The Colorado fans who attended Tuesday's football press luncheon at Boulder's Millennium Harvest House were treated to a special dessert.

Bill McCartney delivered a classic "Coach Mac" speech that had the base ready to run through a wall for Jon Embree.

If only the 2012 Buffs had the same spirit as the legendary CU coach.

"There's no shortcut. We're in over our heads right now," McCartney said. "But everything rises and falls on leadership."

McCartney strongly believes Embree and his staff, despite a 3-13 record, are the right leaders to turn the program around.

"When we turned this thing over to Embree, we turned it over to somebody who is going to get the job done," McCartney said. "Even though right now the progress is below the ground and we can't see it."

Former University of Colorado Head Football Coach Bill McCartney speaks to the media and Buff Football supporter Tuesday September 18 2012 at the
Former University of Colorado Head Football Coach Bill McCartney speaks to the media and Buff Football supporter Tuesday September 18 2012 at the Millennium Harvest House Boulder during the weekly football press conference. ( Paul Aiken )

It's hard to see progress after the 0-3 start against a relatively easy nonconference schedule. CU followed humbling losses to Colorado State and Sacramento State with a humiliating effort in a 69-14 loss at Fresno State last Saturday night.

The Bulldogs had scored seven touchdowns with more than seven minutes remaining in the second quarter.

Embree was upbeat after meeting with many of his players individually and said he couldn't wait to get back on the practice field. The second-year head coach did not ask his coach and mentor to speak on his behalf.


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"This isn't going to get easier, it's going to get harder this year," McCartney said. "I say to all the Colorado Buffaloes out there: Circle the wagons. Let's close ranks. Let's stand with these guys. Let's believe in them. Let's believe in the president. Let's believe in the athletic director. Let's believe in the head football coach, as well as all the other coaches. Let's stand with them."

O'Neill hangs 10

CU sophomore Darragh O'Neill punted 10 times against Fresno State, averaging 42.8 yards per attempt with four placed inside the 20. But it was the former Fairview basketball star's forced fumble that stood out from an otherwise highlight-free evening for the Buffs.

"Getting a turnover on special teams is a pretty big deal," O'Neill said. "In my mind, I think (tackling) is a strength of mine, but I've never worked on it before. When I got closer to him, he looked a lot bigger."

Other than playing wide receiver briefly in the 8th grade, O'Neill had never played organized football before winning the starting punting job last year as a freshman.

Over 13 games in 2011, O'Neill punted for 3,152 yards (42.6 average) with 21 punts placed inside the 20 and 17 punts of 50-plus yards.

Through three games this season, O'Neill is averaging 44.3 yards per punt with seven placed inside the 20 and seven of 50-plus yards.

"I really don't think there's any comparison. I think I'm infinitely better than I was a year ago," O'Neill said. "A year ago, I just tried to get the ball down the field. I wasn't experienced enough to know that I needed to hit my spots, needed to get that hang time for my guys to get down the field.

"This time I understand the situations so much more."

Injury updates

The CU training room is getting more crowded each Sunday.

Redshirt freshman center Brad Cotner, who made his first career start at Fresno State, is likely out for four to five weeks with turf toe.

"He ruptured the capsule in his big toe," Embree specified. "Tough kid. He did it early in the game and played a good portion. We have to calm his foot down."

Gus Handler, whom Cotner was filling in for, will make the trip to Washington State but is not expected to play due to an ankle injury sustained against Sacramento State.

That means starting right guard Daniel Munyer will probably have to play center with right tackle Jack Harris moving inside and Ryan Dannewitz and Stephane Nembot filling in on the outside.

CU has already ruled out starting free safety Ray Polk (ankle) and starting linebacker Doug Rippy (knee) for Saturday's game at Washington State.

Starting cornerback Greg Henderson is expected to play after missing the last two games with an ankle injury. Freshman defensive back Marques Mosley is available after missing most of the second half at Fresno State with a sprained knee.

The Buffs only had 62 healthy players on the trip to Fresno and 59 of them saw action.

Notable

The Buffs are 2-0 against the Cougars in the state of Washington, but this will be the first meeting in Pullman. CU beat Washington State in 1982 in Spokane (12-0) and in 2004 in Seattle (20-12). ... Saturday's game will be televised on FX beginning at 2 p.m. with former CU quarterback Joel Klatt handling the color on the broadcast. ... Washington State is looking for its first three-game winning streak since 2006 when it posted consecutive wins over Idaho, Baylor and Stanford.

Quotable

"Mike is a good guy. He makes the Pac-12 coaches meetings real entertaining," Embree said of colorful Washington State counterpart Mike Leach. "Real smart man. I think people underestimate how smart he is. He has a great mind, a very good football mind. When you go against him you have to be real assignment conscious, if not he'll find it and exploit it."