CU Buffs face intriguing QB battle

Brendon Lewis a bright spot in Alamo Bowl; Sam Noyer’s future uncertain

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – DECEMBER 29: Brendon Lewis #12 of the Colorado Buffaloes looks to pass under pressure by DeMarvion Overshown #0 of the Texas Longhorns in the fourth quarter during the Valero Alamo Bowl at the Alamodome on December 29, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

There wasn’t much that went right for Colorado in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Tuesday night, but it wasn’t all bad.

In the 55-23 loss to No. 20 Texas, the Buffaloes got their first look at their potential quarterback of the future. True freshman Brendon Lewis came off the bench to lead the Buffs (4-2) to their only three touchdowns.

The first quarterback in school history to make his collegiate debut in a bowl game, Lewis completed 6-of-10 passes for 95 yards and ran nine times for 73 yards and a touchdown.

“I think he came in (during) some difficult circumstances and engineered a couple good drives,” Buffaloes head coach Karl Dorrell said. “He’s been doing a lot of that stuff in practice. It’s good to see him kind of gain some experience, gain some confidence knowing that he belongs at this level, and to play against a good program, to have the kind of success that he had.”

Lewis’ performance adds to the intrigue surrounding CU’s quarterback competition going into the 2021 season. The Buffs now have more experience at the position than they did going into this season, but they’ve got just as much uncertainty as they look ahead.

Courtesy Valero Alamo Bowl
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – December 29, 2020: Colorado quarterback Sam Noyer warms up before facing Texas during the Valero Alamo Bowl at the Alamodome on December 29, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas.

First on the agenda is figuring out Sam Noyer’s status. A fifth-year senior, Noyer won the starting job in preseason camp and started all six games. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to all players, so Noyer can return for a sixth year if he chooses. He has not made the decision public.

Although he was named second-team All-Pac-12 — the first CU quarterback in 23 years to earn first or second-team honors — Noyer was inconsistent and finished the year with his worst performance. Against Texas, he completed 8-of-23 passes for 101 yards and two interceptions.

“It was unfortunate because we felt he had one of those weeks of practice that kind of showed the performances he was making in the first couple games of the season,” Dorrell said. “Unfortunately it just didn’t work out that way.”

During the first two games, Noyer completed 35-of-55 passes (63.6%) for 512 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, along with 100 yards and three touchdowns rushing.

In the last four games, he completed 53-of-105 passes (50.5%) for 590 yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions, while adding 108 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Dating back to the third quarter of the fourth game at Arizona, Noyer led the offense to just 20 points (two touchdowns, two field goals) in his last 25 drives.

“He’s come a long way,” Dorrell said of Noyer’s overall progression. “He did some really good things for us.

“For us to be a program that we’re expecting ourselves to be, we’ve got to be better in a lot of areas.”

Even if Noyer does return, his health is a question mark. He battled a shoulder injury throughout the season and Dorrell said, “I don’t know if he’s going to be available (for spring practices) because he may have to have some surgery.”

If Noyer does return, he won’t be guaranteed the starting job.

“Any starter that’s a returning starter, he’s got to prove that he’s deserving to be the starter,” Dorrell said. “We need to build the depth of our program, to challenge our depth that’s in those starting positions. Every year is always a different year. We’re going to build it the best way we can with the best guys we think can help us be successful.”

BOULDER, CO – October 12, 2020: Quarterback Brendon Lewis throws a pass during Colorado football practice. (Courtesy photo/University of Colorado)

Lewis, who was No. 3 on the depth chart before Tyler Lytle entered the transfer portal three weeks ago, showed some signs of being that guy. A talented, dual-threat from Melissa (Texas) High School, Lewis brought some energy to the offense in the Alamo Bowl.

“I’m very, very encouraged by his performance today, no question,” Dorrell said after the game. “I’m sure he’ll learn from this, in terms of putting that feather of confidence in his hat, that he can move forward and continue to develop.

“He was kind of the bright light of the offense. I think it kind of energized the team a little bit, too, when a couple of those drives happened. Hopefully that will be something that’s good for him to carry into the offseason and keep building on going into spring practice.”

In addition to Noyer and Lewis, the Buffs are expected to add two scholarship quarterbacks in January.

Incoming freshman Drew Carter, from Tigard (Ore.) High School, signed his letter of intent on Dec. 16 and will enroll in January.

Earlier this week, JT Shrout, who spent the past three seasons at Tennessee, announced his decision to transfer to CU. A redshirt sophomore, Shrout has three seasons to play. In eight career games, including one start, Shrout completed 37-of-69 passes (53.6%) for 494 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions at Tennessee.

CU also has three walk-ons, including true freshman Michael Chandler II, who was a dual-threat star at Judson (Texas) High School.