From a pure numbers standpoint, Colorado’s offense took a big step forward on Saturday in Tempe.
A week after the Buffaloes had just 63 yards of offense in a 30-0 rout against Minnesota, Brendon Lewis and CU were able to gain 250 yards on the road against Arizona State, but the end result was still the same as the week before — another defeat.
That’s three losses in a row for Karl Dorrell and company, and the statistical improvement is nice and shows this offense isn’t truly as bad as it looked last week, but there’s still a long way to go.
“Progress doesn’t keep you stable,” Dorrell said following the game. “We’re all frustrated. They’re frustrated, coaches, everybody is, but that is kind of the nature of the beast and is something signed up for in this profession as coaches and playing college level football. We have to be big men and grow up and try to get some things fixed in a hurry so we can be productive. I think we’re pretty close, I don't think we’re that far away and I just told them that in the locker room.”
All eyes continue to be on freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis, who played the whole game this week after being removed in favor of true freshman Drew Carter at the end of the loss to Minnesota.
Lewis is still not throwing the ball at a high volume, attempting just 17 passes against the Sun Devils, and it’s not like he’s converting a high percentage of those few throws, either. His 7 completions on Saturday brings him up to just 38 on the year, which is 12th in the Pac-12.
“I thought Brendon (Lewis) played okay,” Dorrel said. “I thought he had a couple steps of progress this week. We need to continue to bring him along with our passing game. I thought he hit some opportunities for some throws and a couple receivers dropped the ball so that was something that negated some of that productivity on the passing game side of it. We have to keep bringing this team along. It's a lot of young players that are playing and a lot of new players playing and it's challenging each and every week now that we’re in season.”
But it’s not like Colorado’s identity was ever going to be as a pass-first team this season. That went out the window the minute Tennessee transfer J.T. Shrout went down with a season-ending injury in the preseason, handing the starting spot to Lewis.
Lewis still remains a major threat with his legs, despite his limitations as a passer and that allowed the CU run game to get back on track this week, something Dorrell had stressed leading up to the game.
Lewis joined running backs Jarek Broussard and Alex Fontenot with double digit carries in the game and the team as a whole gained over 200 yards on the ground.
”We went to the stuff we think we do well, and I think those guys are motivated to come out in the second half and put some points on the board,” Dorrell said. "So, that was a glimpse of what we talked about at halftime and they orchestrated and made it work, so that’s a positive step.”
Just finding the end zone had to be a good feeling for the Buffs. Fontenot’s rushing score in the third quarter was the team’s first touchdown since the first quarter against Texas A&M two weeks ago. But making small gains is not what Dorrell and CU are out to do. They know there is pressure to win each week and that is not easy in the Pac-12 this season.
“It’s nice to see progress, but it’s not enough,” Fontenot said. “We need the drive to be better for what we’re trying to do.”
That dissatisfied mindset has turned into negativity yet for the Buffs and Fontenot stressed they’ll be ready when USC comes to Boulder next weekend.
“It’s never hard to stay positive, there’s always a new opponent and new people so it’s really just going into next week with a clear mindset,” Fontenot said.