Outside of the locker room on Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif., Colorado receiver Brenden Rice spent some time talking with his father.
Jerry Rice, regarded as the best receiver in NFL history, gave his son some advice on how to get better following the Buffaloes’ 26-3 loss to California.
Moments earlier, Brenden proved he’s got some ideas of his own, spending several minutes during a post-game press conference showing some frustration, maturity and resolve to help CU (2-5, 1-3 Pac-12) turn things around.
“It’s super, super frustrating because when you have a set plan or desire and a goal, and you feel as though the whole team is heading towards that goal, you see a couple things that just take apart from that and those little things add up,” said Brenden Rice, a second-year freshman receiver. “You see that some people are buying in and some people are not fully in; it takes apart from us. And that’s what we need – we need a full buy-in just to head towards that goal.”
Following another blowout loss, the Buffs are fighting not only their opponents but a battle within their own locker room to keep an eye on the goal of winning.
“Of course,” Rice said when asked if he worries about players becoming disengaged as the losses continue. “But if you’re not bought in, you might as well just leave. There’s no room for anybody who’s trying to be out or trying to excuse themselves from the team. We need to all be bought in, in order for us to take the next step. This season’s not over, and this season sets us up for next season. And if we’re not bought in, then next season is gonna go the same way because we’re still gonna have those cancers on the team.”
Ugly losses continue to pile up for the Buffs, as does frustration within the program, but head coach Karl Dorrell said he isn’t worried about losing the locker room.
“No, I don’t because they care,” he said. “They care about what we’re doing. They see. I’m always truthful with them. I could see if I was deceitful and lying and they didn’t trust their coach or anything like that. I don’t think we have that type of relationship. We just have young players and a mixture of inexperienced players that just are trying to find a way.
“Part of it is they have to take ownership on their side of it just like the coaches do. We’re very transparent with each other and hopefully, we can learn from this experience that we’re dealing with right now.”
The experience is not a fun one for the Buffs, who have lost five of their last six games, with four of those coming by at least 22 points. Cal (2-5, 1-3) had yet to beat a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent before Saturday but dominated the Buffs.
After the game, Rice took some ownership for the results.
“Yeah, we all do practice hard, but we’re not practicing hard enough,” he said. “We need to take it up to the next level in order to push it to that next level in the game and make sure that we can score on every drive, make sure that we can get something out of every drive. These three-and-outs, they’re not going to do it. Three points on the board, that’s not going to do it.”
Offensively, the Buffs now rank 130th – dead last – in the country in yards per game (238.1). They rank 125th in scoring (15.1 points per game). In six games against FBS opponents this season, the CU offense has scored a total of six touchdowns.
The road towards the goal of winning gets exponentially tougher this week. After getting blown out by the last-place team in the Pac-12 North, the Buffs’ next two games are against the teams tied for first in the North, at No. 7 Oregon (6-1, 3-1) and home against Oregon State (5-2, 3-1). That’s followed by a road trip to UCLA (5-3, 3-2); the Buffs are 0-9 in Los Angeles since joining the Pac-12.
What can the Buffs do to turn it around? For starters, get mean, Rice said.
“People are too nice,” he said. “People are way too nice and that’s all gonna change this week, especially for me. If I drop a ball, I expect people to be on my butt, like Mekhi Blackmon was on my butt last week. We need that change to get this pushed forward. It’s not the coaches; it starts with the players. It’s time to take that next step.
“Of course we have more leaders on the defensive side but we need more on offense because the people that are leading the offense, their voices aren’t heard enough or loud enough. And I’m gonna start speaking up. But the thing is, for me to even speak up I can’t have dropped balls in practice. I have to practice a certain way. I have to exemplify myself a certain way for me to step up.”