September 3rd – Boulder          Colorado 35, Northern Colorado 7

Colorado opened the 2021 season with a 35-7 win over Northern Colorado, a score which was both accurate and deceiving.

The Bears from Greeley were never a serious threat to win the game, but a combination of penalties and miscues by CU kept the Buff Nation on edge throughout the night. Brendon Lewis completed 10-of-15 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown, adding 44 rushing yards on seven carries, but was hesitant on his throws, reminding Buff fans that this was the first start of his career. Jarek Broussard had 94 yards and a touchdown on his 15 carries, but left the game in the third quarter with a slight injury. The rushing attack was thereafter led by Ashaad Clayton (eight carries for 51 yards and a touchdown) and Alex Fontenot (eight carries for 40 yards and a score).

The Buffs outgained the Bears, with 385 total yards to 253, but were hampered all evening by penalties. On the night, CU was flagged 12 times for 117 yards … more yards than the Buffs gained through the air (102). The CU offense did churn out an impressive 285 yards on the ground, but didn’t have any consistency throughout the game.

“Good to come out with a win,” Dorrell said after the game. “It was a hard game because we didn’t know much about the team. Their defensive scheme was completely different from what they’ve done, so that was a little bit of a challenge for us offensively in the first half. In the second half, after we figured out what they were doing, we had a little bit more handle on controlling the line of scrimmage and getting some effective runs. We had some good series and good drives for touchdowns.”

Game Story … The Northern Colorado coaching staff, led by first-time college coach Ed McCaffrey, had, in essence, almost 19 months to game plan for the 2021 season opener against Colorado. And, at least for the first drive of the game, looked like they had done their homework. Taking the opening kickoff, completions from the coach’s son, Dylan McCaffrey, went for 15, 14, and eight yards before the CU defense rose to the occasion and forced a punt.

The Buffs, who had, in essence, eight months to prepare for the Bears, came out on their first possession of the season and … went three-and-out, including a false start penalty which served as an omen for what was to come.

After the teams traded three-and-outs, the UNC offense then went four-and-out before punting the ball back to the Buffs. A 19-yard punt return by Dimitri Stanley, aided by a late hit out-of-bounds by the Bears, gave the ball to CU in prime real estate … the UNC 28-yard line.

And it still took seven plays – and another gift from the Bears – for the CU offense to score. After a sack, the Buffs faced a third-and-20 at the 38, with Brendon Lewis throwing the ball away after a scramble. Instead of fourth down and a punt, however, the Buffs were given new life when a UNC defender was called for a late hit out-of-bounds, giving the Buffs a fresh set of downs. Jarek Broussard took over from there, carrying the ball on four of the next five plays. Broussard’s final effort was a one-yard touchdown run, coming on the third play of the second quarter.

The Buff defense next forced another three-and-out, and, when Dimitri Stanley had another good punt return – this one going for 27 yards – it appeared that CU was finally poised to take control of the game. Instead … the Buffs went three-and-out themselves. Still, the CU defense was not done, forcing its third three-and-out of the first half, allowing the offense to set up shop at their own 44-yard line.

It took five plays for the Buffs to cover the remaining 56 yards to take a two-score lead. A Jarek Broussard run of 30 yards put the ball in the red zone, where, two plays later, Brendon Lewis hit Montana Lemonius-Craig for a 17-yard touchdown. 14-0, Colorado, midway through the second quarter.

Not able to sustain the new-found momentum, the Buff defense surrendered to the Bears only their second sustained drive of the game. Marching smartly down the field, the Bears chewed up most of the remaining second quarter clock, using 12 plays to cover 60 yards. Instead of going into halftime down only 14-7, however, UNC quarterback Dylan McCaffrey made one of his few mistakes of the game, throwing an interception to Buff cornerback Mehki Blackmon in the CU end zone.

Halftime score: Colorado 14, Northern Colorado 0

The CU offense, which had looked off in the first half, came out in the second half like they had received a severe tongue-lashing for the Buff coaching staff. A 17-yard run by Jarek Broussard to open the third quarter was followed quickly thereafter by a ten-yard run by Brendon Lewis and an 11-yard run by Jarek Broussard.

Just like that, the Buffs were in business at the UNC 35-yard line.

