The 1977 Denver Broncos will never be forgotten.

Neither will the 2007 Colorado Rockies.

Both teams concluded their seasons with humbling defeats, but captured the hearts of local sports fans for the remarkable things they accomplished in their respective seasons.

Throw the 2016 Colorado football team into that group.

The Buffaloes (10-4) finished their season by getting routed in the Pac-12 championship game and thumped in the Alamo Bowl. What they did before that, however, secured their spot in CU history.

Winning a championship is the ultimate goal in sports, but greatness is not reserved only for those teams that hoist a trophy at season's end. Greatness can be bestowed upon a team that achieves the improbable.

Last spring, CU co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini threw out a Twitter tag, #therise, more or less as a catchy phrase for what he hoped the Buffaloes would do after posting 10 consecutive losing seasons.

That hashtag took on a life of its own, and "The Rise" became the slogan for the CU program and all of Buff Nation. The athletic department even produced a season-long series, titled, "The Rise."

It became the theme of this season, but "The Rise" was never about just one campaign. Colorado didn't intend to have a great 2016 season and leave it at that.

All along, "The Rise" has been about the future, and fighting past the ugliness of the past decade.


Advertisement

CU football — a program that has claimed a national title, Heisman Trophy and numerous other major college football awards — became one of the worst in the country. The Buffs had made a steady climb out of the muck in recent years, but this year was about busting through and forcing people to stop laughing at the Buffaloes.

Mission accomplished.

After going 2-25 in Pac-12 play the previous three years, the Buffs went a stunning 8-1 this season. They won the Pac-12 South division for the first time. They became just the eighth team in program history to win 10 games. They reached the top 10 of the national rankings for the first time in 14 years.

"We got a taste of something great, something that Colorado is used to getting back in the day and now it's back," running back Phillip Lindsay said.

For it to return this year, the Buffs needed to buy in to the message, bond together and find a way to be special on and off the field.

"They've given everything they've had when nobody believed in 'em," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "Now everybody believes in 'em.

"It didn't end like we'd like it to, but wow, what they've done, they set a foundation for us to keep improving."

That is really what "The Rise" was all about. The 2016 team didn't need to win a championship. It just needed to be different.

"Those young men ... should be remembered for a long, long time for what they've done for Colorado football," MacIntyre said.

It'll certainly be a season that's tough to forget.

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