Following a second consecutive blowout loss, and with his first season beginning to unravel, Mel Tucker took a different approach to Sunday.
The head football coach of the Colorado Buffaloes usually does a walk-through with the team to start a game week. This time, he brought the entire group into the meeting room and watched, from start to finish, the Buffs’ 41-10 loss to Washington State.
“We did that because I wanted everyone to see what everyone was doing and what the issues were in the game,” Tucker said on Monday. “To see whatever problems we had or whatever we did well and then just to see how we have to complement each other, offense, defense and special teams and how everything works together.”
The Buffs (3-4, 1-3 Pac-12) host Southern California (4-3, 3-1) on Friday at Folsom Field at 7 p.m. (TV: ESPN2) and Tucker hopes the exercise can help them put an end to their three-game losing streak.
“I asked them today after practice, ‘What did you get out of that?’” Tucker said. “It was interesting to hear what some guys said. In a nutshell, guys were saying, ‘everybody’s got to do their job; it’s the little things; attention to detail; we’re really, really close on this play.’ … I thought it was a good exercise for us. Obviously, we can’t do that every week, just because of time, but I thought it was appropriate and we got a lot out of it.”
Tucker said he felt “a new sense of purpose” with the Buffs during Monday’s practice as the Buffs tried to put Washington State in the rearview mirror and focus on USC.
“A lot of guys are just, they’re sick of losing, and especially the past two games,” senior center Tim Lynott said. “That’s something that’s not us. That’s not the team we built it to be. We worked our butts off this season, so we shouldn’t be in that position. A lot of guys are trying to strive to improve and step up and whoever needs to step up needs to step up.”
The list of players needing to step up is long, but junior receiver KD Nixon pointed the finger at himself.
“I gotta be the big playmaker,” he said. “I gotta ask for the ball more. I gotta block more. I gotta help other receivers be more comfortable. It’s not (quarterback Steven Montez’s) fault. I’ll always take the blame because I’m a leader of the team. I gotta get everybody to practice better, because that’s where it all starts.”
The Buffs had a good practice Monday, but that’s just a start, Nixon said.
“We did good, but at the same time you’ve got to win the day every day,” he said. “So tomorrow has to be better than today.”
Two Buffs, safety Aaron Maddox and tight end Darrion Jones, have decided to leave the program and enter the transfer portal. Both are hoping for better opportunities elsewhere. That news came after Tucker talked to the media Monday, but he said after practice that he doesn’t see the team being divided through a tough stretch.
“We have a very unselfish football team,” he said. “I haven’t really seen any finger pointing. I always want to have a pulse of the team. The strength coach (Drew Wilson) spends more time with the players than anyone and I consult with him. He hasn’t sensed or heard any finger pointing and usually you see it in the weight room and training room and things like that. We’re on the same page. We’ve all got to do better. And we gotta play harder, gotta play tougher, gotta play smarter. It’s not just one guy. It’s a team effort, and you win as a team as you lose as a team.”
One reason for CU’s struggles: turnovers.
Two weeks ago, the Buffs went into Oregon with a Pac-12-leading plus-eight turnover margin. In the last two games, the Buffs are minus-6.
“It’s very, very telling in terms of taking care of the football and taking the ball away,” Tucker said. “When we’ve won or been in very, very close games, we’ve won the turnover margin or we’re at least an even. In games that we’ve lost and it hasn’t been close, we’ve been on the negative side of the turnover margin.
“We always talk about turnover margin is usually the most significant indicator of winning and losing.”
CU is now tied for sixth in the Pac-12 with a plus-two margin. USC is last, at minus-5.
Backup quarterback Tyler Lytle, who left Saturday’s game after one play with a shoulder injury, is day-to-day, Tucker said. “We just have to go through the week and see how his rehab goes and his treatment,” he said. … If Lytle can’t go on Friday, that leaves redshirt freshman Blake Stenstrom as the only scholarship backup. Tucker said moving safety Sam Noyer back to quarterback is not an option at this time. Noyer moved from quarterback to safety during August camp.