The battered and bruised Colorado Buffaloes got a break just at the right time.
Stumbling from a season-opening rout in northern Colorado, the Buffaloes were given a week off to heal and get rid of a four-game losing streak.
When they hit the pitch on Saturday, they’ll see a team with some of the same issues, but over a much longer period.
“This team has been improving from the start of their season until they are now, in a lot of ways,” Colorado coach Karl Dorrell said. “They reflect the issues we have dealt with with a lot of new players playing.”
Colorado (1-4, 0-2 Pac-12) has yet to beat an FBS team and has lost its last three games by at least 21 points apiece.
Arizona’s losing streak dates back much further.
The Wildcats (0-5, 0-2) are on a school record of 17 consecutive losses – the longest in the country – dating back to a 35-30 victory at Colorado on Oct. 5, 2019. Arizona played best in last few weeks, keeping Oregon and UCLA No.9 close until the fourth quarter before losing.
The Wildcats’ problem has been ending – the drives and the games.
Arizona scored a touchdown in six trips through midfield in last week’s 34-16 loss to UCLA and, worse yet, lost starting quarterback Jordan McCloud to injury to the ankle and knee that ended the season.
The Wildcats now go to Gunner Cruz.
The rookie redshirt won a three-way battle with McCloud and Will Plummer coming out of fall camp, and had a solid first start in Game 1 against BYU, throwing for 336 yards. Cruz wasn’t as strong the following week against San Diego State, throwing for 70 yards – 43 on a play – and was replaced by Plummer the following week.
“Gunner won the starting job at training camp because of the way he can throw the ball,” Arizona coach Jedd Fisch said. “Now turn the tide, come back to this BYU prep week, remind him why he won the job and some of the good things he did against BYU.”
Don’t expect a lot of goals in Saturday’s game.
Colorado is last in the Pac-12 and 129th nationally with 13.8 points per game. Arizona is 11th in the conference and 123rd nationally with 16.8 points per game.
Of course, the Buffaloes are 61st in defense and Arizona are 105th, so maybe this is the first game, if not both, to launch their attacks.
Colorado’s injury-plagued offensive line could be strengthened this week with the potential return of tackle Max Wray. He suffered a concussion against Minnesota on September 18 and missed the next two games.
Wray passed protocol and returned to limited training this week, so he could be available on Saturday.
The Buffaloes have used four different starting line combinations in five games due to injury, so they could use it.
Arizona is averaging just 154 passing yards per game, which is second in the Pac-12 and fifth in the country. Last time against UCLA, the Bruins had just 82 yards on 8-for-19 passes for an average of 4.3 yards per attempt. UCLA had just three passing yards in the first half last weekend.
The Wildcats aren’t as good against running, ranking 122nd nationally and losing 329 to UCLA last week.
The last time Arizona and Colorado met, a 24-13 victory for the Buffaloes in 2020, Jarek Broussard ran for 301 yards.