It’s gut-check time for the Colorado Buffaloes.
Saturday’s 30-0 loss to Minnesota at Folsom Field left head coach Karl Dorrell searching for answers and players looking inward.
“I would just say individually everyone just has to grow up handle business next week,” left guard Kary Kutsch said.
A couple of minutes later, when asked how important leadership will be this week, as the Buffs (1-2) prepare to visit Arizona State (2-1), Kutsch said: “Just come back and respond, see who really wants to play.”
In the moments following one of the worst offensive performances by a CU team in recent years, Dorrell hinted there could be changes coming.
The shutout loss – CU’s first at home in nine years – came a week after scoring just seven points in a 10-7 loss to Texas A&M, wasting one of the best defensive performances by a CU team in years.
In the opener, the Buffs scored 35 points, but it was a struggle to get there against Northern Colorado, which was picked last in the Big Sky Conference of the FCS.
The offensive woes are a continuation from last year when the Buffs’ sputtered to the finish line. After a hot start in 2020, the Buffs are averaging 15.8 points in their last six games against FBS opponents.
Dorrell said it’s to the point that CU has to “wipe the slate clean and start all over.”
Leading into Saturday’s Pac-12 opener at ASU, it’s unclear what a clean slate will entail.
It could mean a revamping of the offensive scheme or tweaking the playbook. Dorrell could shake things up significantly by firing offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini or at least removing his play-calling duties. He could also bench struggling freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis for another freshman, Drew Carter. Or keep Lewis as the starter, with Carter getting more chances to play.
While Dorrell tries to find solutions on offense, the players will do their part in trying to right the ship.
“You’ve just got to look yourself in the mirror as a man to see you got out-physicaled,” outside linebacker Carson Wells said. “Come back tomorrow with a better mindset and get ready to work again.
“It was definitely a tough loss, but we start Pac-12 play this week, so we’ve got to get the team together and focus on this next week and go 1-0 each week.”
When Dorrell was a freshman receiver at UCLA in 1983, the Bruins started 0-3-1, including a 42-10 loss to top-ranked Nebraska. In their fifth game, they went to Stanford and beat the Cardinal, 39-21. That win completely changed the season.
“We ended up winning the conference,” Dorrell said in recalling a team that finished 7-4-1, including a 45-9 win against No. 4 Illinois in the Rose Bowl. “So there’s always hope. I’m not going to paint a picture of there’s no chance for anything because I’ve lived it. There are chances. We’ve got to get to work, though.
“I think right now there’s a sense of urgency that needs to be done as the coaching staff and players about really looking ourselves in the mirror and say that we need to get these things done right for us to be the caliber of team we need to be.”
That’s the message he delivered to the players in the locker room after the game.
“I think the players are all on board,” Dorrell said. “They understand that was a very bad performance. Hopefully, we get a chance to wake up tomorrow morning with another chance to get it fixed.”
It will be a quick turnaround before the visit to Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday night, but the Buffs aren’t the only team that needs fixing.
ASU lost at BYU on Saturday and hasn’t looked great in any game this season. UCLA, which looked invincible in the first two games, lost to Fresno State at home. Overall, teams in the Pac-12 South went 1-5 this weekend, with the only win coming from Southern California, which fired its head coach a week ago.
“When you’re in this league, you’ve gotta just put it past you,” said CU tight end Matt Lynch, who played four years at UCLA before transferring to CU last year. “You’re on a week-to-week schedule and if you let it snowball, it can snowball real quick and then you lose your season.
“So, it’s just putting it behind you and focusing on the Pac-12. … I still think we can make a run for it. We’ve just got to get in, execute and fix the things that need to be fixed.”
ASU was ranked No. 19 in the Associated Press poll before the loss to BYU. The Sun Devils fell out of the Top 25, but rank 31st in points earned in the poll. … CU ran just 45 plays on offense against Minnesota – the program’s lowest total since having 44 plays in a 48-0 loss to Stanford on Nov. 3, 2012. The Buffs have had just 66 offensive plays in the last six quarters.