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Buffs encouraged by '09 finish


News Junkie
BOULDER, Colo.—Nate Solder watched Alabama from the sidelines on a day in December two years ago in Shreveport, La.* Three months ago, he watched—on TV this time—the Crimson Tide win a national championship.

On that day two years ago, Alabama was only six points better than the Buffaloes, winning the Independence Bowl, 30-24. Last January, Alabama won its 14th game and a national title.

The gap between the two teams now is much wider, but the offensive lineman and his teammates believe, despite winning just three games in 2009, that gap could have been much narrower than 11 wins.

“I never doubted that we could play much better than we did, and we did toward the end of the season,” Solder said. “It was encouraging that we stuck together and played better toward the end of the season. We kept getting better.”

Colorado closed their season with five consecutive games against teams who finished their season in a bowl. It upset Texas A&M before losing at Iowa State by a touchdown. The Buffaloes lost a fourth-quarter lead at Oklahoma State and were within a touchdown of Big 12 North champ Nebraska in the fourth quarter.

“That was due to us not being very disciplined, having a lot of dumb mistakes that could easily be correctable,” said defensive back Anthony Perkins.

That’s not acceptable for the Buffaloes, but they feel the road back to a bowl game isn’t as long as some might think.

“The biggest emphasis this year is taking care of the little things, taking care of details, being disciplined as a team, cutting down on penalties and just not doing things that beat us last year,” Perkins said. “Not beating ourselves.”

And that’s begun this spring. Its coach, Dan Hawkins, enters 2010 on the proverbial hot seat. The expectations outside the locker room are low. But hope for the Buffaloes lies in lessons learned from a less-than-ideal season.

“It was a challenge. You had to keep the faith,” Solder said of the Buffaloes’ struggles. “Rallying with the guys. Maybe the world was against you, but you’ve got to stay with the team. It’s about the guys.”