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Opponent Offense Preview: Colorado Buffaloes

You’re already used to watching an offense ranked in the hundreds.

NCAA Football: Colorado at UCLA Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Joining Washington in the conference offensive basement are the Colorado Buffaloes, scorers of 19 whole, organic points per game. For most of the season, Colorado’s offense completely fell apart against any defense with a pulse. Then the late October Oregon-Oregon State stretch came, and CU generated 66 points and 733 yards across eight quarters of football (that alone should tell you where the bar is).

It should come as no surprise then, that these were QB Brendan Lewis’ best games of the season, throwing six touchdowns and zero interceptions. Things started to settle down on the offensive line around that time too, coinciding with the firing of their OL coach. They have since played much better, and there is noticeable improvement in the Colorado offense in terms of both blocking by the OL, and overall offensive performance.

Things started bright against UCLA last week, building a 20-10 half time lead. That was short lived as Colorado couldn’t sustain on offense and was outscored 34-0 in the second half. What will the offense look like on Saturday against the Dawgs?

Everyone’s Favorite Offense - Pro Style!

Colorado OC Darrin Chiaverini played WR for the Buffs and is one of the most popular coaches on staff for his immense passion and love for the program. With Karl Dorell as Head Coach, he has tried to implement a fairly standard pro-style attack. There are lots of runs under center sprinkled in with some running out of the pistol formation. Similar to Washington, tight ends get a lot of reps at full back/H-back in the heavier run formations. Frankly, much of what they run looks quite out of place in the modern game. Sound familiar?

NCAA Football: Colorado at UCLA Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

This is a team that wants to establish itself on the ground, more than in the air. About 46% of their total yards come on the ground - not a massive number, but enough to put them in the top-40 nationally. Their 23 pass attempts per game are seventh fewest in the nation.

Toting the rock for Colorado is the 2020 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and fourth year sophomore, Jarek Broussard. He’s only 5-9 and hasn’t quite hit the same gear he found in 2020, but is averaging 4.8 yards per carry with forty runs in his past two games. He’s more of a workhorse type than you’d expect at his size, but has the speed to turn it upfield if he finds a crease. Beside Broussard is the bigger Alex Fontenot, who stands at 6-0, 205 pounds, and is the more physical between the tackles runner of the two. He’s had trouble finding his form after an injury robbed him of his 2020 season, but his five rushing touchdowns this year are three more than other back on the team.

An Improving Lewis

Colorado probably expected Sam Noyer to be their starting quarterback this year, but he transferred to Oregon State utilizing the rare intra-conference transfer. In steps Brendan Lewis, an intriguing athlete and QB prospect. He’s got good size at 6-2 and 225 pounds, with nice athleticism and duel threat ability. He has the tools to be a pretty good passer, but is still a work in progress, needing to find more consistency. He’s completing a respectable 60% of his passes with just 3 picks, but only has 10 touchdowns and generates just over 6 yards per attempt. Where he can be most dangerous is when he’s outside of the pocket or pulling the ball on zone reads for chunk yardage. Ultimately, they aren’t putting a ton on his plate in terms of pass attempts per game, but he is asked to do more than simply the manage the game.

NCAA Football: Colorado at UCLA Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Catching passes from Lewis is the primary trio of TE Brady Russell, WR Brendan Rice, and WR Daniel Arias. Russell is a smaller TE at 6-3, but is a key player for Colorado in both blocking, and being a reliable safety valve for QB Brendan Lewis. Outside, WR Brendan Rice has been their main threat, though the struggling pass game has held down his production. Arias flashes at times as a dangerous deep threat.

Final Thoughts

Colorado has improved immensely in the past few weeks after a shakeup at OL coach. Their pass blocking has improved so Brendan Lewis isn’t running for his life every other drop back. The other side of that coin is that there’s less improvising from Lewis and the offense in general since he has more time to stand in the pocket and throw - it remains to be seen whether this is really a good thing. He has improved as a pocket passer but it still feels like he’s an athletic quarterback stuck in the wrong offense.

Despite the clear improvements on the team, this is still arguably the worst pass game Washington will face. I expect UW secondary to shut down the Buffalo pass game. The question is whether they will stick to the run enough, as Washington has yet to prove it won’t wear down late if you just keep pounding the rock.