Their final season hasn't unfolded as the seniors from the Colorado football team had hoped.

Yet with one last date at Folsom Field ahead of them, and with a very respectable accomplishment still within sight with two games remaining in the regular season, the departing Buffaloes are focused less on what could have been than the opportunity to reach a bowl game for the second consecutive season — something no CU team has done since the 2004 and 2005 seasons.

A total of 21 seniors will run behind Ralphie for the final time Saturday as the Buffs host No. 15 USC in the home finale. Despite watching a victory get snatched away by the jaws of defeat in a fourth-quarter collapse last week at Arizona State, CU still has much to play for. A victory either on Saturday or in the regular-season finale at Utah in two weeks would give the Buffs the elusive sixth win that would cement a bowl berth.

Never mind how upsetting the Trojans in their final game at Folsom would leave the sort of lasting memory on par with anything the Buffs' accomplished last year in a turnaround 10-win season.

"We can still do something that this program hasn't done in a long time, which is go to back-to-back bowl games," said senior offensive lineman Gerrad Kough. "Just having that in our future, and doing what we did last year, it makes everybody proud to be able to do that."

For the seniors that are now fifth-year players, they arrived in time for a 2013 season that was the Buffs' first under head coach Mike MacIntyre. The group enjoyed only four victories that season and 10 in three seasons before equaling that win total during last year's run to the Pac-12 South Division title.


For Jeromy Irwin, CU's left tackle, the bottom rung upon his arrival was even lower. Irwin began his CU career in 2012 during the final season of coach Jon Embree, playing 10 games for a team that finished 1-11.

While the Buffs quickly fell out of contention for a second consecutive division, the significance of a second consecutive bowl appearances isn't lost on those veteran players that suffered the most during the lean early years of their careers.

"When Embree recruited me, that's what I bought in to," said Irwin, who petitioned for a sixth year of eligibility after injuries wiped out his 2013 season and most of his 2015 season. "He sold that to me. In high school my team was 0-10 and we ended up going 12-1. I like a challenge. Coming to this university and knowing about the history of it, that was one of the things I wanted to do — to bring this program to what it was remembered to be. And that's what we've done. I could sit here and be proud of it, but we still have work to do...making another postseason for back-to-back years. There hasn't been a team that has done that in a long time.

"We're proud of what we've done. But we're still not satisfied. We need to put in some work so we can get this postseason going."

Certainly the odds will be stacked against the Buffs Saturday. And CU will be the road team in what could be a win-or-go-home scenario in two weeks at Utah. Yet given the turnaround that has occurred during the seniors' time at CU, it is a welcome challenge.

"There's still a lot of football left to play this year. We can still do something special just getting to a bowl game," senior safety Afolabi Laguda said. "But to have that type of season we did last year and go from the worst to first, get to Santa Clara and the Pac-12 championship, was something special. I think we have a lot to hold our head up high about.

"I'll definitely smile and look back on my time here as a blessing."

Pat Rooney: or