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Air Force's Zac Larrier, left, runs for a long gain as Colorado safety Trevor Woods tries to make the tackle in the first half of Saturday's game at Falcon Stadium. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Air Force’s Zac Larrier, left, runs for a long gain as Colorado safety Trevor Woods tries to make the tackle in the first half of Saturday’s game at Falcon Stadium. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

AIR FORCE ACADEMY – Moments after walking out of an emotional locker room, Colorado guard Casey Roddick stepped to the podium and shared the mood of the team on Saturday afternoon.

“We’ve dealt with so much adversity; a lot of the seniors on this team have dealt with a lot of adversity,” Roddick said. “But what just happened in that locker room, the talk that we just had, this cannot happen again. Point blank and simple: this cannot happen again. From myself, from this offensive line, from this defensive line, and everybody else on that field, the taste in your mouth that’s left after that, that’s unacceptable. And, we know that. We see that.

“We see how good we can be, but it’s just not being taken out to the field on Saturdays. For some reason, it’s just not coming over to Saturdays, so it’s going to get fixed – and we know that.”

There is plenty to be fixed, as the Buffs were embarrassed for the second week in a row, routed 41-10 by Air Force on a rainy afternoon at Falcon Stadium.

Fullback Brad Roberts ran for 174 yards and three touchdowns, as the Falcons racked up 435 rushing yards. CU still leads the all-time series, 12-6, but Air Force has won two in a row against the Buffs for the first time and this was the Falcons’ largest margin of victory against their in-state rival.

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - SEPTEMBER 10: Colorado Buffaloes running back Alex Fontenot (8) gets wrapped up by Air Force Falcons safety Camby Goff (11) and Air Force Falcons linebacker Alec Mock (40) in the second quarter at Falcon Stadium September 10, 2022. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)
Colorado Buffaloes running back Alex Fontenot (8) gets wrapped up by Air Force Falcons safety Camby Goff (11) and linebacker Alec Mock (40) in the second quarter at Falcon Stadium on Saturday. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

CU started a new quarterback (junior JT Shrout), but that couldn’t fix the numerous issues plaguing the Buffs.

They got off to a horrible start, failed to take advantage of several opportunities to get back into the game, and left the field still searching for answers. CU has been outscored 79-23 in starting 0-2 for the first time since 2012.

“We didn’t play to our capabilities,” head coach Karl Dorrell said. “They played better than we did today and obviously deserving of the win. We have a tremendous amount of work to do. … We’ve just got to continue to just work and develop this football team. The coaches, myself, we’re all taking responsibility for it. We’re going to keep coaching these guys.”

Shrout, a junior who missed the 2021 season with a knee injury, replaced Brendon Lewis and made his first start as a Buff. He had a miserable afternoon, however, completing 5-of-21 passes for 51 yards, losing a fumble and throwing an interception. He also had three other passes that went in and out of the hands of Air Force defenders.

At one point, Shrout put a glove on his throwing hand to try to deal with the rain, but it didn’t make a difference.

“I would say some of it (was weather-related),” Dorrell said of Shrout’s performance. “I’m not sure it’s all of it. It’s his first start. I think the weather played a factor for sure.”

CU got off to a disastrous start, as Shrout bobbled the shotgun snap on the second play of the game and Air Force recovered at the Buffs’ 14-yard line. On the next play, Roberts ran through the middle of the Buffs’ defense for a 14-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead just 33 seconds into the game.

Shrout’s interception, on the first play of the second quarter, set up Roberts’ second TD, a 20-yard run up the middle for a 20-0 Falcons’ lead with 12 minutes, 55 seconds to play in the second quarter.

In between the two turnovers, CU punted three times. Despite the miserable start, CU managed to battle back.

Deion Smith scored a touchdown to pull the Buffs within 20-7 early in the second quarter.

Then, Air Force did all it could to give CU a chance — and the Buffs were unable to capitalize.

The Falcons were a foot away from a 27-7 lead, but fumbled at the goal line on what would have been a 9-yard touchdown run. CU failed to take advantage.

Then, the Falcons fumbled again and that set up a 41-yard field goal by CU’s Cole Becker that cut the Falcons’ lead to 20-10 at intermission.

At the start of the third quarter, Air Force had a horrible snap on a punt attempt that lost 39 yards and gave the Buffs the ball at the 13-yard line. Four plays later, the Buffs’ Alex Fontenot fumbled on the goal line.

