Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre wasn’t a part of 21 losses in 25 games. He didn’t live through a one-win season, and he was nowhere near Eugene, Ore., when the Buffaloes gave up 70 points to Oregon last season.
But that doesn’t mean the first-year coach can’t relate to the joy his players felt Sunday after they knocked off rival Colorado State 41-27 in Denver.
“It was very uplifting to see the joy on their faces after watching how hard they’ve been working,” MacIntyre said Tuesday during the Pac-12 coaches conference call.
This wasn’t just a win; this was a must-win.
The Buffaloes broke an eight-game losing streak with Sunday’s victory and more importantly restored some respectability to a program that went 1-11 last season and 3-10 the year before.
But, on Sunday, the Buffaloes checked off all kinds of objectives on their imaginary to-do list.
• Scoring more than 40 points in a game for the first time since a 48-29 win over Arizona in 2011.
• Not allowing a passing touchdown for the first time in 36 games.
• Leading a coach to a win in his debut for just the second time in 15 chances since 1932. Rick Neuheisel won his debut in 1995.
• Playing turnover-free football in a season opener for the first time in 13 years.
“I’m just really excited for those kids,” MacIntyre said. “The seniors have had three different head coaches and have been through so much. There’s nothing like your first game of the season, and you add into that it’s a rivalry game in an NFL stadium with the crowd divided 50-50. There was a lot of excitement that goes into it.”
MacIntyre was hired as the Buffaloes coach in December after serving as the head coach of San Jose State for three seasons prior.
He’s no stranger to reclamation projects.
In his first year with the Spartans in 2010, MacIntyre and San Jose State went 1-12 and 0-8 in conference play. Two seasons later in 2012, MacIntyre and the Spartans went 10-2 and finished the season ranked No. 24 in The Associated Press Top 25.
MacIntyre moved on to Boulder and is hoping to do the same type of thing with the Buffaloes.
But he knows — and he’s hopeful his players do, too — that one win doesn’t define a season. Colorado hosts FCS Central Arkansas on Saturday, and after watching seven FCS programs beat FBS teams last weekend, MacIntyre knows all the good feelings from the 14-point win against the Rams can be erased in one game.
“It was a great win for us, but ... it’s just one,” MacIntyre said. “They have to put it behind them now and focus on Central Arkansas.
“You talk about seven FCS teams winning last weekend; it was pretty amazing.”
The Buffaloes don’t have the look of a one-win wonder type of team this season.
Colorado welcomed back receiver Paul Richardson after he missed all of 2012 with a torn ACL, and he caught 10 passes for 208 yards and was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week on Monday.
Quarterback Connor Wood, a transfer from Texas, went 33 for 46 for 400 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers in the win.
And a sign that newfound talent is emerging came in the form of true freshman linebacker Addison Gillam, who led the team with 14 tackles — two going for a loss — and adding a sack and a pass breakup in the win.
Good times appear to be ahead in Boulder, even if there are still some speed bumps ahead.
“I think this ranks high in the wins just because it was our first game,” Richardson said after the game. “As a team, we only got one last year. To come back and start off this season with one means a lot.
“Since we lost to them last year, it means even more. It is just game one. We have 11 more to go. It ranks high, but at the same time, we have to put it behind us and get ready for Central Arkansas — which is a great team.”