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Buffs Aim To Produce Fast Start Against Bruins

Sep 21, 2022
Daniel Arias leads CU with nine catches this season.

BOULDER — One of the main priorities for Karl Dorrell's Colorado Buffaloes this week has been a relatively simple task.

Start fast. Don't make mistakes early. Create some positive plays on offense, produce some stops on defense and build a little momentum.

But while not a complex goal, it's something the Buffs haven't been able to manufacture thus far — at least not in any truly productive sense.

Colorado did open the season against TCU on a solid note, taking the opening kick and marching all the way to the Horned Frogs 15-yard line before stalling on fourth down.

The defense, meanwhile, did its job the entire first half, shutting the TCU offense out. Colorado trailed by one just point, 7-6, in that game (TCU scored on a long punt return) and it wasn't until midway through the third quarter that Texas Christian began to pull away.

But the last two games haven't featured anything resembling a fast start for the Buffs. Two weeks in a row, the Buffs fumbled away their first possession of the game, leading to a short field and ultimately a touchdown for the opponent.

Meanwhile, the defense has also yielded first-quarter scoring drives in both games.

The bottom line is the Buffs have found themselves in double-digit holes early and have been forced to play catch-up. That is a trend they will try to reverse Saturday when they open Pac-12 play by hosting UCLA in a noon game at Folsom Field (Pac-12 Networks).

"Let's start the game properly, where we're not getting ourselves behind the eight ball so much," Dorrell said after Wednesday's practice. "That's a big thing. Making some really positive plays and getting some rhythm going offensively and then defensively. Let's get a stop and not score."

Dorrell joked earlier this week that he might start the game with a quarterback sneak to ensure that the Buffs don't fumble or suffer a loss on the first play.

But he knows Saturday's matchup with UCLA is no joking matter. Chip Kelly's 3-0 Bruins are averaging 40.7 points and 506 yards offense per game. They have a veteran quarterback in fifth-year starter Dorian Thompson-Robinson and a defense that has produced six sacks and forced six turnovers in three games.

"The thing that stands out is they're not a 'panic' team," Dorrell said. "They've been down early in games and they come back. I know they have some new players on both sides of the ball like most of us, but they're a veteran team. There's still a veteran presence there."

Indeed, after two blowout wins to start the season, the Bruins came back from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter last week to defeat South Alabama, 32-31, posting the game-winning field goal as time expired.

Dorrell said the Buffs have installed some new defensive fronts in an effort to shore up a run defense that is yielding 42.7 points and 348 yards per game on the ground.

"It just comes down to a point of just making plays and getting guys in position, getting in the proper gaps, getting ready to play," Dorrell said. "All those things that the coaches are really emphasizing this week. We've had a really good week defensively, so we feel we're making some progress there."

QB UPDATE: Dorrell said quarterbacks Brendon Lewis, J.T. Shrout and true freshman Owen McCown have all been getting some repetitions this week with the No. 1 offense.

"We're seeing how this week goes," Dorrell said. "B-Lew and J.T. have had some really good days, so we're evaluating still … We just have to eep developing and bringing those guys along."

BUFFS BITS: Freshman running back Charlie Offerdahl leads CU backs in yards per carry, averaging 6.6 yards per rush, with 66 yards on 10 carries thus far … Linebacker Quinn Perry and safety Trevor Woods both have 16 solo tackles … Daniel Arias leads the Buffs in receiving with nine catches for 124 yards.

Deion Smith leads Colorado in rushing with 159 yards on 28 carries, and he'll likely get plenty of work again this week, as Dorrell said RB Alex Fontenot won't play this week (chest injury). "He had some good yards last week but I think he needs more consistency in what his reads are and staying downhill when he needs to stay downhill," Dorrell said. "But I've been pleased with what he's been doing."