Buffs Notes: Lewis-To-Rice Connection; O-Line Improvement
EUGENE, Ore. — Colorado's Brendon-to-Brenden connection (the Killer Bs?) continues to increase its productivity.
That would be Buffaloes quarterback Brendon Lewis and wide receiver Brenden Rice, two freshmen who put up some career-best numbers in Saturday's 52-29 loss at Oregon.
Lewis had a career-high three touchdown passes, including one to Rice, while completing 25 of his 33 attempts for a career-best 75.8 completion percentage. His 224 yards passing and 162.8 rating were the second best of his career.
Rice had a career-high five receptions for 102 yards (second best in his career), as well as 162 yards on kick returns and 17 yards rushing. Rice's 281 all-purpose yards made him just the 25th player in CU history to surpass the 250 mark, and his Saturday total is 13th best in program history.
Combined, the two gave the CU offense a much-needed spark, especially in the wake of last week's 26-3 loss at Cal.
"That was what I've been expecting to see the last three weeks," CU head coach Karl Dorrell said of his quarterback. "He's had good weeks of practice but it just hasn't translated to games. He's coming along. He's getting better. He's got more command of what we're doing offensively and he made a big step today."
Rice, who has shown a penchant for big plays, had a terrific catch for a 36-yard gain to help set up CU's second touchdown, then wrapped up Colorado's scoring with a 16-yard touchdown reception. He also returned six kickoffs for 168 yards, with a long of 38.
It is clear that the chemistry between the two is growing.
"(Lewis) came out ready to play today," Rice said. "He made plays."
Dorrell no doubt sees the confidence level of both improving each week.
"(Lewis) made good decisions and protected the ball," Dorrell said. "(Rice) is a good young player with a lot of room to grow and get even better. There's a lot of confidence building between both of them."
O-LINE IMPROVEMENT: Colorado's offensive line appeared to take a step forward Saturday, less than a week after Dorrell dismissed position coach Mitch Rodrigue and replaced him with quality control assistant William Vlachos.
After giving up six sacks last week against Cal, the Buffs allowed just one on Saturday.
But perhaps equally importantly, the Buffs were 4-for-4 on fourth-down conversion tries after entering the game just 1-for-8 on the season in those situations. Two of CU's fourth-down attempts Saturday produced touchdowns — a huge improvement in an area that had been a problem all season long.
"Coach Vlachos made some scheme changes, some technique changes and explained things differently," said CU center Colby Pursell. "We had a lot of work to do. We had to put in a lot of work and practice and meetings to get things corrected. When it's a new coach, you always hear the term 'new energy.' That's true. A different coach brings a different style. Guys respond to that differently. We saw some results today."
TURNOVERS: For the fourth time this year, the Buffs offense did not commit a turnover — and CU's defense did have a takeaway, a fourth-quarter interception by Isaiah Lewis that helped set up Colorado's final score of the day.
It was the first time this season CU has won the turnover battle and not won the game, and it was Lewis' first career interception.
BUFFS BITS: Oregon now leads the all-time series 14-9 … A season-high 11 Buffs caught passes. That includes the first career touchdown for freshman wide receiver Ty Robinson, Alex Fontenot's first receiving touchdown of his career and career-high two receptions for wide receiver Chris Carpenter and tight end Matt Lynch … Dorrell said he hoped to have receivers Dimitri Stanley (injury) and LaVontae Shenault (suspension) back for next week's game against Oregon State ... Freshman safety Trevor Woods, who had a blocked punt and return for a touchdown against Arizona two weeks ago, had a career-high six tackles.