There wasn’t much for Karl Dorrell to be happy about on Saturday afternoon as he talked after another embarrassing performance by his football team.
Colorado’s head coach did smile a bit, however, when he mentioned that the Buffaloes didn’t turn the ball over on the first series of the game, as they did in the previous two weeks.
“I’m not joking – that’s something that was seriously talked about in making sure we don’t turn the ball over the first series,” he said.
Hey, it’s progress.
Unfortunately for Dorrell, there hasn’t been nearly enough progress to keep the fans in the Folsom Field stands for the fourth quarter, or for his team to be competitive.
UCLA dominated the Buffs, 45-17, in the Pac-12 Conference opener for both teams.
Zach Charbonnet ran for 104 yards and three touchdowns, while Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw for 234 yards and two touchdowns as the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) made easy work of the hapless Buffs (0-4, 0-1).
As UCLA lined up to kick an extra point to go up 14-0 in the first quarter, fans behind the CU bench chanted, “Fire Karl! Fire Karl!”
While true freshman quarterback Owen McCown, making his first start, gave CU’s offense a mild spark, Dorrell has been unable to pull his team out of a tailspin to start this season.
The Buffs have lost all four games by at least 25 points, the longest stretch of such losses for a CU team since a seven-game stretch in 2012. Since a 4-0 start to his tenure in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Dorrell is 4-14, with his team routinely getting blown out.
Only athletic director Rick George truly knows how hot Dorrell’s seat is at this point, but there’s no question Dorrell has yet to find the formula for fixing the Buffs’ woes.
“Right now we have a lot of things to really shore up,” he said, repeating what he said a week ago after a 49-7 loss at Minnesota. “There’s a lot of areas that need a lot of work that we’ve been working on and we’re going to continue to work on.”
At least at quarterback, the Buffs might have inched a bit closer to finding an answer.
Veterans JT Shrout and Brendon Lewis battled all offseason for the job and rotated throughout the first three games. Both struggled mightily, leading to the Buffs giving McCown a shot.
The true freshman from Rusk, Texas, completed 26-of-42 passes for 258 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for a touchdown and lost a fumble in leading the Buffs to a season-high 17 points.
“I was encouraged by the young freshman that we decided to use,” Dorrell said. “I felt he did some positive things overall. He did some rookie things as well, but I was encouraged by his poise. He had a lot good poise.”
There wasn’t enough spark offensively to keep the Buffs in the game, though. CU fell behind 21-3 midway through the second quarter and then got outscored 24-7 in the second half. They finished with just 309 yards on offense, but that was the second-best total of the season for the Buffs.
The offense struggling to score doesn’t help the defense, but that group certainly has its own issues. UCLA marched through the Buffs all day, racking up 515 yards, including 249 on the ground.
“We’ve got to worry about ourselves,” safety Trevor Woods said. “Last time I checked, we just gave up 45 points. It’s not like we’re shutting them down at 20 and we’re not scoring it all. We just gave up 45 points. We shouldn’t be worried about what the offense is doing. This is on everybody.”
That list of everybody starts with Dorrell, whose future is very much in question. Yet, he maintains he’s going to continue to work to get the team better for however long he’s the head coach of the Buffaloes.
“We’re working as hard as we can work,” he said. “We’re trying to get things right and we’re doing everything that we’re capable of doing right now. We’re very confident that this thing is going to turn at some point. All the other things, I’m not in control of.
“Part of life is there’s going to be people that are for you and people are going to be against you. There’s people usually against me if we were winning, too. That’s kind of what life is. You’re going to have to deal with some very difficult circumstances and going through adversity is part of growing up through that process. … You have to find a way to get yourself out of it. We’ve got fighters on our staff. We’ve got guys in our program – coaches, players – that are going to fight their way out of this, including myself. Those are the only things that we can control right now. We can’t worry about all the other things that could or would happen.”
UCLA 45, Colorado 17
Play of the game: For the Buffs, freshman Owen McCown threw a nice pass to Jordyn Tyson for an 8-yard touchdown with 2:59 to play in the game, giving McCown his first career touchdown pass.
Turning point: Although UCLA was never really threatened, CU did pull within 21-10 at the half. On the fourth play of the second half, the Bruins’ Zach Charbonnet sliced through the CU defense for a 46-yard touchdown run that essentially put the game away.
Top 3 Buffs of the game
1. QB Owen McCown: Making his first career start, the freshman went 26-of-42 for 258 yards and a touchdown and also ran for a score.
2. WR Daniel Arias: Matched his career high with four catches and had a career-high 82 yards, including a 42-yarder.
3. LB Josh Chandler-Semedo: Posted CU’s only two tackles for loss, including the Buffs’ only sack.
UCLA 45, Colorado 17
UCLA 14 7 17 7 — 45
Colorado 0 10 0 7 — 17
UCLA — M.Sykes 24 pass from Thompson-Robinson (Barr-Mira kick), 6:18.
UCLA — Charbonnet 35 run (Barr-Mira kick), :46.
COLO — FG Becker 35, 12:12.
UCLA — Charbonnet 13 run (Barr-Mira kick), 9:00.
COLO — McCown 2 run (Becker kick), :19.
UCLA — Charbonnet 46 run (Barr-Mira kick), 13:23.
UCLA — FG Barr-Mira 44, 7:48.
UCLA — Yankoff 2 pass from Thompson-Robinson (Barr-Mira kick), 6:03.
UCLA — Yankoff 3 pass from Garbers (Firebaugh kick), 14:56.
COLO — Tyson 8 pass from McCown (Becker kick), 2:59.
A — 42,848.
First downs 25 19
Total net yards 515 309
Rushes-yards 34-249 34-51
Passing yards 266 258
Punt returns-yards 2-7 2-15
Kickoff returns-yards 0-0 1-26
Int ret 1-13 0-0
Comp-att-int 22-29-0 26-42-1
Sacked-yards lost 1-9 5-39
Punts 3-46.3 5-46.2
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-1
Penalties-yards 8-70 5-40
Time of possession 25:53 34:07
Rushing — UCLA, Charbonnet 9-104, Thompson-Robinson 7-56, Harden 7-41, Ke.Jones 6-38, Yankoff 2-7, Grubb 1-2, Garbers 1-2, (Team) 1-(minus 1). Colorado, Offerdahl 14-47, Hankerson 7-25, D.Smith 2-16, Russell 1-1, Bell 1-(minus 6), McCown 9-(minus 32).
Passing — UCLA, Thompson-Robinson 19-23-0-234, Garbers 3-6-0-32. Colorado, McCown 26-42-1-258.
Receiving — UCLA, Bobo 4-53, M.Sykes 4-48, Allen 4-30, Ezeike 2-30, Habermehl 2-16, Yankoff 2-5, Loya 1-28, Norwood 1-25, Brown 1-21, Mokiao-Atimalala 1-10. Colorado, Bell 5-26, Arias 4-82, Russell 4-33, Sneed 3-29, Tyson 2-39, Olsen 2-17, D.Smith 2-6, Lemonious-Craig 1-9, Robinson 1-9, Hankerson 1-4, Hestera 1-4.
Missed field goals — Colorado, Becker 54.