Buffs say heartbreak will be motivation
Players say no bowl will be plenty of impetus to improve
LINCOLN, Neb. --- A youthful Colorado football team learned a lot of tough lessons this season, but the most difficult might still be coming.
After falling in heartbreaking fashion 40-31 at Nebraska on Friday, the Buffs wake up today to the reality they will be sitting home watching the bowl season on television and enduring plenty of extra work with strength and conditioning coach Jeff Pitman.
Some of the older players on this year's team endured this scenario in 2006, and it wasn't pleasant, but it helped them find a way to a bowl game in 2007. They're hoping it has a similar effect this time around, albeit a longer-lasting one.
"It's going to be hard to sit there and watch that," tailback Demetrius Sumler said. "But it's going to give us some motivation to work harder and make sure it don't ever happen again."
The Buffs started fast Friday but weren't able to hold a double-digit first-quarter lead, established through good game planning by coaches, who saw holes in the Nebraska defense and exploited them.
That got tougher to do as the game wore on and Nebraska coaches responded with answers.
Only 18 members of the Buffs' 70-man travel roster had played a game at Nebraska prior to Friday, and only nine of them had been involved in plays from scrimmage. The other nine had special teams playing time in the 2006 game here.
Players expect the experience gained in Friday's game in front of 85,000 roaring fans in red, and other games like it this season, will pay dividends in future years. It's small consolation at this point, but something to hang a hat on as offseason workouts, bowl watching and soul searching begin.
"You know it's going to be tough, but I think a lot of young guys saw how important it is to go into a hostile environment and fight heart and soul to try to get that win," Hawkins said.
The Buffs finished with a losing record and failed to make a bowl game a year after playing in the Independence Bowl. By some standards, it was a step backward for the program. But players weren't ready to call it a failure Friday, a challenging and often frustrating learning experience, sure, but not a failure.
"We played some of the best football teams in the country week in and week out," defensive tackle George Hypolite said. "We didn't have too many cupcakes, as sports writers call them, on our schedule. Obviously we were a younger team this year than we were last year, a lot less veterans. We hit some rough patches and some rough times, but I think that our (record) is not indicative of how well we played. Anybody who watched us, realizes we played a lot better this year."