Except … after Broussard’s second run, offensive lineman Kary Kutsch was called for a personal foul, putting the Buffs behind the sticks yet again. Stymied, the Buffs couldn’t get past the 35, with freshman Cole Becker called upon for his first collegiate field goal attempt. The 53-yarder, though, hit the crossbar, falling harmlessly into the end zone.

After the CU defense quickly forced a UNC punt, the Buff offense retook the field at its own ten yard line … and put together its best drive of the night. On the first play, Brendon Lewis ran for 11 yards and a first down (this was the play when Jarek Broussard left the game, not to return the remainder of the game). The drive was kept alive a few plays later when Lewis hit Chase Penry for 16 yards on third-and-six. The next nine plays were all runs, with Ashaad Clayton and Alex Fontenot taking turns being effective. When Lewis hit Dimitri Stanley for seven yards to put the ball at the Bear 14, a touchdown seemed inevitable. Two runs by Alex Fontenot, the second being a three-yard touchdown run, gave CU a 21-0 lead, capping an impressive 16-play, 90-yard drive.

Fontenot’s touchdown, giving CU a three-score lead with 3:10 left to play in the third quarter, should have marked the beginning of the end for the Bears. And it almost was … the UNC offense had a fourth-and-one at their own 34-yard line, and lined up to go for it. The Bear offense, though, committed a false start, making it a fourth-and-six and and obvious punt situation … except that defensive lineman Jalen Sami was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the play, giving UNC a first down and new life.

This time, the Bears capitalized. On the final play of the third quarter, Dylan McCaffrey hit former Washington State wide receiver Kassidy Woods for a 34-yard touchdown. Colorado 21, Northern Colorado 7, with a full quarter left to be played.

A 44-yard kickoff return by Brenden Rice gave the Buffs a chance at redemption, and the CU offense responded with a six-play, 54-yard touchdown drive. A 34-yard run by Ashaad Clayton, followed by a 17-yard completion from Brendon Lewis to tight end Alec Pell, set the Buffs up at the UNC two-yard line, with Clayton doing the honors from a yard out two plays later. With 12:29 to play, the three-score lead had been restored, with CU taking a 28-7 lead.

A penalty (what else?) on the ensuing kickoff gave UNC the ball at their 38-yard line, and two plays later, the Bears were on the CU side of the field. The drive ended there, however, with a Dylan McCaffrey pass attempt on fourth-and-11 at the CU 45 going wanting.

To make the final score a bit more palatable for the Buff Nation, the offense traveled 55 yards in six plays for the final tally of the game. A 21-yard run by Deion Smith was followed by a Brendon Lewis completion for 23 yards to La’Vontae Shenault. Two more runs by Smith, covering seven and five yards – with the five-yarder getting him into the end zone – made it 35-7 midway through the fourth quarter.

The Bears made one last ditch effort at a score, but a 13-play, 68-yard drive ended with another Dylan McCaffrey incompletion, this time on fourth-and-goal at the nine.

Final score: Colorado 35, Northern Colorado 7

That’s uncharacteristic of teams I coach,” Dorrell said of the 12 penalties for 117 yards. “That’s not team football. If we continue down that path it’s going to hurt us all season long. We have to fix it. We have to play within our system and do things using better judgment and playing more disciplined.”

Colorado did have a huge 281-17 advantage in rushing yards, but, after that, the game was fairly even. The Buffs had 22 first downs to 19 for the Bears, and had the overall edge in total yards, 383 to 256. The Buff defense did post six tackles for loss, and posted the only turnover – a Mehki Blackmon interception – in the game.

The other highlight for the Buffs came on special teams. Freshman kicker Cole Becker did miss the first field goal attempt of his career – a 53-yarder which bounced off the crossbar – but Dimitri Stanley had three punt returns for 68 yards (long of 27), with Brenden Rice chipping in a 44-yard kickoff return.

The CU passing game – netting only 102 yards on the night – was a disappointment. “I was pleased with Brendon Lewis” said Karl Dorrell of his freshman quarterback, “and pleased in a way that he felt uncomfortable and certain things in the game were not open but, he will tell you that he missed a few today, but I felt he did a really good job of managing the game. He didn’t throw any errant passes into the other people. He had to throw the ball away a few times when he was flushed out of the pocket but I would say, it was a solid performance”.