The Buffs’ next two possessions started at the Air Force 40 and the Colorado 49. CU got nothing out of either opportunity.

“It’s definitely frustrating, having three turnovers and scoring only three points off of those three,” CU defensive lineman Jalen Sami said. “But we don’t try to hold that against the offense. They weren’t connecting early, so we, defensively had to take that upon ourselves. We started off on a bad first play and they scored and so we’ve just got to be more prepared and more focused and locked in on what our details are and what and our assignments and techniques are.”

After CU’s failed attempts to get back into the game, Air Force pulled away with three touchdowns in the final 18 minutes.

Like Roddick, Dorrell maintained confidence that the Buffs can get momentum shifted in their direction. And, he maintained confidence in the people in the program – coaches and players – to get it done.

“Absolutely,” he said.

Dorrell also didn’t hide his frustration after his team fell to 4-12 in its last 16 games.

“They are discouraged right now,” he said. “They are. I just had a great talk with them, though, and they’re willing to fight. They want to fight, they want to get better.

“It’s like the same story I keep talking about right now. I’m tired of really talking about it. We need to put it out front and play. We need to coach better, we need to play better. There’s no easy way to say it other than you’ve got to work harder to get better.”

Air Force 41, Colorado 10

Play of the game: Deion Smith’s 25-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was the longest run of his career at CU and it briefly gave the Buffs’ some life on offense.

Turning point: With 10:37 to play in the third quarter, CU trailed 20-10 and had second-and-goal at the Air Force 2-yard line. Alex Fontenot got to the goal line, but lost the handle on the ball. He nearly broke the plane of the goal line before losing the ball. But instead of a touchdown that would have pulled CU within 20-17, the lost fumble proved costly. CU never got inside the Air Force 30-yard line again and the Falcons closed the game on a 21-0 run.

Top 3 Buffs of the game

1. LB Quinn Perry: It wasn’t a great day for the defense, but he was all over the field, finishing with a career-high 17 tackles, including a tackle for loss.

2. S Trevor Woods: Before he was ejected for targeting, he was having a great game, finishing eight tackles, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble in basically half a game.

3. RB Deion Smith: He had his best game as a Buff, leading the team with 59 rushing yards on 11 carries (5.4 average) and scoring the only touchdown.

Air Force 41, Colorado 10
Colorado             0 10 0 0 –10
Air Force           13 7 7 14 — 41
First quarter
AFA — Roberts 14 run (Dapore kick), 14:27.
AFA — FG Dapore 54, 9:42.
AFA — FG Dapore 47, :17.
Second quarter
AFA — Roberts 20 run (Dapore kick), 12:55.
COLO — D.Smith 25 run (Becker kick), 10:55.
COLO — FG Becker 41, :41.
Third quarter
AFA — Daniels 1 run (Dapore kick), 2:31.
Fourth quarter
AFA — Roberts 46 run (Rodriguez kick), 11:12.
AFA — Eldridge 11 run (Rodriguez kick), 3:03.

COLO        AFA
First downs                        8            25
Total net yards               162          443
Rushes-yards            32-111     70-435
Passing yards                  51             8
Punt returns-yards         1-11          0-0
Kickoff returns-yards     4-103        0-0
Int ret                              0-0         1-30
Comp-att-int                5-21-1      1-5-0
Sacked-yards lost           1-9          0-0
Punts                        7-41.42      2-46.0
Fumbles-lost                   1-1         5-3
Penalties-yards             4-40        3-25
Time of possession     21:38       38:22

Individual stats
Rushing — Colorado, D.Smith 11-59, Fontenot 12-53, Offerdahl 1-5, Shrout 6-3, Stacks 1-(minus 1), (Team) 1-(minus 8). Air Force, Roberts 24-174, Eldridge 8-88, Larrier 6-60, Jefferson 1-48, Michel 6-35, Daniels 9-29, Kinamon 3-21, Fattah 6-20, Hughes 2-4, (Team) 5-(minus 44).
Passing — Colorado, Shrout 5-21-1-51. Air Force, Daniels 1-5-0-8.
Receiving — Colorado, Arias 2-36, Sneed 1-7, Tyson 1-6, Fontenot 1-2. Air Force, Kinamon 1-8.

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