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BOULDER,CO-SEPTEMBER 2:University of Colorado Boulder’s Deion Smith looks for an opening  against  Texas Christian University on September 2, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER,CO-SEPTEMBER 2:University of Colorado Boulder’s Deion Smith looks for an opening against Texas Christian University on September 2, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Colorado Buffaloes scouting report

Head coach: Karl Dorrell, 3rd season (8-12; 43-39 career)

This season: 0-2

Last week: Lost at Air Force, 41-10

5 Players to Watch

• LB Quinn Perry, Sr.: He had the best game of his career last week, with 17 tackles, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Already has 24 tackles in the first two games.

• LG Casey Roddick, Jr.: After last week’s loss, he spoke passionately about the players not letting that type of performance happen again. Roddick and the line can make a statement with their play if they can win the line of scrimmage.

• DL Na’im Rodman, Jr.: Recorded five tackles a week ago. The Buffs need Rodman and his fellow linemen to be stout in the trenches against the physical Gophers.

• QB JT Shrout, Jr.: Will he get his second consecutive start? If he does, the Buffs will need him to be dramatically better than a week ago, when he completed 5-of-21 passes for 51 yards and an interception in the rain at Air Force.

• RB Deion Smith, Jr.: CU’s leading rusher through two games (89 yards on 18 carries), he’ll be counted on to help keep the offensive rolling with the ground game.

Colorado offense

Carrying over from last season, it has been a struggle for CU during the first two games. The Buffs have had a difficult time throwing the ball with success, which has limited their ability to get the run game going and that has led to scoring only 23 points in two games. Dorrell has not announced a starting quarterback, but whether it’s Brendon Lewis or JT Shrout, the Buffs need to get the passing game going in order to generate some offensive rhythm.

Colorado defense

As it was a week ago, stopping the run is priority No. 1 for the Buffs. They are last in the country in run defense, allowing 355.0 yards per game. Meanwhile, Minnesota is second in the country in rushing offense (302.0). The Buffs have had some success at times against the run, but they’ve been worn down late in games. CU’s secondary hasn’t been tested much, especially last week against Air Force, but they’ve done a solid job this season. CU is third nationally in passing defense, allowing 73.0 yards per game.

Colorado special teams

Sophomore Cole Becker continues to play well, as he is 3-for-3 on field goals. Dating back to last season, he has made 17 of his last 20 field goal attempts. He has also put all seven kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. Punter Ashton Logan continues to learn in his freshman year. He hasn’t been great, but is averaging 42.1 yards per kick and none of his seven punts were returned last week. Nikko Reed has averaged 37.0 yards on two kickoff returns, while Chase Penry has handled the punt return duties.

How Colorado can win

First, the Buffs have to discover their offense. They need to sustain drives and finish them with touchdowns. The offense has scored only three touchdowns in the last 18 quarters, but might need at least three against the Gophers to have a shot at a win. Defensively, CU has to be strong against the run and not allow Minnesota to chew up the clock with long drives. Dorrell said this week the Buffs have to figure out a way to play complementary football. Do that and they’ll have a shot to get their first win.

Buffs notables

• A year ago, the Buffs were No. 3 in the country in red zone offense, scoring on 93.94% (31 of 33) of their trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. This year, the Buffs are near the bottom, at 50% (2 of 4) and they are the only team in the country without a touchdown in the red zone.

• CU’s Brady Russell has 61 career catches, tied with JV Cain (1971-73) for eighth in program history for a tight end. Russell needs four catches to pass Cain and Ryan Deehan (64 from 2008-11) for seventh. Daniel Graham (1998-2001) has the most, with 106.

• For the second week in a row, the Buffs are on the road. It’s the first time they’ve played back-to-back nonconference games on the road since 1994. That year, they played at Michigan (the “Miracle at Michigan” game) and then at Texas.

• In its history, CU is 37-66-3 against current members of the Big Ten, although most of that is against Nebraska (20-49-2), which was a conference rival of the Buffs until 2011. Outside of Nebraska, CU is 17-17-1 against the Big Ten. Minnesota is 29-29-1 against current members of the Pac-12.

• Brendon Lewis didn’t play last week, but he has thrown 150 consecutive passes without an interception. That is the third-longest streak in CU history (179 from Steven Montez in 2017, 152 from Sefo Liufu in 2015-16).