Losing the Rocky Mountain Showdown in Denver is not rock bottom for Colorado football.

Losing at Folsom Field to a Big Sky team is.

That's something Jon Embree's Buffs will try to avoid on Saturday when they host Sacramento State in the home opener (1 p.m., Pac-12 Network).

The Dan Hawkins era appeared doomed from the start when Montana State came to Boulder on Sept. 2, 2006, and upset a CU team that had played in the Big 12 championship game the year before.

After losing to the Bobcats from the FCS, 19-10, Hawkins vowed to use the experience as a teaching moment.

"If you can't understand how to deal with losing, you'll never know how it is to win," Hawkins said at his post-game press conference. "It's only devastating if you let it be that way. We understand that most people here will jump on our loss, but we all find out about ourselves when we're losing, and in some respect it might be a blessing."

It was more like a curse.

The losing never stopped and Hawkins was fired after compiling a 19-39 record over five seasons. One of those precious wins was a 31-24 comeback triumph over Eastern Washington on Sept. 6, 2008.

In that game, cornerback Cha'pelle Brown -- who was beaten for a touchdown pass as a true freshman in the loss to Montana State -- intercepted a pass and returned it 27 yards to break a 24-24 tie with less than two minutes left.


This season Brown is a defensive graduate assistant on the CU staff. He will be able to warn the young Buffs not to take the Hornets lightly.

"To me, it's no different than playing Colorado State or UCLA," Brown said of preparing for Sacramento State. "For us, we can't take any game lightly because we haven't proved anything yet and we're trying to get to a bowl game."

Three of CU's true freshmen cornerbacks -- Kenneth Crawley, Marques Mosley and Yuri Wright -- saw a lot of action during Saturday's 22-17 loss to Colorado State.

With free safety Ray Polk and starting cornerback Greg Henderson suffering ankle injuries against the Rams, the trio might be relied on to make some plays in their Folsom Field debut.

"Man, I couldn't even tell you," Brown said when asked what the emotions are like for a CU player running out onto the field behind Ralphie for the first time in Boulder. "I know they're going to be nervous, anxious and excited at the same time."

Sacramento State, picked to finish ninth in the preseason Big Sky coaches poll, opened the season with a 49-19 loss at New Mexico State.

Starting quarterback Garrett Safron threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns for the Hornets, who were within nine points before getting outscored 21-0 in the fourth quarter at Las Cruces.

"You've got to take this game the same way as any other team," Brown said. "If not, you're going to get beat."

The film from the deflating loss to the Rams should provide the CU coaches and players with plenty of motivation this week. Embree will no doubt mention that Sacramento State opened the 2011 season with a 29-28 overtime victory at Oregon State.

The Beavers played seven true freshmen in that game. The Buffs used nine members of the 2012 recruiting class in Saturday's opener.

"Every single loss I've been through with this program, I've taken it with a grain of salt," CU junior left tackle David Bakhtiari said at Sports Authority Field. "Because I know that now it's in the past and the only thing I'm looking forward to is the next game coming up."

The Buffs are 1-1 all-time against FCS opponents having never played one before the visits by Montana State and Eastern Washington.

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