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Pac-12 preview: What will second-year Colorado coach Karl Dorrell do for an encore?

Rookie coach began new era of Colorado football with a bang. Can he build on the solid start in 2021?

Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell leads his players onto the gridiron to host UCLA on Nov. 7, 2020.
Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell, center, leads his players onto the gridiron to host UCLA on Nov. 7, 2020, Dorrell was selected as the PAC-12 coach of the year.
David Zalubowski, Associated Press

Editor’s note: Fourth in a series of stories examining the 12 football programs in the Pac-12.

In 2020, Colorado was the surprise team of the Pac-12 South.

In mid-December, the Buffaloes were nationally ranked and one victory away from winning the division championship amid the truncated season.

That was before they lost at home to Utah, which rallied from a 21-10 third-quarter deficit and scored 28 unanswered points in a 38-21 win.

The Utes spoiled Colorado’s undefeated season and a potential shot to play for a Pac-12 title.

Still, under first-year coach Karl Dorrell, Colorado showed signs of progress.

Sam Noyer proved to be a solid QB, though he was sidelined during the spring due to injury. Freshman backup Brenden Lewis impressed in Noyer’s absence.

Running back Jarek Broussard finished No. 3 nationally in rushing, averaging 149 yards per game, and was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year.

Defensively, the Buffs have a new coordinator in Chris Wilson, who spent the previous few seasons as an NFL coach.

Colorado must improve after surrendering 6.1 yards per play in 2020.

Can the Buffaloes, who visit Utah on Nov. 26, continue to surprise in 2021?


Word on the street

“When Karl Dorrell was selected as the head coach at Colorado following the 2019 season, it was not met with loads of excitement. But after one year of the Dorrell era in Boulder, everyone has to be pretty happy. Colorado won its first four games of 2020 and was in the New Year’s Six chase before losing to Utah in their final regular-season game. Even with a decisive loss to Texas in the Alamo Bowl, Dorrell’s first year had to be considered a huge success.”

— Jon Kinne, writing for Athlon Sports


By the numbers

2020 record: 4-2 (3-1 Pac-12)

Returning starters: Offense: 6, defense: 6

Players with local ties: None


2021 schedule

Sept. 3 Northern Colorado

Sept. 11 Texas A&M

Sept. 18 Minnesota

Sept. 25 @ Arizona State

Oct. 2 USC

Oct. 16 Arizona

Oct. 23 @ California

Oct. 30 @ Oregon

Nov. 6 Oregon State

Nov. 13 @ UCLA

Nov. 20 Washington

Nov. 26 @ Utah