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CU football notes: Buffs buying into Mel Tucker’s message

Victory against Stanford provides validation for first-year head coach

Raul Romero Jr./For BuffZone.com
Colorado Buffaloes head coach Mel Tucker congratulates quarterback Steven Montez (12) after scoring a touchdown against the UCLA Bruins during the first half of a NCAA football game at Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Saturday Nov. 2, 2019.
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In beating Stanford on Saturday, the Colorado football team finally snapped its five-game losing streak and came through with a confidence-boosting performance.

The 16-13 victory at Folsom Field also provided first-year head coach Mel Tucker with some validation of his efforts to set a foundation for the program.

“We had success on Saturday because we had the discipline to do our jobs,” Tucker said Tuesday after the Buffs (4-6, 2-5 Pac-12) got back to work on the practice field. “Our guys played together as a team and they’re starting to get our culture in terms of everyone doing their job and trusting that the man next to you is going to do his job and playing for each other, playing as a team.

“That’s a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish here.”

While it was just one game, Tucker saw a team that still has plenty of fight left, despite the disappointment of a five-game losing streak.

“It was very gratifying to see that,” Tucker said. “Our guys rising to the occasion. We showed a level of competitive greatness, which is being at your best when your best is needed and I was extremely proud of our football team.”

Stefanou sidelined

Junior kicker James Stefanou missed the Stanford game with a hip injury and appears to be done for the season, with surgery pending.

“I don’t anticipate him coming back this season,” Tucker said. “He’s got a hip (injury), so we’re looking to repair it and we’re going to schedule that as soon as we can and then work to get him back and rehab him.”

Stefanou had been bothered by the hip injury for a couple of weeks and went 0-for-2 on field goals in his last game, Nov. 2 at UCLA. Tucker didn’t use the injury as an excuse, however.

“The guys are out there, they’re on the field, we expect them to be able to get the job done and put their best foot forward,” he said.

Evan Price, who went 3-for-3 on field goals, including the game-winner, against Stanford, is expected to handle kicking duties in the final two games.

Buffs on bye

CU gets an extra week to enjoy the win against Stanford before hosting Washington on Nov. 23 at Folsom Field. Tucker said the Buffs are approaching this bye a bit differently from the previous bye week, which came after four games.

“This bye week, we have to be more a lot more mindful of the wear and tear on our players that play a lot,” he said. “So, for example, today we were in helmets for the majority of the practice. Then to finish the practice, we had some of our second teamers, some of our younger players put the pads on. Then we did three periods of contact, thud, staying off the ground, which was a more physical type of practice for those guys to develop those guys and get those guys more prepared and ready to play for that next opportunity.”

While the Buffs are resting their bodies, their minds are in a better place after a win.

“I think we can build off the win coming into the bye week and we know we still have a chance to make a bowl game,” left tackle Arlington Hambright said. “We’ve just got to finish off strong and take it day by day, get better every day. That’s our main focus. When the time comes, we’ll be ready”

Rakestraw improving

Junior Derrion Rakestraw came to CU as a receiver and then switched to cornerback. In 2018, he moved to safety, but was mostly a backup.

Last week, he made his seventh consecutive start and seems to be settling into the position. He had four tackles and an interception against the Cardinal.

“Rake has improved as a football player,” Tucker said. “He’s done a really good job of being diligent and intentional about learning the scheme, learning more about the defense, where he fits, where his help is. Just knowing how to do his job. Because of that he’s been able to play better, be more consistent, and he’s able to make the plays he supposed to make.”

Notable

Senior cornerback Delrick Abrams Jr., sat out of the Stanford game because of injury, but he was in uniform and could have played if needed, Tucker said. “He’s continued to improve and rehab and get better,” Tucker said. “This bye week is good for him.” … Hambright was named Pac-12 offensive lineman of the week and said it was a nice bonus to the win. “Just trying to go hard, trying to make plays like everybody else on the team,” he said. … The Buffs are scheduled to practice Wednesday and Thursday before taking the weekend off.