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CU Buffs’ offense falls flat in shutout loss to Minnesota

Karl Dorrell: “That was a complete, I would say, beatdown in every phase.”

  • University of Colorado Boulder's Brendon Lewis fumbles as Minnesota's Marian Sori-Marin gets the ball during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado Boulder's Brendon Lewis reaches for a first down as Minnesota's Tyler Nubin hangs on during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - September 18, 2021: University of Colorado Boulder's Brendon Lewis fumbles as Minnesota's Marian Sori-Marin hits him during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado Boulder's Dimitri Stanley dropped the punt against Minnesota during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado Boulder's Dimitri Stanley dropped the punt against Minnesota during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado Boulder's head coach, Karl Dorrell, gets emotional during the Colorado-Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado Boulder's Nate Landman crushes Minnesota's Mar'Keise Irving during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado Boulder's Brendon Lewis is hit as he passes by Minnesota's Esezi Otomewo during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado Boulder's Guy Tomas (1) and Jalen Sami, stops Minnesota's Mar'Keise Irving during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado Boulder's Nate Landman crushes Minnesota's Mar'Keise Irving during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado Boulder's Brendon Lewis is trapped between Minnesota's Coney Durr and Mariano Sori-Marin, during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Daily Camera file photo

    University of Colorado Boulder's Brendon Lewis gets up from a sack by Minnesota during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on Sept. 18, 2021.

  • University of Colorado Boulder's Brendon Lewis is sacked by Minnesota's Thomas Rush during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - September 18, 2021: University of Colorado Boulder's Trevor Woods looks at the replay of the Minnesota touchdown during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado Boulder's Daniel Arias catch make the catch as Minnesota's Justin Walley plays defense during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado Boulder's Nate Landman hits Minnesota's Mar'Keise Irving during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado Boulder's Brenden Rice makes a catch in front of Minnesota's Jordan Howden during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado Boulder's Isaiah Lewis tries to get to Minnesota's Mar'Keise Irving during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado Boulder's Brendon Lewis is pressured by the Minnesota defense during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado Boulder's head coach, Karl Dorrell, during the Colorado-Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado Boulder's Brendon Lewis is pressured by the Minnesota defense during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado Boulder's head coach, Karl Dorrell, during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • CU Athletic Director, Rick George, left, and new Pac-12 Commissioner, George Kliavkoff, at Folsom Field. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

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After a full offseason of preparation and a three-game non-conference schedule to fine-tune the operation, the Colorado Buffaloes go into Pac-12 play ready to start over on offense.

There’s not much choice after Saturday’s clunker, a 30-0 loss to Minnesota that was humbling and embarrassing in front of 47,482 fans at Folsom Field.

“That was a complete, I would say, beatdown in every phase,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said.

Particularly on offense, where the Buffs (1-2) have hit a new low, making the Gophers (2-1), who haven’t been regarded as a strong defense, look like the 1985 Chicago Bears.

It started with an errant snap that led to a 10-yard loss on the first play of the game and it wasn’t much better from there.

CU was shut out at home for the first time since a 48-0 loss to Stanford on Nov. 3, 2012. This one wasn’t as lopsided, but it felt just as hopeless as the Buffs never seriously threatened to score.

The Buffs finished with 63 yards of total offense – the eighth-worst total in program history. Their rushing total (minus-19 yards) was the third-worst ever by a CU team.

Freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis was 8-for-16 for 55 yards through the air, was sacked four times and lost a fumble. The offensive line struggled all afternoon. The running backs found no room to run.

With the Pac-12 opener at No. 19 Arizona State coming up next week, the Buffs look lost on offense. They haven’t scored since Jarek Broussard’s 2-yard touchdown late in the first quarter against Texas A&M on Sept. 11 and in the last six quarters, they have gained a grand total of 117 yards on 66 plays.

“We’re struggling in a number of areas,” Dorrell said. “It’s not just the quarterback. It’s protection, it’s run game, it’s receivers, it’s backs, it’s everything. It’s one of those things where we’re gonna have to wipe the slate clean and start all over and try to figure out how to do some semblance of offense.”

That could include a re-evaluation of the quarterback position. Lewis won the job after sophomore JT Shrout went down with a season-ending injury on Aug. 14. Drew Carter is the top backup and threw his first passes Saturday in the fourth quarter.

That could also include a re-evaluation of the offensive scheme and the play-calling role currently held by coordinator Darrin Chiaverini.

