Following a 27-13 loss at Washington on Oct. 20, Colorado head football coach Mike MacIntyre brushed aside the notion that injuries had anything to do with the defeat.
Star receiver Laviska Shenault, cornerback Delrick Abrams Jr., kicker James Stefanou and others were out of the lineup that day in Seattle.
"We have good football players out there," MacIntyre said after that defeat. "We're not going to any make excuses about who is there or not there; we have to find a way to win."
The Buffaloes (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) haven't found a way to win since then, and with a once-promising season unraveling in a hurry, MacIntyre's gone from injuries being no excuse to making them the No. 1 excuse.
After Saturday's 31-7 loss to Washington State — the fifth defeat in a row for MacIntyre's team — he was asked if he's ever had a season go downhill like this one.
MacIntyre cut off the question to say, "I've never had a season where going into the 10th game of the year we had nine starters out that started the first game; nine. And four other significant players out. Basically, a third of your guys that you play, that you count on to win games, aren't out there."
Literally as MacIntyre was bemoaning the Buffs' injuries, Utah — CU's next opponent — was in Salt Lake City finishing off a 32-25 victory against Oregon. Somehow, after an emotional week in which they lost quarterback Tyler Huntley and star running back Zack Moss to season-ending injuries, the Utes found a way to win.
There were no excuses from the Utes (7-3, 5-3), who kept hope alive for their first-ever Pac-12 South title.
Certainly injuries have impacted the Buffaloes, but to make that the reason for the five-game skid is disingenuous.
MacIntyre said that nine players who started the opener against Colorado State were out on Saturday. Actually, it was four — two on offense, two on defense. We'll count it as five, because tight end Chris Bounds, who has left the team for personal reasons, didn't technically start the CSU game, but was the Buffs' top tight end going into the season.
MacIntyre was probably also counting special teams, as the Buffs have lost their kicker (Stefanou) and punter (Alex Kinney), possibly for the season. Never mind the fact that their replacements have done just fine.
CU also played without three other special teamers on Saturday, including backup running back Beau Bisharat, who leads the team in special teams points. Those units haven't been an issue all year, though, and had little impact on Saturday.
The Buffs did play without receivers KD Nixon (hip) and Jay MacIntyre (concussion) on Saturday, but receiver is CU's deepest position — and that group did get Shenault back in the lineup against the Cougars.
Following a loss to Arizona — the fourth loss in this streak — on Nov. 2, coach MacIntyre said it's tough to play without the injured players, "But nobody (outside of CU) cares. Nobody cares who is hurt when you get up there playing. They say they do, but nobody cares."
Of course, by citing injuries as an excuse for the five-game losing streak, MacIntyre is basically asking everyone to care and perhaps cut them a little slack for the struggles.
Utah certainly won't feel sorry for the Buffs. The Utes — and just about every other team 10 games into the season — have dealt with their share of injuries, too.
The reality for CU is that injuries have been a part of the story, but not the story.
CU's weakest unit this season has been the offensive line, and that group has been relatively healthy all season. Injuries haven't caused questionable coaching decisions, untimely penalties or execution errors. Injuries are not the reason for a collapse against Oregon State on Oct. 27.
After Utah's backups seized opportunities against Oregon, Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham told reporters his team didn't flinch after losing two of the best players on the team.
"They handled it great," Whittingham said. "We had a team meeting with a 'next man up' mentality. They could either pick up the slack and move forward or feel sorry and mope and pout. That is not us. That is not our culture."
For CU to somehow salvage this season, MacIntyre has to stop making excuses and follow the lead of his counterpart in Salt Lake City.
CU opponent glance
Opponent: Utah Utes
Game time: Saturday, 11:30 a.m., at Folsom Field in Boulder
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Coach: Kyle Whittingham, 14th season (118-59)
This season: 7-3, 5-3 Pac-12
Last week: Defeated Oregon, 32-25
Key players: DE Bradlee Anae, Jr. (30 tackles, 9 TFL, 6 sacks); LB Cody Barton, Sr. (83 tackles, 7 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 5 PBU); CB Julian Blackmon, Jr. (31 tackles, 7 PBU); WR Britain Covey, So. (54 catches, 603 yards, 1 TD; rushing: 13 att., 114 yards; passing: 3-for-3, 71 yards, 2 TD); LB Chase Hansen, Sr. (88 tackles, 19 TFL, 5 sacks, 2 INT); WR Samson Nacua, So. (26 catches, 325 yards, 3 TD); QB Jason Shelley, Fr. (24-for-45, 361 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT: rushing: 22 att., 69 yards, 2 TD); RB Armand Shyne, Jr. (63 att., 340 yards, 2 TD).
Notable: Utah is the only team in the Pac-12 South to never win the division, but the Utes could clinch the division Saturday. To win the division, Utah needs to beat CU and hope Arizona State loses one of its last two games (at Oregon and at Arizona). ... QB Tyler Huntley was averaging 232.4 total yards per game and running back Zack Moss was tied for third in the Pac-12 with 121.3 rushing yards per game through nine games, but both are out for the season. ... Shyne rushed for 174 yards and Shelley had 284 yards in total offense and two rushing touchdowns in the first starts Saturday against Oregon. ... The Utes are 10th nationally in run defense (allowing 101.7 yards per game), 17th in scoring defense (19.7 points per game) and 19th in total defense (323.7 yards per game).