Through the first four games of the season, the Colorado football team put itself in position for a possible Pac-12 South title.
In the fifth game, on Dec. 12, the Buffaloes didn’t perform like usual in a 38-21 loss to Utah at Folsom Field, ending their winning streak and costing them a chance at winning the division.
After an unexpected bye last week, the Buffs (4-1) are still looking to make up for that loss. That will contribute to their motivation on Tuesday when they play No. 20 Texas (6-3) at the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio (7 p.m., TV: ESPN).
“Just having that taste of a loss still in our mouths, not performing the way we really wanted to on the offensive line, that definitely add to our excitement to get back,” tackle William Sherman said. “We want to run the ball well again like we’ve been doing all year. So, there’s definitely some things we want to go out and prove in this game next Tuesday.”
Utah, which finished 3-2 on the season, may have been the best team CU has faced this season, and the Buffs lost star linebacker Nate Landman to a season-ending injury in the first half. The Buffs did not play like they did the first four weeks, however.
“Disappointing performance,” head coach Karl Dorrell said last week. “We weren’t playing as well as we normally would have played for one reason or another.”
Turnovers, missed tackles and dropped passes all added up in the loss.
Facing a good Texas team provides the Buffs an opportunity to prove themselves again.
“We really wanted to showcase our talents and abilities versus Utah,” Sherman said. “Obviously, as we know, we weren’t able to do that. It didn’t end the way we wanted it to. So, this is another big opportunity for us to do that and really go show the country how special Colorado football is.”
Going up against Texas brings back memories for CU running backs coach Darian Hagan.
As an option quarterback for the Buffs in 1989 – he was named Big Eight offensive player of the year the season – Hagan had his breakout performance against the Longhorns.
“One of the things that I think about all the time is big (Ken Hackemack), he was a 6-foot-10 defensive lineman,” Hagan said. “That guy, he was getting a lot of hype going into that game and I remember coming out in warmups and one of our fans had a sign that said he beat up Hackemack in the third grade. I remember that.”
CU and Hagan got the best of Hackemack and the Longhorns in a season-opening 27-6 win in Boulder. Hagan, a sophomore, ran for 116 yards and a touchdown and completed 7-of-12 passes for 95 yards and a touchdowns.
Hagan and the Buffs knocked of Texas the next year, too, in Austin, 29-22. Although he was 2-0 against the Longhorns, Hagan has great respect for their program and knows the Alamo Bowl will be a challenge.
“Texas always has athletes, stellar athletes and it’s going to be a game we’re going to have to step up and match their energy,” he said. “We’re going to make sure they match ours. Our guys are going to be ready to play and it’s going to be fun.”
Freshman running back Ashaad Clayton has opted out of the bowl game, but Hagan is still confident in the players CU will have against Texas.
Starter Jarek Broussard, named the Pac-12 offensive player of the year on Tuesday, leads the way. Jaren Mangham, Joe Davis and Jayle Stacks will also be available.
“It’s still dynamic,” he said of the running back room. “We have four guys that I think that can do some really good things and I think we have four guys that are all in and they’re ready to contribute and help J-Bru along the way.”
Texas receiver Brennan Eagles announced Tuesday he will skip the Alamo Bowl and his senior year and enter the NFL draft. Eagles led the Longhorns in catches (28) and receiving yards (469) this season, with five touchdowns. He was third on the team in receiving in 2019. … Texas has had several starters opt out of the Alamo Bowl, including left tackle Samuel Cosmi, defensive lineman Ta’Quon Graham, linebacker Joseph Ossai and safeties Caden Sterns and Chris Brown.