Sep. 4—Getting embarrassed at home in the season opener wasn't exactly what Karl Dorrell and the Colorado Buffaloes had in mind after an offseason of building optimism.
Still, the Buffs have plenty of games ahead of them and they're looking to turn the page quickly from the 38-13 loss to TCU on Friday at Folsom Field.
"It's one game down and 11 to go," Dorrell said after Friday's humbling defeat. "We know that in that locker room, we can get a lot better. I'm sure that's what their mindset is right now from what we just talked about.
"There's nowhere to go but up. We're going to continue to work and hopefully get better and get ready to play a really good Air Force team."
A really good Air Force team.
The Falcons are 14.5-point favorites against the Buffs, who will make their first trip to the Air Force Academy since 1974 on Saturday (1:30 p.m., TV: CBS).
TCU shredded the CU defense for 261 rushing yards in the second half alone on Friday — 275 for the game — and the Horned Frogs aren't as good at running the ball as Air Force.
Annually one of the nation's top rushing teams with its option offense, Air Force steamrolled Northern Iowa on Saturday, 48-17, while racking up 582 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. The Falcons had 688 yards in total offense.
Figuring out how to stop the Falcons' offense may not even be CU's biggest concern at this point, however.
The first order of business might be to address the mentality in the locker room. Team captains Quinn Perry and Brady Russell both said players hung their heads Friday night, even with the game still in reach late in the third quarter.
"Part of that's on me and on Quinn, on (Terrance) Lang and all the leaders because the speed of the team is the speed of the leaders," Russell said. "So, there's something we've got to do differently in order to get the team to operate and ...I think there's some stuff ingrained in guys from the past and what this program has been and we've got to find a way to take that out of their mind."
Determining who will lead the offense is a major task in front of Dorrell this week, too.
After a months-long battle for the starting job at quarterback, Dorrell chose sophomore Brendon Lewis over junior JT Shrout. Lewis, making his 13th consecutive start, struggled against TCU and was booed by the dwindling crowd in the second half. Shrout had ups and downs, as well, but did throw a fourth-quarter touchdown pass.
Dorrell said after the game he didn't know who would start against Air Force as the Buffs try to get their sputtering offense rolling
"We'll figure it out," Dorrell said. "I have good enough coaches to figure it out.
"We've got to get better with the rhythm offensively. We didn't have that kind of consistency. So that's an area to me that I think is really important for us to address this week is you've got to play a team like Air Force that takes a lot of time off the clock. So you're going to have to take advantage of your opportunities. And we need to be much better next week."
Then, there's that run defense, which was great in the first two quarters Friday and awful in the last two.
"It was just a lot of small mistakes," safety Trevor Woods said. "On defense, one small mistake can lead to a big play and those add up. We've got a lot of things that we need to fix — and we're gonna get back to the film room and see how it is."
The Buffs are no stranger to trying to bounce back from a defeat, as they are now 4-11 in their last 15 games, dating back to December of 2020. Considering the level of optimism within the locker room going into Friday, however, that was one of the most disappointing losses of Dorrell's tenure, and it will be a busy week in Boulder as the Buffs try to recover.
"We just have to be fully invested," Perry said. "I think that we have to tighten up a couple of screws and, I mean, just finish (a game) at the end of the day. That's really what we're looking to do now — just finish."