“I felt I played decent, but I could have played better”, Lewis said. “I was disappointed that I missed a few throws. I’m going to come back next week and get better and better for Texas A&M next week … I can get through my reads better, not trying to escape the pocket. I know I had to a couple times. I made a couple good plays extending plays. I can do better progressing on my reads.”

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the Buff Nation, despite the 28-point win, came away with concerns, especially with No. 6 Texas A&M looming next on the schedule. “It was a pretty decisive win, but how good can we be?”, Dorrell said. “My vision of this team is we can be as good as we want ourselves to be. We were shooting ourselves in the foot today, but won a decisive game. They’re going to learn from that.”

Game Notes … 

— The Buffs won their season-opener for the sixth straight season, and for the second season under Karl Dorrell. The six-game streak is the longest for the program since CU strung together eight straight opening game victories in the 1990’s;

— The announced crowd was 44,153, which seemed a bit high, considering CU confirmed sales of only about 37,000 tickets the day before the game. The student section, however, was loud, and there in full force (11,537 students were scanned in out of the sold out 14,000). They even came early, as everyone wanted to see Ralphie VI make her debut;

— Speaking of Ralphie VI, the 500-pounder (she’ll grow up to about 1,300 pounds) was flawless in her first appearance;

— CU raised its all-time record against Northern Colorado to 11-2, including a 7-1 record in Boulder (the lone loss coming in 1918);

— Four different Buff running backs scored touchdowns – Jarek Broussard; Ashaad Clayton; Alex Fontenot; and Deion Smith – with eight different Buffs catching passes.

Video highlights of the game, including Ralphie VI’s first run, from YouTube courtesy of BuffsTV … 



20 Replies to “Colorado 35, Northern Colorado 7”

  1. Chev’s middle name must be “Predictable.”

    Opponents know it. Why would an OC call for the same player to get the ball on successive, after successive, after successive, after successive plays to start the first offensive possession ?


  2. With six games completed, three in progress, and three still to start, an interesting PAC 12 stat to consider (albeit different opponents): Stanford -17, Oregon +7, Utah +23, USC +23, ASU +27, Colorado +28. Three in progress: OSU -9, Washington +4, UCLA +4. None of the coaches in the conference are likely too happy at the moment (although the UCLA coach may be quite delighted in about two hours). Despite all of the developments, this could be the day after the Montana State debacle. Coach Dorrell will have the team moving forward in the weeks and months ahead.

  3. All the comments so far from the board are right on. Probably the biggest problem and it has been commented on by many is the inability of Lewis to get the ball out faster. For those that were there were the receivers getting open early and often or at all?……hard to see on TV.
    I agree that the A&M game will be a tough one to win if this is the play calling and execution by the O-Line in particular. Like VK I just hope we can come out of these first 3 games 2 & 1 and also that this team learns quickly and can play together as a team as their does seem to be some talent.

    1. Lewis was having trouble seeing the field. There were receivers getting open but Lewis was not seeing them or was not confident in his ability to deliver a throw there. He was very conservative in his throw choice almost no risky throws. At the game I was very disappointed in Lewis as there were a lot of open recievers that he was not seeing but upon further consideration I think the lack of film really mattered. Lewis had 4 recievers in the pattern. Without film, and as I understand it the defense was completely unexpected which means Lewis progression was probably off and so he is looking at other recievers when the recievers I saw come open. Last year when he played at Texas he was spotting those so I suspect we may just need film and those reads are going to get better

  4. Yes, on the one hand, the fact that the offensive line did not completely dominate UNC from the first snap on is a concern. However, on the other hand, if CU did have the intention of going with a vanilla game plan and UNC played an unexpected defensive scheme, there may not be the need to be greatly concerned for the upcoming games. Very true that the next two games will be telling. The next two will not make mistakes and will be filled with impressive athletes. We can hope that the plan for CU was to show nothing, win, and move in. We will see,…

  5. HCKD may have underestimated where his team is really at in its development process. And he may have not realized that all the talk about discipline was just talk until now.
    I believe he was shocked and not in a positive way.

    The penalties were frightful. Certainly some were because of first game jitters. But those three DB’s who pretended they were in the NFL and ran to the other endzone and did that pose should have been benched immediately. That was embarrassing. Punks! Too harsh?

