BOULDER | Colorado coach Karl Dorrell put it no other way than the obvious: His team needs to play better.
At this point, it’s really all he could offer, other than to share in the disappointment of the Buffaloes starting 0-3 for the first time since 2012.
Outscored by a 128-30 margin, the program has tumbled to the depths where director of athletics Rick George felt it necessary to acknowledge in a statement that the Buffaloes have been disappointing to watch this fall. That, indeed, “all of you deserve better results,” he said.
The heat has steadily intensified for Dorrell, who is in his third season after taking over when Mel Tucker bolted for Michigan State in early 2020. But Dorrell kept stressing the same mantra Monday — need to start better (two straight weeks the offense fumbled to open the game). Need to tackle better. Need to learn how to win.
“We have to play better football,” Dorrell said as the Buffaloes prepare to host UCLA (3-0) this weekend at Folsom Field. “We’re capable of playing better football. We can be the type of team that we all envision ourselves to be. But we need to get things addressed and fixed.”
Since last season, Dorrell has seen around two dozen players leave through the transfer portal. That included receiver Brenden Rice — son of Hall of Famer Jerry Rice — who went to Southern California.
In the wake of the exodus, which included several starters, the Buffaloes have struggled with a challenging nonconference schedule. They fell 38-13 at home to TCU in the opener, followed by road losses at Air Force (41-10) and Minnesota (49-7). It’s the first time in program history the Buffaloes opened a season with three straight losses of 25 or more points, according to Pac-12 research.
Waiting ahead, a Pac-12 schedule where Colorado doesn’t figure to be favored in one game.
The numbers indicate why: they’re currently ranked 127th in the country in scoring defense (42.7 points per game) and tied for 129th in scoring offense (10). They’re near the bottom in total offense and defense, too.
“We’re not where we want to be, and that’s obvious, but I will say that we feel like a brotherhood, no matter what happens,” senior safety Isaiah Lewis said. “We’re not going to dwell.”
On Sunday night, George issued a statement regarding the state of the program, which has reached more than five wins just once (10 in 2016) since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.
“I recognize and understand your disappointment and frustration and perhaps, even anger,” George said. “We have not come close to meeting our expectations this season and we own that. I know that coach Dorrell, our coaching and support staff, and our student-athletes are working hard to get us on track, and with conference play starting this Saturday, we hope we all will enjoy a home victory over UCLA.”
The disenchantment may be heard Saturday through boos — should the Buffaloes start slow against a Bruins team favored by 21 points. Maybe even through no-shows.
“We’re all we got,” Lewis said. “We need the support, and we appreciate the support but if it’s not there, that’s all right. We’re going to rely on ourselves and rely on our brothers.”
Dorrell tried to revamp the offense following a 4-8 season by adding several new coaches, including offensive coordinator Mike Sanford. But it hasn’t helped shake the team out of its offensive rut.
Brendon Lewis, the starter last season, was under center for the opener against TCU. But he struggled, opening the door for transfer J.T. Shrout, who hasn’t been able to consistently ignite the offense, either.
Enter Owen McCown, the son of longtime NFL quarterback Josh McCown. The freshman was sent in late at Minnesota and went 4 of 7 for 52 yards. His brief audition may turn into a bigger role.
“We’re at a point offensively where we’re trying to find that spark,” Dorrell said. “All of them are capable of providing that for us but they haven’t done it yet. So those are the things we’re searching for.”
Dorrell understands the frustration. He’s frustrated, too.
“We’re not trying to do these things,” said Dorrell, who has two years left on his deal. “I know we can get better. I know we will be better.”