CU Buffs strive for improvement in matchup with No. 6 Texas A&M

After win against UNC, Colorado hopes for better discipline

Colorado defensive lineman Jalen Sami (99) and linebacker Nate Landman (53) sack Northern Colorado quarterback Dylan McCaffrey (12) on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, at Folsom Field in Boulder.
Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer
Colorado defensive lineman Jalen Sami (99) and linebacker Nate Landman (53) sack Northern Colorado quarterback Dylan McCaffrey (12) on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, at Folsom Field in Boulder.

Colorado didn’t need to go through a film session after Friday’s opener to know it has to be better.

The Buffaloes didn’t play well and still rolled past Northern Colorado, 35-7, on Friday at Folsom Field. That got the job done against a team projected to finish last in the Big Sky Conference, in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Up next? CU goes from the Big Sky to the big time.

The Texas A&M Aggies, fresh off a 41-10 win against Kent State, come to Denver on Saturday for a matchup at Empower Field at Mile High (1:30 p.m., TV: Fox).

“I’m extremely excited,” receiver Dimitri Stanley said of facing the sixth-ranked Aggies, who are on the shortlist of legitimate national title contenders. “But in all honesty, we have to play five times better than we did tonight. I feel like we made a lot of stupid mental errors and got a lot of stupid penalties on ourselves, which isn’t good for any team at the end of the day. Especially against a top 10 team like A&M, we’re definitely going to have to eliminate those.”

Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell wasn’t happy with the Buffaloes’ 12 penalties against Northern Colorado on Friday at Folsom Field.

Although the Buffs (1-0) got the win, they racked up 12 penalties for 118 yards, including several unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. They also had two penalties against receivers on false starts.

Head coach Karl Dorrell was pleased with how his coaching staff and players made second-half adjustments against a team they were unable to scout. He wasn’t happy with the lack of discipline his team showed, however.

“Just disappointed in the penalties,” he said. “I think it’s very uncharacteristic of the type of team that I’m coaching and we’ll get those things fixed.”

Folsom Field was super-charged with energy after remaining empty during 2020. That could have caused the players to be amped up, too, but linebacker Nate Landman said that’s no excuse for the penalties.

“We’re going to be playing in bigger games and that stuff can’t happen in bigger games,” Landman said. “That’s how you lose games. If that kind of stuff happens next week, we can’t give any advantage to that team or any team we’re playing. Maybe that extra energy may cause those penalties but we’ve got to be better and we’ve got to be mature about playing defense and offense the right way and not causing those penalties.”

As the Buffs go into this week striving for more discipline and a higher level of play, they recognize the opportunity in front of them.

The renewing of an old Big 12 rivalry will be CU’s first test against a top-10 team since the 2019 finale at No. 6 Utah (a 45-15 loss) and its first in a nonconference game since 2016 at No. 4 Michigan (a 45-28 loss).

Beating the Aggies could be monumental for the Buffs, and for the Pac-12, which would love to build upon Saturday’s UCLA win against LSU.

“It’s huge,” Landman said of the opportunity. “This (CU) program has got great history of winning championships, winning titles and one of my goals for this team is to get this team back on the map. Having those big teams coming in and playing those big games, especially in Colorado, having the fan base is going be huge for getting the program back. We’re looking to play our best football next week. It’s a huge game for this program and it could be a big milestone to set up the season.”

CU has lost 14 in a row to top-10 teams, dating back to a 2007 upset of No. 3 Oklahoma, but could change the outlook of its season with a win this week.

“You always want to treat it just as a football game, because that’s what it is,” Landman said. “They’re going to get some plays, we’re going to make some plays, and you want to get better each week. So that’s just going to be our goal is getting better each week, learning from this experience (against UNC).”

The Buffs came away from Friday knowing they have to be better but also feeling encouraged that they didn’t play a great game, but still won going away.

“We had a good game, but we could have been better,” defensive lineman Jalen Sami said. “If everyone does their job, we’ll have a great team, we’ll have a great game. We still got the win and we’re happy about that, but there’s a lot to improve and we still need to adjust to get better.

“There’s a lot of pressure against us (in facing Texas A&M) but it’s something we’re willing to accept and just climb and use that as momentum to force us to play our best game next week. We know we can’t play like this, how we played (against UNC) for next week.”

CU opponent glance: No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies

Game time: Saturday, 1:30 p.m., at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver

TV: Fox

Coach: Jimbo Fisher, 4th season (27-10, 112-33 career)

Record: 1-0

Last week: Beat Kent State, 41-10, at home

Notable: This is a matchup of former Big 12 rivals, as they were in the same conference from 1996-2010. CU joined the Pac-12 in 2011 and A&M joined the SEC in 2012. … CU leads the series with A&M, 6-3, including 4-1 in Boulder. This will be the first meeting of the teams at a neutral site. … CU won the last meeting, 35-34 on Nov. 7, 2009, in Boulder. … This will be just the second nonconference game outside of Texas for the Aggies since 2014. In the other, they lost at UCLA, 45-44, in the 2017 opener. … A&M went 9-1 a year ago and finished No. 4 in the final Associated Press poll. … The Aggies’ last two losses came against teams that went on to the national title: LSU in 2019 and Alabama in 2020. … Second-year freshman quarterback Haynes King made his starting debut on Saturday, going 21-for-33 for 292 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. He also ran for 22 yards on five carries. … The Aggies had two running backs over 100 yards last week, with Devon Achane gaining 124 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries and Isaiah Spiller gaining 113 yards on 17 carries. … Receiver Ainias Smith caught eight passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns. … Safety Leon O’Neal picked off two passes in the win against Kent State, including one that he returned 85 yards for a touchdown. … Tackle Kenyon Green and defensive end DeMarvin Leal were Associated Press preseason first-team All-Americans, while Spiller and tight end Jalen Wydermyer were named to the second team.