CU Buffs face test in bouncing back from loss

Colorado plays at No. 24 Arizona State on Saturday

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Until Saturday, the Mel Tucker era at Colorado has been sailing along smooth waters.

There had been tough days in workouts or a couple of sluggish practices during the offseason, of course, but Tucker, the Buffaloes’ first-year head coach was undefeated where it mattered most.

Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer
Colorado head coach, Mel Tucker, right, leads the team down the Buff Walk before Saturday’s game against Air Force at Folsom Field. Tucker and the Buffs are looking to rebound after their first loss of the season.

Now, the Buffs (2-1) face their toughest test yet under their new coach as they look to bounce back from Saturday’s 30-23 overtime loss to Air Force.

“I’m not really sure how we’re going to respond to it,” quarterback Steven Montez said after the game. “That will be a big test for us on Monday how we’re going to respond to this loss and how our guys come back. It could be a gut check, a little punch in the gut and see what we’re working with. I think the guys will come out strong.”

If the Buffs follow their own rule, they’ll come out strong in preparation for Saturday’s visit to No. 24 Arizona State (3-0).

“This is obviously a tough loss, but 24-hour rule,” Montez said. “After 24 hours, it’s out of our minds, out of our heads and we’re on to ASU. We’re excited to get an opportunity to play football next week.”

The Buffs will play a football game on Saturday night in the desert, but have to figure out how to play better than they did on Saturday. The offense struggled for most of the game; the defense had significant issues stopping the Air Force offense; and the special teams contributed to the loss by giving up a blocked extra point.

“We have to coach off of (the mistakes),” Tucker said. “Then we have to figure out, how do we keep that from happening? That’s maturity as a football team and we’ll find answers. I’m very confident in this staff.  We have a very good staff that has a lot of experience with players, so we’ll figure it out.

“This is a very unforgiving game at times. This is a very unforgiving business. We’ve all been in locker rooms where we were disappointed. How do you handle adversity? How do you handle a loss?”

Since coming to CU, Tucker has never made excuses, and he’s not going to allow his players to make excuses for their play on Saturday. Instead, he’ll demand they take a critical look at themselves and try to get better for this week.

“Every day we have an opportunity to practice and prepare and meet, we’re going to make the most of those days and get ready for the next one,” Tucker said. “All of our goals that we have for our team are ahead of us. This is a disappointment but it’s not the end of what we’re doing. It’s one game; we’re disappointed. Now we have to get ready to go again.”

So far, Tucker has proven to be a leader that the Buffs will follow. Receiver Laviska Shenault said the Buffs’ ability to bounce back this week starts with Tucker. It doesn’t end there, however.

“We have to come out and execute and everybody has to do their part,” he said.”Just do what the coaches have to tell us, come in ready to practice on Monday.

“For sure (the team has to) be more disciplined, be more smart. Do the little things right. When we do the little things right, we can click. When we’re clicking, it’s hard to stop our offense. We just have to come out hard and ready to practice Monday.”

Linebacker Nate Landman has no doubt the Buffs will be ready on Monday.

“I don’t think it’s going to affect how we play next week and for weeks to come,” he said. “I think it’ll boost our chip on our shoulder. We hate this feeling and we don’t want to have this feeling again. I think it’ll make us play harder.”

CU opponent glance

Opponent: No. 24 Arizona State Sun Devils

Game time: Saturday, 8 p.m. MT at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.

TV: Pac-12 Network

Coach: Herm Edwards, 2nd season (10-6)

Record: 3-0

Last week: Defeated No. 18 Michigan State, 10-7, on the road

Notable: ASU jumped into the national rankings on Sunday after its upset win at Michigan State. The Sun Devils are at No. 24 in both the Associated Press and Coaches’ polls. It’s the second year in a row that ASU beat a top-20 Michigan State team. … After last year’s upset of the Spartans, ASU was ranked No. 23, but lost its next two games. … This will be just the third week since the start of the 2015 season that ASU plays as a ranked team. The Sun Devils are 0-2 in those previous games. … ASU is second in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 7.0 points per game. The Sun Devils are 111th in scoring offense, however, with just 19.7 points per game. … CU is 0-5 all-time against the Sun Devils in Tempe. … ASU is 7-1 at home under Edwards.