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Takeaways From Buffs Vs. UCLA

Sep 25, 2022
Owen McCown threw for 258 yards and a TD in his starting debut.

BOULDER — Karl Dorrell's Colorado Buffaloes emerged from Saturday's 45-17 loss to UCLA with at least a glimmer of positive progress.

When you are 0-4 and every loss has been a lopsided affair, those silver linings are important. They give the Buffs something to build on as they try to break into the win column.

Their next chance comes Saturday in Tucson, where CU will face 2-2 Arizona in a 7:30 p.m. contest (Pac-12 Network).

Overall, Saturday's loss to the Bruins proved to be more of the same problems that have plagued CU all season. An inefficient offense struggled to put together back-to-back solid drives, with its first six possessions of the second half ending by punt, downs, fumble, punt, interception, punt.

But while much of the focus on the Buffs' woes this year has been on the offense, CU's defense has been gashed repeatedly, especially against the run. Colorado gave up nine plays of 20-plus yards against the Bruins.

"We have to worry about ourselves," said CU safety Trevor Woods. "Last time I checked, we gave up 45 points. It's not like we're shutting people down at 20. We shouldn't be worried about what the offense is doing. This is on everybody."

Indeed, aside from walkon punter Trent Carrizosa — who had an outstanding debut in relief of Ashton Logan (illness) — just about every other area of the team contributed to the loss.

But there were some positive developments, even though they did little to change the final outcome. 

Our weekly takeaways:

1. Young players are growing up and contributing. CU's starting lineup Saturday included three true freshmen on offense, with several other freshmen contributing throughout the game.

Quarterback Owen McCown had a decent debut, especially when compared to Colorado's production from the position in the previous three games. Offensive lineman Van Wells got his second start, played 82 snaps and had the second-highest Pro Football Focus overall grade of any of CU's starting linemen. 

Other freshmen who had solid contributions were wide receiver Jordyn Tyson (two catches for 39 yards and his second touchdown of the year); running back Anthony Hankerson (seven carries for 25 yards, including a bruising 10-yard gain when he broke at least four tackles); and redshirt freshman running back Charlie Offerdahl (10 carries for 47 yards).

Obviously, none were game-changers. But they provided at least a flash of promise on which Colorado can hopefully build.

2. The quarterback situation may have an answer. McCown became the third quarterback to get a start this season. While Dorrell wouldn't commit immediately after the game to giving him another go next week, the likely outcome is that McCown will be the guy taking snaps on CU's first possession in Arizona.

The young Texan was by no means perfect. But he did make some plays and showed some command of the offense. One play that sticks out came in the second quarter when he rolled to his left, waved Tyson farther downfield, then connected with him for a 31-yard pass. That set up a Colorado touchdown and brought CU to within 21-10.

It was a heady, veteran-type play.

No doubt there were some rookie moments. He was sacked five times and probably could have avoided at least a couple of them with a little better awareness. But for a true freshman making his first start, he showed some promise, completing 26 of 42 attempts for 258 yards and a touchdown.

That's a start.

3. Defensive woes. For some inexplicable reason, the Buffs are experiencing some problems with fundamentals on defense. This isn't what we've seen in the last couple of seasons.

The Buffs are missing tackles and, according to Dorrell, falling short in basic gap assignments. Opponents are exploiting Colorado's run-defense deficiencies, and until the Buffs show they are capable of shoring up those issues, opponents will continue to hammer away.

4. Self-inflicted wounds. Overall, the Buffs are doing well in the penalty department. They have drawn just 18 flags this season.

But the timing of some of those penalties has been brutal. Colorado's opening drive against the Bruins saw a delay of game flag turn a third-and-6 into a third-and-11, a situation that ended up with CU attempting (and missing) a 54-yard field goal. Another false start flag turned a first-and-goal from 8 into a first-and-goal from the 13, and Colorado had to settle for a field goal.

Meanwhile, CU turned the ball over twice — an interception and a fumble — while UCLA came away clean in that department.

5. Team morale. Colorado players insist they aren't ready to wave the white flag. The effort, the promise, will still be there.

That attitude will be crucial this week as CU heads to the desert. The Wildcats are no doubt an improved team, but they did give up 599 yards offense in a 49-31 loss to Cal over the weekend.

The game is a chance for the Buffs to not only show more improvement, but to break into the win column.

Their attitude and effort will be a big part of that opportunity this week.