Since they left the conference, Colorado has struggled to find its footing in the Pac-12, but managed to crack off four consecutive wins to start the season before dropping their only game of the year to the Utah Utes. The Buffaloes have been on the right side of both shootouts and defensive struggles, so they’ve been finding diverse ways to win.
Burnt Orange Nation: The Buffaloes were a bit of a surprise for many this year and had a shot at playing in the Pac 12 championship game after being picked to finish near the bottom of their division in the preseason polls. How has CU found its unlikely success under new head coach Karl Dorrell?
Jack Barsch, Ralphie Report: Well, a few different ways as a matter of fact. This season started with a surprisingly explosive offense that finished in the red zone every time. Jarek Broussard at running back kept the wheels turning on offense, and Sam Noyer was a revelation at quarterback. They both turned out to be above-average Pac-12 players, even great Pac-12 players, despite low expectations. As the season went on, the defense, led by linebacker Nate Landman, started to bow its back (and face worse offenses).
Realistically, Karl Dorrell hasn’t reinvented the wheel. He has taken a relatively talented roster (by recent CU standards) and beat the teams that he could have beaten. It’s just the understated competence he carries that has been so rare in Boulder — Dorrell has put talented players in the position to win games. It’s a nice change of pace.
BON: Colorado has won its games this season in fairly disparate ways, winning shootouts early in the season and grinding out defensive battles late. What caused the change for CU and what should fans expect to see in the Alamo Bowl?
JB: There are a few different things precipitating the change. Noyer has regressed slightly as the nicks and bruises pile up and teams figure him out. As such, the offense has stagnated slightly and more weight has gone to Broussard to carry the load. Simultaneously, the defense started to figure some things out and front seven got some help from a burgeoning secondary. That is, until Landman went down in the Utah game. It’s hard to project how the defense will react, but I doubt it will be better.
I would guess that the team will be relatively average in both offense and defense in the Alamo Bowl. With the potential return of starting tight end Brady Russell, look for some work in the middle of the field. On defense, Carson Wells at outside linebacker will get into the backfield, and keep an eye on Mustafa Johnson at defensive end. However, the defense will be soft in the middle of the field and will give up some big plays.
BON: Jarek Broussard has been the workhorse for this offense, averaging 162 yards per game for keep the offense moving, What has been the key to his success through five games?
JB: Repetition and patience. Broussard will work hard to get some nice, consistent yardage, but he is also CU’s most explosive runner in a long time. Broussard has broken plenty of long runs this year, and it’s a sure bet that CU will try to break him loose again. With a healthy offensive line, the Buffs will use plenty of power running and pulling guards to get Broussard going.
BON: What’s one matchup you’re looking at for this game?
JB: Sam Noyer vs. the Texas secondary. Noyer was dealing in the first half of the Utah game, and he is a threat to run. If Sam can put in a good performance all game and make some tough throws, that will take the pressure off of Broussard and open up the offense to move the ball easily down the field.
BON: What does Colorado have to do to come away with a win?
JB: Colorado has to shut down, or slow down Bijan Robinson (they won’t). Colorado also has to score touchdowns instead of field goals. If CU can get this Chris Ash defense to loosen up, and score in the 30s, it should be a fun game.