This has been, without question, a disappointing season for the Colorado football program, but on Monday, Christian Gonzalez and his teammates went back to work.
“Yeah, for sure there’s frustration, but we all know it’s a business,” the second-year freshman cornerback said. “It’s what we do.
“Even though it’s been hard, as everybody sees, in practice we’re all bought in, working and just doing everything we can to get better.”
The next order of business might be CU’s toughest test to date, a visit to No. 7 Oregon on Saturday in Eugene, Ore. While not much is expected of the Buffs, who are heavy underdogs in this one, at least some of them are looking forward to the challenge.
“Oh, I’m excited,” tight end Brady Russell said. “I’m not gonna lie, every week this season I thought we were gonna come out and win by 30, so I kind of have the same mindset again. I feel real confident in our game plan. I feel great about what we’re doing, the new stuff we’ve implemented.”
Despite that confidence from Russell – and he’s not alone in that mindset – it often hasn’t worked out well for the Buffs, who have lost five of their last six games, have been blown out in four of them and typically don’t come anywhere close to touching the 30-point mark, let alone winning by that much.
First and foremost, head coach Karl Dorrell wants to see the Buffs be competitive – something they weren’t a week ago in a 26-3 loss at California.
“Our challenge has been tremendously the same challenge every week,” Dorrell said. “We’re trying to get ourselves to play at a formidable level so that we can make this a very, very close ballgame for us to get a chance to win. We haven’t had a lot of examples of that over the course of this season because usually every week so far this year has been a challenge for us, regardless of the opponent.
“But this is one of those weeks, maybe we can put it all together.”
Maybe, but the Buffs have some major hurdles to clear.
Dorrell fired offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue on Sunday, so the Buffs have spent the week adjusting to a new voice in that room. There have been some changes this week, but it’ll still be a chore to go against a Ducks defense that is led by All-American Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Even with the changes upfront, the Buffs are struggling to find a way to put points on the board. The Buffs have the worst offense in the country, and the staffing changes may not stop with Rodrigue.
“Everything’s still open and there is that point right now, I believe, offensively, the coaches have a sense of urgency about creating a better product that’s being more proficient, being more consistent on the field,” Dorrell said.
Meanwhile, on defense, the Buffs will be without their best player, as linebacker Nate Landman will sit out with an injury.
Throw in the natural challenges associated with being on the road and facing a top-10 team and there’s no shortage of obstacles for the Buffs.
The players, however, are competitive and while Russell knows the challenge ahead of the Buffs, he’s also eager to go against Thibodeaux, who is arguably the best defensive end in the country and projected as the possible No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
“I get to go against one of the best players in college football, so I’m pretty excited about that,” Russell said. “I can showcase what I can do. It presents a lot of opportunities for everybody.”
Gonzalez also views this game as an opportunity, not only for himself but for the team.
“It’s football,” Gonzalez said. “It’s one week in, one week out. You’ve just got to learn from the losses, learn from the wins and get better and be ready for the next week.
“I’m really excited for this week. It’s a road game against, nationally, a top-10 team. People are not going to give us a lot of respect, but I’m excited to see what we’re going to do.”
So is Russell, who smiles at the thought of the Buffs putting it all together and winning in Eugene.
“If we went and upset the No. 7 team in the nation, shoot,” he said. “That would probably get the fan base back rolling with us again.”
Game at a Glance
Matchup: Colorado Buffaloes (2-5, 1-3 Pac-12) at No. 7 Oregon Ducks (6-1, 3-1)
Kickoff: 1:35 p.m. MST
Where: Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore. Playing surface: FieldTurf.
Radio: KOA (850 AM & 94.1 FM)
Odds: Oregon by 24
Series: Oregon leads 13-9