CU an unwelcome guest on road

By Bruce Plasket
The Daily Times-Call

SEATTLE — The Seattle area entertained some infrequent visitors this weekend.

First there was the Washington State football team, which plays only one game a year at Qwest Field — the home of the NFL Seattle Seahawks.

Then there was the University of Colorado football team, which hasn’t played in Seattle since 1999.

And there was the sun, which appeared Saturday above Puget Sound after a night of driving rain and which shined on the CU Buffs in a 20-12 win over the Washington State Cougars.

The Buffs, who spent nearly the entire trip in meetings or on buses, didn’t get to see much of the beautiful Emerald City on their first road trip of the season. They seemed oblivious to the city where everything seems to be named Microsoft, Boeing or Starbucks.

They didn’t seem to hear much, either.

As the Buffs came out on the field for warm-ups, a few student-section voices screamed “rapists.” If the reference to off-season allegations angered the Buffs, they didn’t mention it. Their actions, however, spoke volumes as the CU defense made up for a stalled offense with ferocity unseen in recent years.

CU coach Gary Barnett touched on the possibility of such heckling when he addressed the team Thursday night, telling his players to let their actions do their talking.

With the Buffs now 2-0, talk of the CU football program has now turned to football games.

For 19-year-old sophomore defensive end Abraham Wright, his first road trip as a CU Buff was a little strange. He could very well have played the game in the crimson-and-silver jersey of Washington State. As a matter of fact, he almost did.

After playing one year at Northeast Oklahoma A&M and establishing himself as a top junior-college player, Wright came close to signing with the Cougars.

“I still love their players and their coaches,” he said as he ripped tape from his hands in the jubilant CU locker room. “They were the first ones to want me, but I’m glad I ended up here.”

The choice between Washington Sate and CU was a tough one for the quiet, religious Wright.

“I’m not really sure why I chose CU,” he said. “I prayed about it and I just knew I wanted to be here.”

Asked if the recruiting allegations of 2004 entered into his thinking, Wright was clear. “Not even a little bit,” he said. “The players here embraced me — they all love and support each other and it’s a great place to be.”

While Seattle is also a great place to be, the Buffs’ fans saw much more of it than did the team. An early-morning flight out of Denver on Friday provided what perhaps was an omen. The Frontier Airlines jet featured not a picture of a rabbit or a bear, but that of a buffalo.

As the plane passed by Mount Rainier, the sun broke through the northwestern sky — much as it would the next day for the Buffs. Within minutes of their arrival, CU’s fans had turned the Hyatt Hotel in upscale Bellevue into a party. Drink covers in the shape of football jerseys carried the CU logo and seemed to fit perfectly over Heineken bottles.

While the fans partied, the team had little time for frivolity. After landing at mid-afternoon, the Buffs took buses straight to Qwest Field for a walk-through. Thirty minutes after their arrival in suburban Bellevue, the players were in meetings. Their evening meal was followed by special-teams meetings, followed by a 9:15 p.m. trip to a snack table from which they carted away stacks of food on their way to their rooms.

Barnett had reminded his players they could watch the Florida State-Miami game and the Oregon State-Boise State game in their rooms, but the FSU-Miami game was over by the time they broke from their meetings.

Secondary coach Craig Bray, however, had more than a casual interest in the Boise State-Oregon Sate game. His son, Trent, is Oregon State’s starting middle linebacker.

“They’re struggling right now,” he said as he threw a sandwich on a plate on the way to his room. His son’s team would continue to struggle in a 53-34 loss.

A few players visited friends and family in the lobby area, since visitors were prohibited except on the first floor. The visits didn’t last long, given Barnett’s 10:45 p.m. lights-out order.

As the Saturday-morning sun began to sneak through the clouds, guard Brian Daniels and tackle Sam Wilder stepped over the morning paper outside their door as they trudged downstairs for the team’s 8 a.m. chapel service. Breakfast and morning meetings followed, and at 10 a.m. the team boarded buses for the 30-minute ride through affluent suburbs in which even the police motorcycles were BMWs. A steady breeze formed white caps on Puget Sound as the buses passed Rick Neuheiesel-esque luxury homes with boat ramps for backyards.

Still, no one seemed to notice the surroundings.

In his pre-game speech, Barnett harkened back to what he said at the team’s Thursday night meeting.

“Last year’s game defined Washington State and, unfortunately, it seemed to define us,” he said on Thursday in recounting his team’s 47-26 loss to Wazzu in its third game last year.

That loss didn’t deter him from putting this year’s game in the same perspective.

“This game will define us,” he said before the Buffs took the field to seek their revenge.

And, after winning with a last-second goal-line stand for the second week in a row, he liked the new definition of his scarred-but-undefeated team.


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