The Colorado Buffaloes (0-1, Pac-12) haven’t gone south on Interstate 25 to Colorado Springs since 1974. A lot has changed since then. If you put the time-frame into reference, Queen Elizabeth II was twenty-two years post coronation when CU and Air Force last played at the Academy.
The last time CU squared off against AFA, 2019, turned into a nail-biting 30-23 OT loss for the Buffs on Folsom Field three years ago under then-new head coach Mel Tucker. Now fast-forward a few years and one CU coaching change and the Buffs are 18 point underdogs.
The Buffaloes and Falcons had a 10-year span of contests from 1964-74 in which CU dominated all but one of them— a 58-35 barn burner in 1968. AFA QB Gary Baxter said about the win, “Flying an F-16 is right up there, I’m telling you, there’s nothing better. It’s right next to beating CU.”
Air Force (1-0, MWC) is off to a good start after downing Northern Iowa 48-17 last Saturday. What comes as no real shock is the Falcons raked up nearly 700 yards of total offense with 595 of those yards on the ground. A total of 16 different rushers for 62 carries on the day.
Haaziq Daniels completed just three passes for 109 yards and had another 107 yards on the ground for AFA. The senior dual-threat returns for the Falcons after playing in every game but the contest vs. UNLV last year. This will be the first time Daniels sees the Buffs defense in his career. He was on the roster when CU last played Air Force, but sat out the 2019 season.
When Daniels isn’t fueling the offense, he can rely on Brad Roberts out of the backfield. The senior running back from Arvada, Colo. led all Falcons’ rushers against UNI with 114 yards on 8 carries. He’s also a major contributor to AFA’s success having surpassed the 100-yard mark six times last season on the way to 1,279 yards and 13 touchdowns. This duo is a lot for the Buffs defense to stomach with a “beat down” Triple option attack for Air Force to work with that led the nation in rushing last year.
Troy Calhoun entered his 16th season at the Academy. The one-time NFL assistant has only faced the Buffs once back in 2019, but has yet to go against Karl Dorrell. Both men have rode the coaching carousel with the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans in their respective careers, but never at the same time.
For Dorrell, he’s already hearing the criticism to start his third year in Boulder. Many are wondering why the Buffs didn’t ride with JT Shrout instead of Brendon Lewis at quarterback to start the second half of a 25-point loss to TCU. Lewis, who started last season and had a strong camp struggled to produce much on offense in the final 30 minutes. Shrout was inserted fourth and came away with a late touchdown pass to Jordyn Tyson. In fact, it was the first time in CU history a true freshman caught a TD pass in a season opener.
Whether it’ll be Lewis or Shrout (or both) against AFA will be a game time decision, as announced by Dorrell at his weekly press conference. “We do have a plan,” Dorrell said on Monday. “We talked about and worked through it. We will not discuss that plan today with you guys but we do have a plan moving forward. We know that both of those guys still need a lot of work. They both had issues in the game. But we do have a plan in place.”
From the desk of Dave Plati:
“Stat of the Week: Colorado did not commit a turnover in its fourth straight season opener; in fact, the Buffs haven’t even had a fumble, much less one lost in those four games (177 carries, 71 receptions). Those also include 109 passing attempts without an interception. The Buffs haven’t opened a season with two turnover-free games; the longest into a season CU has gone is 92:28 in 2014). In 19 games under Karl Dorrell, CU has an astonishing nine games without a turnover.”
Colorado faces in-state rival Air Force on Saturday, Sept. 11. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. MT with a near sellout crowd of over 46,000 expected. The two schools don’t have a future agreement on the books. The earliest open date for the Buffs non-conference schedule would be 2029 or 2031.
TV: CBS (National) *First time for CU since 1996
Radio: 850 KOA (Mark Johnson and Gary Barnett)
Weather forecast: 53° Mostly cloudy; Rain showers prior to kickoff
Odds: -14.5 Air Force open, -18 Air Force current