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Receiver Brenden Rice confident in CU Buffs’ offense

Freshman has five catches in first three games

BOULDER, CO - Sept. 18, 2021: ...
University of Colorado Boulder’s Brenden Rice makes a catch in front of Minnesota’s Jordan Howden during the Colorado Minnesota NCAA football game on September 18, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Brenden Rice had high expectations for himself and the rest of the Colorado receivers this year.

Three games into the season, it’s been a difficult road for that group, as the Buffaloes’ offense has gone through some struggles.

“Very frustrating,” Rice said. “But we’ll get it together. I’m still proud of this offense. I can’t wait to show the world what we can do and what we are able to do. It’s only a matter of time.”

CU (1-2) is looking to get its offense on track as it visits Arizona State (2-1) on Saturday (8:30 p.m., TV: ESPNU) in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.

Freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis has struggled through the first three starts of his career and the Buffs have just 273 passing yards. Navy is the only one of the 130 FBS teams averaging fewer yards through the air than CU’s 91.0 per game. CU and the three service academies – Army, Air Force and Navy – are the only teams averaging less than 100 passing yards.

Tight end Brady Russell leads the Buffs with six catches, while Rice leads the receivers, with five catches for 35 yards.

Rice said it’s important for the playmakers, who all want the ball more, to focus on what they can do to help the struggling offense, rather than hang their heads.

“It’s a team sport, first of all, so whatever you do personally doesn’t really matter,” Rice said. “If your team isn’t doing good, like our offense … you can touch the ball 10, 15, 20 times, but if your offense ain’t moving the ball, then what does it mean? At the end of the day, if you’re not winning games, you’re not moving the ball, you’re not doing what you need to do as an offense, nothing else really matters. You’ve got to put all your goals, your efforts towards that stuff.”

While the ultimate goal is to win and get the whole offense going, head coach Karl Dorrell said it’s important to get Rice and the other receivers involved.

“They didn’t have many opportunities last week,” he said. “We had a few catches in the game, but we need to get everybody involved a little bit more efficiently.”

While the spotlight is on Lewis as the offense struggles, Dorrell was quick to point out that every position group has work to do. Rice said for the receivers that includes doing work without the ball.

“We need to block more on the perimeter, just to get our running backs open, because our line can’t handle everybody, so we’ve to go up there and handle some of the safeties, get our hands dirty,” he said. “You can’t be pretty boys all the time.”

In terms of receivers getting open for passes, Rice said it’s a collection of little things that have to improve.

“We just need more time in the pocket (for the quarterback),” he said. “We need more time in the pocket, we need to run our correct depths. It’s just every little detail matters because the QB is gonna look at one thing and if he doesn’t see that you’re at your correct depth then he’s gonna get off of you, go to the next person and the next person might not be open. You might be to correct read but he’s waiting on you too long.”

The receivers are working on that this week with Lewis and true freshman Drew Carter.

“Every rep, every little detail matters, and for us to take that next step, we’ve got to take those details serious and execute them and rise and get above all the lackadaisical stuff we’ve been going through,” he said.

Rice has confidence in the offense getting back on track, even this week against the Sun Devils, who rank third in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (17.0 points per game) and second in pass efficiency defense (100.03 rating).

“We should turn around this weekend,” Rice said. “(ASU) is a man coverage team. It’s about to be a battle at the line of scrimmage.”

While Rice hopes big plays on offense are coming soon, he’s also hoping for big plays as a returner. He’s had just two opportunities to return kickoffs so far this season but has averaged 33.0 yards.

“I’m trying to make a play every single time I touch that ball,” he said.