Colorado coach Karl Dorrell saw many positives defensively looking back at his team's 10-7 loss to No. 5 Texas A&M on Saturday, but it doesn't make up for the fact a golden opportunity slipped away.
The Buffaloes (1-1) controlled the game for more than three quarters before a late Aggies drive shifted momentum. Suddenly, potentially the biggest upset so far this college football season was lost.
"I thought we fought toe-to-toe pretty hard," Dorrell said. "Bottom line, we didn't finish the game the way we need to, but I think with a young team we'll get a chance to learn from that experience."
A chance for immediate redemption arrives Saturday for Colorado in the form of another Power Five opponent. The Gophers (1-1) have their first game in a home-and-home series with the Buffaloes, which includes playing next year at Huntington Bank Stadium.
The Gophers and Buffaloes, who haven't met since Colorado won 21-20 in Minneapolis in 1992, have very similar offensive styles. They both prefer smash-mouth football, with the Gophers ranking sixth in the Big Ten in rushing (190) and the Buffaloes ranking fourth in the Pac-12 (226).
"I think [Minnesota] will try to run the football just as much as we try to," Dorrell said. "It's going to be a good physical matchup, which is what we would expect."
Only two years ago, the Buffaloes beat a Big Ten opponent when they took down No. 25 Nebraska 34-31 in overtime at home. That was a shootout in which the teams combined for 933 yards of total offense.
Dorrell surely wouldn't mind the same outcome Saturday against the Gophers, but defense and running the ball are now Colorado's identity even more.
"That test last week [vs. Texas A&M] told us we can battle in those trench-type games," he said. "We need to move forward understanding that."
Dorrell, a former UCLA head coach, made noise early in his first season at Colorado with a 4-0 start, including wins against UCLA and Stanford. The Buffaloes finished the season with a 55-23 loss to Texas in the Alamo Bowl, but Dorrell was named Pac-12 coach of the year.
Expectations are even higher for Colorado in Year 2 under Dorrell, who made a significant change by hiring a new defensive coordinator in Chris Wilson. The results have been instant, with Wilson's D holding the first two opponents to just 17 combined points and less than 300 yards of total offense, including the 35-7 opening win over Northern Colorado.
A first-quarter injury to Texas A&M's starting quarterback forced the Aggies to rely on their backup last week, but their offense was still held to just 97 yards rushing total and only a field goal until less than three minutes remained in the fourth quarter.
"I thought our defense played well and kept us in the game," Dorrell said. "Offensively, we have to find more opportunities to score some points. Convert some third downs and get some continuity there."
Colorado redshirt freshman Brendon Lewis (13-for-25 for 89 yards and one interception) had a rough outing in only his second career start last week. But the dual-threat QB (76 yards rushing) and ground game are still cause for concern with Gophers coach P.J. Fleck.
"On the offensive side of the ball, they got two really good backs," Fleck said. "They're physical, they got a good, young quarterback that can run around and create as well as throw the football down the field."
Saturday's Pac-12 and Big Ten matchup in Boulder was in the works well before the two conferences aligned recently with the ACC to help load future nonconference football schedules for member schools.
Dorrell is excited for the Colorado-Gophers home-and-home series to kick off — and to have other Power Five non-league foes in the future.
"I'm in favor of it, particularly when this alliance kicks in," Dorrell said. "The nonconference schedule is going to be a Big Ten opponent, an ACC opponent. So, we got to get our program at a level where it's ready to compete every week against a Power Five program. That's the direction we're heading."