Heart of A Buffalo

At the conclusion of the final home game of the season, the Buffalo Heart Award is given out. The tradition of CU fans honoring one player with the award after the final home game each season was started in 1998 by four friends — Pat Grimes, Craig Augustin and Ashley and Thaddeus Cernac. Fans vote for the Buff who demonstrates grit, determination and toughness with his play throughout the season.

Last weekend, senior defensive back Parker Orms was given this year’s Buffalo Heart Award.

“I feel like all the seniors deserve that award,” Orms said in a late-night postgame press conference after the USC game. “Since we’ve battled through the last four or five years that we’ve grown together and battled every Saturday together. All the seniors deserve that award.”

After watching the Utah game yesterday, I would agree with Orms’ assessment.

The question of the week leading up to the Colorado game at Utah was whether either team would be fully invested in the outcome. Both teams were 4-7. Both had lost any chance at a bowl bid with losses the weekend before. Both teams would pack it in for the year after the final gun.

There was nothing left to play for but pride.

So, if faced with early adversity, would the team which fell behind pack it in? Would an early deficit lead to the hope for an early exit?

As it turned out, it was the CU football team which had to face those questions.

A pair of Sefo Liufau fumbles helped Utah build a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. Colorado was only averaging 26 points per game as it was, and had succumbed by 18 points or more in all of its Pac-12 losses. All seven of the Buff conquerors had scored at least 44 points.

A rout was in the making.

Even members of the Buff Nation were ready to pack it in.

Here are some comments posted on a CU message board during the second quarter of the game:

“Game. We don’t have the team to come back from 21-0 on the road”;

“I have officially no hope for Sefo. He is awful. I know our o-line is really bad but sefo is NOT an athlete and can’t make any throws”;

“well the Seniors have shown what they can do…..play the young guys in the 2nd half”;

“Can’t score on four downs from the five yard line. Going to put some Christmas lights up. See you guys in the MBB thread”; and

“Happy Holidays everyone.  I’m gonna go watch something else”.

It’s hard to cast blame on those who were frustrated with the Buffs’ early performance against Utah. After all, we’d seen it time and time again. Fall behind early, then watch – in painful silence – as the opposition slowly built on its the lead without seeming to even try to score, with the Buffs unable to demonstrate they could stop any style of offense it faced.

The numbers spoke for themselves: 44 points surrendered to Oregon State; 57 to Oregon; 54 to Arizona State; 44 to Arizona; 45 to UCLA; 59 to Washington; 47 to USC.

And this was a good year for the CU defense compared to 2012!

Thing was, even though many in the Buff Nation were ready to give up on the team as the season ticked down to a conclusion, the team wasn’t ready to give up on itself.

Down 21-0 at the break, the Buffs started the second half with a successful onside kick. Though the first drive did not result in points, it did help to set the tone for the third quarter. The Colorado offense, which generated all of 112 total yards in the first half, produced 117 in the third quarter, including a 34-yard touchdown pass from Sefo Liufau to Scott Fernandez.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Buffs posted a field goal to make the score 21-10. The 45,023 on hand at Rice-Eccles then squirmed in their seats as quarterback Adam Schulz fumbled on the Utes’ next possession. The ruling of a fumble was overturned, however, and the Utes retained possession.

Again faced with the choice of folding or fighting, the CU defense chose to fight, holding the Utes to a field goal. Down two touchdowns, the Buffs made good use of a 50-yard Darragh O’Neill punt – downed at the Utah one yard line – to regain good field position after a three-and-out from the Utah offense.

The Buff offense then put together another touchdown drive, but it wasn’t easy. Sefo Liufau was being battered on every play, as the Utes had no reason to believe the Buffs would do anything but pass. CU had a first-and-ten at the Utah 14, but three straight incompletions were forced from a hurried Liufau by a Utah defense which was second in the nation in sacks coming into the game. On fourth-and-ten, with the game on the line, Utah again brought immediate pressure. Liufau was able to get the ball away, however, hitting Nelson Spruce for a touchdown.

24-17, with 2:29 still left to play.

What was supposed to be a rout had turned into a game.

The Buffs’ second onside kick of the game failed, but the CU defense again forced a three-and-out, giving the Buffs one last chance.

That Sefo Liufau was intercepted on the very next play was almost anti-climatic.

There would be no great comeback. There would be no fifth victory for the Buffs.

Yes, you can say that the play-calling by the Buffs in the red zone against Utah was difficult to fathom.

Yes, you can say that the offensive line looked like a sieve for much of the game.

