With one game to play and bowl eligibility on the line, Colorado athletic director Rick George has turned to Kurt Roper to lead the football team.
After firing head coach Mike MacIntyre on Sunday, George announced Roper, in his first season as the Buffaloes' quarterbacks coach, would take over in the interim.
CU (5-6, 2-6 Pac-12) will play at California (6-4, 3-4) on Saturday in the regular-season finale.
"We have another week in this football season and we have an opportunity to go out and win another football game," Roper, 46, said. "We've got to find a way to get these guys to play hard, which I think they will. That's the most important thing. I do think they understand what their responsible is."
Roper is a veteran coach of more than 20 years, but this is his first opportunity as a head coach. Prior to coming to CU, he had been an offensive coordinator at Duke, Florida and South Carolina. His relationship with MacIntyre goes back nearly 20 years. They were assistants together at Ole Miss from 1999-2002 and at Duke from 2008-09.
"We're close friends and have been for 20 years," Roper said. "We all understand when we got into this profession what this profession is like, but that doesn't make these days any easier when they happen. He's a great man with a great family that we all obviously love and respect."
As he takes over the head job for the first time in his career, Roper said he will not forget the opportunity MacIntyre gave him to come to Boulder this year.
"I learned at an early age you have to be appreciative of who gives you your hat and whistle and coach MacIntyre gave us our hat and whistle as a coaching staff, and I think everybody is really appreciative of that," Roper said. "Obviously it's a tough day for his family, it's a tough day for a lot of other families involved with this university."
With a six-game losing streak and the firing of MacIntyre, the mood around the Buffs is certainly somber, but Roper is hoping to get the team to rally this week.
"There's a lot of things that go into that," he said. "We have to execute better and it starts always with the quarterback position. We've got guys that are competing every day and we'll go out and try to put the best plan together w can for those guys to execute at a high level for us to score enough points to win."
Although Roper does have extensive experience calling plays on offense, he said those duties would remain with co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini this week.
"I see my role right now as the interim head coach and trying to get all the things squared away that go with that," he said.
Asked if he would consider throwing his hat into the ring for the full-time job to replace MacIntyre, Roper kept his focus on this week.
"My job right now is try to prepare this team to win a football game," he said. "When you do that, you really look at each day as its own day. Right now, it's a pretty singular focus. Let's figure out how to win a football game."