we gotten close to arriving? No," MacIntyre said. "I sure hope we're closer this Saturday and I expect us to go win."
Win or lose against ASU, MacIntyre's rebuilding project will be nowhere near complete, but it would be the next step in the process. It's a step the Buffs are ready to make.