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CU Buffs hope for strong finish to season at Utah

Buffs will need better offensive performance to stay with No. 16 Utes

BOULDER, CO – November 20, 2021: University of Colorado Boulder’s Daniel Arias escapes Washington’s Kyler Gordon  during the November 20, 2021 game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER, CO – November 20, 2021: University of Colorado Boulder’s Daniel Arias escapes Washington’s Kyler Gordon during the November 20, 2021 game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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The recipe was unusual, but somehow the Colorado football team cooked up a win on Saturday.

If nothing else, the 20-17 victory against Washington at Folsom Field allowed CU head coach Karl Dorrell and his team to go into the final week with some positive vibes.

“It was a good win,” Dorrell said. “Got one left, so we’re going to try to do our best one more time next week against Utah.”

CU (4-7, 3-5 Pac-12) is going to need its best performance, or close to it, to have a shot at beating the 16th-ranked Utes (8-3, 7-1) on Friday in Salt Lake City (2 p.m., TV: Fox). Utah clinched the Pac-12 South title with a dominating 38-7 win against then-No. 3 Oregon on Saturday night and opened Sunday as 24-point favorites against CU.

The Buffs were nowhere near their best against Washington, especially on offense, but managed to play an opponent that’s prone to mistakes. The Huskies’ Dylan Morris was the Pac-12 leader in interceptions thrown and he extended his lead with two more against the Buffs. A pair of fumbles by the Huskies directly led to 10 CU points.

“The biggest thing to me is this is a great game that really is a great testimony of if you take care of the football, and the other team does give up the football, it doesn’t matter how many yards you get if you’re able to capitalize on some of those turnovers,” Dorrell said. “It still gives you a chance to win and that’s what we did today.”

That is true, although CU can’t bank on getting four takeaways too often. The last time they got more than two was the 2020 season opener against UCLA.

The Buffs also can’t plan on winning with very little offense too often. CU finished with 183 yards of total offense against the Huskies. It was the first time since Sept. 11, 2004, at Washington State that a CU team won a game with less than 200 yards.

Still, a win is a win and the Buffs needed a win. For Dorrell, it was a good sign to see his team get a victory that wasn’t pretty and went down to the wire.

“They’re starting to develop that competitiveness and that drive to just fight for 60 minutes,” Dorrell said. “That’s definitely something our program is going to build on. It’s really gonna be part of who we are. That’s our fabric is being fighters. We’ve got to continue to build this program the way that it used to be. We’re going to get it back to that level and I think the mentality is starting to come back. But we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

For some of the Buffs, Friday’s game will be their last at CU and the focus this week will be to play a great finale.

“The preparation will be the same as always,” senior defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson said. “Make sure our team is ready and make sure I’m ready and do the same thing I do every week. To go out there and play our hearts out. For me, it’s a bittersweet moment because even though last year was kind of a sudden change, and this time I’m actually going to sit down and feel all the effects of everything. It’s bittersweet, but I’m going to do everything I normally do each week.”

For most of the Buffs, Friday’s game will be about taking some momentum into next season. After a 1-4 start to the season, the Buffs are 3-3 in their last six games, including a 2-1 record in November.

“We’re playing for next season,” linebacker Quinn Perry said. “We want to show people why Colorado football is Colorado football. We’ve got a lot to ramp up for next year.”

Notes

CU had lost 16 consecutive games when compiling less than 200 yards in total offense and most of those weren’t close. In fact, since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, CU had been held below 200 yards seven other times and lost those games by a combined score of 241-23. … The Buffs are averaging 267.4 yards per game, which is on pace to be the program’s worst average since 1964 (218.9 per game). … Tight end Brady Russell caught three passes Saturday and has a team-high 23 catches on the season. He could become the first tight end to lead CU in receptions since Riar Geer in 2006 (24 catches).