BOULDER, Colo. — Colorado senior safety Parker Orms expected numerous bowl appearances when he arrived on campus.
Soon departing and having never gone to one, that’s rather difficult for Orms to accept.
It’s the cold, hard truth after a frigid 47-29 loss to No. 23 USC on Saturday night ended any postseason plans the Buffaloes have been entertaining.
Colorado (4-7, 1-7 Pac-12) will play out the season next Saturday in Utah with nothing on the line but pride.
Still, that’s a powerful motivator.
“A lot of teams are looking at it like, ‘Oh, we’re not going to a bowl. We’re going to give up,’” Orms said. “That’s not us. That’s not the way our coach coaches us, that’s not the type of players we are.”
Although the Buffaloes missed out on a bowl bid for a sixth straight season, this year hasn’t been a total wash, especially considering they’re coming off a school-worst 1-11 season in 2012.
This could be the groundwork to turning around the program, even more so with a win against the Utes to close out coach Mike MacIntyre’s first season.
“This is a time where you can fall apart, just go through the motions, or we can end the season on the right note, keep the momentum going into next year,” receiver Nelson Spruce said.
Try as they might, Colorado couldn’t get anything going against a Trojans defense that quarterback Sefo Liufau called the best the Buffs has faced all season.
That was readily apparent in the first half when the Trojans (9-3, 6-2) forced two turnovers — both leading to USC scores — blocked a punt blocked for a safety and built a 23-0 halftime lead.
From there, the Trojans cruised to the victory as interim coach Ed Orgeron continues to provide a spark since stepping in following the firing of Lane Kiffin. The Trojans are 6-1 under Orgeron.
“We came out and played lights out defense in the first half,” Orgeron said.
The freezing weather didn’t seem to bother USC, even if the 29-degree temperature at kickoff made this one of the coldest games ever for the Trojans. The only time they played in a frostier game was on Nov. 30, 1957, when they lost 40-12 at Notre Dame in 20-degree weather.
“I thought it was rather pleasant tonight compared to what we had heard it was going to be like,” Orgeron said.
Speedy receiver Paul Richardson was silent for most of the game and didn’t catch his first pass until the third quarter with the Buffs trailing by 30.
Plagued by a balky ankle, Richardson rarely went deep and his short routes were negated by USC cornerback Josh Shaw, who was all over Richardson all night.
But then Richardson found some space as he caught eight passes for 88 yards. His 5-yard TD catch late in the fourth quarter was his 79th reception of the year, breaking the school’s single-season receptions mark. The record was held by D.J. Hackett, who had 78 catches in 2003.
“Paul Richardson, as I’ve said all week, is one of the best receivers in the league, if not the country,” Orgeron said.
After constantly fleeing from USC defenders in the first half, Liufau had more time to throw in the second. He finished 17 of 33 for 188 yards and two TDs. He also had an interception and a fumble.
“We just didn’t get clicking in the beginning and it hurt,” Liufau said. “The defense did a really good job of stopping (USC) and forcing some three-and-outs. ... We didn’t come out offensively strong enough. Come back to work and (get ready) for Utah.”
That’s the mindset of the Buffaloes now. After all, just a few more practices remain until the curtain closes on the season.
“To me this should be a fun week for us. We don’t have class, we’re the only ones here. We can work at it, we can focus, we can do a lot of bonding,” MacIntyre said.
“This is the last time this team will be together. ... Some of them will never play football again. They have a week to put that in perspective.
“You can either splinter and say, ‘I have three practices left,’ or you can say, ‘OK, we’re going to do everything we can to make this special and end it special.’ Have a bunch of smiles and excitement in the locker room Saturday when we leave (Utah). That’s what we plan on doing.”