DENVER, Co. — Going up against a top-five team and having home field advantage, was a perfect opportunity for Karl Dorrell to find out a lot about his squad.
Colorado had all of the momentum early on, but couldn’t hold off a late rally by Texas A&M, and lost 10-7. Dorrell was proud of the fight in his Buffaloes and never wants his team to settle for moral victories. However, the way Colorado was able to match wits with one of the best teams from the almighty SEC, and did it in front of a crowd of 61,203, was a promising performance in his eyes.
The Buffaloes even had the lead with three minutes left in the fourth quarter. It didn’t help that Colorado left some plays on the field, and missed opportunities frustrate Dorrell the most. A missed field goal by Cole Becker in the first half and a failed fourth down conversion by the offense in the red zone, could’ve put the Buffaloes up by two scores over the Aggies.
“We had a chance to win a significant game and our locker room is more disappointed in us for not finishing the game,” Dorrell said. “Defensively we played really well, offensively we had some good moments and struggled at times; couldn’t put anything together in the second half.”
Quarterback Brendon Lewis was impressive early on in his second career start. He made the Aggies’ defense look silly with his breathtaking mobility. Even Jimbo Fisher took notice of Lewis’ scrambling ability. Which is why he made adjustments in the second half. Star running back Jarek Broussard got banged up and didn’t play in the last two quarters. In return that put more pressure on Lewis.
Defensively Colorado (0-1) dominated the trenches for most of the game. The linebackers made plays up and down the field, including Nate Landman, who finished with a game-high, 10 solo tackles. Texas A&M’s starting signal-caller Haynes King got put to the turf in the first quarter, suffered a leg injury and was sidelined for the rest of the game.
The Buffaloes tried to take advantage of his absence and shut down the Aggies’ ground game. All-SEC rusher Isaiah Spiller never got into a rhythm running the ball. So Fisher found ways to utilize him in the passing game and he became Texas A&M’s most valuable receiver. Dorrell tried to minimize Spiller’s touches, but he was a mismatch out in space against Colorado’s linebackers. He eventually caught the Aggies’ only touchdown of the game.
“We had great coverage most of the day,” he said. “Their running back (Spiller) made a couple of nice plays and that was the difference in the game.”
Sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada filled in nicely for King, but did make some mistakes because of inexperience. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Calzada played like a seasoned veteran instead of a wide-eyed underclassman. He had a poor completion percentage, but threw for 183 yards and a touchdown.
Colorado’s offense stalled on several drives in the second half, and finished with 260 total yards. The unit became one-dimensional and the Aggies smelled blood in the water. The Buffaloes’ inability to move the ball on offense, forced the defense stay on the field longer and the unit was fatigued in the clutch.
“Defensively they were taking a lot of snaps in the second half,” the 57-year old coach said. “And we weren’t engineering enough drives to give them rest.”
Despite the loss and not being able to score for the final three quarters, Dorrell witnessed the grit in his players. Now he knows what the Buffaloes need to work on and he emphasized during the post game press conference that it’s back to the drawing board.
Regardless of the matter, Dorrell doesn’t think his players should hang their heads because of the narrow loss. Improvement will come as long as the team plays with the intensity they had in the first half.
“I told a lot of you that we are a better team than you think, and I still believe that.”