Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Andy Cross / The Denver Post
Game at a glance
Matchup: California Golden Bears (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12) at Colorado Buffaloes (4-4, 1-4)
Kickoff: 12:01 p.m.
Where: Folsom Field in Boulder. Capacity: 50,183; Turf: Grass.
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: KOA (850 AM & 94.1 FM)
Odds: Colorado by 3.5
Coaches: Colorado — Mike MacIntyre, 5th season (24-35; 40-56 career); California — Justin Wilcox, 1st season (4-4)
Series: California leads 5-3 (3-2 in Boulder)
Saturday is a big day for the Colorado football program.
The Buffaloes (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12) will host California (4-4, 1-4) at Folsom Field on a day when they are packing a whole lot of celebrations into one afternoon.
CU will recognize the 50th anniversary of its live mascot, Ralphie. The Buffs will also honor the 1967 team that won the Bluebonnet Bowl.
Topping it all, the Buffs will retire the No. 19 jersey worn by the late, great Rashaan Salaam, who won the only Heisman Trophy in CU history.
No question, it’ll be a fun day to celebrate CU’s historic past. But, will there be any celebrating by the current Buffs?
CU is coming off a humbling and embarrassing 28-0 loss at Washington State on Oct. 21. It was the Buffs’ worst performance since its previous trip to Pullman, Wash., in 2015.
With their bowl hopes on the line — not mathematically, but realistically — how will the Buffs respond?
“You just have to keep plugging at it,” running back Phillip Lindsay said. “You can’t sit here and point fingers, you can’t sit here and think about it. We still have a chance to win the rest of our games and that’s what we’re focused on. For us, it’s about looking forward and getting ready for the next game, which is Cal.”
A year ago, when the Buffs went 10-4 and won the Pac-12 South title, they were led by a dynamic group of seniors that had been through some disastrous seasons. That group wasn’t going to let another year get away, and that determination carried the Buffs.
This year, the Buffs haven’t had that same sense of urgency, but senior tight end/defensive end George Frazier believes there’s still time to get it.
“We’re used to doing a lot of good things on the field, so when things get shaky I feel like we have to get back to knowing to put your head down and not worry about it and keep playing,” Frazier said.
“Guys are starting to notice things aren’t always going to go good for you. When things don’t go good, you have to act like nothing happened and play the next play. I see that the younger guys are starting to catch on to it. As this year goes on, we will start getting more wins and do what we need to do.”
To do that, the Buffs know they need to play better. The defense has been shaky at times. The offense is coming off its worst game of the season.
Plenty of opinions have been formed about what’s needed to spark this team.
Head coach Mike MacIntyre opened up the quarterback competition this week, forcing starter Steven Montez to fight for his job with redshirt freshman Sam Noyer.
Others have struggled, too, including senior receivers Shay Fields and Devin Ross, who haven’t been nearly as explosive as they were last year. That’s led to some fans clamoring to see young players, such as Laviska Shenault and KD Nixon.
Naturally, there’s also been plenty of fan speculation about which coaches should stay or go after this season.
Co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini bristled at the notion that simply replacing players — or coaches — will fix the Buffs.
“There’s a process to this whole thing, and that’s why we’re coaches and that’s why they’re fans. That’s why we do this,” Chiaverini said.
“It’s easy to sit up there and point fingers; it’s easy to sit on the couch, sit in the stands and call everybody out and say, ‘Those guys should be fired, and those guys should be fired, and that’s not good enough.’ Yeah, we understand that, but this is what we do. We’ll keep coaching them. If guys are really struggling, yeah, we’ll make some changes, but that’s not the answer right now, in my mind.”
There are countless statistics that can be analyzed to figure out what the Buffs are doing well, or not doing well. Those statistics can all point to what the Buffs need to fix going forward. Add them all up, though, and it boils to this: the Buffs simply need to find the urgency and determination they had a year ago.
MacIntyre said players have to step up, while coaches have to “instill confidence in the players and make them more comfortable and be able to make more plays.”
On a day that CU is celebrating its past, MacIntyre said there’s really only one way for the Buffs to celebrate the present.
“Everybody’s got to compete and has got to keep playing,” he said.
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/BrianHowell33