Nate Landman was in his first season as a full-time starter with the Colorado Buffaloes when he went through the team’s epic collapse of 2018.
That season, the Buffs started 5-0 and vaulted to No. 19 in the country, but didn’t win again, finishing 5-7.
A year later, the Buffs went through a five-game losing streak.
The current Buffs (1-4, 0-2 Pac-12) are on a four-game skid, and Landman, a senior inside linebacker, is doing what he can to prevent a repeat of 2018 or 2019.
“You’ve got to work on little things,” Landman said. “The crazy thing about the Pac-12, too, is that each week is different and you’ve seen that across the years that every game is different each week. A top three team can lose to an unranked team and I think that you’ve just got to stay level. Can’t get too high on the highs; can’t get too low on the lows.”
Landman is one of several leaders hoping to guide the Buffs out of the lows as they go through a bye this week and prepare to host Arizona (0-4, 0-1) on Oct. 16.
Head coach Karl Dorrell is leading on those leaders and focusing on the fact that there are seven games remaining.
“There’s still a lot to play for,” Dorrell said. “We play this game to compete and win. Obviously, we’ve been on the shorter side of winning, but there’s things in front of us that we can control; at least that we can try to address and to play better and to get ourselves in a position to win. That’s the competitive spirit that most coaches and players have.”
That competitive spirit can be difficult to maintain, however, when losses pile up and individual success isn’t being achieved. CU plays a lot of young players, many of which aren’t too far removed from being stars for winning high school programs.
“They’re not used to a 1-4 start,” Landman said, “so keeping their head up is huge especially since as the season goes on the possibility of those guys getting a starting job or starting roles are amplified. … Even older guys, they get down and you’ve got to be that catalyst for them.”
Arguably the best player on the team, Landman has continued to battle week in and week out, despite the disappointment of losing and he believes the best way to get back to winning is to keep grinding.
“I’ve lost my fair share games and won my fair share of games,” said Landman, who has gone 20-27 in his CU career. “Football is a roller coaster and keeping level-headed is where you’ve got to stay. … I just reiterate that to the guys. Watching the film, we’re not too far off. We’ve got some stuff to clean up, but we’re still a great program and we’re excited for the future.”
While Dorrell, Landman and other team leaders try to keep morale up, they know nothing will boost the Buffs more than finding success on a game day.
“When you’re in a situation that we’re in right now, we need to improve what our product looks like,” Dorrell said. “It starts there and then hopefully the confidence and stuff will build as we go from there.”
Having been through losing skids in the past, Landman wants to see the Buffs simply realize they can and have played better football and can do it again.
“At the end of the day, it’s a football game and we’re gonna go out there and make plays and they’re gonna make plays, too,” Landman said. “It’s who can make more plays at the end of the day. We’re just working to better our offense, better our defense, better our special teams and play a more well-rounded game as we look to Arizona next week.”
Landman believes the bye week comes at a good time for the Buffs to get back on track.
“I’ve had some pretty bad bye weeks, whether it’s been right at the end, right in the beginning,” he said. “I think this is a great bye week time. It’s kind of like a timeout. You call at timeout on the first couple of games of the season and reassess everything, look back and then see what you can improve on and then look to the future, get some guys who are banged up healthy.
“Winning is hard and we discuss that each week. Obviously, we want to get back in that win column. We haven’t had the start we wanted but that’s part of football. Being a winning program is hard and we’re working towards it in practice every day.”