BOULDER — A word of advice: Unless you want to make Michael Westbrook mad, don’t suggest to him the golden era of Colorado football was so long ago it seems like a dream now, on a Saturday when the Buffs got booed at Folsom Field while getting ragdolled 37-14 by the Southern California Trojans.
The Buffs were never a true national powerhouse like Alabama or Ohio State or Oklahoma. Were they? That’s such ancient history, it’s as hard to fathom as the idea those dudes from Blind Melon were ever rock stars in the 1990s. Colorado won a national championship? Really? How did that happen?
“We had a run of nine years. We lost like four (conference) games in five years. C’mon, man! C’mon now,” Westbrook told me, when I made the mistake of questioning the sustainability of the greatness established by Alfred Williams and Deon Figures during the ’90s, when NFL scouts racked up hotel loyalty points in Boulder.
The sad state of CU football now, as coach Karl Dorrell tries to lure more talent to campus than he loses to the transfer portal, is an excuse for fans to either get mad or get high. Might I suggest the edibles?
I asked Westbrook, who was feted during a timeout for his induction into college football’s Hall of Fame, if he could recall his best game as a receiver in a Colorado uniform.
“We had a run of five years there … where it was like a blur of awesome plays,” said Westbrook, who attended CU in the gold-plated glory days, from 1990-95.
To appease me, he tried hard to think of his most explosive game at Folsom. “I couldn’t get three, but I had a bunch of two touchdown games,” Westbrook said. “Never got three touchdowns.”
That’s funny — although maybe not like funny ha, ha — because these Buffs of 2021, with young quarterback Brendon Lewis under siege behind a porous offensive line, can’t seem to score more than two touchdowns in a game against any top-level competition. Baby steps? Dorrell doesn’t have the patience for such Pollyanna nonsense.
“It’s never enough. We can’t be talking about ‘baby stuff’ like that anymore. We scored two touchdowns and that’s not enough. They scored 37 points; we scored 14. We’re at that point,” said Dorrell, who sounded resigned to the fact he could well be teaching at the school of hard knocks throughout this fall semester.
“There’s an urgency about being more productive and more demanding about what we’re doing. Not that we haven’t done that already, but the pacifier is going to have to go. The binky — if you have kids, I’ve had kids — that’s got to go. We’ve got to grow up fast.”
Colorado has dropped four consecutive games after a little light stretching against Northern Colorado, scoring exactly four TDs in the process. Where have you gone, quarterback Sam Noyer? Or receiver K.D. Nixon? These Buffs miss you. This sorry excuse for a CU offense could use you, before Dorrell is forced to do something drastic, like relieve assistant coach Darrin Chiaverini of his duties as the architect of this hot mess.
Noyer and Nixon both took full advantage of NCAA transfer rules, moving on from the Buffaloes after last season. Noyer is now stuck on the bench at Oregon State, while Nixon was basically one of the 48,197 spectators at Folsom, returning one punt for seven yards during a cameo appearance for the Trojans in his return to town.
In an era of college football when traditional conference ties mean nothing to a college president and loyalty to team seems like a quaint anachronism for a player with an eye for greener grass on the other side of the fence, Dorrell’s task of rebuilding the CU program might well get tougher if the Buffs finish this season at the bottom of the South Division in the Pac-12 Conference standings.
The idea of players bailing on the Buffs rather than battling through adversity really irks Westbrook, far more than even a knucklehead like me could ever irritate him. He abhors how easy it has become for a player to skip campus through the transfer portal.
“I think it’s awful, because for me it’s like a baby (saying), ‘I don’t want to do this’ and you let them do it. It’s like letting a baby do whatever he wants to do. Because we’re still babies at 17 and 18 years old. We don’t always know what’s best for us,” said Westbrook, now 49 years old but looking fit enough to suit up for the Buffs next week and score much-needed touchdowns.
Here’s the real bummer for Dorrell, while trying to build a program patiently and honestly during a time of instant gratification. In college football these days, the rich get richer. And the wannabes go wanting.
“It’s like free agency now,” Westbrook said. “You can’t keep a team together.”
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