Last year, he often was the whipping boy for Colorado football fans critical of the team’s play selection.
This year he typically has been overshadowed by Darrin Chiaverini, a proud Buffaloes football alum who has brought a contagious enthusiasm to the field as well as the recruiting trail in his role as co-offensive coordinator.
But guess what? Fellow offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brian Lindgren still is surveying the scene from the coaches’ box during games, and his quarterbacks are playing at an elite level regardless of who lines up behind center for the Buffs.
If there is an unsung midseason hero for a Buffs team that improved to 5-2 with a 40-16 win against Arizona State on Saturday night, it’s Lindgren. From senior Sefo Liufau continuing to put up unprecedented numbers in his return from injury Saturday to redshirt freshman Steven Montez excelling in his spot-starter role the previous three weeks, Lindgren has pushed all the right buttons so far for the Buffs.
Count me among the folks who wondered if the addition of a co-offensive coordinator was a subtle pseudo-demotion for Lindgren. Instead, the Chiaverini-Lindgren dynamic has worked to perfection, with Lindgren balancing Chiaverini’s exuberant passion with a pensive approach to play-calling that has worked wonders for the Buffs.
“Coach Chiaverini and I have been able to get along and we’ve been able to share some thoughts,” Lindgren said. “I think we’ve been able to mesh some ideas and work well together. I think the offense sees that and has fed off it. If there were two personalities like Chev’s, no way this would work. He’d be the first to tell you that. But it’s been good. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from him, and I think he’d say he’s learned some things from me.”
The past two weeks the Buffs’ offense has executed halftime adjustments with veteran savvy. Despite last week’s loss at USC, the Buffs began rallying when more rollout passes were called for Montez in the third quarter after he’d been under constant fire from the Trojans’ pass rush. Additionally, with USC bottling up the deep passes so prevalent in CU’s attack in 2016, Lindgren called for receiver Shay Fields to motion through the backfield for quick swing passes, evidence of the Buffs’ ability to adjust in order to get the ball in the hands of their playmakers.
Saturday’s effort featured more of the same. Even though the Buffs were facing a defense ranked first in the Pac-12 Conference and fifth in the nation in run defense, CU’s run game carved the Sun Devils to the tune of 315 yards on 52 attempts, including a 75-yard touchdown romp by Phillip Lindsay on the opening play of the second half that put the Sun Devils on their heels the rest of the way.
“I think we’ve got more experience on offense, and the guys have been in situations,” Lindgren said. “You’ve got a veteran quarterback…and any time you have veteran guys it definitely gives you more confidence as a play-caller. Definitely experience in the Pac-12 helps. We’ve taken our lumps but it’s good to have a veteran team that’s playing with a lot of confidence.”
Lindgren also deserves praise for his continued mentoring of Liufau, who picked up right where he left off in his return to the starting role Saturday. Last year at this time Buffs fans still often crossed their fingers hoping Liufau wouldn’t be the author of another untimely turnover. On Saturday Liufau extended his streak of attempts without an interception to 123, the third streak of at least 100 interception-free attempts in his career. No other CU signal-caller has ever put together more than one such streak in the history of the program.
That mark is a personal-best for Liufau and the third-best in program history, trailing only Tyler Hansen (131) and record-holder Joel Klatt (139).
Under Lindgren’s guidance the Buffs have developed two quarterbacks capable of winning big games. With his brains complementing Chiaverini’s fire, the Buffs have built the perfect offensive beast.