University of Colorado Boulder sophomore wide receiver Dimitri Stanley (14) runs during a punt return in a game against University of Northern Colorado on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo.(Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)
Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer
University of Colorado Boulder sophomore wide receiver Dimitri Stanley (14) runs during a punt return in a game against University of Northern Colorado on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo.(Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

This hasn’t been an easy year to play receiver at Colorado.

The passing game hasn’t been explosive and that group has gone through more than its fair share of injuries.

With one game to play, however, Dimitri Stanley is trying to keep himself and that group motivated.

“Just kind of got to take it day by day, keep people in high spirits and just help them focus on why they came to Colorado in the first place,” Stanley said. “It’s because you love the game of football and just getting out there and playing and doing your thing. That’s really the main thing I try and get them to focus on.”

Stanley and Buffs (4-7, 3-5 Pac-12) will get out there one more time against No. 16 Utah (8-3, 7-1) on Friday in Salt Lake City (2:05 p.m., TV: Fox).

A young quarterback (Brendon Lewis) and struggling offensive line has led to the Buffs throwing for only 1,491 yards – a 135.5 per-game average that ranks 126th nationally and last among all Power 5 conference teams.

Stanley, a fourth-year sophomore from Cherry Creek High School, is CU’s active career leader in catches (63) and receiving yards (686), but this year has caught just 12 passes for 82 yards while missing three games with an injury.

“It’s been a little frustrating because I was expecting to have that breakout year,” he said. “I wanted to have that 1,000-yard receiving year and it just didn’t happen.

“You kind of just keep moving forward and that’s my mentality. What I’ve been trying to do is just help my team in any way I can and everything happens for a reason. I think everything will come as long as I work hard, so I’m not really too worried about it. I just know I need to work hard this offseason and have that season that I was expecting (next year).”

Asked if he will return to CU in 2022, Stanley said, “No comment. … I’m just kidding. Yeah, right now I plan on coming back, so nothing’s changed.”

For now, he’s hoping to rally the depleted receiving corps.

Fifth-year juniors Maurice Bell and Jaylon Jackson combined to play just two games this year (both by Jackson) because of injuries. Then, in the last two weeks, the Buffs have lost second-year freshmen Brenden Rice and Montana Lemonious-Craig to season-ending injuries and third-year freshman La’Vontae Shenault to the transfer portal.

Stanley, who missed three games with a bone bruise in his leg before returning two games ago, is not 100 percent healthy, but looking forward to one last game this season.

“I’m feeling a lot better, but still a little sore here and there,” he said. “But, I’m feeling feel pretty good.”

BOULDER, CO – November 6, 2021: University of Colorado Boulder’s Christian Gonzalez knocks away a potential TD to Oregon State Beaver’s Zeriah Beason.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Stepping up

Second-year freshman cornerback Christian Gonzalez has flashed star potential since arriving on campus a year ago and has taken his game up another level this season.

With one game to play, Gonzalez, who leads the Buffs in snaps played, has 47 tackles, five tackles for loss and six passes defended while playing exceptional in pass coverage.

“I feel like I’ve left plays out there – a couple picks I’ve missed but it is what it is,” he said. “I feel like I’m making good steps and developing into a leader for next year and just ready to go.”

Gonzalez said he plans to focus on his mental game this offseason and getting to know the game “like the back of my hand.” He also said he wants to focus on helping CU’s young cornerbacks continue improving.

Gonzalez projects to be one of the Buffs’ top players in 2022 but was non-committal when asked if he would return to CU next season.

“I’m just focused on this week,” he said.

Notes

CU’s Carson Wells and Utah’s Devin Lloyd are among the top four in the country in tackles for loss over the last two seasons. Lloyd has 31 TFL’s since the start of 2020 – second only to Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. (37) – while Wells ranks fourth with 29.5. … Wells has CU’s longest active streak of consecutive starts, with 26, followed by Gonzalez (17). … CU is seeking its first win in Salt Lake City since Nov. 25, 2011 – the final game of the inaugural season of the Pac-12.