Game at a Glance
Matchup: UCLA Bruins (3-0) at Colorado Buffaloes (0-3)
Kickoff: 12:01 p.m. MT
Where: Folsom Field in Boulder
Capacity: 50,183. Playing surface: Grass
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: KOA (850 or 630 AM & 94.1 FM)
Odds: UCLA by 21.5
Series: UCLA leads 12-5
Despite a nonconference schedule that proved to be a disaster and speculation about the future of their head coach, the Colorado football players haven’t shown that they are ready to pack their bags and give up on the season.
The energy and spirit from the practice field this week was greater than it’s been all fall. The players haven’t expressed a lack of confidence.
It remains to be seen how the Buffs (0-3) will perform against UCLA (3-0) on Saturday at Folsom Field, but the players are at least fighting as they open Pac-12 play.
“(Offensive lineman Tommy Brown) told the team that this is the most fun he’s had playing football, even amongst the challenges of what we’re going through in these first three weeks,” offensive coordinator Mike Sanford said. “He just says, ‘I love going to work every day.’ And I feel the same way. I love coming to work with these guys. I love going to see a guy like Brady Russell every day and Tommy Brown and Casey Roddick and Daniel Arias – guys that are just wanting to turn this corner. And they believe that we’re right on the precipice of doing it. We’ve just got to go to it.”
Easier said than done, of course, especially with how the Buffs have played to this point. They are coming off a 49-7 loss at Minnesota and have been outscored 128-30. They are the first team in 133 seasons of CU football to open a campaign with three consecutive losses by 25 points or more.
Through it all, head coach Karl Dorrell’s seat has become significantly warmer. He’s still under contract through the 2024 season, but the Buffs are 4-13 in their 17 games since a 4-0 start in the shortened 2020 season, and the calls for his firing are getting louder and more frequent among the impatient fan base.
Inside the walls, CU is clinging to the hope that comes from being 0-0 in the conference. It is a fresh start in some ways and there is genuine belief that they can gain some positive momentum.
“(The confidence) is actually not low,” safety Trevor Woods said. “We’ve come together, we’ve talked. We’ve had plenty of talks and we’re all good together. We’re still confident. Obviously I’m around the defense more and we’re all extremely confident. We all know what we can do. We’ve just got to execute.
“We can’t get down. Everyone has things go bad. You look at the best teams in the country, NFL teams, all of them have things go wrong. It’s just how you fight the adversity, really. You can’t let it affect you, whether it’s good or bad.”
Execution on offense has been CU’s main issue to this point, but even players on that side of the ball remain confident.
“I know y’all probably can’t see it but when you watch film, it’s such little details,” tight end Brady Russell said. “It’s just a matter of keeping everybody in that belief. The energy has probably been higher (this week) than it has been since we went to fall camp. Everybody wants it so bad. Now we need to put that energy into execution.
“I know it sounds like a broken record, but with the age of this team and everything, I think it’s gonna come together at some point. It’s just a matter of when. Hopefully, it’s this week.”
For Dorrell and everyone, there is pressure to win and win now. Russell feels that, but he also knows the importance of balancing pressure with belief and being loose enough to have fun playing the game.
“I have gotten good at that over the years, because I have experienced too much losing,” he said. “That’s all you can really do is try to thrive in the adversity. There’s no reason to do anything less.”
A coaching veteran of 35 years, Dorrell has been through up and downs and experienced rough stretches during his career. He has been encouraged by how the players have rallied together this week and continues to express his faith in the Buffs.
“I think we’re very capable of (playing well) and we’ll tweak and do whatever is necessary for us to get that from our players,” he said. “There’s a lot of football left, so I don’t think this is anything that’s going to really define us right now. I think that’s going to actually be defined later on in the season as we go forward.”
How much longer Dorrell moves forward with the Buffs could be determined by their ability to convert the energy, effort and camaraderie into a positive result against the Bruins.
“We understand that we’re in a hole,” Dorrell said. “But we have an opportunity that’s right in front of us to get it fixed, to get ourselves out of a hole, and to really have a successful year.”