Heading into the program’s first bowl game in four years, the CU Buffs football team is not taking the experience for granted. Head coach Karl Dorrell flew past expectations in 2020 but the first-year Colorado head coach has bigger goals in mind.
“We made a good step of progress this year,” Dorrell said. “I know the expectation was low and all that but in our building, we always felt we had some capable players to be successful and we were able to be successful.”
“We have to build on that,” he continued. “We’re always measured by championships, more than anything. I haven’t been in that arena as often as I would like. That’s the thing that is driving me more than anything, is getting our program where it is a national contender, obviously a conference championship contender, and to get ourselves in the CFP (college football playoffs). So we got some work to do to get there. But we’re making some positive strides and going towards that direction.”
Just three Buffaloes remain from the 2016 team that lost to Oklahoma State in the Valero Alamo Bowl in 2016 and on Tuesday night, CU returns to the Alamo Bowl to challenge the No. 20 Texas Longhorns.
“There’s a lot of excitement,” Dorrell said.
Fifth-year senior quarterback Sam Noyer was one of those players who made the trip down to San Antonio in 2016. Noyer will lead a depleted offense into the Alamodome with several key players out. Freshman running back Ashaad Clayton opted out of the game, senior tight end Brady Russell hasn’t recovered from an early-season injury and redshirt freshman wide receiver Vontae Shenault was suspended for violating athletic department policy.
CU’s offensive line, however, expects to be at full force.
“It is the first time we’ve had these guys all back since the first game,” Dorrell said. “We lost Colby (Pursell) in the first game against UCLA… Kary (Kutsch) is back at left guard and Casey (Roddick) at right guard and the two tackles (Will Sherman and Frank Fillip) that have been healthy all season. It is good to finish the season in a healthier fashion upfront. We’ve had some struggles with a couple (of) pieces missing over the course of our short season. It is good to have these guys back.”
Sophomore running back Jarek Broussard is the beneficiary of a revamped offensive line. Broussard was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and is returning to his home state of Texas to play in front of family for the first time in his collegiate career.
“This is going to be a big game for not only us but the program as well and also the Pac-12,” Broussard said. “Just to have this opportunity is a good thing overall.”
With junior quarterback Tyler Lytle recently entering the transfer portal, Dorrell said he would also like to reward freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis with a series.
On the defensive side of the ball, Colorado will be missing its leading tackler in senior linebacker Nate Landman who suffered a lower leg injury in CU’s final regular-season game. Dorrell mentioned junior Jonathan Van Diest and freshman Marvin Ham II as linebackers who have stepped up in Landman’s absence. Leading the secondary, senior safety Derrion Rakestraw is another Buffalo preparing for his second Alamo Bowl. Rakestraw is second on the team with 35 tackles.
On Monday, Dorrell said that CU has suffered a few positive COVID-19 tests and “lost some depth in certain areas,” but added that the Buffs have been in “relatively good health” since the team arrived in San Antonio on Saturday.
“It’s one of those things that we continue to battle until this season gets over,” Dorrell said. “But we’re healthy enough to play, at least after this morning’s test results. We have one more test tomorrow and that will give us the clarity to give us the final go for the game.”
Colorado and Texas square up in the Alamodome on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. MST.
Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Jack Carlough at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @Jack_Carlough.