After weeks of Colorado fans demanding a change in coaching after four consecutive blowout losses, this week’s loss against Arizona would be the straw that broke the camel’s back. The matchup against the Wildcats was a must-win game for the Buffaloes if they wished to prove their football program wasn’t in serious trouble, and that did not happen. After the 43-20 loss to the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson, university administrators made the decision to fire head coach Karl Dorrell and defensive coordinator Chris Wilson.
After allowing Arizona to score a quick touchdown on their first possession, the Colorado offense immediately got to work. The Buffaloes’ offensive started the game on a high note for the first time this season. Newly named starting quarterback Owen McCown led the Buffaloes on a drive that resulted in a one-yard rushing touchdown when McCown took the ball into the endzone himself. McCown’s running score would be the first time the Buffs have scored a touchdown in the first quarter this season.
The Colorado offense would have their best game of the season thus far, but it ultimately wasn’t enough. The unit managed to put up 20 points, which is their current season high in points scored. Freshman quarterback Owen McCown showed hope for the Colorado offense, as he accounted for one passing and rushing touchdown each and no interceptions. The best offensive play of the season thus far also came from this game, on a miraculous 42-yard reception from Jordyn Tyson.
“[McCown] did okay. He’s still making some young mistakes,” said Dorrell postgame. “We’re playing probably as clean as we could play offensively. We’re not making a lot of production but in terms of not making as many mistakes and turning the ball over and things like that. That’s been really good. It just hasn’t been prolific.”
Colorado’s rushing attack faltered throughout the game once again. Starting running back Alex Fontenot would be sidelined for the game due to a chest injury, so freshman Anthony Hankerson filled in the role. Hankerson finished the game with 68 yards on 12 carries, one of the few positive takeaways for the Buffs this week. Despite this, Colorado’s run game finished with only 154 yards, which is less than ideal.
“[Hankerson] has been positive. He’s been a positive glimmer for us offensively…he’s doing some really positive things,” said Dorrell.
Per the season’s theme, Colorado’s defense struggled the whole game. The unit, ranked last within the Pac-12 in almost every metric, did not do themselves any favors. They allowed Arizona to air the ball out for the game’s duration, as they finished with 495 receiving yards and six touchdown receptions allowed.
The Colorado defense did have a few positives from this game, however. They had an impressive fourth and goal stop and didn’t allow Arizona to score a touchdown on the ground for the entire game. The players did their best with what they were given this week, but coaching ultimately led them astray.
“I’m not ever blaming the players,” said Dorrell. “I’m not going to ever do that. It’s always on our staff as coaches. We really have paid a lot of attention, trying to do the right things with our people. It hasn’t been the right thing. We’re going to continue to fight to try to find the right way to do this,” Dorrell said about the team’s defensive struggles.
This game perfectly exemplifies the Karl Dorrell era of Colorado football. Coaching errors were littered throughout the game. Dorrell’s signature conservative play design philosophy would hinder the Colorado offense’s ability to go downfield and put up points. At the same time, the defense struggled immensely in coverage as Dorrell stood idly on the sideline, watching it happen without saying a word. When asked about his job security postgame, Dorrell seemed to think this was not a problem.
“No, I’m not concerned about that,” said Dorrell when he was asked if he was concerned if this was his last game as the head coach of the Buffs.
Dorrell should have been concerned, as Athletic Director Rick George relieved him of his duties on Sunday afternoon. Despite this game being the fifth blowout loss in a row for the Buffaloes, the game will go down in infamy in the history of CU football as the game that finally caused a change to be made within the program.
The Buffaloes will have a week to rest up and get used to interim head coach Mike Sanford, as they have a bye week and will not play this weekend. They will use this rest to recoup and prepare for the California Golden Bears coming to town on Oct. 15, with the game set to kick off at 12 p.m. MST.