It's no secret why the Colorado football team believed it could have one of the most explosive offenses in the country this year.

After all, the Buffaloes feature a talented group of receivers that includes speedsters Shay Fields and Devin Ross.

Pair them with rocket-armed quarterback Steven Montez, and it seemed like the Buffs could spend this entire season burning the opposition with big plays.

Six games into the season, however, the struggling Buffs (3-3, 0-3 Pac-12) have yet to hit home runs in the passing game.

CU doesn't have any completions longer than 44 yards, and its longest touchdown pass was a 39-yarder to tight end Chris Bounds on Saturday against Arizona. The longest touchdown to a receiver was a 31-yarder to Fields in the season opener.

"It's very frustrating," Montez said Monday. "We work on it and work on it, and to miss three or four of them in the game (against Arizona on Saturday), especially a close game like this, it's tough. It's very frustrating."

Last Saturday's 45-42 loss to Arizona spotlighted CU's struggles in the deep passing game.

Five times, Montez threw deep shots (at least 25 yards down field) to Fields, and each one was incomplete. One was an underthrown ball that hit the back of the Arizona defensive back and three of them were overthrown. The last one was an on-target throw, but Arizona's Jace Whittaker made a great play to break up the pass in the end zone.


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"It's frustrating," Fields said after the game. "We obviously want to hit those. The passing just has to be better. We have to get in the lab honestly. Get together with Montez; the receivers have to get together and we just have to hit those."

The inability to hit those plays was not just an issue on Saturday. This season, Montez is just 3-for-17 on balls thrown at least 30 yards down field, with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Colorado reciever Shay Fields looks for an opening in the Arizona defense Saturday night.
Colorado reciever Shay Fields looks for an opening in the Arizona defense Saturday night. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

On throws of at least 20 yards, Montez is 11-for-35 with two touchdowns and three interceptions. The two touchdowns, both to Fields, came on plays where Montez scrambled to buy time and waved Fields down field before hitting him for scores.

Fields, known as "Big Play Shay," has nine plays of 50-plus yards in his career, but has now gone 15 consecutive games without one. His longest play this year was a 44-yarder against Texas State in Week 2.

Ross' longest catch of the year went for 37 yards.

Co-offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren said he's surprised the Buffs have struggled to connect on deep passes this season.

"In practice and spring and fall camp, I can't tell you how many times those guys connected on that stuff," Lindgren said. "Steven definitely has the ability to hit it; he just has to go out there and do it.

"It's something we have to get better at."

Lindgren said the receivers are "doing a nice job of getting open," and improved production in the run game has created a few more opportunities to go deep.

"We just have to finish the throw," Lindgren said. "That's something that we'll really work on moving forward."

As a group, CU's dynamic receivers aren't putting up the numbers many thought they would.

There were visions of multiple 1,000-yard receivers this season, but nobody is on track to even reach 800 yards.

In the last three games combined, Fields has just nine catches for 79 yards, while Ross has nine for 96 yards and was held without a catch last week for the first time since 2015.

Lindgren sees frustration from the CU receivers, but said, "That's just the nature of that position.

"Those guys are competitive guys and they've been around awhile and they've had success in the past, so I think they're a little bit frustrated," he said. "But, I think those guys are also mature enough to understand we want to do whatever we can, whatever gives us the best chance to win the football game."

Lately, running the ball with Phillip Lindsay has given them the best chance, but the Buffs know that hitting their talented receivers with deep shots will help them in the second half of the season.

"We need to start completing it if we want to be a top-tier offense," Montez said. "We need to complete a deep ball and have a deep threat."

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.