Pac-12 preview: Colorado hasn't won on the road in a long time
Reed Saxon, Associated Press
Editor's note: This is the seventh in a series of stories previewing the Pac-12 football season.
LOS ANGELES — New Colorado coach Jon Embree knows the score. He's been following his alma mater and is well aware the Buffaloes haven't won a road game since a 31-26 victory at Texas Tech on Oct. 27, 2007.
That, he noted, is an area of emphasis.
"I believe there is no one on our team that's played in a road win. I'm taking it head on," Embree said. "I believe it all starts from how you prepare. It all starts with the mindset. Good teams win on the road. Obviously we haven't been a good team or I wouldn't be here."
Embree, who is the first Colorado graduate in nearly 50 years to return as head coach, was hired to rebuild a once-proud program that had five consecutive losing seasons under former coach Dan Hawkins.
"If we want to do the things that the players want to do, be it bowl games and championships and all that, we have to win on the road," Embree said.
The first opportunity comes in the season opener when the Buffaloes visit Hawaii on Sept. 3. Embree is excited about the opportunity to put the 17-game skid to rest.
"We need to address that issue immediately," he said. "It does not sit well with me."
Other chances to win on the road include games at Ohio State, Stanford, Washington, Arizona State, UCLA and Utah.
On the positive side, Embree takes control of a team that won two of its last three games in 2010 under interim coach Brian Cabral. The Buffaloes defeated Big 12 foes Iowa State (34-14) and Kansas State (44-36) in Boulder before a season-ending 45-17 setback at Nebraska. The latter cost the Buffaloes a bowl bid and left them at 5-7 overall.
OFFENSE: Colorado alum Eric Bieniemy, the program's career rushing leader, is the new offensive coordinator. Senior quarterback Tyler Hansen has been named the starter as the Buffaloes switch to a new pro-style offense. Senior tailback Rodney Stewart rushed for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
DEFENSE: New defensive coordinator Greg Brown brings plenty of experience to the post, including years of work in the NFL. Brown was pleased with how the defense picked up schemes in spring ball so the Buffaloes can show multiple looks this fall. Several contributors were slowed by injuries in 2010.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The team's post-spring prospectus didn't mince words when it comes to the kicking game and special teams. "Colorado's biggest improvement for 2011 arguably must come in this area."
PLAYMAKERS: Stewart has 2,744 career yards and needs 1,196 more to surpass Bieniemy as Colorado's all-time rushing leader ... Hansen is back after rupturing his spleen in the seventh game last season ... Junior free safety Ray Polk is the top returning tackler. He made 72 stops in 2010.
TOUGH STRETCH: In the midst of a 13-game schedule without a bye week, the Buffaloes have a difficult span in October/November featuring games against Stanford, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, USC and Arizona.
EXTRA POINTS: Colorado hasn't been ranked in the AP or USA Today polls since Nov. 6, 2005 ... The Buffaloes have 27 seniors, the most since 1987 ... Colorado and Utah will renew a rivalry that has been dormant since 1962 on Nov. 25 in Salt Lake City.
2011 media poll: 6th, South
2010 record: 5-7, 2-6 (Big 12)
Head coach: Jon Embree (0-0, first season)
Sept. 3 at Hawaii
Sept. 10 CALIFORNIA
Sept. 17 vs. Colorado State (Denver)
Sept. 24 at Ohio State
Oct. 1 WASHINGTON STATE
Oct. 8 at Stanford
Oct. 15 at Washington
Oct. 22 OREGON
Oct. 29 at Arizona State
Nov. 4 USC
Nov. 12 ARIZONA
Nov. 19 at UCLA
Nov. 25 at Utah
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