Game at a Glance
Matchup: Colorado Buffaloes (0-2) at Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-0)
Kickoff: 1:35 p.m. MT
Where: Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis
Capacity: 50,805. Playing surface: FieldTurf
Radio: KOA (850 or 760 AM & 94.1 FM)
Odds: Minnesota by 28
Series: Colorado leads 3-1
When the Colorado football team gets to Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Saturday, it will face a team that currently has the nation’s No. 1 offense – and the No. 1 defense.
Minnesota has sixth-year seniors making an impact all over the field. The Gophers have confidence, high expectations and an identity that they’ve established under sixth-year head coach PJ Fleck. They’ll also have the home crowd on their side.
The Gophers may not be CU’s toughest challenge, however.
After an 0-2 start that has been uglier than even the Buffs’ critics imagined, CU’s toughest challenge this week might be internal.
This is, without question, a gut-check game for a CU team whose season is barely underway but already unraveling.
“It’s been a hard two weeks, but we need to find that groove,” senior receiver Daniel Arias said. “We have to find that rhythm within our offense and all three phases. It’s not just offense; it’s all of us just finding that point where we’re just settled in and we can just play.”
While the Buffs have been competitive through three quarters of both games this season, their defense has been worn out and demoralized late in games and the offense has been non-existent more often than not. It has led to the ugliest start to a season since 1974 – the only other time a CU team has opened with back-to-back losses by 25-plus points.
Following a 41-10 loss to Air Force last Saturday, guard Casey Roddick, one of the team’s captains, was defiant when he said, “Point blank and simple: this cannot happen again. From myself, from this offensive line, from this defensive line, and everybody else on that field, the taste in your mouth that’s left after that, that’s unacceptable.”
How the Buffs respond on game day remains to be seen, but Dorrell was pleased with how the players responded in practice this week.
“I like where this team’s mind is at,” Dorrell said Wednesday. “They responded to the challenges that we put in front of them. They obviously know that the first two games didn’t come out to the outcomes that we wanted and they’re trying to work themselves back into … forcing themselves to win, which is what was the attitude needs to be.
“I think they’re at that point where they know that they can play much better. They know that they haven’t performed to their capabilities and it’s showing these last two days in practice.”
In addition to players performing better, Dorrell has acknowledged that he and his staff have to be much better, as well.
Based on what he saw this week in practice, Dorrell said, “We’re going to play better, I know that.”
CU has to play better in order to keep the game close, let alone win. At Pac-12 media day in July, Dorrell said he felt the Minnesota game would be CU’s toughest test in nonconference play.
The Golden Gophers’ experience, led by sixth-year senior quarterback Tanner Morgan and numerous other veterans, has shown up in their two blowout wins to start the season.
“On paper, they have a very veteran team; we knew that was the case,” Dorrell said.
CU doesn’t have the same type of experience, or the same track record of success as the Gophers, who are 25-10 since the start of the 2019 season. Dorrell has confidence in the Buffs, however, to turn the corner.
“We have to settle in and play better football,” he said. “I know we have it in us and we’re going to continue as coaches to get the most out of them so that we get that breakthrough.”
Getting that breakthrough will require the Buffs to not only play better football, but to look in the mirror and play with pride as they aim to prove they’re better than they’ve shown.
“Absolutely (it’s a gut check),” senior safety Isaiah Lewis said. “It’s a huge challenge going on the road in Minnesota. I can’t wait. … We want to prove a point.”