An air of excitement usually surrounds the Buffs at the beginning of the season, but this year is different. Not only does the opener signal a new day and new year, but also begins CU’s journey into a new conference.
The Buffs will begin this season alongside another unknown rookie, head coach Jon Embree. A crop of questions looms over this team concerning their ability to hang with some of the premier programs in college football.
The 2011-2012 season will be the first for the Buffs in the newly formed Pac-12, which consists of gridiron heavyweights such as Oregon, Stanford, and USC.
However, before they can prove themselves against a few of the household names in college football, the Buffs (5-7, 2-6 in 2010) will be tackling a familiar foe in Hawaii (10-4, 7-1 in 2010).
The last time these two teams met, the Buffs rallied from behind to defeat Hawaii 31-13 at Folsom Field. Despite this, Colorado is notorious for its road-game losing streaks.
Embree is taking control of a team who hasn’t achieved a winning season since 2005, going 21-40 in the seasons following. The chance to prove to the nation, and a recently disappointed community, that Colorado isn’t down and out, gives this team focus.
For Embree, this game isn’t any more important than the next.
“I’ve been saying from day one that this is a big game,” Embree said. “As far as setting the tone for the program: yes and no. If we want to accomplish the things that we say we want to accomplish as a team and program, you can’t put too much importance on one game. I made this game a big game, because it is the next game.”
A key area of interest in this game is how the defensive backs will fare against Hawaii. Corners Greg Henderson (5’11, 185 freshman) and Travis Sandersfield (6’0, 205 senior) take over for recent NFL draftees Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown.
Hawaii Quarterback Bryant Moniz threw for 5,040 yards last season, averaging over 360 yards per game, with 39 touchdowns. He burned the Buffs for 330 yards last season.
However, Embree isn’t flustered one bit.
“I have a lot of confidence in them,” Embree said of his players. “I believe a lot in this team. I believe a lot in these players. I think Greg Henderson has had a very good camp. Travis Sandersfield does a very good job at using angles, has good ball awareness, and he’s a physical player. So I feel comfortable with those guys being out there.”
A lot of confidence has been given to Embree as well. He won’t be alone though, as he has the support of the team and the city of Boulder behind him.
“It’s a different feel around here,” said senior Tyler Hansen. “There’s a lot of excitement around this building [Dal Ward Athletic Center]. The whole city of Boulder is excited about the new beginning and the new start and we’re real excited. Coach Embree and his staff have done a great job changing the mindset and changing the culture around here.”
Following an offseason under a coaching staff that shares ample NFL experience, the players seem more ready for this opener over previous seasons.
“They expect a lot out of us,” said senior Defensive Back Anthony Perkins. “But I feel like it’ll make us a better team in the long run.”
The Buffaloes will face Hawaii as they begin their inaugural game in the Pac-12 this Saturday, September, 3 at 8:15 MST on ESPN 2.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Shay Knolle at firstname.lastname@example.org.