Buffs Seek To Improve Passing Numbers, Offensive Balance
BOULDER — With a freshman quarterback and a potentially dominant running game, Colorado coach Karl Dorrell didn't expect the Buffaloes' passing numbers to be through the roof this year, especially early in the season.
A bigger concern has been making sure freshman Brendon Lewis takes care of the ball, something he has done well. Lewis had one interception in CU's first two games, and it came only because he was blindsided just as he threw, resulting in what was basically a jump ball.
But Dorrell is also a firm believer in offensive balance. Thus, while CU's 226 yards per game on the ground is quite healthy, the passing game average of 95.5 yards is a concern. That includes only 89 yards against Texas A&M, CU's lowest passing total since finishing with just 81 against Washington in the 2016 Pac-12 championship game.
"In the big picture our offense has to be proficient and balanced in both areas," Dorrell said at his Tuesday press conference. "We'll continue to stress those things. We have these young receivers who need playing time, need catches, need to build their confidence, and young tight ends. There's a number of people you're trying to get touches because you're trying to grow your offense. We just have to continue to progress that way. We can't have all our eggs in one basket."
When called upon to throw, Lewis has been fairly efficient. He has completed 57.5 percent of his passes (23-for-40) for 191 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
But CU's longest pass play in the first two games has covered just 23 yards — the only completion for at least 20 yards.
Now, while not giving up turnovers is still a critical issue, Dorrell wants his quarterback to take the next step and begin taking full advantage of a solid group of receivers and tight ends.
"He has been taking care of the football," Dorrell said. "That's a really great trait for a quarterback. On the other side of it, you want a guy that does take some chances and believes in his receivers and will put the ball in the right spot at the right time. Those are the things he has to continue to develop."
Of course, it's a fine line between being aggressive and being careless. But Lewis has not shown a tendency to force throws into coverage, and now his coaches would like him to trust his ability just a little more while also trusting his receivers.
"He is definitely doing some of the things very well like taking care of the football," Dorrell said. "Now he has to grow and have his anticipation be faster."
SCORING DEFENSE: Granted, it's early in the season. But after allowing just one touchdown in each of their first two games, the Buffs are giving up just 8.5 points per game — fifth-best in the nation.
That has helped Colorado spend 87 minutes and 14 seconds in the lead in their two games (out of a possible 120). They have trailed a grand total of 2:41.
TOUGH SCHEDULE: Before the season began, the Buffs' schedule was considered to be among the nation's 10 toughest slates by some analysts.
They will play 11 Power 5 opponents, a relative rarity in the college ranks — and Dorrell said he embraces that kind of lineup.
"I'm in favor of it," he said. "We have to get our program at a level where it's ready to compete every week against a Power 5 program. That's what will keep bringing this program forward, keep developing our players and bringing in good recruits. I want the guys who come here in the future to feel they're going to play against a lot of top talent across the country on the East Coast, Midwest and West Coast."
DEFENSIVE NUMBERS: Buffs linebacker Jamar Montgomery is proving to be one of CU's most efficient defenders when it comes to production per snap. The junior has played just 30 snaps in two games, but has three third-down stops, four quarterback pressures and half a sack to his credit … LB Nate Landman and DL Terrance Lang are tied for the team lead in third-down stops with four. Landman also has the team lead in pass breakups with three … A number Dorrell would like to improve is turnovers. CU's defense has forced two, a fumble recovery and an interception, both in the end zone and both by DB Mekhi Blackmon.