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CU Buffs take aim at second consecutive win

Buffs hope to carry momentum on the road at Cal

BOULDER, CO - Oct. 15, 2021:University ...
University of Colorado, Boulder’s Joshka Gustav tackles Arizona’s Jalen John during the NCAA football game on October 16, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

There was a bit more bounce in the step and confidence in the voices of Colorado football players this week.

Breaking a losing streak will do that.

“Definitely it builds a confidence level,” outside linebacker Carson Wells said of last week’s 34-0 win against Arizona. “I feel like football is a big game of going in each week having momentum and whoever is playing the hardest (wins). It’s hard to get up sometimes for each game, especially when you’re losing so definitely that win helps put us back on the right track moving forward.”

On Saturday, the Buffs (2-4, 1-2 Pac-12) will find out if the confidence gained from that win will carry them forward. CU visits California (1-5, 0-3) in their second road test of the season.

“We definitely want to continue the momentum that was built from the (Arizona) game,” head coach Karl Dorrell said.

The confidence came not only from winning but from having progress pay off.

“I mentioned it weeks ago when I felt we were making progress, but it wasn’t quite showing on the field,” Dorrell said. “That’s what gets frustrating after a while when you’re doing it well in practice and it’s not translating to the field on game day. I think we’re getting over that hurdle. We’re starting to see the benefits of a lot of the stuff that we’re doing to improve our football and I think the light is starting to glow now. They see the roots of why things are getting better, why we’re playing better.”

Prior to beating Arizona, CU had a bye and took the opportunity to hit the reset button after a four-game losing streak. Coaches stressed the importance of each player having individual aspects to improve, and Dorrell said, “I think they took that to heart and I think that was the reason why we had a good jump last week.”

Keeping it up won’t be easy, despite Cal’s struggles this season. Since the start of the disjointed COVID-19 pandemic-impacted 2020 season, the Bears are just 2-8, but six of the losses have come by one score.

CU has had its own set of struggles, going 2-6 in its last eight games. The only wins have come against Northern Colorado from the Football Championship Subdivision and winless Arizona.

To keep the momentum going, the Buffs will have to find a way to win on the road, which has always been difficult. They are 0-4 all-time at Cal and 10-34 on the road against the Pac-12 since joining the conference in 2011. In program history, the Buffs are 4-25-1 in the state of California.

Dorrell, 2-1 in Pac-12 road games as CU’s head coach, said he likes the challenge of trying to win on the road.

“I’ve always felt winning on the road is a great feeling,” he said. “It’s a great feeling to accomplish going into someone else’s place to play and getting away and out-playing the opponent.

“Usually you’re not going to get favorable calls a lot of the time. We tried to erase that as being not part of the equation of having success but we do have to play well. You have to play better than them and they have obviously the crowd behind them.”

For CU to play well enough to win, Dorrell knows the offense has to come through. It’s been a struggle most of the year, but the Buffs took some steps forward last week. Quarterback Brendon Lewis led the offense on four scoring drives, including a pair of touchdown passes.

A long-time offensive coach, Dorrell has talked of making subtle changes to the offense. He has spent a bit more of his own time with the offense in recent weeks.

“If you ask them, they say my head’s in there too much right now,” Dorrell joked. “But my that’s my job. Most of my career, I’ve been an offensive coach. I scratch where it itches and if I don’t think the offense is playing well, guess what? I’m gonna have to step in and do something to help the offense. And that’s what I’ve been doing the last few weeks.

“I am being a lot more of an oversight manager, making sure we’re doing the things that I think are for the best benefit for our players.”

In stringing together four scoring drives against Arizona, while getting the passing game going with Lewis, Dorrell believes the progress is showing up.

The Buffs responded this week by having good practices, which Dorrell said, “Tells you how they feel about themselves and where they can take themselves and we’re heading in the right direction. We really are. I think a lot of things would be shored up as long as we have this attention to detail and focus about playing our best football week after week, which is what this team is starting to do.

“I think what we took from (the Arizona game) is that we think we can get better and we think we can continue to stress the details that will get us to play our best football as we go through this second half of the season. We got a win and now we’re off to Cal and getting ourselves ready for another big challenge that’s in front of us.”

Game at a Glance

Matchup: Colorado Buffaloes (2-4, 1-2 Pac-12) at California Golden Bears (1-5, 0-3)

Kickoff: 1:40 p.m. MST

Where: TFX Field at California Memorial Stadium. Playing surface: FieldTurf.

TV: Pac-12 Network

Radio: KOA (850 AM & 94.1 FM)

Odds: Cal by 8.5

Series: Cal leads 6-4

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