Nov 28, 2020; Pasadena, California, USA; Arizona Wildcats quarterback Grant Gunnell (17) grabs his shoulder after getting hit on the first play of the game against the UCLA Bruins at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

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Surprising Colorado encounters Arizona, QB mystery

Colorado, the most surprising team in the Pac-12, will try to stay unbeaten when it travels to play Arizona on Saturday night in Tucson, Ariz.

Not much was expected of the Buffaloes. They entered the season with a new coach (Karl Dorrell), new quarterback (Sam Noyer won the job) and a preseason prediction of fifth place in the Pac-12 South — just ahead of Arizona.

But while the Wildcats (0-3, 0-3 Pac-12) continue to struggle — losing a school-record 10 consecutive games — the Buffaloes (3-0, 2-0) surge into Saturday’s game.

They have a solid running game that churns yardage and controls the clock, and Colorado possesses an overall efficient operation that has yet to fail in the red zone. Moreover, the Buffaloes have the fifth-best turnover margin nationally at plus-1.33 per game.

Jarek Broussard has been a workhorse, gaining 432 yards on 90 carries and rushing for more than 120 yards in each game. Colorado’s average time of possession is 35 minutes, 11 seconds, the fourth-best mark in the country.

“We want to be a team that has the ability to run the football and has some great passing concepts,” Dorrell said.

“That is the style of play that is really important for us to have. … It is the same thing defensively. We have to be good against the run. We have to be good in coverage. We are making a number of positive changes and improvements in those areas on our defensive side. It is definitely working in that direction. We want a sound system of play.”

That defense was more than sound in Saturday’s 20-10 win over San Diego State. The Buffaloes allowed 155 yards and had 11 tackles for loss — four from linebacker Carson Wells and three (all sacks) from standout linebacker Nate Landman.

It likely will remain a mystery which quarterback the Colorado defense will see.

Arizona starter Grant Gunnell suffered a shoulder injury on the first play of Saturday’s 27-10 loss at UCLA and did not return. Coach Kevin Sumlin did not elaborate on Monday on Gunnell’s status or the nature of the injury.

“This is college football, I don’t have to (tell you),” he said.

True freshman Will Plummer stepped in for Gunnell and went 17-of-35 passing for 151 yards and two late-game interceptions that Sumlin said weren’t “necessarily his fault.” Plummer, whose brother Jack is a quarterback at Purdue, also ran 12 times for 49 yards.

“For a guy that has never played at this level, to go out there and do what he did, I thought it was a pretty good performance,” Sumlin said.

Arizona has lacked explosive offense so far, creating just one play of more than 34 yards.

Colorado has been methodical, too — just one play of 40-plus yards — but has taken advantage of its opportunities. The Buffaloes are 13 for 13 in the red zone, including 11 touchdowns.

Noyer has completed 52 of 84 passing attempts for 650 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has rushed for four touchdowns.

“Everything is geared on maximizing our potential with what we have here in this building,” Dorrell said. “That is the mindset the whole team understands.”

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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