Given its recent struggles, the Colorado football team is in no position to overlook any opponent, including one that hasn’t won a game in two years.
The Buffaloes (1-4, 0-2 Pac-12) are trying to snap a four-game losing streak, which pales in comparison to the 17-game skid of the Arizona Wildcats (0-5, 0-2). The two teams will meet on Saturday at Folsom Field (1:30 p.m., TV: Pac-12 Network).
Despite Arizona’s school-record losing streak, the Buffs know this isn’t a game to take lightly.
“Any Power 5 team can beat each other on any given day,” CU center Colby Pursell said. “You have to prepare as if you’re playing the best team ever every week.”
Arizona certainly isn’t the best team ever, but the Buffs are preparing to get the best version of the Wildcats.
“They’re in games and being competitive,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said. “They just haven’t been able to close out games themselves. This is a team that’s getting better and they’re playing hard. They’re doing everything that a coach in this first year would want his team to do. They’re playing hard and trying to do the things that they’re teaching in their system.”
Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch is in his first year with the program and the Wildcats have had some good moments, including being within one score going into the fourth quarter of the last three games. But, they come into this week ranking last in the Pac-12 in points allowed (31.6 per game) and 11th in points scored (16.8 per game).
“What you’re seeing is that they’re a young, talented team, and they’re doing some really good things defensively, which makes it hard and they’ve got some really good skill on the perimeter,” CU defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said. “So we’ve got to go out there and treat them with the same respect as we treated every other opponent that we’ve got. They can beat you.”
Although the Wildcats have lost quarterback Jordan McCloud for the season, freshman Gunner Cruz won the job coming out of preseason camp and has two starts under his belt. The Wildcats also have a pair of talented running backs (Drake Anderson and Michael Wiley) and one of the top receivers in the Pac-12 in Stanley Berryhill III.
“They do have good football players,” CU defensive lineman Jalen Sami said. “Yes, they’ve been struggling, but it doesn’t stop the fact that they’re still a good football team and they can come in and pretty much give it to us if they want.
“But that’s a sense of motivation for me and I believe for my teammates that we can’t let up on them. We can’t expect them to just roll over and just let us win. We know it’s a fight and we know we’re also the last few weeks struggling on trying to figure things out.”
Arizona’s last win came in Boulder on Oct. 5, 2019. The Buffs are hoping to avoid being the team that snaps the streak.
“It’s going to be another big challenge for all of us, particularly for us because we’re almost in a similar situation (as Arizona),” Dorrell said. “We’re challenging ourselves to play better football and execute better and to be more efficient and things like that and they’re trying to do the same thing.”
Cleaning it up
Pursell believes the Buffs’ struggling offensive line got better and gained some rhythm during the bye week.
“We got to clean some things up, some technique stuff, communication – things that are very simple to just say, but require a lot of work,” Pursell said. “That’s why it’s a year-round deal. You do things year-round because it’s hard to get things right … but you do your best to try and iron things out.”
Pursell knows the improvement of the line is vital to the entire offense improving.
“It starts with the line,” he said. “Before a pass can get off, we have to protect. Before the run breaks through, we have to block. The line is what starts it off.
“(Freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis) is a hard worker. When you hear coach Dorrell say he’s put a good body of work in this week, he’s not lying. We have to do our part (upfront) to protect him and that’s something that we haven’t done very well.”
Fisch and Dorrell have both at one point been the receivers coach for the Denver Broncos. Dorrell held that position from 2000-02 and Fisch in 2008. … Both teams have allowed a lot of sacks this year, with CU tied for last in the Pac-12 at 3.0 allowed per game and Arizona 10th at 2.8. … CU and Arizona are two of only four Power 5 conference teams without a win over an FBS opponent this season. California and Kansas are the others.