For a number of years, the Colorado football team has been seeking a way out of the doldrums.

At 4-7 (1-6 Pac-12), the Buffaloes are headed to their 10th consecutive losing season. Barring a mini-miracle, they'll go without a bowl appearance for an eighth consecutive season.

Colorado's opponent this week, Washington State, knows that pain. From 2004-14, Wazzu had 11 consecutive losing seasons and one bowl appearance.

Now, the Cougars (7-3, 5-2 Pac-12) are ranked No. 24 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 rankings, have earned bowl eligibility and have clinched a winning season.

"Definitely, they've turned the corner," CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "They've made some plays. They're close and they've made some of the plays (to win games). That's a credit to them. We need to try to make some more plays like that in some close games."

While Stanford, Oregon and USC have been the elite, model programs in the Pac-12 over the years, Colorado would be pleased if it followed in Washington State's footsteps.

During Mike Leach's first three years in Pullman, the Cougars kept knocking on the door. They went 3-9 last season, but lost three times by a touchdown or less.

This year, the Cougars have won many of those close games, with four victories that have come by a single score.


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"We don't quit playing," Leach said during his press conference with Washington State media on Monday. "We've done a very good job of not quitting playing and trying to seize the opportunity each play. That's what's key. You have however many minutes in the course of a game. You have to get the most of all of those in order to beat somebody."

That's a step Colorado has yet to take.

During the past two seasons, CU is 1-15 in Pac-12 play with seven losses by a touchdown or less. Three of those losses have come this year, including last Friday's 27-24 defeat against Southern California.

The losses have been difficult on the Buffs, but Washington State is a good example of a team that kept pushing until it finally broke through.

"You work as hard as you can every day," Leach said of how the Cougars turned the corner. "You always keep pushing for better. You can be undefeated, but you can still improve."

That's a message that MacIntyre continues to preach to his team, even as they fall just short week after week.

"You just keep working, you set your program in place, you set your culture in place and then you keep recruiting to it and you keep working and watching your team mature to it," MacIntyre said. "(Washington State has) done that in a lot of ways."

When Leach looks at Colorado, he sees a team that isn't too far behind the Cougars.

"They're kind of in the same spot we are now from the standpoint they've played everybody," he said. "A lot of these games have been kind of by an eyelash on both sides. We've come out on top on some of them, but they've been close on all the same people we were close on."

Washington State got sick of being close and has figured out a way to win those tight games this season.

Colorado hopes to eventually do the same.

"I could see the similarities between the two programs," CU defensive tackle Justin Solis, a senior, said. "Unfortunately, we haven't done as well as they have this season, but I feel like this team is on the up. This is my last year here, but I feel like in the coming years these guys are going to be a good team.

"I just hope I did enough to help in this whole rebuilding process."

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.