For the past several years, Colorado’s offensive line has been a group capable of great games but prone to rough ones.
Saturday was a rough day for that group, which was dominated by Minnesota in a 30-0 loss to the Gophers at Folsom Field.
“Us as an O-line didn’t perform as well as we should have,” left guard Kary Kutsch said. “They didn’t bring anything new to us. I don’t think they brought a lot of pressures. Just us performing better is what should happen.”
Starting center Colby Pursell didn’t play. Out for unspecified reasons, he was in uniform but didn’t go through warm-ups. In his place, Iowa transfer Noah Fenske got the start and made his CU debut. There were some issues with the snaps, including the first one, which led to a 10-yard loss.
CU also saw left tackle Max Wray leave the game with an injury at one point. In all, 10 different linemen played, and they had a rough day as a group.
Quarterback Brendon Lewis was sacked four times – all on third or fourth downs – in the first half. Those sacks contributed to a historically low minus-19 rushing yards for the Buffs. But even without the sacks, the Buffs’ tailbacks gained nine yards on 11 carries.
Kutsch said the line has to be better if Lewis and the offense are going to turn things around.
“It’s always on the O-line,” he said. “I mean, it’s our job to get the offense going: run game, pass game. We didn’t protect as well we should have. We didn’t get enough movement in the run game. So it all starts with us.”
Minnesota came into the game with zero sacks and allowing 5.4 yards per rush and didn’t do anything too complicated to change that against the Buffs.
“We were getting off blocks,” Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck said. “We weren’t blitzing a lot. We were getting pressure with four. We knew if we could keep those running lanes (for Lewis) small, not rush past the passer, keep him condensed, we’d be able to force him into some ill-advised throws and also be able to rally around him and get him to the ground.”
It’s been a tough week for CU running back Jarek Broussard. He limped off the field in the middle of the third quarter against Texas A&M on Sept. 11 and didn’t return. On Saturday, after sitting out the first quarter, he ran the ball just five times, for a career-low eight yards.
“He’s a little nicked from the previous game,” head coach Karl Dorrell said. “He had some limited practice time, so he wasn’t full speed. We didn’t want to utilize him as much as we normally would.”
Last year’s offensive player of the year in the Pac-12, Broussard has just 153 yards through the first three games.
While it was tough to find positives Saturday, linebacker Nate Landman was stellar again.
The senior had a season-high 13 tackles, including three tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
Overall, the defense played well early but was worn down by the Gophers dominating possession. Minnesota held the ball for 40 minutes, 13 seconds.
“I felt defensively we hung in there at times,” Dorrell said. “We still missed a lot of tackles. We weren’t getting guys down. So they were moving the ball and sustaining some drives. And I do think because of the offensive inefficiencies, too, that created a level of tiredness for the defense. So, it’s a little bit that they didn’t play as well as we expected and I think the offense compounded that too.”
Defensive back Chris Miller and defensive linemen Na’im Rodman, as well as Wray, left the game with injuries, but there was no update from CU on their condition. … Although he finished with only four rushing yards, Alex Fontenot hit the 1,000-yard mark for his career. He has exactly 1,000 yards. … Fenske and tight end Caleb Fauria made their CU debuts. … Minnesota increased its nation-best non-conference winning streak to 21 games.