Washington still fighting as it prepares to visit CU Buffs

Huskies fired head coach Jimmy Lake on Sunday, but still battling for bowl eligiblity

Jayden Daniels #5 of the Arizona State Sun Devils breaks a tackle against Jackson Sirmon #43 of the Washington Huskies during the second quarter at Husky Stadium on Nov. 13, 2021 in Seattle, Washington.  ***BESTPIX***
Jayden Daniels #5 of the Arizona State Sun Devils breaks a tackle against Jackson Sirmon #43 of the Washington Huskies during the second quarter at Husky Stadium on Nov. 13, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. ***BESTPIX***
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For the Colorado football team, this has been a difficult season.

The Buffaloes won’t get any sympathy from their opponent this week, however.

As tough as it’s been for CU (3-7, 2-5 Pac-12), it’s been an even rockier road for the Washington Huskies (4-5, 3-4). The two will meet on Saturday at Folsom Field (1:10 p.m., TV: Pac-12 Networks).

While Washington still has bowl hopes, the Huskies will play the Buffs just six days after head coach Jimmy Lake was fired. Lake served a one-game suspension before being dismissed on Sunday. A tumultuous few weeks has left defensive coordinator Bob Gregory in charge as the interim head coach.

“It’s our job to help these kids navigate through a tough time,” Gregory said to UW media this week. “It’s not easy for these guys. Their world has changed a little bit. … All we can do is keep these guys focused and we still have a lot of really cool stuff to play for. We can have a winning season, the Apple Cup (against rival Washington State), bowl game; all that kind of stuff.”

Despite the tough season for the Huskies, who are used to being in contention for the Pac-12 title, CU head coach Karl Dorrell sees a team that is still talented and still fighting.

“They’re a competitive team,” Dorrell said. “They’re different than the team that started the season and they’re playing pretty well.”

Washington’s season began with an embarrassing loss to Montana, followed by a blowout loss at Michigan. They are 4-4 since with three losses by seven points or less. That includes a 35-30 defeat against Arizona State last Saturday. The Huskies led 24-14 going into the fourth quarter.

“They’re still one of the better defensive teams in terms of production in our conference,” Dorrell said. “Offensively, they seem like they’re catching some rhythm and making plays and scoring points, too.

“It’s going to be another really strong challenge for us this week because they are going through some issues and some change in their program, but I’m sure the players are still fighting and want to finish the season right way.”

Making his mark

CU defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson had an opportunity to return for one last season this fall, and he’s putting together a solid campaign.

Johnson had to sit out the first four games after being reinstated but has recorded 20 tackles, four tackles for loss and a sack in six games.

A former junior college transfer, Johnson has been a dominant force on the Buffs’ line since coming to Boulder in 2018. He is 14th in CU history with 16 sacks and tied for 15th in with 33 tackles for loss.

Johnson hopes he’s left a good impression on the program and the fans.

“I think I have built a name for myself in regards to being a good person, being a well-spoken person and being someone that when you come to me, I have a smile on my face,” he said. “I don’t really know what my legacy is on the outside of that. But I know within my team, they know I’m trustworthy.

“I know that I’m a fighter. At the end of the day, I’m gonna get it done.”

Notable

CU running back Jarek Broussard is 33rd in program history with 1,431 rushing yards and needs just 69 yards to become the 30th player in CU history with 1,500. … The Buffs are 5-2 in their last seven Pac-12 home games. … CU has won five consecutive November home games. … The Buffs haven’t gained a lot of yards this season (275.8 per game, ranking 126th nationally), but at least they’ve been balanced. They have 1,379 rushing yards and 1,379 passing yards.