Nine months of reshaping the roster, retooling the coaching staff and repairing the culture was supposed to fix a lot of Colorado’s woes.
“Well, I wasn’t expecting that type of game,” CU head football coach Karl Dorrell said as he sat down for his postgame press conference shortly after midnight early Saturday morning.
After a full offseason of preparation, CU had his worst season opener in 23 years on Friday night, routed by visiting TCU, 38-13, at Folsom Field.
“We just have to get better,” Dorrell said, stating the obvious after his team was blown out in the second half.
“It’s hard to find a lot of positive today. … There’s a lot of things in this first game that were exposed and we need to get it shored up pretty quickly because teams are gonna keep coming.”
Favored by 13.5 points coming in, TCU clung to a 7-6 lead at halftime and then scored 31 unanswered points to pull away. Senior Derius Davis had a 60-yard punt return for touchdown and added a 27-yard touchdown run on a reverse in the fourth quarter to lead TCU.
CU had a six-game winning streak in openers snapped, starting 0-1 for the first time since 2015. This was CU’s most lopsided loss in an opener since a 41-14 loss to Colorado State in 1999.
There were 47,868 tickets distributed for the game and CU sold all 14,000 of its student passes. Starting about an hour before the scheduled kickoff time of 8 p.m., the student section was packed and raucous and even ignored pleas from the public address announcer to seek shelter during a lightning delay. The inclement weather pushed kickoff back to 8:45 p.m., but the fans hung in for the long-awaited opener.
By late in the third quarter, many of them had left. Unfortunately for the Buffs, some in uniform were apparently checked out by then, too.
TCU had a 17-6 lead late in the third quarter. That’s not an insurmountable deficit, but it felt that way as the Buffs couldn’t get anything going offensively.
“I think the part that disappointed me the most was in the fourth quarter when we were down 14-6 and then especially once it was 17-6, I just saw way too many heads drop,” senior tight end and captain Brady Russell said. “I saw way too much defeat when we were still very, very much part of the game. If we started executing like we did in the first half then we could have made it a game very easily. But I saw way too many heads drop. That’s why I’m so mad right now. We had too many people give up and that’s not the team we formed this offseason.”
Inside linebacker Quinn Perry sat next to Russell and agreed with his fellow captain.
“Some dudes mentally checked out at halftime,” Perry said. “If we’re gonna be on the field doing our jobs, what the hell’s going on? I think there’s a lot of internal stuff with guys that did not show up during fall camp and during practices and stuff that we have to adjust. It just has to be taken out of their mind completely, because that’s not who we are as a team.”
It may not have been who the Buffs were during offseason workouts, but the performance on Friday was similar to last year, when CU sputtered to a 4-8 record.
Offensively, CU managed only a pair of Cole Becker field goals and a cosmetic touchdown with 73 seconds left in the game. CU finished with 348 yards on offense, but only 136 came after halftime – with 75 of those on the last possession when the game was already decided.
“We really had not caught rhythm the whole game (on offense),” Dorrell said. “Even in the first half with the field goals, we did some positive things, but it wasn’t like it was a seamless operation.”
Dorrell didn’t announce a starting quarterback before the game, but elected to give incumbent Brendon Lewis the start. Dorrell then stuck with the sophomore through most of the first three quarters.
Lewis completed 13-of-18 passes, but for only 78 yards. He also led the Buffs with 42 rushing yards.
Junior JT Shrout provided a bit of a spark late in the first half. But, in the third quarter, Dorrell sent Lewis back to the field. The dwindling crowd booed the decision, and the Buffs punted on their first two possessions of the second half.
By the time Shrout went back into the game, with 10 minutes, 55 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, CU trailed 24-6. Shrout finished the game 13-for-23 for 157 yards, including his 23-yard touchdown to freshman Jordyn Tyson in the final minutes.
“We’ll continue to work through that,” Dorrell said, “but I felt like the rhythm wasn’t established at all.”
Defensively, the Buffs were impressive in the first half, holding TCU to only 67 yards and forcing three punts. The Horned Frogs’ only highlight of the first half was Davis’ 60-yard punt return for a score early in the second quarter.
After intermission, the Buffs couldn’t stop the Horned Frogs. TCU scored on five consecutive possessions and racked up 261 rushing yards in the second half, turning a nail-biter into a laugher.
“Apparently they made better adjustments than we did in the second half defensively,” Dorrell said. “We were trying to do the right things and trying to stay in the game, but unfortunately, we couldn’t stop what they were doing.”
Because of that, the Buffs find themselves in a difficult position just one game into the season. Road trips to Air Force and Minnesota are looming before the Pac-12 slate begins later this month.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done and it starts with me,” Dorrell said. “I’m not pointing the finger at any of our players. Our coaches and me we gotta get this thing done. And I’m very confident that this group of coaches will do that.”
TCU 38, Colorado 13
Play of the game: TCU’s Derius Davis fielded a punt from his own 40-yard-line early in the second quarter and then sprinted untouched to the end zone. That gave TCU a 7-6 lead and it never trailed again.
Turning point: After TCU scored on a 43-yard run by Emari Demercado early in the third quarter, the Horned Frogs led 14-6. CU had a chance to respond to that score, but instead gained one yard on three plays before punting. TCU marched down field again, kicked a field goal to go up 17-6 with 3:45 to play in the third and CU was never in the game again.
Top 3 Buffs of the game
1. WR Daniel Arias: The senior caught four passes for 66 yards, including a pair of nice catches on deep balls.
2. S Trevor Woods: After an injury-riddled preseason, Woods led the team with eight tackles on the night.
3. PK Cole Becker: He was called upon twice and delivered both times, hitting field goals of 37 and 43 yards.