Maybe Mike MacIntyre just needs to flat out ask his team to win.
MacIntyre has asked the Buffs for changes in several ways since his first practice back in the spring and they have generally responded, sometimes a little more quickly than others, but the requests have usually be fulfilled.
MacIntyre suggested his team start having more fun in the spring and genuinely valuing the opportunity to play college football. He reinforced his request by forcing players to practice touchdown celebrations when they scored in scrimmage situations.
By the time fall camp ended, the entire demeanor and feel of the team in practices and the practices themselves had changed.
Several weeks ago, MacIntyre said he wants to see more fire from his team in games and see players more ticked off but not in a way that leads to silly penalties. You might say MacIntyre wants the Buffs to "play angry" the way the Wichita State basketball team did riding that motto to the Final Four last spring.
The Buffs seemed to respond to that request last week at UCLA by playing with passion throughout, even when the score became lopsided in the Bruins' favor. The most memorable moment came when UCLA defensive lineman Anthony Barr was flagged on consecutive plays for late hits on quarterback Sefo Liufau and the offensive line came to Liufua's defense, igniting a short-lived skirmish with Barr and other Bruins.
"I am seeing that," MacIntyre said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. "I'm seeing a little bit more fight with each individual guy. I'm seeing a little bit more, I don't know if the word is pride or taking a little bit more ownership in their position, in their spot."
"I think they see themselves getting better and they're hungry to taste some more victories and they understand that you've got to have an extra oomph. And if you don't have it, you've got to match the other person's intensity. Really what you've got to do is you've got go past the other person's intensity with that little bit of extra effort."
Liufau, who will return home to the Seattle/Tacoma area this week to face the Washington Huskies, said he doesn't take late hits personally in games, but he's also not going to tolerate being disrespected by opponents. He said the Buffs have made up their minds to play with more of that fire their coach wants to see from them.
"Teams aren't going to be able to just roll over us," he said. "It's not going to happen this year. It's not going to happen any more. We're a team that is going to fight and you're going to fight all 60 minutes against us."
Liufau said he doesn't return home this week with a chip on his shoulder against the schools in his home state. He said he was recruited by Washington in high school but he made up his mind early that he loved Boulder, CU and the atmosphere around the Colorado program.
Liufau is expecting a large contingent of friends and family members at the game, but MacIntyre said he doesn't believe it will be a distraction to his true freshman quarterback because Liufau is mature beyond his years.
Liufau and his offensive teammates must be ready to produce their best overall game of the season because MacIntyre said he believes Washington has the best defensive personnel in the Pac-12 Conference this season.
That hasn't necessarily shown up in the statistics or the standings. The Huskies are 5-3 overall and 2-3 in Pac-12 play with a defense that is ranked 78th in the nation against the run and 32nd against the pass and 44th in points allowed.
Playing well, playing with fire for 60 minutes once again and maybe finding a way to pull off a major surprise by winning would be huge for the Buffs, who are nearing do-or-die time for bowl eligibility.
CU must win three of its final four games to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2007. MacIntyre said he expects to see a greater sense of urgency from his players, knowing they're running short on opportunities.
"I would expect to, yes, but I would hope they have a great sense of urgency every game," MacIntyre said. "I'm not trying to do that as a cliché. You look at them all the same.
"It has been encouraging to me here how our kids have kept working and kept fighting and how our coaching staff has kept coaching them and kept working with them and kept pushing them. We definitely want to get to a bowl game, but we also want to win every game we play. So we'll keep working at it."