Yes, you can say the Buffs lack difference-makers on both sides of the ball.

But you can’t say that the Buffs quit.

And it was the senior class … who had no reason to worry about building for next season, who had every reason to call it a career after falling behind 21-0, who were leading the charge.

“The seniors were phenomenal”, said coach MacIntyre. “At halftime, they were like ‘we have one half left.’ At the end of the third quarter, they were saying ‘we have one quarter left.’ They just kept fighting and fighting, and the seniors were a big part of that with their leadership. I appreciate the attitude they had, because when the seniors buy in the other guys follow. They did buy in they did a lot of things.”

This senior class goes out without a winning season.

This senior class has never enjoyed the reward of a bowl game.

This senior class has lost more games than any other in school history.

But you have to remember that the foundation for Colorado’s national championship season was laid by players who endured far more losses than victories. The CU recruiting Class of 1983, which included the likes of Jon Embree, Lance Carl, Eric McCarty, Curt Koch, Mickey Pruitt, David Tate, and Barry Helton, would survive great hardships and live through many lopsided losses on their way to helping to build a program.

Their leadership was the cornerstone of a CU renaissance.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the leadership shown by the CU senior class of 2013 will also lay a cornerstone.

They did not win their final game in a Buff uniform.

But they did earn the right to leave the field with their heads held high.

Thank you seniors, for showing the Heart of a Buffalo.

9 Replies to “Heart of a Buffalo”

  1. Well Stuart another losing season for the Buffs comes to a close with a disappointing Thanksgiving weekend loss. Overall the season turned out about the way I expected, as I predicted three wins at the beginning of the season and as many have pointed out that would have been the likely record had the Buffs played their original schedule. Despite the disappointing losses, there were many positive signs this year and I have no question that the current coaching staff has brought in a level of competence that has not been seen in the Dal Ward Center since 2005. Although his performance on Saturday was poor, I think Sefo has some real potential and I hope he will only get better and stronger in the off season. We also saw the emergence of other freshmen (Gillam, Awuzie and Adkins) that no doubt can contribute to a successful program and overall the team showed some resilience in not giving up during games.

    Now back to some of the negatives, which mostly involve things going on off the field. I felt a sense of despair for the program this year that surpassed even last year’s terrible season. Being at Folsom for some of the games this year particularly homecoming against Arizona and seeing all of the empty seats really bothered me. I feel like last year took its toll on the fan base and the program is desperate for a shot in the arm right now. I cannot emphasize enough to my fellow fans that the time to support this program is now. My friend from SEC country who I took to the USC game and just about froze to death questioned why coach Mac would take the job at CU and suggested that we move to a lower conference in order to become competitive. The thought of such an event ever happening absolutely crushes me but I fear we are headed down that road if something major is not done on the fundraising front soon. I sincerely hope that Rick George has made some progress and some good announcements concerning fundraising will be forthcoming in the next couple months.

    As for what needs to happen on the field, I think the number one key for next season is to improve our line play on both sides of the ball and the coaching staff needs to do whatever it takes to get that done. I want to see the Buffs become tough and physical like Stanford and like the Buffs used to be about a decade ago (thanks to the PAC 12 Network for showing the 2002 replay of CU at UCLA to remind people of what CU used to be). Saturday’s game was frustrating because the Buffs were dominated at the line of scrimmage all game, which resulted in several CU offensive possessions that produced nothing and Utah’s inexperienced quarterback having plenty of time to make plays. Onward and upward to 2014 Buffs fans and as always thank you Stuart for your excellent coverage.

  2. Overall, the Buffs improved over last year and found a good Quarterback in the process. Looking forward to next year!

  3. The play calling lost that game, plain and simple. The players played with heart (for the most part) and I will give them all the credit in the world. But when you can’t call a play to get into the end zone on 1st and goal and you decide run off tackle with Tony Jones on 4th and goal…you’re going to lose.

  4. Great post Stuart, the Buffs didn’t quit on themselves and I didn’t quit on them. I watched till the bitter end hoping for a final gasp of greatness that didn’t come, it will have to wait for next season.

  5. Recruit, recruit recruit!!!! Especially O-line! Go Buffs! Hey bottom line we got better, not a huge amount but, better.

  6. Not going to say anything negative about a team that continued to show heart, if not for team depth at most all positions. Can’t wait for next year. I think Sefo will do much better with a more seasoned, stronger OL to open holes and keep the DL off whomever the QB will be and the DB’s will be more seasoned also. The DL will be bigger and stronger. The coaching staff did it at SJSU… it can do it here.

    Go Big Buffs.

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