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Balancing caution with calculated risks one of next steps for CU Buffs QB Brendon Lewis

Second-year freshman set to make third career start against Minnesota

DENVER, CO - September 11, 2021: University of Colorado Boulder's Brendon Lewis runs against Texas A&M's during the September 11, 2021 game at Empower Field in Denver.  (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
DENVER, CO – September 11, 2021: University of Colorado Boulder’s Brendon Lewis runs against Texas A&M’s during the September 11, 2021 game at Empower Field in Denver. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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As he continues to progress through the ups and downs of attempting to develop into a big-time Division I quarterback, Brendon Lewis is trying to strike a delicate balance.

Head coach Karl Dorrell stated the obvious this week in saying his Colorado Buffaloes need to be more productive offensively, particularly in the passing game. Much of that onus falls upon the shoulders of Lewis, a first-year starter being forced to grow up on the job.

Despite a tough day last week against Texas A&M and a general lack of big plays through the air overall through two games, Lewis has done a commendable job of limiting turnovers and not forcing throws into traffic —which are important traits for a quarterback set to make just his third career start when the Buffs host Minnesota in their final non-conference game on Saturday (11 a.m., Pac-12 Networks).

On the other hand, good quarterbacks take chances, and make plays, down the field, and that big-play ingredient has been absent through CU’s first two games of the season.

“He has been taking care of the football, he hasn’t been just erratically just throwing passes to the other team. And that’s a really, really great trait for a quarterback,” Dorrell said. “Now on the other side of it, too, you want a guy that does take some chances and believes in his receivers and will put the ball in the right spot at the right time. Those are the things that he has to continue to develop too, but he is definitely doing some of the things very, very well, like taking care of the football. But the other part is he still has to grow and have his anticipation be faster.”

Through his first two starts, Lewis has completed a solid 58.5 percent of his passes (23-for-40) but has posted just 191 passing yards — an average of just 4.8 yards per attempt and 8.3 yards per completion. Mustering just 89 yards through the air isn’t going to win many games, let alone against the No. 5 team in the nation, as was the case last week against Texas A&M.

Lewis also suffered his first turnover of the season on the Buffs’ first possession of the game after he was leveled by an A&M defender as he tried to release a pass. Of course, getting the running game back on track will only help Lewis’ fortunes against the Golden Gophers. CU posted a solid 5.3 yards per carry during the opening win against Northern Colorado, but that figured dipped to 4.5 per rush against the Aggies. The bulk of that damage was done by the legs of Lewis, while the Buffs’ two primary running backs — Jarek Broussard and Alex Fontenot — combined to average just 3.8 yards per carry on 24 attempts.

“I think our passing game looked awesome in camp and it looked good and practice too,” senior tight end Brady Russell said. “There’s just been miscues here and there that haven’t lined up so we haven’t had a great pass game so far, actually in games, but I still have all the confidence in the world in Brendon and what he can do. I have confidence in the O-line, I have confidence in myself in the tight ends to protect Brendon when he’s back in the pocket. So I think that’s something that will come along.

“But it’s also something that we want to be able to rely on our run game because last year it was so good and this year, it should be the same way. We want to be able to control the game with the run. So it might seem like our pass offense is struggling when in reality it’s because we can rely so heavily on the run game as well, which I think is important for a young quarterback.”