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BOULDER,CO-September 24: University of Colorado Boulder's ...
University of Colorado Boulder’s Devin Grant has his eyes on UCLA’s TJ Harden during the game on September 24, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

When Colorado head football coach Karl Dorrell watches his defense play, he sees a lot of good moments.

There haven’t been enough of those good moments, however, to keep the Buffaloes in games this season.

“Defensively, when we do things right and we get the calls right … and they execute the defense, we actually play it pretty well,” Dorrell said. “But there are some other calls that sometimes your guy is missing his assignment from time to time, which makes it a little bit more challenging.”

As CU (0-4, 0-1 Pac-12) prepares to visit Arizona (2-2, 0-1) on Saturday in Tucson, Ariz. (7:30 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Network), it is striving for more consistency on defense.

The Buffs are, by far, last in the country in run defense (323.25 yards per game) and 126th in points allowed (43.3 per game). Yet, Dorrell said there are positive signs at times.

“For example, we had a defensive call that we called five times in the game and three of those calls, it was perfect; great run-stoppage plays,” he said. “And two of the calls, a couple guys were just out of place and they were big plays against us.

“I know we’ve got some younger players out there but we can be better at that. … They see that when they’re doing things right it looks really good.”

Dorrell said he felt five specific plays, which included missed tackles or assignments, led to 28 points for UCLA in Saturday’s 45-17 loss.

“We know that tackling is a big issue right now,” Dorrell said. “There’s no hiding of the fact about that. If we clear up that issue and be more of a ball-disruptive side and tackle better, it’s a better defense.”

Fixing it requires players and coaches to step up, he said.

“We have to understand alignment and assignment; the integrity of your responsibility in gaps and coverage, how that all relates,” Dorrell said. “We have to tune those things to being a little bit better as a coaching staff in getting that information to our players and they’re retaining it and being able to perform it. But we feel there’s still a lot of growth and things that we can do at a much higher level on the defensive side and we’re working hard to do that.”

Wounded Buffs

Several injuries have hit the Buffs in recent weeks and it could lead to some key players sitting out against Arizona.

Senior tight end Brady Russell suffered what Dorrell called a “low grade ankle sprain” Saturday against UCLA and he’s day-to-day.

Senior running back Alex Fontenot has missed the last two games with a chest injury and Dorrell said, “He’s kind of in that week-to-week process. We’re trying to figure out what his ailments are. He is getting better, but he’s barely doing functional things, so he’s probably doubtful this week.”

Dorrell added that senior safety Isaiah Lewis and freshman receiver Chase Sowell, who were both injured against UCLA, are also doubtful to play against the Wildcats.


CU has won the last two meetings with Arizona, including a 2020 trip to Tucson. All-time, the Buffs are 9-3 in Tucson. … Through four games, 18 different players have caught a pass for the Buffs. The program record is 19, set in 1999 and tied in 2004. … Tight end Louis Passarello, in his third season with the Buffs, played in his first game on Saturday. Passarello, who has battled injuries during his time at CU, played on special teams against UCLA.