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Rooney: Eventful bye precedes must-win week for CU Buffs football

Loss against lowly Arizona could send season spiraling

University of Colorado Boulder’s Brendon Lewis gets up from a sack  by Minnesota during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on Sept. 18, 2021.
University of Colorado Boulder’s Brendon Lewis gets up from a sack by Minnesota during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on Sept. 18, 2021.
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It may not be the tonic Buffaloes fans were hoping for with an opportunity to regroup during a bye week. But whatever help Colorado’s football team receives over what remains of the season will have to arrive through the status quo.

At the beginning of the week, head coach Karl Dorrell promised he would be “evaluating everything” within his program. Yet barring an unlikely turn of events this week, the Buffs will go into what will be their best chance at nabbing another win this season still trying to make do with what they’ve got.

That means the same quarterback in the huddle with his backup curiously shackled to the sidelines. That means the same offensive line, probably, that has been unable to protect their quarterback. And the same coordinator calling the shots, even though the mesh of styles between Dorrell and embattled offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini has become as big an obstacle for the Buffs as any of their personnel issues.

Based on what we’ve seen on the field over the past four games, all losses, reveling in that status quo certainly won’t stir up the excitement for Buffs fans.

Since the final seconds ticked away in the fourth of those losses last week against USC, an uncompetitive 37-14 decision, we’ve seen Dorrell shove a reporter’s camera while departing the field, watched his boss Rick George offer the initial public apology with a tweet that said Dorrell “intercepted” a local journalist, and then weathered the news of backup offensive lineman Carson Lee getting arrested on multiple assault charges stemming from an incident hours after the USC loss.

One would’ve hoped a team with one of the worst offenses in the nation would have had other matters to focus on during their bye, but here we are.

If the Buffs don’t win next week against Arizona, a team that took a 16-game losing streak into its home game late Saturday night against UCLA dating back to a win at Folsom Field on Oct. 5, 2019, CU might not dent the “W” column again in 2021.

It’s tough to reconcile just what a circus the program has dissolved into after such a promising start to the Dorrell era in the shortened 2020 season, yet that brief glimmer of excitement has proven to be an illusion. Two of the teams the Buffs beat out of the gate last year, UCLA and Stanford, were saddled with much more extensive coronavirus practice restrictions than the Buffs. And, indeed, both teams improved over the course of the short 2020 season, while the Buffs’ momentum was short-lived.

The Buffs had mettle-proving games canceled against Oregon, USC, and Arizona State, topped a late-replacement foe in San Diego State, and still got a chance to pick up a win against lowly Arizona. By the end, the lopsided losses against Utah, and then Texas in the Alamo Bowl, were signs of things to come.

Keeping backup quarterback Drew Carter on the sideline while massaging the battered confidence of first-year starter Brendon Lewis has been a puzzling turn of events. On one hand, maybe Dorrell is attempting to preserve a year of eligibility for Carter, a true freshman who can appear in up to four games while still being eligible for a redshirt season. That would be understandable in other circumstances, but Carter is one big hit against Lewis behind his struggling offensive line from being the guy.

Moreover, though all CU’s offensive issues shouldn’t be heaped upon Lewis’ shoulders, the offense under his watch has begged for a spark. If Dorrell does have Carter’s future on his mind while balking at putting him in even in mop-up situations, so be it. But soon Dorrell might have to worry more about his own future than preserving future eligibility for Carter. Watching this hot mess of a season probably isn’t giving any potential recruits goosebumps over the prospects of one day playing for Dorrell’s Buffs.

It was an eventful bye week, more so than the Buffs and their fans would have preferred. A win against Arizona next week certainly won’t solve all the Buffs’ problems, on or off the field. A loss, however, could be the precursor of a bottom-falling-out finish to 2021.