Buffaloes scouting report
Head coach: Karl Dorrell, 2nd season (7-9; 42-36 career)
2021 record: 3-7, 2-5 Pac-12
Last week: Lost at UCLA, 44-20
5 Players to Watch
- LB Robert Barnes: In the last two games, he has 13 tackles, a tackle for loss and four third-down stops.
- CB Christian Gonzalez: CU’s top cover corner will lead the pass defense in trying to keep the Huskies limited through the air.
- DL Mustafa Johnson: A dominant player throughout his time at CU, he will play in his final game at Folsom Field.
- LG Kary Kutsch: The senior has been the rock of the offensive line all season and he is slated to make his 27th career start for the Buffs.
- WR Brenden Rice: He had a quiet night in Los Angeles last week, but has been explosive during the second half of the season.
CU offense: A week ago, the Buffs were shut down in the second half at UCLA, but the nine quarters before that were the most productive quarters of the season. A big reason for that is the ability to get the run game going. Jarek Broussard has back-to-back 100-yard games and the Buffs have rushed for 222 and 192 yards as a team in those games. Quarterback Brendon Lewis continues to avoid turnovers and in the last three games, he has completed 68.7 percent of his passes (57-of-83) for 552 yards. Overall, the Buffs still rank among the worst teams in the country statistically for yards and points, but they are in the midst of their best three-game stretch of the year.
CU defense: While the offense is starting to hit its stride, the defense is in the midst of its worst three-game stretch. In those games, the Buffs have allowed 130 points (43.3 per game) and 1,544 yards (514.7 per game). Injuries have hit the defense hard lately, with inside linebacker Nate Landman and outside linebacker Guy Thomas missing the last three games and cornerback Mekhi Blackmon missing the last two. The Buffs have been particularly generous in the run game of late, giving up at least 213 rushing yards to four consecutive opponents.
CU special teams: This continues to be the strength of the Buffs, despite a shaky performance last week at UCLA. Kicker Cole Becker missed a field goal against the Bruins but is still on a 10-for-12 run overall. Punter Josh Watts is second in the Pac-12 and fifth nationally in average (48.33), but had one of his punts returned for a touchdown last week. Brenden Rice has been productive on kickoff returns, while La’Vontae Shenault has shown flashes as a punt returner.
CU keys to victory
Keep J-Brew going: Running back Jarek Broussard has topped the 100-yard mark in two consecutive games and that has allowed the Buffs to be productive on the ground. Washington has struggled against the run.
Play with energy: For the first time in six years, the Buffs are playing a game in which they have no hope of a bowl game. To win, the Buffs have to generate some energy, though and stay engaged from start to finish.
Force mistakes: Washington QB Dylan Morris leads the Pac-12 with 10 interceptions. The Buffs have picked off at least one in four of the last five games. Creating turnovers will help build some momentum.
- This is the first meeting between CU and Washington since the Buffs’ 20-14 win in Boulder on Nov. 23, 2019. That victory snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Huskies. That streak dated back to the 1996 Holiday Bowl.
- CU is averaging 275.8 yards per game, which ranks 126th nationally. The Buffs’ average is on pace to be the lowest for the program since 1964 (218.9).
- The Buffs had just seven turnovers this season – the third-best total in the country. This season includes a school-record five games without a turnover. CU’s only turnover in the last three games came from backup quarterback Drew Carter, who lost a fumble late in Saturday’s loss to UCLA.
- CU head coach Karl Dorrell is 4-1 in his career against Washington, with each of those games coming during his tenure at UCLA (2003-07). Dorrell also spent one year with the Huskies, as their offensive coordinator in 1999.
- In five home games this season, CU is averaging 47,524 tickets sold. Going into the finale, the Buffs are on pace for their second-highest ticket average since 2012. As of Friday afternoon, CU had sold a bit more than 39,000 tickets for this game.
