Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Buffs trip to Hawaii not about sun & fun
By Ted Miller
Hawaii: The surf, the sand, the sunsets. Surfing and rain forest hikes. Don't forget the luaus (a whole pig! Yum.).
None of this is part of new Colorado coach Jon Embree's plan for the Buffaloes trip to Hawaii on Saturday.
"It has to be a business trip for us," he said.
Trips, business or otherwise, haven't been good to the Buffs of late. They are riding an 18-game road losing streak. Their last win outside of the state of Colorado came on Oct. 27, 2007 at Texas Tech.
You might guess this factoid annoys Embree. It does, but he doesn't duck it. While some coaches -- particularly new ones -- would ignore this unhappy trend ("The past is the past. We're looking forward."), Embree embraces it.
Embraces it in the sense that the former Colorado tight end has grabbed it in a bear hug, thrown it into the dirt and asked his players to stomp on it.
"It doesn't matter if we were playing on the moon," he said. "We have to learn how to play when we're not in Folsom Field."
Embree points out the obvious math: If you want to win more than six or seven games a year -- the Buffs play seven road games on their 13-game, bye-less slate -- you've got to be able to bring your A-game on the road.
It should help that Colorado has a veteran team, with 18 starters back, including quarterback Tyler Hansen and 1,300-yard rusher Rodney Stewart. Further, Hawaii appears to be rebuilding. It has just nine starters back, including three on offense.
Of course, one of those three on offense is QB Bryant Moniz, the best player many have never heard of. He threw for an eye-popping 5,040 yards and 39 touchdowns last season. He's also a pretty good runner, see four rushing TDs.
And a pass-happy team playing at home isn't a good recipe for Colorado, which lost both starting cornerbacks to the NFL draft from a secondary that struggled in 2010 in any event.
Beyond this, Embree has been impressed with film of the Warriors defense.
"That may be the strength of their team, their defense," he said.
It should help the Buffs cause that two Warriors starters have been suspended for the game -- linebacker Aaron Brown and wide receiver Darius Bright -- for their involvement in a nightclub brawl.
Embree admits he has no special secret for winning on the road. He's tried to, as he says, "paint a picture," of the itinerary so the players not only know what they will be doing but also why they are being asked to do it. He's tried to address the mental side of playing on the road, including the sense that a pattern of failure on the road may become a self-fulfilling prophecy as players tense up when the screws tighten.
"I feel the best way for us to address the issue is to talk about it," he said.
Of course, ending the streak means the topic merits no further discussion. Here's a guess no coach or player would object to that.
It also would mean the Embree Era gets off to a good start. And it might start to hint that the Buffs will be competitive in their first year of Pac-12 play.