There is a noticeable difference in the Colorado football team this week after its first blowout loss of the season compared to how it responded a year ago in similar situations.
These Buffs don't appear downtrodden or resigned to their fate even though the No. 2 ranked Oregon Ducks are coming to town on Saturday and have laid waste to every opponent they have faced so far this season.
Perhaps it will change as the season wears on, but for now, the dread that was so apparent in the past seems to be gone.
“Coming in this morning and Sunday, everybody was just real focused,” freshman linebacker Addison Gillam said. “People were taking more notes than I've ever seen anybody take and watching film and asking a lot more questions. I think people realize that losing is not fun and that they don't want to do it again.”
Coach Mike MacIntyre met with the media at his weekly press luncheon Tuesday and said he has been pleased with the way his team has responded to its first setback under his watch. The Buffs lost 44-17 at Oregon State last week and enter Saturday's game 2-1 overall and 0-1 in Pac-12 Conference play.
“When they came out to practice Sunday, they were after it,” MacIntyre said. “They were energetic. They weren't dragging. You didn't have people showing up late or trying to get out of practice for different mysterious injuries.”
The Buffs have lost nine consecutive Pac-12 games with their last victory coming on the road more than a year ago on Sept. 22, 2012 at Washington State.
Oregon, which is now coached by former CU offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, is the second highest scoring team in the nation and has scored more than 50 points in four consecutive games, a school record.
The Ducks have outscored the Buffs by 99 points in the last two years combined (115-16). Last season in Eugene, they accumulated 617 yards of total offense and 425 rushing yards and played backups and even scout team members for much of the second half.
Yet, the Buffs don't appear to be a defeated team ahead of time this year as they so often have been in the past when facing similar lopsided set ups.
“I know nobody believes in us, but it starts with us,” said cornerback Greg Henderson, who has come up with a turnover in each of the Buffs' first three games. “If we believe that we can win, then I feel like we can beat this team.
“…I try not to worry about the underdogs and the point spread. We just got to go out there and play hard because it's college football. Anything can happen on any day of the week.”
MacIntyre said the teams that have had success against Oregon in recent years have played tremendous defense and have not allowed the Ducks to establish big leads early. MacIntyre said the Oregon defense can play extremely aggressively in most games because it generally has a large lead and getting burned isn't a huge worry as it is in closer games. So the Ducks are able to take risks they might not ordinarily take.
CU fell behind 29-0 in the first quarter against Oregon in 2011 and 28-0 in the first quarter last season.
MacIntyre described the Ducks as a "hyperspeed" team, which speaks both to athleticism and the pace of play Oregon uses.
MacIntyre likes to play up-tempo offense. No one is better at that style of play than the Ducks who are proficient at snapping the ball within 11-12 seconds of the previous play ending. MacIntyre said the Buffs won't get away from that approach in an effort to keep the ball away from the Ducks as much as possible.
“I think you just got to do whatever you do best,” MacIntyre said. “If you try to change what you're going to try to do in a game … then you got to do what you do best and hope for the best.”
MacIntyre said the key to slowing Oregon down is players recognizing formations despite the limited time they have to do so, getting the defense aligned properly and then filling the gaps they are supposed to fill and tackling well in open space. He said a goal should be to make the Ducks possess the ball longer and not give up big plays.
“You might be better off if they have the ball a long time,” MacIntyre said. “It's longer drives, they got more chances for turnovers, there is more possibilities for making them have to do more third downs.
“So if you come out and they got it 30 minutes, you might have played better. I'm being serious because then they would have to put drives together.”
Contact staff writer Kyle Ringo at email@example.com or twitter.com/kyleringo