Huskies scouting report
Head coach: Bob Gregory, 1st season, interim (0-2)
2021 record: 4-6, 3-4 Pac-12
Last week: Lost at home to Arizona State, 35-30
5 Players to Watch
- LT Jaxson Kirkland: The 6-foot-7, 310-pounder is one of the best tackles in the Pac-12 and he leads a big offensive line.
- DL Tuli Letuligasenoa: The Huskies’ most disruptive defensive lineman, he has 35 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and a sack. He’s also intercepted a pass.
- QB Dylan Morris: He and CU’s Brendon Lewis are the only freshman quarterbacks in the Power 5 to start 10 games this season. Morris has thrown for 2,071 yards and 12 touchdowns, but he’s also tossed 10 interceptions.
- TE Cade Otton: Hasn’t put up huge numbers, but he has caught 28 passes for 250 yards and a touchdown. The Buffs often struggle against tight ends, so he could be in line or a big game.
- LB Jackson Sirmon: Leads Washington with 81 tackles and also had three tackles for loss and an interception.
Washington offense: Like CU, the Huskies have struggled to put points on the board most of the season. They rank 10th nationally in points (18.3 per game) and 115th in total offense (325.5 yards per game). Freshman QB Dylan Morris has had a rocky season and backup Sam Huard could get some playing time this week – as he did a week ago. The run game has struggled all season, being held under 100 yards seven times. Sean McGrew has the ability to get the ground game going, however. He has dealt with injuries but has a pair of 100-yard games this season.
Washington defense: Typically, the Huskies have had one of the top defenses in the Pac-12. While this season hasn’t been up to Washington’s usual standard, the Huskies still lead the Pac-12 in scoring defense, allowing 21.2 points per game. They are second in yards allowed (340.6 per game). The strength has been the pass defense. The Huskies lead the country in allowing only 136.3 passing yards per game and 5.22 yards per attempt. They’ve had a rough year against the run, though, ranking among the nation’s worst in giving up 203.9 yards per game.
Washington special teams: Junior Peyton Henry is one of the most reliable kickers in the Pac-12. He’s 10-for-12 this season, including 10-for-10 inside 40 yards. For his career, he is 51-of-64 on field goals. Punter Race Porter is third in the Pac-12 with a 47.7-yard average. He’s had 18 punts of at least 50 yards and has pinned the opponent inside the 20 on 18 of his 47 punts. Giles Jackson has been the primary punt and kickoff returner, but the Huskies haven’t had many explosive returns.
Washington keys to victory
Stop the run: That hasn’t been easy for the Huskies this season. They’ve allowed at least 200 yards six times, going 1-5 in those games. When they’ve held the opponent under 200 yards, they are 3-1.
Win third downs: Overall, the Huskies have been solid on third downs this season. They convert 41.6 percent on offense and have allowed just 36.9 percent of conversions to the opponent.
Band together: It’s been a rough season for the Huskies, particularly in the last couple of weeks as their head coach has been fired. They still have a shot to get to a bowl game, however, if they stick together and win the next two games.
- Washington fired head coach Jimmy Lake on Sunday. Lake had been suspended for the last game, so this will be Gregory’s second game as interim coach. Lake coached the Huskies for only 13 games, going 7-6.
- Gregory is a native of Spokane, Wash., and played for the Huskies’ rival, Washington State. He has been on the Washington staff since 2014, including this year as defensive coordinator.
- Washington is the only team in the country with a perfect mark in the red zone, scoring on all 31 trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. The Huskies have 21 touchdowns and 10 field goals in those trips. (By comparison, CU is 11th, at 93.1 percent, 27-of-29).
- The Huskies have played 85 consecutive games without allowing more than 35 points in a game. That is easily the longest streak in the country, and it dates back to a 44-30 loss to UCLA on Nov. 8, 2014.
- This season, Washington is the only team in the country that has not allowed a passing play of at least 40 yards. The Huskies also lead the country in giving up just three passes of 30-plus yards.