Keeler: CU Buffs more lucky than good vs. Washington Huskies. Enjoy the win, Karl Dorrell. Then fix this offense. Please.

BOULDER — It was classy and terrible in the same breath, like watching an opera sung by feral cats. If the Buffs and Huskies played 10 times, it would be nine times too many.

Still, given a choice between winning ugly on Senior Day and losing pretty, there isn’t one. You take the former. Take it and run to Durango.

“A very stressful game,” was how CU football coach Karl Dorrell described Buffs 20, Washington 17. And he was being kind.

Savor the good stuff from Saturday. Cherish it. Quarterback Brendon Lewis diving over the right pylon for the game-clinching score. The gorgeous interceptions by Nikko Reed and Robert Barnes.

Linebacker Jack Lamb scooping up a bizarre Huskies fumble in front of the CU end zone, then outrunning everybody to the other end zone. Injured Buffs senior Nate Landman putting on his uniform one last time at Folsom Field, making a cameo as the deep back in the victory formation.

“I told him he should’ve taken the snap,” Buffs ‘backer Carson Wells cracked when asked about his longtime pal’s home-field farewell.

Just don’t forget the rest of it, either. The potholes. The pockmarks. Because here’s the problem, the reality that’ll sink in Sunday, or whenever the euphoria fades a bit.

The plus-4 turnover ratio?

Not sustainable.

The 17 points off the strangest of Washington giveaways?

Not sustainable.

A win in which you managed just 183 yards of total offense?

Not sustainable.

The way the Buffs won?

Not sustainable.

“If we were better (Saturday) on offense,” interim UW coach Bob Gregory said, “we would’ve had a chance to win the game.”

The Huskies (4-7, 3-5 Pac-12) piled up 426 yards to CU’s 183 and lost, largely because they give the ball back to the Buffs three times inside the CU 36. Which is what 4-7 teams do.

And yet the Huskies still had a chance at the end, because CU is a 4-7 team, too, with all those 4-7 flaws. Especially on offense.

The Buffs converted on just two of their 13 third-down tries on the day. CU went three-downs-and-punt so often that BuffZone beat writer Brian Howell wrote “#cubuffs go 3 and out” on Twitter in the second quarter, hit send, and immediately got an error message back from the social media platform that read:

“Whoops! You already said that.”

Twitter thought he was accidentally resending the same tweet. Those bots don’t watch the Buffs much, do they?

“We definitely have a lot of work to do,” Dorrell said, being kind again.

After UW had zipped up the field for a 55-yard touchdown to cut the Buffs lead to three with 2:30, CU got the rock back with a chance to run out the clock. The sequence? Run for no gain. Seven-yard pass. Incompletion. Punt. The Buffs had the ball for all of 30 seconds.

Whenever Lewis had time in the pocket, CU’s receivers struggled to run routes past the sticks. It was as if everybody wanted to try being Noah Fant for a day.

Washington came into the afternoon with the Pac-12’s No. 2 third-down defense (37.3% conversion rate before Saturday) and No. 1 scoring defense (21.2 points allowed).

But they also were giving up five yards per play to their opponents. CU only managed 3.5 per snap. The Huskies ran 84 plays to the Buffs’ 52.

That’s not sustainable, either. Certainly not against the Utes in Salt Lake City, the Buffs’ next port of call.

Firing an offensive line coach patched a hole. It didn’t fix the ship. As the calendar turns, CU needs to take a long, hard look at its offense from the top down as well as the bottom up.

Offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini is, and has been, a great servant to his alma mater. He’s also in charge of a unit that went into the weekend ranked No. 121 nationally in third-down conversion rate (32.8%) and No. 120 by in offensive efficiency (1.43 points per non-garbage drive).

And we’ve been over all the caveats already. Young quarterback? Absolutely. Beat up offensive line? No question. Yet the Buffs have ranked 75th or lower nationally in offensive efficiency in each of the past two seasons. And they’ve finished 75th or lower in third-down conversion rate twice since 2018.

“The bottom line, is, we’ve got to fix those things,” Dorrell continued. “We found a way to overcome it and get a victory.”

They did, and sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. But it doesn’t change the fact that “good” in Boulder feels farther away than it did at this time a year ago. It won’t help those cats sing in tune, either.

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