Coming out of a bye, Colorado head football coach Karl Dorrell knew his team faced a critical game on Saturday.
Watching his squad rise up to the challenge with a 34-0 rout of Arizona at Folsom Field made him proud.
“We needed it,” Dorrell said. “A lot of hard work went into it. A lot of faithful young men that stayed true to themselves and it was good to get some reward from all the stuff that they’ve stayed committed with. Very, very excited about them being able to get themselves this opportunity and this win.”
CU (2-4, 1-2 Pac-12) snapped a four-game losing streak but now must figure out how to build upon the performance. On Saturday, they will visit California (1-5, 0-3).
“We’ll enjoy it – enjoy the win,” cornerback Christian Gonzalez said, “but tomorrow we get back to work. Put the win past us, but let it fuel us and get ready for an away game against a good Cal team.”
What made Dorrell and the Buffs most pleased was not simply getting the win, but how they got it.
Through the first five weeks, the Buffs never did put together an all-around game. On Saturday, they did.
“Even like the first two games of the year, we were playing well in certain areas defensively,” Dorrell said. “That was showing up; probably everyone saw early in the season, but we still weren’t playing as well as we were capable of and putting everything together. And I just think as we kept marching through the first half of the season, it was very challenging. We had good programs we played against but there was some things that we just quite weren’t executing at a level that it should have been in everything that we’re doing.”
Arizona might be the easiest game on the Buffs’ schedule, but Saturday’s game at least gave them tangible evidence that they can play well in all three phases of the game. The defense was stellar, the special teams units were exceptional and the offense finally got some momentum in the second half.
“It does matter a lot that the things we work on (in practice), that it does happen (in a game),” Dorrell said. “It can be productive. You can execute it. And that’s what I saw today. So now I think they’ll have a better sense of why we do the things we do because it results in some pretty fantastic things.”
The lack of positive results in previous games – particularly on offense – had allowed frustration to build up, but Dorrell and his players said Saturday’s game can be a turning point.
“Honestly, just seeing the growth from this team, seeing the growth from (freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis), our line, people taking over, leaders coming about, it changes the environment of the team,” receiver Brenden Rice said. “It makes us all grow together. It makes us all push together. So it definitely means a little more.”
Rice added that he believes growing through adversity is what can separate the average players from the great ones.
“It sucks losing but adversity builds teams and builds the foundation,” he said. “Winning is always good, but we’ve got to keep it going.”
Much of CU’s efforts prior to the Arizona game had been on sticking together and reminding each other to play as a team. Running back Jarek Broussard said a win like Saturday’s can “change the narrative.”
“We’ve just got to continue to attack week by week and focus on the little things,” he said.
With half the season remaining, Dorrell is hoping his team will continue to focus on little things and use the victory against Arizona as a springboard to more success.
“Hopefully this is a great example for them to realize, ‘Wow when we do have this type of mindset we can achieve the goals and aspirations we set for ourselves, which is winning ballgames,’” Dorrell said. “We needed to start the second half of our season knowing that they’re all Pac-12 games, and every one matters and they’re going to keep mounting up as we go. They’re definitely in a good place right now, in terms of understanding what we need to do.”