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Buffs Notes Vs. Texas A&M

Sep 11, 2021

DENVER — Count this corner among the folks who loved seeing Karl Dorrell go for a first down deep in Texas A&M territory in the first half of Saturday's 10-7 loss to the Aggies.

Dorrell and Co. had the chance to deliver a punch that would have left the Aggies reeling and they took a swing. 

That's what winning teams do in gut-check situations. They believe they are good enough to get a yard, they line up and they attack.

They don't play it safe.

Good teams play to win — and guaranteed, the nation's fifth-ranked team went back to Texas late Saturday night knowing they had played a good team.

(By the way, we're guessing Oregon fans were more than happy with the Ducks' decision Saturday to go for the yardage on a fourth-and-1 in the Ohio State red zone. It resulted in a touchdown.)

The trouble with over-analyzing one series in a 60-minute game is there are too many other "what if" moments. What if A&M quarterback Zach Calzada hadn't fumbled at the goal line and the rest of the game played out the way it actually happened? What if CU's Daniel Arias somehow would have managed to hold onto the long ball that was just barely popped out of his grasp by an A&M defender?

What if … what if … 

But what actually happened won't change: the Buffs came up just short of recording a major upset and they will learn from their mistakes. As Dorrell told his team after the game, they have nothing to hang their heads over. They went toe-to-toe with a national powerhouse, they made some plays and the other guys just made a couple more.

That's nothing to be ashamed of — but it is something that will no doubt serve as motivation.

The Buffs not only know they can get better, they know they have to get better. This team is hungry for more than a moral victory, and it will be fun to watch these Buffs grow and mature as the season progresses.

DEFENSE RISING: While it was hard to draw a reasoned analysis after an opening win over an FCS team, Saturday's effort left no doubt: new defensive coordinator Chris Wilson has his unit trending in the right direction.

Wilson's scheme had the Aggies guessing all day, and CU's front seven was outstanding. While A&M could ostensibly blame some of its woes on having to depend upon a backup quarterback for nearly the entire game, that backup quarterback had nothing to do with an A&M run game that went nowhere.

The defensive star of the game was Buffs linebacker Nate Landman, who seemed to be in the midst of every play. He was credited with 10 tackles — including two for loss — as well as a pair of pass breakups.

Other defensive notables included defensive back Mekhi Blackmon, who has seemed to develop a penchant for stopping opponents in CU's end zone. Last week, it was a pass interception in the end zone that halted a UNC drive. Saturday, he alertly scooped up a Calzada fumble to stop an A&M drive.

With Chris Miller not suited up for the game, Blackmon spent much of his day playing nickel. Nigel Bethel took over at the corner opposite Christian Gonzalez and played 50 defensive snaps. Gonzalez, by the way, was credited with six tackles and had an outstanding day in coverage.

Also, linebacker Robert Barnes (transfer from Oklahoma) made his Buffs debut, playing 20 defensive snaps and recording one tackle. And, linebacker Guy Thomas had another solid day, recording five tackles.

 OL CHANGES: Transfer Max Wray made his first start for Colorado and played the entire game at left tackle. That pushed Jake Wiley to the right side, while guard Kary Kutsch and center Colby Pursell also played every offensive snap. At right guard, Kanan Ray played 47 offensive snaps and Casey Roddick had 19.

CU's offensive line had a productive first half, helping the Buffs to 140 yards rushing. But the production dropped in the second half, as A&M adjusted and held Colorado to 31 yards on the ground after intermission.

CU freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis led the Buffs in rushing with 76 yards on nine carries, and he also threw for 89 yards. Jarek Broussard ran for 57 yards and Alex Fontenot picked up 43.

BUFFS BITS: Freshman receiver Chase Penry continues to have an impact. He drew a key pass interference penalty in the first half that kept a drive alive, then had a catch early in the second half … True freshman Nikko Reed made his debut as a punt returner, picking up 5 yards on his first try … The Buffs forced eight A&M punts — eight more than the Aggies had last week … CU's Josh Watts punted seven times for a 49.0 average.