In the lead-up to Friday’s season opener, Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell expressed his confidence that freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis is going to play well this year. He also knew it wasn’t going to be a seamless transition from backup to starter.
“I think he’s going to have a big-time year, but he’s going to do a few freshman things here and there,” Dorrell said last month.
In Lewis’ starting debut Friday, he did some freshman things here and there, but he also helped the Buffaloes to a 35-7 win against Northern Colorado at Folsom Field.
“I was pleased,” Dorrell said of Lewis’ performance. “I’m pleased in a way that he felt uncomfortable in certain things. … In a lot of those issues that he was dealing with in the game, things weren’t open. He’ll tell you, though, that he missed a few today, but I felt he did a really good job of managing the game.”
Lewis completed 10-of-15 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 44 yards on eight carries. He was sacked twice, but avoided turnovers.
Three of Lewis’ incompletions came on plays where he scrambled and threw the ball away to avoid a sack, so he was on target with most of his passes. There were plenty of receivers he didn’t find, however.
“I made a couple of good plays, extending plays and stuff,” he said. “But I felt I could have done better reading, going through my reads.”
Going into the game, CU didn’t know much about UNC, which had not played a game in two years and had 65 new players and a new coaching staff. It took a while for Lewis and the Buffs to adjust.
“Understanding what they were doing defensively against our offense, that took about a half really to get that right,” Dorrell said. “I know we had 14 points at the half, but it wasn’t the easiest 14 points.
“Northern Colorado, they had a completely different defensive scheme we never had a chance to get any information on and I think that helped them in the first half of the game with really not giving us a lot of really consistent drives.”
CU was limited to 109 yards of offense and 4.7 yards per play in the first half but had a 14-0 lead. In the second half, the Buffs had 274 yards and averaged 6.7 yards per play.
“We made the right adjustments, we figured out what they were doing and then we were able to have some successful drives in the second half,” Dorrell said. “That gave us a little more continuity and some points on the board.”
While much of the success in the second half came with the run game, Lewis engineered three consecutive touchdown drives, including a 16-play, 90-yard march. That drive included Lewis connecting with Chase Penry for a first down on third-and-6 and with Dimitri Stanley for a first down at the Bears’ 14-yard line.
“I thought in the second half, we had so much better control of the game and we were having consistent drives,” Dorrell said.
Perhaps just as important as managing the offense to a victory, Lewis has earned the respect of his teammates as a leader. He was one of four players named as a captain for the UNC game.
“It meant a lot to me,” Lewis said. “It made me feel good knowing my teammates rely on me because they voted for it. So it felt good that they had my back and they thought I was a leader; that I could be one of the guys that can lead a team.”
Lewis now focuses on leading the Buffs next week, and in improving his play for the Sept. 11 matchup with No. 6 Texas A&M.
“It felt good to get a win,” he said. “I felt I played decent. Definitely need to play better, so I’m kind of disappointed in the way I played. Missed a few throws, but I’m just gonna come back next week and get better and better for A&M next week. A big game.”