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For two consecutive weeks, the Colorado offense has struggled to gain much traction.
The Buffaloes (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) have scored just 33 points in the last two games combined, while putting up two of the lowest yardage totals in head coach Mike MacIntyre’s six seasons.
For the first time since 2012, the Buffs have finished with less than 275 yards in back-to-back games.
There are several reasons for the sputtering attack. As MacIntyre has pointed out, the Buffs have played two good defenses (USC and Washington), which is true. The Buffs have also had costly penalties.
“Then, we’ve just got to execute a little bit better,” MacIntyre said.
That is especially true up front, as the Buffs have struggled in the trenches.
CU’s running game has been average, at best, in recent weeks, and quarterback Steven Montez has been running for his life. In the past two games, Montez has been sacked five times and had 13 hurried throws (he had 18 such throws in the first five games).
“We’re not playing good enough (up front) to help us win,” co-offensive coordinator/line coach Klayton Adams said. “It’s my job to figure out why, it’s my job to figure out who those five guys are going to be that can be more consistent and execute at a really high level, but also practice and prepare at a high level. We haven’t been able to find that and we need to now, because this team is too good for us (on the line) to hold us back.”
Several times against Washington, the Buffs were badly beaten by the Huskies’ front seven.
“Their power up front has hurt everybody,” MacIntyre said. “That’s really what hurt us in that game.”
Left tackle William Sherman, left guard Brett Tonz and center Colby Pursell played every snap, although they also had their struggles.
On the right side, the Buffs once again set up a revolving door. Tim Lynott and Aaron Haigler played at right guard, and CU used three players – Josh Kaiser, Frank Fillip and Haigler – at right tackle.
More than halfway through the season, the Buffs still don’t know which combination is their best.
“I think when you’ve got a mixture of older guys and younger guys and they’re all very close in terms of who is better or who should be starting, you have to gather a sample size and say, ‘Ok this guy can handle these situations right now or this guy can’t,'” Adams said.
The rotation of linemen has been going on all year, and it did lead to Adams figuring out that Sherman was their best option at left tackle. He’s taken every snap at left tackle during Pac-12 play.
Shuffling on the right continues, though.
“It’s something that it can be frustrating at times, but it’s competing,” Lynott said. “When you’re competing, you’re getting better. You’re trying to win your spot every day you’re practicing. If you’re not doing your job, you’re not going to have that spot. That’s the reality of it all.”
With five games to play – and a Pac-12 South title still a possibility – Adams said there’s no time to waste.
“We have decisions that need to be made (on playing time) and we need to play better,” he said.
Lynott said game days have been frustrating for the line because the results from practice are not showing up when it matters.
“You’re doing it in practice and sometimes it doesn’t translate to games,” he said. “It’s winning the one-on-ones that we’re having an issue with, but we’re going to fix that.”
One positive, Lynott said, is that the Buffs are showing improvement in practices.
“We’re not getting down on each other at all,” he said. “It’s not like last year where it felt like it was going downhill. It feels like this group, we’re getting better each week.”
Still, Adams said the offense is suffering from “10-man syndrome,” meaning the Buffs could have 10 or nine players doing the right thing, but one or two doing the wrong thing.
“We’ve got to execute at a higher level than we have,” he said. “We’re working hard at it. We just have to make sure we stay together and we don’t fracture and we don’t point fingers; that we put all of our heads together and figure it out.”
USC and Washington have exposed some of CU’s weaknesses of offense, and Adams said the coaches have to respond.
“It’s up to us as coaches to try to work our way through that and try to cover up those weaknesses or what your counter attack is going to be,” he said. “There were times Saturday where we were much more consistent than we were the week before, but not enough of them.”