It’s been a rough year for the Arizona football team, but the Colorado Buffaloes aren’t taking the Wildcats lightly.
On Saturday, the Buffs (3-0, 2-0 Pac-12) are slated to visit Arizona (0-3, 0-3) in Tucson, Ariz., (5 p.m., TV: FS-1) and they expect a fight.
Arizona is riding a school-record 10-game losing streak, head coach Kevin Sumlin is on the hot seat and several players have opted out of the season in the past few days. CU head coach Karl Dorrell knows, however, that wounded animals are sometimes the most dangerous.
“Absolutely,” he said. “They’re trying to get themselves right. I think they’re a very, very good football team, just like they’ve been in past few years. They just had a little bit of a rough start and they had a quarterback issue last game against UCLA.
“They’re at a point where they might try doing different things that they haven’t shown yet, so we have to be aware of those things. We have an understanding that they’re trying to get things in a fashion that’s going to allow for them to be successful.”
In their opener, on Nov. 14, the Wildcats nearly pulled off an upset of Southern California, but gave up a touchdown with 25 seconds left to lose, 34-30. Two weeks ago, they trailed 44-6 before falling at Washington, 44-27. Last week, they lost 27-10 at UCLA, and quarterback Grant Gunnell went out an injury on his first throw.
Coming into this week, Arizona ranks 10th in the Pac-12 in scoring (22.3 points per game) and 11th in points allowed (35.0). It’s unknown if Gunnell will play, so freshman Will Plummer could make his first career start.
The Wildcats also come into this week with a recent history of success against the Buffs. Their last win came on Oct. 5, 2019, at Folsom Field, 35-30, and they’ve won three straight against CU. All three of those wins were led by quarterback Khalil Tate, who has graduated.
Despite Arizona’ s struggles, CU defensive coordinator Tyson Summers said he has respect for Wildcats head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone.
“I know no matter who’s back there (at quarterback), they’re going to have a good plan,” Summers said.
Linebacker Nate Landman picked up another award on Tuesday, as he was named the Bronko Nagurski national defensive player of the week.
Earlier this week, Landman was named the Walter Camp national defensive player of the week and Pac-12 defensive player of the week. He was also named a semifinalist for the Butkus Award on Monday.
Dorrell said the Buffs are working with center Kary Kutsch after he had several low snaps against San Diego State. Kutsch is usually the Buffs’ starter at left guard, but is playing center with starter Colby Pursell out with an injury. It’s unclear when Pursell will return.
“We’re working to really try to get those things eliminated, or at least minimize as best we can,” Dorrell said. “(Kutsch) is not a natural center. That’s not a position he’s played extensively, but he’s made those adjustments very well for us because of need.
“He’s a really good player. We wouldn’t put just anybody at center that we didn’t think that could handle it. We know that he can handle it. It’s just him getting more work, more intensive work on some of those elements.”
Willis gets opportunity
Redshirt freshman walk-on Mac Willis, from Cherry Creek High School, got his first opportunity to play on Saturday against San Diego State, handling kickoff duties.
“There was a little bit of nerves,” he said. “It’s the first one of my career. It was a really good experience.
“I’ve been working on my kickoff steps for a while and I’ve been doing really well in those weeks leading up to it.”
Willis sent three of his five kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks and only one was returned. He was an All-Colorado kicker at Cherry Creek in 2018.