Three years into his tenure as Colorado’s head football coach, Mike MacIntyre has yet to produce the results he wants on the field.
Despite his 10-27 record, MacIntyre maintains that the Buffaloes are on the right track.
With season No. 4 set to begin on Sept. 2 against Colorado State, Buffzone.com sat down with MacIntyre to talk about his team.
Buffzone: You’ve said throughout the offseason that you really like this team. With the opener about a week away, have your players had the type of summer, offseason and fall camp to where you still feel good about this team?
MacIntyre: Yeah, I do like this team. I like the way they work, I like the attitude they’re having. Hopefully they’ll respond out there on Saturdays like I think they will.
Buffzone: You’ve often mentioned this is a five-year rebuild, but have you pointed to this year for a while because of the number of seniors you have, and the caliber of seniors you have, with Sefo Liufau, Chidobe Awuzie, etc.?
MacIntyre: I felt like we would definitely be the best team we’ve had in the four years, and I think we’ll have another good team next year. I’m excited about where this team is. We’ve retained a lot of guys, a lot of guys have bought into it, gotten bigger and better. The guys that are backups have bought into it, too, and that’s key.
Buffzone: Does this team have more Pac-12 talent than in your previous years?
MacIntyre: Oh yeah. Our strength, our skill, our talent level, our experience level, our work ethic, our focus, all of that is closer to a Pac-12 team. We needed to be more physical up front on both sides of the ball and consistently throughout the game.
Buffzone: The little things — mental mistakes and penalties — hurt your team last year. Do you feel you’ve cleaned those things up?
MacIntyre: I definitely feel like we’re coaching it hard, coaching it with a lot of repetitions. I always say that players make plays, players win games. Our kids have bought into that, because they know when they step out between the white lines, if they don’t completely understand it, they need to understand it during the week. You see them asking questions more. All those types of things show you the indication that they’re trying to make sure they know it precisely so they don’t make little mistakes.
Buffzone: People talk a lot about a program having an identity. Is that something you strive for, or is the goal really just to do what you need to do to win each week?
MacIntyre: I think there’s a little bit of an ego factor in an identity of a team. I think you do what you’ve got to do to win, and there’s different ways to win games. The better team you have, the more weapons you have, the better overall — if they’re taking something away, you can do something else. It makes you have the ability to go win a game. Your team kind of evolves a little bit into its identity after you get going a little bit.
Buffzone: Do you see anything evolving in this team that’ll be consistent and sort of a trademark of Colorado football?
MacIntyre: I don’t want to say it right now (laughs), but I definitely think you will see that.
Buffzone: OK, so you think fans and everybody will see something emerge this year?
MacIntyre: Yes, I do.
Buffzone: Is there frustration for you that after three seasons, your team hasn’t found a way to win, or do you view this as all part of the process to get there?
MacIntyre: It is definitely part of the process, and then also frustration sets in, but you can’t get so frustrated that you just throw everything out the window and try to start over. Then, the process has been stopped. You keep the process going, and you tweak things according to your talent or according to things you think will help you.
Buffzone: Do you feel like you’ve continued with the process the way you envisioned it from Day 1?
MacIntyre: Yes, I definitely feel like the things we’re doing off the field, as far as the weight room, as far as the classroom, the way we practice, the amount of repetitions, how our special teams we’ve improved in that area, how our line has gotten bigger and stronger — all of those pieces are pieces of the puzzle that are part of the process.
Buffzone: Fans are eager to see you win, but they are cautious in their optimism at this point. What do you need to do for them to fully buy in?
MacIntyre: Just win games. We play one of the top 10 to 15 schedules in America. That’s why we play in the Pac-12. We want to play against the best, so when we beat the best, we’ll jump quickly from everybody thinks we’re terrible to everybody thinks, “They’re really good.”
Buffzone: It all starts with Colorado State, and that’s always been a dog fight. How important is a strong start for this team, not only to get fans on board, but for the psyche of your players?
MacIntyre: The opening game is always an emotional, anticipated game. Adding a rivalry game on top of it against a program that’s very good, that’s gone to three bowls in a row … they’re going to be an extremely tough match. With the excitement of it and the adrenaline in the stadium, it’s a little bit different atmosphere. Every opening game is a tone setter. It’s not the end of the world (to lose the opener) … but it sure is hard.
Buffzone: Everybody is hungry. How hungry are you to finally get this program to produce wins?
MacIntyre: I’m starving. Our young men are very eager. They feel like they’ve earned the right to go out there and win. They don’t deserve it; it hasn’t been given to them. They feel like they’ve earned their right and they’ve paid their dues. In their minds, there’s a lot more at stake to them. They’ve worked their rear ends off. A lot of these guys have been here four straight years working and toiling. They’ve pushed and fought and it would be awesome to see them get some rewards.
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.