Brooks: Gaining Respect – Not Revenge – Fuels Buffs

BOULDER – Mike MacIntyre prefers to face forward, live for the future and not hang onto the past. That’s a very good thing, because his Colorado football team’s next opponent – Fresno State – laid a beating for the ages on the Buffaloes last season in the blast furnace that was Bulldogs Stadium.
MacIntyre doesn’t object to the Buffs briefly flashing back to that 69-14 beat down in 102-degree heat, but he doesn’t believe revenge is nearly a solid enough motivator as CU preps for Fresno State’s Saturday visit to Folsom Field (12:05 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
Still, MacIntyre is savvy enough to know that even if he and his staff don’t dwell on it, their returning players haven’t hit the “delete” button on that epic mid-September whipping. Really, how could they forget? The night quickly turned into an unforgettable statistical nightmare for CU:
·       Fresno State led 35-0 after one quarter, 55-7 at halftime and 62-7 after three quarters. Give coach Tim DeRuyter props for showing mercy and reeling in his Bulldogs;
·       FSU quarterback Derek Carr threw for 300 yards and five touchdowns – in the first half. He was done for the night, but his yardage total was the most ever against CU in a half;
·       Fresno State tailback Robbie Rouse entered the game needing 79 yards to become the school’s leading rusher. He ran for 144 yards on nine carries and scored twice – in the first quarter. Rouse, too, went to the bench for the final half.
CU’s record book was shredded as badly as the Buffs’ collective psyche, and MacIntyre believes retaining a hint of the hurt isn’t such a bad thing. “In any competitor’s mind, it’s in the back of your mind,” he said at Tuesday’s press luncheon. “If it’s not, then you’re not a competitor. I know it’s in the back of our young men’s minds and I know they’ll use that to help them motivate themselves.”
Several players on Tuesday said rather gaining revenge after such a flogging, they were looking more to establish respect. They left Fresno last September having earned virtually none from the Bulldogs.
MacIntyre also downplayed the revenge angle: “I don’t look at it as a revenge game or anything like that. When you get into revenge, all you’re doing is getting mad. And that’s not focusing; it’s about executing what we do well rather than what they do and playing with all the heart you’ve got. What happened last year probably makes you focus a little better because they’re really good and you don’t want to get embarrassed again.”
Fresno State and CU both are 2-0, with the Bulldogs the preseason choice of many to become this season’s “BCS busters.” Carr, the younger brother of former Fresno State QB David Carr, is back. Rouse is gone, but the Bulldogs have enough speed and weapons – returner Isaiah Burse to name one – to have the Buffs’ attention.
How does CU contend with that speed?
“Hopefully they’ll sprain their ankles when they get off the bus,” cracked MacIntyre.
But seriously folks, he believes that last weekend’s 38-24 win against Central Arkansas “gave us a little bit of a feel for it – a little high-tempo offense, a little spread offense. We have to do certain things to be able to negate (the Bulldogs) catching the ball and running. We have to harass the quarterback – the same things you always do – and we have to tackle in open space and know your leverage. That’s going to be one of the keys to the game – don’t let them get in the open field enough times where they can use that speed. We’ve got to get ‘em before they get started.”
He’s also hoping the Buffs’ newly discovered habit of creating turnovers continues. CU didn’t have a defensive return for a score in 12 games last season; in two games this season, the Buffs have three – two interceptions, one fumble – for TDs.
MacIntyre’s practices feature a period called “The Winning Edge,” during which the defense tries to create turnovers and the offense attempts to deny them. Stripping the ball on defense is “stressed daily until it becomes second nature; it just happens,” he said.
If it doesn’t happen that way, he added, a defense’s turnover total will remain as stagnant as CU’s was last season. “In today’s world, other teams have good players and they’re going to make some plays . . . you say we’re going to hold them to 10 points and shut them down to 200 yards offense,” MacIntyre said. “I don’t know if you can really do that anymore all the time.”
Something else that MacIntyre, well-traveled defensive coordinator Kent Baer and his assistants have emphasized is competing until the whistle blows. MacIntyre used sophomore cornerback Kenneth Crawley as his Exhibit A for that.
Beaten last Saturday on a double-move pass route, Crawley kept pursuing the UCA receiver, who caught the pass but was bobbling the ball as he neared the end zone. Crawley finally got close enough to provide a shove, which ended the juggling act with an incompletion and saved a touchdown. The story’s moral: keep playing.
“In the past, when I first got here – nothing against anybody else – but Kenneth would have stopped,” MacIntyre said. “That’s a big deal. We pointed out it’s a big deal, told him, ‘Kenneth you got beat, but you kept running and kept playing.’ It’s not over until they catch it.
“If he wouldn’t have pushed the guy, the guy would’ve caught a touchdown on him. That was a big, big, big play in the game on a play he didn’t make. I was very proud of him doing that.”
NOTABLE: Last week’s “Sledgehammer Award” went to an offensive player – guard Daniel Munyer – for his knockdown blocks against Central Arkansas . . . . Quarterback Connor Wood believes receiver Paul Richardson (21 catches, 417 yards, four TDs) has come back stronger and faster than ever after sitting out last season while rehabbing a knee. “I didn’t see a whole lot of him when he was healthy (two seasons ago),” Wood said. “But those (consecutive) 200-yard games are impressive. Yeah, he’s come back stronger.” . . . . Richardson agreed: “I’ve grown up a lot, I’m stronger, faster. And I can read coverages better and find weak spots.” Plus, he added with a grin: “I’m stronger than I look.” . . . . Another factor in Richardson’s stellar start is offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren’s and receivers coach Troy Walters’ deployment of “P-Rich.” MacIntyre said Lindgren and Walters “do a great job of moving him around . . . the backfield, the middle, side, underneath. We have to move him around him; we can’t leave him at ‘X’ or ‘Z’ (exclusively).” . . . . Fresno State’s top returner, Burse, scored on two punt returns (61, 58 yards) last weekend against Cal Poly. One of Burse’s returns, noted MacIntyre, was a credit to effective blocking, the other was all Burse. “He made eight guys miss . .  . he’s really, really good.” . . . . The Buffs’ kick/punt coverage has been, well, not so good in two games, which MacIntyre said was impetus enough “to not punt; we need to score every time.” With that probably not a realistic option, he added that work continues on kick and punt coverage.
Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU

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