Colorado quarterback JT Shrout fired a pass exactly where it needed to be for Daniel Arias to make a catch early in Saturday’s loss at Air Force.
The ball hit Arias’ hands and slipped right through his slick, rain-soaked gloves.
“I can’t make that as an excuse,” Arias said this week. “When the ball is coming to you, you have to find a way to make a play.”
Arias ditched the gloves after that play and caught the other two passes that came his way that afternoon. With the exception of that early drop against Air Force, Arias has been a reliable target and he’s leading the Buffs (0-2) in receiving going into a matchup with Minnesota (2-0) on Saturday in Minneapolis (1:30 p.m., ESPN2).
“I do feel very confident out there, I do feel relaxed,” said Arias, who has six catches for 102 yards, including the two longest receiving plays of the season so far for CU. “The game has slowed down for me, definitely. I’ve built a lot of confidence throughout this offseason and during the fall camp.”
A speedy 6-foot-4, 210-pound fifth-year senior, Arias is blessed with exceptional physical tools, but had just 29 catches in his four seasons combined. A different Arias has come to play this year, though.
“I don’t feel panicked or I don’t feel overwhelmed when I see the ball in the air,” he said. “I just know I have to just make the play when I see the ball in the air. There’s gonna be mistakes, but I have to just flush the mistakes and keep moving forward. … (After the drop at Air Force), I just decided to move on to the next play and I kept making the plays that I had to do and when the ball was thrown to me.”
Receivers coach Phil McGeoghan, in his first season with CU, has been impressed with Arias’ all-around work to this point.
“I’m pleased with him for sure,” McGeoghan said. “He’s been great in the run game, he was great on the perimeter, finishing, and his effort has been outstanding. He’s made some tough catches. I am pleased with Daniel. I do enjoy coaching him.”
Often one of the last players to leave the practice field, Arias is happy about his start to this season, but he’s certainly not content.
“I have a lot of work to do,” he said. “I still have to just keep working. There’s little things that I have to just keep getting better, so I’m not done yet. I’m still working hard and still asking questions and trying to find a way to get better at something every single day.”
CU offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford spent the previous two seasons in that role at Minnesota. On Saturday, he will get a chance to see many players and coaches he knows at Minnesota, including Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan.
A four-year starter who spent countless hours with Sanford over the past two years, Morgan said he’s just worrying about the task at hand.
“We’re focused on winning a football game on Saturday, giving ourselves the best chance to win a game,” Morgan said. “I’m really appreciative of (Sanford). I think the investment that he poured into me and a lot of people, I have no ill will or feelings like that towards him. If the situation comes up, I definitely would say hi to him. I am thankful for the lessons he taught me.”
CU is trying to get good practices to translate to good performances on game day, and head coach Karl Dorrell said the Buffs have taken a bit of a different approach this week.
“We’ve done a lot more competitive stuff, just trying to clean up our fundamentals and details of things,” Dorrell said. “We’ve done some things with each other (offense and defense) more this week than we’ve done in previous weeks. So I think that’s really helped.
“We’re trying to improve the quality of our practice.”
CU’s nonconference schedule, which includes two Power 5 opponents and a very good Air Force team, isn’t easy, but Dorrell said he likes it. “It definitely gives us measurement opportunities to tell us where we’re at and where we need to go,” he said. … This game will be just the third all-time between the Buffs and Gophers in Minneapolis. All three will have been played in different stadiums: Memorial Stadium (1972), the Metrodome (1992) and this year at Huntington Bank Stadium. … In its history, Minnesota has hosted 126 opponents and CU is one of only eight the Gophers haven’t defeated at home. Only four of the eight are current FBS teams (CU, Houston, Notre Dame and Oklahoma). The other four were non-college teams the Gophers played before the end of World War II.