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Rooney: Karl Dorrell’s CU Buffs sink to new low with quick surrender at Minnesota

Minnesota running back Bryce Williams (21) carries the ball into the end zone for a touchdown against Colorado during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Minneapolis. Minnesota won 49-7. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Minnesota running back Bryce Williams (21) carries the ball into the end zone for a touchdown against Colorado during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Minneapolis. Minnesota won 49-7. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

“I like where this team is at,” Colorado football coach Karl Dorrell declared this past week, exuding a bravado that certainly wasn’t backed by the play of his team through the first two games.

“We’re going to play better,” he added, “I know that.”

The Buffs didn’t play better. Not even close. And the latest lopsided result, this time a 49-7 waxing at Minnesota on Saturday, revealed a team that isn’t anywhere close to competing at a Power 5 level. As well as a leader in Dorrell who is either keeping the truth of his regressing program close to the vest, or is wildly delusional about his team’s potential.

Not only did the Buffs fail to play any better than they did in the opener against TCU, or last week at Air Force, but CU’s offense actually began the game almost the exact same way it did against the Falcons, giving away a turnover on the first play (last week, the turnover came on the second play). AFA needed one play to take advantage with a touchdown. Minnesota did the Buffs a favor by requiring two plays.

Listening to Dorrell throughout spring practice (“I like how our team has matured at this point,” he said after the spring showcase), during the preseason (“I think the makeup of this team is much, much better than last year’s team,” he said last month at the Front Range Huddle in Denver), or this past week (see above), one would believe the Buffs have never produced a dud practice under Dorrell’s watch. Which is a remarkable stretch of reality for a team that has been outscored 128-30 in three games. By comparison, just across campus men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle, with five NCAA Tournament appearances and a sixth that was cancelled in 12 seasons at CU, routinely calls out his club publicly if the practice effort isn’t up to par.

If Dorrell’s bunch truly is putting in the effort every day at practice, kudos to them. It can’t be easy to do so when you’re getting rolled every Saturday. But the idea this simply is a young team that hasn’t learned how to translate its practice habits to the game field is laughable. The results on Saturdays clearly say otherwise.

At least Dorrell has overseen a little history. No other Buffs team in the 132-year history of the program has started 0-3 while losing all three games by at least 25 points. Yet these lows sink even lower. Between last year’s shutout loss against the Gophers in Boulder and Saturday’s blowout, it took CU 111 minutes, 5 seconds to get on the board against Minnesota. Minnesota. Certainly a rugged, physical, veteran team likely headed to a bowl game, but we’re not talking about Michigan or Ohio State. Nevertheless, CU had been outscored 79-0 by the mighty Gophers in the home-and-home series until the late score.

About that score. CU now has all of three touchdowns this season. The same total Minnesota recorded within the game’s first 21 minutes. Two of the Buffs’ three touchdowns were squarely entrenched in garbage time, meaning CU has produced exactly one touchdown drive of consequence through 12 quarters.

Where this program goes from here, besides the bottom of the Pac-12 Conference standings, might provide the only drama in a 2022 season quickly going down the tubes. It’s been said previously from this corner that this season, with the offseason roster overhaul and coaching staff shakeup, has the feel of the first year of a coaching regime, not year three. Yet exactly how much patience can athletic director Rick George afford, given the embarrassing product on the field? This isn’t about a young team taking its lumps before it ultimately, someday, gets on track. This is a program going in reverse.

Since the 4-0 start in the shortened pandemic season of 2020, CU has gone 4-13. Only one of those defeats, last year’s near-upset of Texas A&M, was a one-score final. Often last year, and in the past two weeks, the Buffs managed to stay close early before the rout was on. Against Minnesota, surrender came quickly.

Financially, CU is on the hook with Dorrell for another two-plus years. Starting over certainly isn’t palatable to George. But seeing a 49-0 deficit less than a minute into the fourth quarter on a national broadcast shouldn’t be, either.

Maybe the arrival of UCLA at Folsom Field next week will provide a tonic, though there has been little evidence to support optimism. The Bruins might be 3-0 after edging out a one-point win at home against South Alabama, but UCLA’s early murderer’s row, all-home schedule of Bowling Green, Alabama State and South Alabama certainly doesn’t make them world beaters.

With former CU offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini working for UCLA as an offensive analyst, the Bruins have averaged 40.7 points. With former Minnesota offensive coordinator Mike Sanford calling the shots for CU, the Buffs have scored 30 points in three games.

Minnesota made changes and has the look of a team ready to go bowling. Dorrell overhauled his staff only to watch the Buffs’ play go backwards. How low can it go? The sad reality for long-suffering Buffs fans is they probably only have to wait another week to find out.

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