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Buffs Take Aim At November to Remember

Nov 1, 2021
CU's O-line gave QB Brendon Lewis good protection vs. Oregon.

BOULDER — It's a maxim that has been around for just about as long as college football has existed — and it still holds true today:

The games they remember are played in November.

Karl Dorrell's Colorado Buffaloes would love to make this November a month to remember for all the right reasons.

Currently 2-6 overall and 1-4 in Pac-12 play, the Buffs haven't had a lot to celebrate thus far this season. Their postseason hopes are mathematically still alive, but only if they run the table over the last four weeks.

But if the Buffs can string together some success over the final month of the season, they can wrap up their year with some confidence in their pocket, gain the satisfaction of playing their best football down the stretch — and perhaps most importantly, carry some momentum into the offseason.

For a team with 90 underclassmen, 23 juniors and just four seniors on the roster, that opportunity to improve, gain confidence and build momentum is crucial.

"November is that month you want to start playing your best football," Dorrell said Monday at his weekly press conference. "That's in any circumstance, (no matter) your record. But it's critical that we end up this season playing our best football in all three phases."

The Buffaloes' November stretch, beginning with Saturday's 5 p.m. home matchup against Oregon State (Pac-12 Networks), might comprise the toughest month of CU's schedule this season.

All four opponents — Oregon State, UCLA, Washington and Utah — have winning records overall or in conference play (or both).

The Beavers, one of the bigger surprises in the conference this season, will bring a 5-3 overall record (3-2 Pac-12) to Boulder, with wins over USC, Utah and Washington to their credit this season.

"All these teams in our last four games are really good teams," Dorrell said. "We need to step up to the plate and do a great job in giving ourselves a chance to be successful."

The Buffs are coming off a 52-29 loss to Oregon last weekend that was one more version of a storyline that has plagued CU for much of the season: two phases played well but one struggled, leading to a loss.

But the difference against the Ducks in comparison to much of the season was that CU's offense found a rhythm while the defense struggled.

Led by a rejuvenated line, the Buffs put together their most consistent offensive performance of the season. CU had four scoring drives of 65 yards or longer, with quarterback Brendon Lewis also enjoying maybe his best overall game of his career.

"Offensively, it was probably our most solid performance we've had, even though it was a slow start to the game," Dorrell said. "We got ourselves in a big deficit but our players still stayed locked in about creating some offense. I was really encouraged with how they battled through the game."

But defensively, the Buffs struggled for the second week in a row. CU yielded scoring drives on Oregon's first seven possessions of the game, six touchdowns and a field goal, making it two straight weeks that an opponent built a big early lead.

"There's a lot of pride on the defensive side, there's a lot of experience on that side, and those guys are not very happy," Dorrell said. "It's important for them to get those things addressed and shored up. They're eager to get those things fixed."

O-LINE IMPROVEMENT: CU's offensive step forward no doubt began with an improved effort up front. Less than a week after a change in their position coach, CU's linemen responded with solid efforts in protection and the run game. Colorado gave up just one quarterback sack and also converted all four fourth-down attempts — a huge improvement over the 1-for-8 number in that category heading into the game.

"It was probably collectively our best offensive line performance in terms of their body of work," Dorrell said.

Senior guard Kary Kutsch credited much of the improvement to "new energy" instilled by interim O-line coach William Vlachos. 

"He wanted us to just have fun playing football," Kutsch said. "He said he really didn't want to change a whole lot of things … The biggest thing was the new energy in the room."

Dorrell said the difference was noticeable.

"Their attention to detail and their preparation was better," Dorrell said. "There's more energy and that's how they played. I felt they were engaged and really had great communication … The body of work was probably our best look that we've had so far this season."

PERSONNEL UPDATES: Dorrell said linebacker Nate Landman, who missed last week's game with an injury, is "doubtful" for this week. 

After the Oregon game, Dorrell said he would err on the side of caution before playing Landman again because he doesn't want to risk his star linebacker's long-term future.

"I want to make sure he's healthy," Dorrell said. "I'm not going to put him at risk." … 

Dorrell also said that wide receiver LaVontae Shenault practiced Monday and would be ready to play Saturday. Shenault has been suspended since the second week of the season … Linebacker Guy Thomas, who didn't play last week, will likely not be available this week.

NOYER RETURNS: Former Buffs quarterback Sam Noyer, who transferred to Oregon State in the offseason, will be making his return to Folsom this weekend with the Beavers.

Noyer, who served as a backup for most of his career in Boulder — and even switched to safety one season and then entered the transfer portal — earned the starting job last year and led CU to a 4-2 record and bowl berth. But he decided to transfer to OSU after Colorado began leaning toward a youth movement at the position.

He earned the starting job at OSU this season, but was benched in the opener after throwing two early interceptions and replaced by Chance Nolan. He has played in just one game since.

"I'm very appreciative of Sam and what he's done for us," Dorrell said. "Making the change from whee he graduated and came back and helped us have a successful year, there's no question I feel a great deal of gratitude for what he's done and his sacrifice for us. I'm looking forward to seeing Sam, just get a chance to shake his hand, give him a hug and see how he's doing."