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Dorrell Confident Buffs Can Reverse Slide

Sep 19, 2022

BOULDER — Colorado coach Karl Dorrell offered up no silver bullet or magic potion that will automatically reverse his team's fortunes Monday.

But at his weekly press conference, Dorrell continued to voice confidence in the abilities of his team and coaching staff, while also allowing that there is "a tension and an urgency that we have in our program right now with our coaches and with our players about getting things addressed and shored up as quickly as possible."

Dorrell's Buffs wrapped up an 0-3 non-conference portion of their schedule over the weekend with a 49-7 loss at Minnesota.

Now they have at least the semblance of an opportunity of a fresh start, as they open Pac-12 play Saturday with a noon game against 3-0 UCLA at Folsom Field (Pac-12 Network).

Dorrell knows his team has not looked efficient or effective on either side of the ball in its first three games. The Buffs are near the bottom of the nation on both offense (245 yards per game, 127th) and defense (452 yards per game, 119th). They are averaging just 10 points per game (tied for 129th in the nation) while yielding nearly 43 points per game (127th).

They face a UCLA team that has enjoyed a confidence-building schedule against three non-Power Five teams (Bowling Green, Alabama State and South Alabama), with only the South Alabama contest even remotely close. The Bruins had to rally Saturday from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter to kick a game-winning field goal as time expired for a 32-31 victory.

But the biggest concern for Dorrell and his staff right now is finding a way to build some small successes, then string those together.

That means everything from not turning the ball over to the opponent on the first possession — something CU has done twice in a row — to improving tackling and slowing down the big plays from opposing offenses. 

"There's a number of issues, as we all know," Dorrell said. "We feel we have the time to get those things done, but we need to really lock in … we need to transform that work into Saturday opportunities. There's an urgency about getting things addressed, getting things fixed."

Dorrell joked that he may run on a quarterback sneak on Colorado's first play this week to guarantee the Buffs won't suffer a turnover. 

But he did stress that CU will place special emphasis this week on getting a fast start and not digging an early hole.

"We know we have to play better from the start of a game to the finish," Dorrell said. "We know we have the ability to do that. The action is what's needed. That needs to be shown this Saturday in the first quarter."

Since the beginning of fall camp, Dorrell and his staff have insisted that they have seen solid progress each week in practice. But when Saturdays arrive, that progress has not manifested itself in productive play. 

Monday, he remained confident that his team can turn the corner and put together a solid performance, beginning Saturday against the Bruins.

"We know we have a lot of work to do," he said. "We know that we can do it. We know we have the capability of really having a successful offense and defense and really doing things well. So our attention to detail and the standard of what we're expecting is moving forward."

QB PLAY: Dorrell said CU coaches will continue to "turn over every stone" as they evaluate Colorado's quarterback play.

Neither of the two lead candidates for the starting job have established any separation in the hunt for the job. Incumbent starter Brendon Lewis got the start in the opener vs. TCU while J.T. Shrout started against Air Force and Minnesota, with the Buffs rotating series between the two against the Gophers.

Shrout has completed 22 of 55 attempts for 232 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, with both scores coming late in games when the outcome had already been decided. Lewis is 15-for-24 for 92 yards, and he is also CU's third-leading rusher with 43 yards on 12 attempts, including a 25-yard run — Colorado's second-longest rush of the year.

Now, Dorrell is hinting that he and his staff may look for more opportunities for freshman Owen McCown, who came on at the end of last week's game to go 4-for-7 for 52 yards against Minnesota's backups.

"We'll keep bringing everyone along in that room," he said. "We're at a point offensively that we're trying to find that spark."

FIRST LOOK UCLA: The Bruins opened with easy wins over Bowling Green (45-17) and Alabama State (45-7) before last week's heart-stopper against South Alabama.

The Bruins were forced to rally after South Alabama scored two touchdowns in less than a minute late in the third quarter, the second coming after a Bruins fumble deep in their own territory.

UCLA scored early in the fourth period to pull within 31-29, but a two-point conversion failed and it wasn't until the final minute that fifth-year quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson engineered a drive that produced the game-winning 24-yard field goal.

The Bruins were also aided by a South Alabama decision in the fourth quarter to fake a field goal, a play that resulted in a sack. Had the Jaguars successfully hit the field goal, they would have had a five point lead and forced UCLA to score a touchdown in the final minutes for the win.

Chip Kelly is in his fifth season as UCLA's head coach, and he has had Thompson-Robinson as his starter for virtually the entire time. Colorado and UCLA have split their last six meetings, with the home team winning each game, including the Bruins' 44-20 win over the Buffs last year at the Rose Bowl.

Thompson-Robinson is 61-for-84 for 662 yards, six touchdowns and an interception this year. Running back Zach Charbonnet has carried 34 times for 189 yards.

Dorrell played his college ball at UCLA and then served as the Bruins' head coach from 2003 through 2007.

Former CU assistant Darrin Chiaverini is now an offensive analyst for the Bruins and Jerry Neuheisel, son of former CU head coach Rick Neuheisel, is the wide receivers coach.

Saturday's game could very well be the last appearance by the Bruins in the foreseeable future. Next year's game will be played in Los Angeles, and the year after, UCLA and USC are scheduled to begin competing in the Big Ten.

BUFFS BITS: Dorrell said the status of running back Alex Fontenot and wide receiver Chase Penry, both of whom did not play last weekend because of injuries, is still up in the air … 

Dorrell said he was aware of the statement issued by CU Athletic Director Rick George issued yesterday. George said he understood fans' disappointment in the team thus far, but he asked then to continue to support the Buffs as CU's coaching staff continues to try to fix the issues plaguing the team.  

"He's all in just like I'm all in," Dorrell said. "I know our fans are disappointed. We're just as disappointed. We're not trying to do these things. … I know we can get better and I know we will be better." …