Minnesota Hands Buffs Third Straight Loss
MINNEAPOLIS — Colorado's offense never got untracked and the Buffaloes' defense had no answer for Minnesota on Saturday, as CU dropped a 49-7 decision to the Golden Gophers at Huntington Bank Stadium.
Karl Dorrell's Buffs fell to 0-3 with the loss while Minnesota improved to 3-0.
The Gophers led 14-0 less than seven minutes in after a long scoring drive to open the game and a CU fumble deep in Buffs territory on Colorado's first possession that led to another UM score. Minnesota continued to build on the lead as the Buffs never mounted a threat, with the Gophers taking a 35-0 lead into the locker room at intermission.
The Buffs were dominated in every statistical category. CU finished with just 226 yards total offense, with 186 coming in the second half when the game was well out of hand. The Gophers finished with 500 yards offense, including 334 on the ground. Colorado finished 1-for-12 on third-down conversion attempts while Minnesota was 13-for-15.
CU rotated J.T. Shrout and Brendon Lewis at quarterback throughout the game, but neither managed to lead the offense to any consistency. Shrout finished 4-for-11 for 24 yards and a touchdown while Lewis was 2-for-6 for 14 yards. True freshman Owen McCown made an appearance on CU's last series and finished 4-for-7 for 52 yards.
Deion Smith led the Buffs in rushing with 10 carries for 70 yards while Daniel Arias had three catches for 22 yards.
Minnesota's Mohamed Ibrahim carried 23 times for 202 yards and three touchdowns and quarterback Tanner Morgan was 11-for-16 for 157 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
"I wasn't expecting that type of performance, given the week we had last week," Dorrell said. "We have a lot of extremely hard work to do — mentally, physically, everything … It was challenging the whole day. We're just not doing those things in a positive way early for us to be as good as we can be."
HOW IT HAPPENED: Minnesota took the opening possession and marched 75 yards for a touchdown in nine plays, with the first three plays of the drive covering 19, 13 and 15 yards. Ibrahim, who had 100 yards rushing in the first quarter, capped the drive with his first of three touchdowns, a 5-yard run to the end zone.
The Buffs then proved to be their own worst enemy, a theme that played out all too often as the game progressed. Shrout was sacked and he fumbled on CU's first offensive play of the game and the Gophers recovered at the Colorado 14-yard line. Two plays later Minnesota had another touchdown and the PAT gave UM a 14-0 lead with 8:44 still to play in the first quarter.
The Buffaloes could never come up with an answer after Minnesota's early salvo, as CU didn't penetrate Minnesota territory until midway through the second quarter. The Buffs finally did manage to reach the UM 30, but Shrout was sacked again to stifle the drive and CU was forced to punt.
Defensively, CU got one key stop when safety Isaiah Lewis grabbed a deflected Morgan pass for an interception late in the first quarter. But the Buffs couldn't move the ball and punted.
Minnesota then added three more touchdowns in the second quarter, hammering out scoring drives of 57, 91 and 53 yards to build its 35-0 halftime lead.
"Our coaches did a great job scouting the looks," Lewis said of CU's defense. "We were prepared for the looks and it just came down to players making the plays."
Colorado finally manufactured a semblance of a drive to open the third quarter. The Buffs moved from their own 25 to the Minnesota 34, with Shrout completing throws to Arias and Montana Lemonious-Craig, and Maurice Bell running for 16.
But the drive was stalled by a holding penalty and Shrout threw incomplete on fourth-and-16.
"I feel like it's super hard just to get going," said Smith, who averaged 7.0 yards per carry on his 10 attempts. "And that's where you struggle. That's the second week in a row for us just starting off with a negative play on offense, and it's really hurting us. We have to figure out what it's going to take to overcome this. We have the scheme and we also have the players to overcome this, but for some reason, it's just coming out here on Saturdays. It doesn't click all the time."
Minnesota then pounded out a 60-yard scoring drive to end the third quarter, and the Golden Gophers reserves added another touchdown in the fourth quarter to extend their lead to 49-0.
Colorado avoided a shutout by driving 75 yards to the end zone in 10 plays in the fourth quarter, getting the score with 8:55 remaining. Charlie Offerdahl had four rushes for 35 yards and Smith added two carries for 30 yards before Shrout found second-year freshman tight end Austin Smith for a 4-yard touchdown pass to complete the scoring.
"We have to get back to work," Dorrell said. "Just get back to hard work and try to get production, efficiency, execution. We have to get all those things done correctly for us to be as good as we can be. But right now, we're, we're far away from that."
TURNING POINT: After Minnesota's opening scoring drive, the Buffs put themselves in a two-touchdown hole by fumbling the ball away deep in Minnesota territory. Colorado never managed to play its way back into the game after that.
KEY STATISTICS: Colorado's offense averaged just 3.9 yards per play, even with most of CU's offense coming in the second half, when Minnesota pulled its starters. The Gophers averaged 6.9 yards per play … Colorado converted just one third down try in 12 attempts while the Gophers were 13-for-15. … Even with 52 yards passing from McCown on Colorado's final possession, the Buffs finished with only 90 yards in the air.
WHAT IT MEANS: With their first 0-3 start since 2012 — when Colorado finished 1-11 — the Buffs have plenty of questions to answer before they begin their conference schedule next weekend.
NEXT UP: The Buffaloes open Pac-12 play next Saturday at home with a noon game vs. UCLA (Pac-12 Network). The Bruins rallied on Saturday with nine unanswered points in the fourth quarter to collect a 32-31 win over South Alabama at home.