AIR FORCE ACADEMY — Karl Dorrell’s Buffs still have a tackling problem. And a quarterback problem. And a scoring problem.
And if this keeps up, they’re about to have another Minnesota Golden Gophers problem, too.
CU was drubbed by Air Force, 41-10, on a rainy, foggy afternoon here Saturday afternoon, falling to 0-2.
Worse yet, the problems that were apparent in a season-opening, 38-13 home loss to TCU still seemed to dog them during their first visit to the Academy since 1974.
The Zoomies’ triple-option attack piled up 435 rushing yards; CU mustered 162 total yards, with only 51 coming through the air.
In his first start at quarterback for the Buffs, against a good defense and in less-than-ideal passing conditions, transfer J.T. Shrout completed just five of his first 20 throws with no touchdowns and an interception.
It was CU’s most lopsided loss ever to its downstate neighbors, eclipsing the 23-point defeat the Buffs suffered at Folsom Field (58-35) in 1968.
And if CU fans want to look ahead, they may also want to cover their eyes. The Buffs visit Minnesota (2-0) next Saturday, and the run-happy Gophers just put up 307 yards and seven scores on the ground on Western Illinois. After dropping 297 rush yards on New Mexico State.
Which might make for a matchup problem down the road, as CU has given up 710 yards on the ground, combined, in losses to the Horned Frogs and Falcons — or an average of 355 per tilt.
Meanwhile, missed scoring opportunities also continue to dog Dorrell ‘s offense.
During one stretch, from late in the second quarter until the end of the third, the Buffs started drives at the Air Force 23, the Air Force 13, the Air Force 40 and the CU 49. They came away from those four cracks with three points.
Yes, Mother Nature played a part. Mist and fog took the “blue” and “yonder” out of the “wild blue yonder” at the Academy. The first half was played in classic poncho weather, with conditions — light rain and 48 degrees at kickoff — more akin to Seattle in early November than the Front Range in mid-September.
Slick balls and fumbles in or near the end zone took touchdowns off the board for both sides.
With the rain picking up intensity, things got silly at the start of the third quarter.
The Falcons’ first possession of the second half ended with a snap over Air Force punter Carson Bay’s head, forcing him to chase the rock and fall on it back at the hosts’ 13-yard line. CU got nothing for their efforts, though, as on second-and-goal from the Falcons 2, tailback Alex Fontenot appeared to lose the ball before crossing the plane of the end zone. While television replays appeared to be inconclusive, an official review upheld the fumble.
After the Buffs failed to take advantage of the hosts’ miscue, the Falcons dried off and got their collective mojo back. Air Force put together a nine-play, 69-yard drive late in the stanza, fueled by a 40-yard scamper by John Lee Eldridge III to the CU 15. The Zoomies scored five plays later on a 1-yard keeper by quarterback Haaziq Daniels to extend their cushion to 26-10.
That took a lot of the air out of the Buffs, especially after CU had finished the opening half far better than it started it.
The visitor closed the second quarter on a 10-0 run, buoyed by a pair of critical takeaways — one in deep in Buffs territory, one deep in Air Force’s.
Down 20-7, the visitors looked to be in a world of hurt when Falcons back John Lee Eldridge appeared to find the end zone on a run to the left side that would’ve put Air Force up three scores. But Eldridge got the ball punched out just before he crossed the plane by CU’s Jalen Sami, and teammate Josh Chandler-Semedo smothered the ball in the end zone for a touchback.
CU opened the game with J.T. Shrout at quarterback, who commemorated his first Buffs start by rushing for a 3-yard loss on his first play from scrimmage and fumbling his exchange with tailback Alex Fontenot on his second.
Air Force’s Christopher Herrera recovered the loose ball at the CU 14 some 37 seconds into the tilt. The Falcons went for the jugular from there, as Roberts broke free on a fullback dive for a touchdown on the host’s opening play of the game.
Trailing 13-0, Shrout’s second-and-9 pass from the CU 26 was tipped in the air by intended receiver Maurice Bell and picked off by the Falcons’ Camby Goff at the 35-yard line. Air Force needed four plays to cash in the gift this time. A 20-yard touchdown run by Roberts, again on a fullback dive, pushed the Falcons lead to 19-0 with 12:55 to go until halftime.