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Buffs Struggle On Road, Fall To Bears

Oct 23, 2021

BERKELEY, Calif. — Colorado's offense couldn't maintain its momentum from last week and CU's defense had no answer for Cal quarterback Chase Garbers on Saturday as the Buffaloes dropped a 26-3 decision at FTX Field.

Karl Dorrell's Buffs fell to 2-5 overall and 1-3 in Pac-12 play while the Bears improved to 2-5, 1-3.

Colorado entered the game hoping to build off last week's 34-0 win over Arizona, but could never get untracked offensively and the defense could not contain Cal's offense early. The Bears scored on all five of their first-half possessions while the Buffs could muster only a field goal and trailed 23-3 at intermission.

Colorado's defense stiffened in the second half and held the Bears to just one field goal. But the CU offense never crossed midfield after intermission, managing just 13 yards total offense over the last two quarters.

CU finished with just 104 yards total offense while the Bears compiled 438 (225 passing, 213 rushing). Garbers threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 96 yards.

Buffs starting quarterback Brendon Lewis, who was sacked six times, was nine-for-17 for 69 yards. Lewis was replaced by true freshman Drew Carter in the fourth quarter.

Jarek Broussard led CU in rushing with 28 yards on 11 carries and he also finished as the leading receiver with three catches for 30 yards.

Colorado linebacker Nate Landman, who surpassed 400 career tackles in the game, and defensive back Mekhi Blackmon were each credited with 10 tackles.

"Definitely disappointing," Dorrell said. "No question in my mind that I wasn't expecting that type of performance given the week we had in practice and everything leading up to it. Defensively, at least in the second half, they showed some glimmer of life and made some stops.  But offensively we just couldn't get anything going consistently … We definitely have some issues on both sides of the ball."

 HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado's offensive struggles returned in a big way in the first half, with the Buffs managing just 91 total yards while Cal rang up 297 in taking a 23-3 lead at intermission.

The Bears collected a field goal on their opening drive, then took over at midfield after Colorado couldn't convert a fourth-and-1. Broussard was stopped for a 1-yard loss, making it the seventh time in eight tries this year that Colorado failed to move the sticks on fourth down tries, and the Bears took over at the 50.

Cal quickly cashed in on the short field with a 50-yard scoring march in three plays. Garbers completed a 24-yard scoring pass to Keleki Latu for a 10-0 lead with 6:05 still to play in the first quarter.

The Bears then added another field goal early in the second quarter before the Buffs finally got on the board.

Thanks to a 67-yard kickoff return by Brenden Rice, the Buffs took over on the Cal 33-yard line. But after gaining a first down on a Cal penalty, the CU drive stalled at the Cal 15 and the Buffs settled for a 33-yard Cole Becker field goal to cut their deficit to 13-3.

The Bears, though, added another touchdown on their next possession, getting a 31-yard scoring pass from Garbers to tight end Gavin Reinwald. 

CU could not move on the ensuing possession and Cal went 50 yards in seven plays over the remaining 58 seconds to get a field goal on the final play of the half for a 23-3 lead at intermission.

"In the first half we couldn't quite figure out what they were doing against our defense and we couldn't get much continuity on the offensive side," Dorrell said. "We've got a lot of work to fix. I get it. We're playing a number of people, but we have to play better."

CU's defense made some halftime adjustments and held Cal at bay for the entire third quarter, but the Buffs offense could not take advantage. Colorado's longest drive of the half covered just 15 yards.

The Bears added one more field goal in the final period to complete the scoring.

The Buffs were dominated in virtually every statistical category. CU finished 3-for-12 on third downs — none in the second half — while Cal converted six of its 15 tries. The Bears finished with 23 first downs while the Buffs had just seven; and CU averaged just 2.3 yards per offensive play while the Bears averaged 6.3.

"It's unfortunate that we didn't play to our capabilities today," Dorrell said. "We had a really good week of practice and felt we were going to play our best football and it didn't happen today. We've got a lot of work to do. The players know that. Obviously what we're doing, we have to change things up to be more productive and more efficient and more effective."

TURNING POINT: After Cal opened with a field goal, the Buffs had a chance to extend a drive at midfield but couldn't convert a fourth-and-1. Cal then went 50 yards for a touchdown on its ensuing possession and the Buffs never mustered a serious challenge after that.

KEY STATISTICS: The Buffs gave up six sacks and 12 tackles for loss … Colorado's offense finished with just 104 yards, including 13 in the second half, while Cal totaled 438 yards … The Buffs converted just three of 12 third-down tries, including 0-for-4 in the second half.

WHAT IT MEANS: Colorado's momentum from last week's victory was short lived and the Buffs now face a daunting trip to Oregon next week. 

NEXT UP: The Buffs play at Oregon next Saturday in a 1:30 p.m. contest at Autzen Stadium (Fox).

Contact: Neill.Woelk@Colorado.edu