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Buffs Turn Attention To Saturday's Game At Air Force

Sep 5, 2022
Daniel Arias led CU with four catches vs. TCU.

BOULDER — The challenge doesn't get any easier this week for Karl Dorrell's Colorado Buffaloes.

In short, there's no time for licking the wounds of a 38-13 loss to Texas Christian in last Friday's season opener.

Instead, the Buffs must now turn their full attention to preparing for Saturday's game at Air Force (1:30 p.m., CBS) and the Falcons' option-oriented ground game, which has produced the nation's leading rushing attack the last two seasons.

The AFA attack is one employed by only a handful of teams around the nation, and it causes problems for teams that seldom see it. In the last three seasons, the Falcons have lost just eight games — five against conference opponents and three versus Army or Navy. All are teams that see the Air Force offense every season and thus know how to prepare.

Against Power 5 teams who don't see the option-style offense often, the Falcons have fared well. They are 3-0 in those contests since 2019, with a regular season win over Colorado and bowl victories over Louisville and Washington State.

Last week, AFA opened the season with a 48-17 thumping of Northern Iowa. The Falcons put up 691 yards total offense, including 582 on the ground. Air Force averaged 9.4 yards per rush and had five players with at least 77 yards rushing.

That's not exactly comforting for a CU defense that gave up 275 yards rushing last weekend to TCU — with 261 coming in the second half, when the Horned Frogs scored 31 unanswered points to turn a close game into a runaway.

"It's going to be really important for us to shore up our issues and work on some game planning aspects of how to stop probably the top rushing offense in the country right now," Dorrell said at his Monday press conference. "It's going to be a great challenge for us, but I think our guys are excited about it. Given how we played last week, we feel that we're going to get ourselves back on track with a good week of practice and hopefully show that improvement on Saturday."

The last time Colorado faced Air Force came in 2019. Then-head coach Mel Tucker devoted some time every day throughout fall camp to work on an Air Force game plan, but the Falcons still came away with a 30-23 overtime victory in Boulder.

"It's going to be a chess match," Dorrell said. "We can't be lined up in the same front every time because they'll eventually get to some answers for that … That's going to be the challenge for us defensively. I think we can hold up against it, but I think it has to be very regimented about how we approach this week."

QB UPDATE: Dorrell said the Buffs have developed a plan for the quarterback position, but he chose not to share it with the media at Monday's press conference.

The Buffs started Friday's game with Brendon Lewis, who completed 13 of his 18 attempts for 78 yards (6 yards per completion), with a long of 25. He did finish as CU's leading rusher with 42 yards, including the Buffs' longest run of the night, a 24-yard scamper.

Backup J.T. Shrout seemed to inject some life into Colorado's offense at moments, but he also had his share of mistakes. Shrout completed 13 of 23 attempts for 157 yards (12 yards per completion) and also directed Colorado's only touchdown drive of the night, a foray into the end zone at the very end of the game that finished with a 23-yard scoring pass to freshman wide receiver Jordyn Tyson.

Dorrell said after the game he and his staff would evaluate the position and the play of both over the weekend.

"We do have a plan we talked about and worked through," Dorrell said. "We will not discuss that plan today with you guys. But we do have a plan moving forward. We know that both of those guys still need a lot of work. They both had issues in the game, but we do have a plan in place."

SPECIAL TEAMS WORK: CU's offensive struggles and defensive collapse in the second half no doubt drew the lion's share of attention from fans and media following Friday's game.

But the Buffs also committed a major special teams mistake in the first half of the game — one that very likely cost the Buffs the lead at the half. While CU's defense was shutting the Horned Frogs out, Colorado did yield a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown that gave TCU a 7-6 halftime lead.

"We felt we didn't play close to where we were capable of playing for whatever reasons," Dorrell said. "Some of it was mistakes, some of it was just a lack of execution. Things that concerned us obviously were the punt return in the first half. We have to work on having better coverag … we need to be better there."

BUFFS BITS: Dorrell said the Buffs came through the game relatively unscathed in the injury department, other than the normal list of bumps and bruises … Three CU offensive linemen played 73 snaps Friday — tackles Frank Fillip and Jake Wiley, and guard Casey Roddick. Transfer Tommy Brown logged 57 snaps, Austin Johnson was in for 58 and Noah Fenske played 31 … Transfer wide receiver R.J. Sneed II, who missed much of fall camp coming back from an injury, made his first appearance in a Buff uniform and caught two passes. Dorrell said they will continue to work Sneed into the rotation … Wide receiver Daniel Arias was one of the few bright spots for the Buffs' offense, catching four passes for 66 yards, including the longest completions of the night from Lewis (25 yards) and Shrout (35).