By Jim Vertuno, AP Sports Writer
SAN ANTONIO — Colorado put its faith in Mike MacIntyre and put its patience to the test.
Both decisions have paid off in a big way.
The No. 11 Buffaloes rumble into the Alamo Bowl to face No. 13 Oklahoma State (9-3) riding their best season in more than a decade — 10 wins and a Pac-12 division championship behind MacIntyre, The Associated Press college football coach of the year now in his fourth year in Boulder.
It’s the patience to stick with MacIntyre that seems the most remarkable part of it all. Colorado’s previous three seasons produced 10 total wins before the Buffaloes (10-3) ripped through the regular season, briefly flirted with the College Football Playoff and played in the Pac-12 title game. Their improbable season even comes with a nickname: The Rise.
Few programs are so willing to wait. About 75 miles north of where MacIntyre will lead his team on the field at the Alamodome on Thursday night, Texas dumped coach Charlie Strong after three losing seasons (he had more wins than MacIntyre did the previous three years).
“We were so bad when we got there,” MacIntyre said Wednesday. “People were asking if they could just stay until halftime … We kept building. Our president, our chancellor our athletic director have been phenomenal. I just hit at the right time, when everybody understood where we were going and striving to be successful.”
Colorado players who went through all that losing — 2-25 in conference play the previous three years — are savoring the wins now.
“I think we’re definitely anxious to leave a legacy, to leave the legacy we want to leave,” Colorado defensive back Ryan Moeller said. “We recognize the previous years that it’s unfortunate when you lose and when you can’t send seniors out right.”
MacIntyre can feel a surge of history behind the season. The program’s first bowl game since 2007 means even more to some of the fans who stuck with the program through all the losing.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has had his program humming along for years. The Cowboys have been among the Big 12’s best in recent seasons, and missed the chance for the league title with a season-ending loss to Oklahoma. A victory Thursday night would earn a fifth 10-win season in the last seven years.