    Still digesting the play of the team
    Saw some good
    Saw some bad

    Ist game………………need the growth to the second game.


    Note: Not impressed with the chev scheme play design or the play calling. It could have been cause they wanted to be vanilla, but even with that, the play calling was not impressive.
    Note 2: Gotta go back and watch to see what the defense really was. Lots of mix and match sets. Interesting.
    Note 3: Lewis? Appeared he was trying to do it all himself. Pocket presence was weak,
    Note 4: I am gonna say it right here, the Buffs have no shot of beating A&M. Minnesota looked pretty good. Hopefully preseason can end up 2 and 1

    1. The defense
      The new scheme
      Wells listed as defensive end
      Wells had 2 tackles

      Got relook at that plan

      Wells is good for 10 a game in his old deal.


      1. Vk, they were almost exlusively throwing the ball becuase we dominated the run. I liked the d scheme. Almost pitched a shut out. The scheme does not rely on 2 players to be super heroes….. expect more from wells next week as we start to stunt more on pass rushes and as they run more. A&m is going to run, and run a lot. The 4-3 defense will stand up to that a lot better than our previous 3-4.

  6. Why on earth was Lewis holding on to the ball so long? I’m hoping they are hiding plans and figured they could beat the University of No Credit and not give away much.

  7. Free Lewis
    If he looked “hesitant” it was probably instilled by the coaches. He was only allowed to chuck it 15 times. Run plays outnumbered the pass plays 3 to 1 and I’m sure he was never allowed to get in a rhythm
    I’m also sure the pre game mantra from the coaches was “dont make any mistakes.”……and he didnt….and he spread the ball around nicely when he was allowed to pass.
    Hate to say this but if he was on the UNC team last night he would have had a much better performance.
    Its quite a bit early for the doom and gloom forecasts from all the accomplished QB coaches out there but we are going to need to diversify the O a lot more. Hopefully a lot of it was like a lot of folks did forecast correctly that we werent going to show A&M a whole lot.

  8. Well, they often say you get the most improvement from game one to game two. They’re going to need it. I’ll take griping about an ugly win though. And I agree with Darin, that looked to me like my sense that shrout would’ve been the starter if he didn’t get hurt was right. Brendon has to get better as a passer. I’m sure he will. Hopefully quickly.

    Go Buffs

    1. Shrout would have got killed last night. He could not do what Brendon qb did.

      Brendon will be fine. The upside is huge. Shrout peaked in Tennessee
      Shrout was the “bait dog” and that is it. Bait dog back up. Every team has one.

      I hope he gets better cause a good back up is hard to find

      HCKD is a kind person.

      Buffs win Buffs win

  9. Kool aid is tasting pretty sour right about now. Game is moving too fast for Lewis. O-line pass protection was pretty terrible. Selfish play with penalties. I thought the Mcaffrey brothers were pretty good at Qb and O coach.

  10. Lewis looks scared, scared to make a mistake, scared to let it rip, this kid does not have confidence. After this showing I’m sure Shrout would’ve been the starter. Don’t get me wrong I will take a W anyway. But looking at the schedule and the huge lack of a passing game I have to give my negative prognosis, maybe 3 Ws this year at best

  11. The atmosphere in the stadium was amazing. Students were there in full force like this was a huge game. Energy was frenetic. I wondered if the players felt that and were too jacked up. It also appeared to me that the game plan was very basic. I don’t recall a throw over 20 yards. Run on first down and keep to the script. This won’t work against A&M but hoping they saved a bunch for that game. Still believe the Minnesota game is the bigger statement game. Are we for real or are we just hoping for respectability,

  12. Accurate summary. The O-line was far from impressive and has me scared for the year. It was amazing how many times backs were tripped up, especially near the line. Lewis rarely made quick throws, and never appeared decisive. The pass D was not impressive either, but many drops by the UNC receivers made the stats look better. And the penalties… the pointless penalties. I would have liked to see the players that committed the dumb penalties benched. This was the game to set the tone, the game to play the next guy up. I was sad to see Lewis not have the thought of checking on the guy with the boom, but that may just be me. In the end the score was about as expected, and the predictions of a slower start until the buffs got their legs under them proved correct. It’s what could (should) have been that has me leaving a 35-7 win feeling disappointed. 😕

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