“I think we’ve got to get through the tape and see a lot of things,” Dorrell said. “As a head coach, I have to look at everything. I really do. It is one of those points in the season and given that performance that we really have to re-evaluate everything.

“I’m not blaming the players right now. It’s gonna be us (as) coaches. We’ve got to get this thing fixed.”

The bad snap on the opening play served as a harbinger of things to come, as the Buffs punted on their first five possessions. The sixth ended with a failed fourth-down conversion attempt.

Minnesota took a 13-0 lead into halftime on a pair of touchdown runs by Treyson Potts but kept the Buffs in the game with some kicking woes. Matthew Trickett, who had been perfect through the first two weeks, missed a 24-yard field goal attempt and then an extra point. He added another missed field goal on the Gophers’ opening drive of the second half.

None of that really mattered because the Buffs were too inept on offense to capitalize. The Gophers pulled away with 17 points in the final 16 minutes.

“The big message (from coaches) was kind of just executing all 11,” tight end Matt Lynch said. “Offensively when not all 11 are working on the same page, that’s when you struggle; where on defense you can kind of get away with that. That was probably one of our big struggles was communication, being all on the same page. That’s going to be one of our key focuses going into next week.”

It won’t be the only focus, though.

Despite a 10-7 loss to then-No. 5 Texas A&M last week, the Buffs came away from that one feeling optimistic. A week later, they’re trying to cling to hope.

“I’ve been through this scenario many times before in other places that I’ve coached and we can overcome it,” Dorrell said. “We can get back, but it’s going to take a great deal of work. We know that we’re not the flashiest thing in town right now and I get that. And we’re going to continue to work and get ourselves better and to get our fan base to be excited again. Right now, I can’t blame them. We have to have a better product out there and that wasn’t good enough.”

Minnesota 30, Colorado 0

Play of the game: Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan hit receiver Dylan Wright for a 39-yard pass in the second quarter. That set up the Gophers’ second touchdown.

Turning point: The Buffs hadn’t done much on offense to this point anyway, but when quarterback Brendon Lewis fumbled late in the third quarter and Minnesota capitalized with a touchdown, that sealed the game for the Gophers.

Top 3 Buffs of the game

1. Punter Josh Watts: He got quite a workout with eight punts, but had the best game of his career, averaging 51.9 yards, including a career-long 62-yarder.

2. Ralphie VI: The 15-month buffalo has been one of the Buffs’ best “freshmen” this season and she didn’t disappoint with a pair of solid runs Saturday.

3. Kicker Matthew Trickett: He plays for Minnesota, but he helped the Buffs for a while on Saturday with two missed field goals and an extra point that hit the uprights.

Minnesota 30, Colorado 0

Minnesota 0 13 7 10 — 30
Colorado 0 0 0 0 — 0

Second Quarter: MIN — Potts 13 run (kick failed), 12:19. MIN — Potts 2 run (Trickett kick), 5:38. Third Quarter: MIN — Potts 3 run (Trickett kick), :23. Fourth Quarter: MIN — FG Trickett 33, 9:49. MIN — K.Thomas 14 run (Trickett kick), 5:09.

MIN COLO
First downs 22 6
Total Net Yards 440 68
Rushes-yards 53-276 21–14
Passing 164 82
Punt Returns 4-41 3-3
Kickoff Returns 1-0 1-22
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 0-0
Comp-Att-Int 11-17-0 12-24-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 1-2 4-31
Punts 4-43.5 8-51.875
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 4-2
Penalties-Yards 4-34 3-30
Time of Possession 39:54 20:06

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING — Minnesota, Potts 26-121, Irving 15-89, Thomas 7-66, B.Williams 1-1, Morgan 3-1, (Team) 1-(minus 2). Colorado, Broussard 5-8, Carter 2-4, Fontenot 3-4, D.Smith 1-1, (Team) 1-0, Clayton 2-(minus 4), B.Lewis 7-(minus 27).

PASSING — Minnesota, Morgan 11-17-0-164. Colorado, B.Lewis 8-16-0-55, Carter 4-8-0-27.

RECEIVING — Minnesota, Autman-Bell 4-79, Jackson 4-39, D.Wright 1-39, Kieft 1-4, Irving 1-3. Colorado, Rice 3-25, Fontenot 2-12, Russell 2-10, Penry 1-12, T.Robinson 1-9, Arias 1-8, Broussard 1-3, Stacks 1-3.

MISSED FIELD GOALS — Minnesota, Trickett 46, Trickett 24.