TUCSON, Ariz. — As the negative vibe continues to grow outside of the Colorado football program, the Buffaloes are doing their best to block it out from the inside.
"I think we've stayed positive," quarterback Steven Montez said after the Buffaloes' 42-34 loss at Arizona on Friday night.
CU (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) has lost four in a row after a great start to the season and is in danger of a complete unraveling. Injuries are mounting and so is frustration — within the team and among the fans — as the Buffs struggle to stop the bleeding.
"I don't think there's any negativity on our football team at all," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "They kept fighting and battling. They're just all frustrated like we are (as coaches).
"I don't see any negativity between the players, between the coaches and players. I don't see an ounce of that. I just see a lot of guys frustrated that are trying to find a way to win a game. You like to see them frustrated and upset that they didn't win. If it didn't bother them, then I'd be really worried."
MacIntyre should be worried anyway, because the road doesn't get any easier. In fact, it gets much more difficult going forward, with No. 10 Washington State coming to Boulder on Saturday. That's followed by a visit from No. 16 Utah.
"From the outside, that's what it's looking like," linebacker Drew Lewis said of the season unraveling. "It seems (on the outside) this team has hit our peak and we're going to fall down from here, but I can tell it's just unfortunate outcomes of these games.
"This team's mentality, we're not going to accept that. Each week after a loss, we fight harder. We come more focused. We come ready to go."
Although mentally ready, the Buffs continue making critical mistakes that cost them in games. Dropped passes have hurt them and so have untimely penalties.
Montez was shaking his head over a throw in the first quarter, when he had Kabion Ento open for a fade route in the end zone and overthrew him. CU settled for a field goal and a 10-0 lead, rather than going up 14-0.
"There were opportunities all over the place that we could have got," Montez said. "That (throw to Ento) is just on me. I just missed a throw. It was there. The opportunity was there to score a touchdown. We just didn't execute and we have to start executing if we want to have a chance to win these close games."
While the odds are stacking against them, the Buffs are maintaining hope that they will figure out a way to reverse the slide.
"I think the guys have stayed really positive inside the locker room," Montez said. "I think it's just all about those opportunities to execute. We have to do a better job of executing when they show up.
"We can't get down on ourselves. It's easy to slip into that, 'Oh we've lost four in a row.' It's easy to get in that mode of are we ever going to win one? That can't be how you look at the game. Every week is a new opportunity. Every week, people can be beaten. I know Washington State is a good team, but they have to play us in Folsom. We're going to give them our best shot."
Down, but not out
Early in the fourth quarter, Montez went down to the ground in pain and had to leave for a play. He was able to come back and finish the game, though.
"When I was going down, I took a helmet to under my arm pit and it kind of knocked the wind out of me so I couldn't really breathe," he said. "When I was getting up, I was trying to loosen that area up. It's probably just a bruise. I'll be all right."
Playing on Friday, the Buffs get an extra day to prepare — and heal — before facing Washington State. That could benefit the banged up Buffs. "It'll be good," MacIntyre said. "Hopefully it gives guys like KD (Nixon) and those guys time to get back. We'll be cautious with all of those guys, looking out for what's best for them. It's a tough game." ... True freshmen kickers Evan Price and Tyler Francis are a combined 6-for-7 on field goals and 9-for-9 on extra points in place of injured starter James Stefanou.