• Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Colorado kicker James Stefanou could be big factor in the Buffs' ability to win close games this season.

  • Brian Howell /

    Colorado linebacker Rick Gamboa and the Buffs will play old rival Nebraska for the first time since 2010.



HOLLYWOOD, Calif.— During the past few years, the Colorado football team has experienced the sometimes razor thin difference between winning and losing.

In their 10-4 season in 2016, the Buffs went 4-1 in games decided by 10 points or less. In 2015 and 2017, when they went a combined 9-16, they were 3-7 in those games.

“It’s a lot more fun to be in first place than down where we were (last year),” head coach Mike MacIntyre said during Pac-12 media day Wednesday. “It all goes back to winning the close games. You hear coaches talk about that all the time. We lost a lot of good players the year before, and so we played some guys out there that were a little bit newer. We just didn’t quite make enough situational plays in some games.”

Looking ahead to this season, MacIntyre said he’s encouraged by the fact that the Buffs have experience is key positions.

“We have a lot of experience in the areas that make that happen — quarterback, our kicking game,” he said. “Our punter’s back, our kicker’s back, our kickoff guy is back, our long snapper. Those guys make strategic changes in field position, make a winning field goal, team has momentum. So those things are small factors that end up being big factors in close games, so I’m excited about those guys making those plays in those situations.”

Abrams ready for breakout?

The latest season of “Last Chance U” on Netflix features the 2017 season of the football team at Independence Community College in Kansas. New CU cornerback Delrick Abrams Jr. was a part of that team and makes a few brief appearances in the show, although he’s not one of the featured players.

Abrams might play a more prominent role with the Buffs.

Linebacker Rick Gamboa and quarterback Steven Montez were asked to name three players who have yet to see the field for the Buffs that they were most looking forward to seeing play. Both named Abrams at the top of their list.

“He’s a 6-3 corner with length and can run,” Gamboa said. “He’s a very physical corner. He’s not afraid of contact, so if the run or pass goes his way, I’m 100 percent confident he’ll make the play or make the tackle.”

Montez added that Abrams “reminds me of a more physical Ahkello (Witherspoon).”

During fall camp, Abrams will be part of an intriguing competition at cornerback.

CU returns junior Dante Wigley and sophomore Trey Udoffia, who each started seven games last year, and talented freshman Chris Miller is set to make his debut.

In addition to Abrams, Gamboa mentioned Miller and Buff back Davion Taylor as players he’s eager to see. Montez said he likes the potential of center Colby Pursell and running back Travon McMillian.

MacIntyre talked about Miller and Pursell, but also said defensive lineman Terrance Lang and guard Will Sherman are young players that could make an impact this year.

Rivalry renewed

CU’s Sept. 8 visit to Nebraska was a common topic for the Buffs at media day. It’ll be the first time since 2010 that the old Big 12 rivals have met on the field.

While it’s a game that has the fans excited, the current players aren’t familiar with it and aren’t focused on the ‘Huskers.

“I don’t know too much about it,” Gamboa said. “I just know that I’ve been told multiple times I shouldn’t be wearing red on campus. That’s the biggest thing I know about it.”

Montez said he’s looking forward to the atmosphere in Lincoln, but added, “As of right now, we’re not really focused on Nebraska. We’re focused on fall camp and then we’re going to be focused on Colorado State.”

On the mend

MacIntyre has high hopes for tight end Jared Poplawski. The true sophomore tore an ACL in November, but MacIntyre said, “His knee is back and he’s doing really well.”

Poplawski played on special teams before the injury, but could have a key role on offense.

“He can play in the back field, he can split out, he runs excellent routes, he can catch the football,” MacIntyre said. “You’ll see us using him in multiple spot and he’s a multi-dimensional tight end.”

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