Skip to content
BOULDER,CO-SEPTEMBER 2:University of Colorado Boulder's Deion Smith looks for an opening  against  Texas Christian University on September 2, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER,CO-SEPTEMBER 2:University of Colorado Boulder’s Deion Smith looks for an opening against Texas Christian University on September 2, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Colorado Buffaloes scouting report

Head coach: Karl Dorrell, 3rd season (8-11; 43-38 career)

This season: 0-1

Last week: Lost at home to TCU, 38-13

5 Players to Watch

• LB Robert Barnes, Sr.: Last week, he played more snaps than anyone on defense. He had just two tackles, though, and will need to find the football more often.

• RB Alex Fontenot, Sr.: Buffs had to go away from the run last week in the second half, but he still had a solid 31 yards on eight carries. CU might rely on him more this week.

• S Isaiah Lewis, Sr.: The Buffs can’t get so caught up in the Air Force run game that they lose sight of the receivers. Lewis will be vital to managing the back end of CU’s defense.

• TE Brady Russell, Sr.: A top target in the passing game, he caught three passes for 19 yards last week and will be key in getting first downs and marching down the field.

• DL Jalen Sami, Jr.: He and fellow defensive linemen Terrance Lang and Na’im Rodman have experience against Air Force. That will come in handy as the Buffs try to stop the option attack.

Colorado offense

That new-look attack that first-year coordinator Mike Sanford installed in the offseason didn’t produce the results the Buffs were hoping for a week ago. A reversal of fortune could be dictated by who the Buffs play at quarterback. Brendon Lewis struggled last week. JT Shrout wasn’t perfect, but provided a spark in the passing game. Both could play this week but a BuffZone source confirmed a report Friday night that Shrout will get the start. Either way, the Buffs have to get better play at quarterback to have a shot. CU has exceptional talent at receiver and needs to find a way to take advantage of that group.

Colorado defense

Stopping the run is priority No. 1 for the Buffs, who were gashed by TCU in the second half last week. Air Force has the nation’s best rushing attack and the Falcons are going to get yards on the ground. Disciplined play by the Buffs’ front seven can limit the big plays, though. CU also has to be wary of the passing attack, which burned the Buffs in 2019. Cornerback Nigel Bethel Jr. didn’t play in the 2019 game, but was on the team and knows Air Force’s ability. “Coaches have been stressing it: eyes, eyes, eyes,” he said. “We’ve just got to keep our keys because they can lull us to sleep and throw a shot.”

Colorado special teams

Sophomore Cole Becker got off to a great start, hitting both of his field goals — from 43 and 37 yards — last week. He also sent all four of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. Punter Ashton Logan had a solid gross average of 43.3 yards on his four punts, but it wasn’t a smooth debut. One of his punts was returned 60 yards for a touchdown, and another one rolled into the end zone for a touchback — and a 21-yard net. Nikko Reed and Chase Penry will once again handle return duties, but neither had a return opportunity last week.

How Colorado can win

Without question, the Buffs need to have a good day on defense. They need to limit big plays by the Falcons and not get burned by the passing game. The key to this game, however, could be CU’s ability to generate some offense. It’s been a major struggle for over a year and last week wasn’t pretty at times. The Buffs showed some good signs in the first half against TCU, but couldn’t get in the end zone until late in the fourth quarter when it didn’t matter. They need sustained drives that end with touchdowns to beat the Falcons.

Buffs notables

• CU is making its first trip to the Air Force Academy since Oct. 5, 1974. In that game, the Buffs took a lead early and then held on, winning 28-27 after Air Force missed a late field goal attempt. CU is 5-1 all-time at the Academy, with the only loss coming on Dec. 7, 1963 — a game postponed two weeks after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

• After going 2-0 on the road in 2020, the Buffs were 0-5 on the road last year.

• As a team, CU has thrown 176 consecutive passes without an interception: 150 by Brendon Lewis, 23 by JT Shrout and three by Drew Carter. Lewis’ streak is the third-longest by an individual in CU history.

• CU had its fourth straight turnover-free season opener last week. The Buffs have never started a season with two turnover-free games. The longest they’ve ever gone without a turnover to start the season is 92 minutes, 28 seconds in 2014.

• The Buffs are 132-43-4 all-time against current members of the Mountain West Conference, including 12-5 against Air Force.