November 16, 2013. Until last Saturday night, that date represented the last time my University of Colorado Golden Buffaloes won a Pac-12 game. Two years of agony is finally over. Somehow though, I don’t feel relieved.
Don’t get me wrong. I was really happy for the kids, especially guys like Nelson Spruce who can count the number of Pac-12 wins they’ve experienced on one hand. The reality though is that I need more to be convinced. I’ve been watching CU football for 20 years now. I’ve been a season ticket holder for 8 of those years (2 years in the student section during grad school and the past 6 seasons in section 220). We all know where the team was and where the team is.
Coach Mac seems to have the team going in the right direction, but one win does not erase a culture of losing. In the past two years, the team has proven they can compete with most of the Pac-12. They have yet to prove that they can win in the Pac-12. This past weekend, they beat the youngest, most inexperienced team in the Pac-12. They did not dominate. They did not play a clean game. The game they played would have been a losing effort against every other team in the conference.
This is not a judgement on the players. The players don’t know how to win at this level. Everything that’s happened over the past decade falls squarely on the coaching staffs. Coaches are teachers. They need to teach their players how to win. They need to teach their players how to close games out when they’re up in the 4th quarter. It takes a lot more than holding up four fingers to teach your players how to win.
The practice test was this past Saturday. The real test is coming over the next several weeks:
- 10/31 at UCLA (they lost to a better version of this team last year in double OT)
- 11/7 Stanford
- 11/13 USC (a team in turmoil with a temporary coach)
- 11/21 at Washington St (an improved team, but still lost to Portland St. and Rutgers)
- 11/28 at Utah
I’m not expecting lots of W’s. CU is going up against good teams. One win in the next 5 shows the team has made some real strides. Two wins gets them to 6 wins, something they haven’t achieved since 2007. Three wins gets them to a bowl game. They can win at least one. They should win at least one. Over the next five weeks, we’ll see if Coach Mac has taught his players to have the will to win.