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Buffs Begin Prep For Cal Under Sanford's Direction

Oct 10, 2022
Mike Sanford will be CU's head coach over the final seven regular season games.

BOULDER — The Colorado Buffaloes will provide an answer this weekend to a question that has never before been posed in program history.

Can a coaching change at midseason inject life into a program?

The Buffs (0-5 overall, 0-2 Pac-12) aim to answer in the affirmative Saturday when they play host to Cal (3-2, 1-1) in a noon game at Folsom Field.

KOA radio (850 AM, 94.1 FM) will carry the broadcast while the Pac-12 Network will televise the game.

Saturday's game will be the Buffs' first under the direction of interim head coach Mike Sanford, named to the position on Oct. 2. He steps into the spot after an 0-5 start under former head coach Karl Dorrell spurred CU leaders to make a change and begin the search for a new leader for the program.

But while CU conducts that search, Sanford has been charged with guiding the Buffs for their remaining seven regular season games. Along with new defensive coordinator Gerald Chatman (replacing Chris Wilson) and new O-coordinator Clay Patterson (stepping into Sanford's old spot), the revamped staff will try to reverse CU's fortunes.

Colorado has played under the direction of an interim coach before. Mike Hankwitz led CU in the 2005 Champ Sports Bowl (19-10 loss to Clemson), Brian Cabral guided the Buffs to a 2-1 finish down the stretch in 2010 and Kurt Roper took the reins in CU's 2018 season finale, a 33-21 loss to Cal.

But never in CU history has an interim head coach been in charge for more than half of the season.

"The most important thing is getting these players to believe, getting these players to realize that they are capable of doing things that they haven't done yet this season," Sanford said last week. 

While Sanford hasn't made any wholesale changes on either side of the ball in terms of scheme, he and his staff have made some tweaks they believe will simplify the process, particularly on defense. They also spent time last week getting back to the basics, including the reinstallation of some base plays on offense.

Now, they are in game week preparations, getting ready for a Cal team that is also coming off a bye week. The Bears have played well for the most part under coach Justin Wilcox's direction, but their last outing was a 28-9 loss to Washington State. Cal finished with 311 yards offense in the loss, including just 32 yards rushing.

One thing the Buffs may have in their favor this week is the element of surprise because of the new coaching staff.

"Colorado has some good players," Wilcox said. "I know they had a (coaching) change, but their coaches have been around. They have schematic knowledge, so we need to be ready to play our best football."