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Rooney: Struggle for points again against USC, and bye week changes must happen

Buffs seek first win against struggling Trojans despite 20 points in three weeks

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)

Remember the glory days of two weeks ago?

Colorado was coming off a near-upset of then-No. 5 Texas A&M, and while it was far from a flawless performance, it was more than competitive enough to believe that, win or lose, exciting things were in store for the Buffs in 2021.

Give credit where credit is due. The Buffs’ drives on either side of halftime last week at Arizona State were superb, with CU eking out points at the halftime buzzer before putting together their best drive since the start of that A&M game, briefly making it a contest in Tempe early in the third quarter.

Other than that, however, it’s been 11 quarters of miserable football since the opening frame of the A&M game. Particularly, it’s been miserable offensive football. Or perhaps offensive miserable football, however one chooses to look at it. Regardless, the struggles of CU’s Brendon Lewis-led offense have thoroughly trashed the good vibes from just two weeks ago, and reset the bar of just what Buffs fans should expect out of their team the rest of the way…even as a USC team dealing with its own turmoil gets set to visit Folsom Field.

“There was some moments of good production,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said of his team’s offensive performance at ASU, soon adding, “we’ve just got to continue to keep the progress of moving forward on the offensive side of the ball.”

One way or another, except Saturday’s result to once again shape the narrative around the Buffs next week.

If the Buffs can somehow end their winless, 0-14 all-time mark against the Trojans, chances are the party at Folsom will include a little field storming and a wild night on the Hill. And in most seasons, an upset wouldn’t be out of the question.

USC certainly isn’t the USC that took the field in most of those previous 14 victories over the Buffs. By their lofty standards, the Trojans are limping into the contest just as heavily as the Buffs. USC was rolled at home by Stanford, prompting the firing of coach Clay Helton. Last week, USC lost at home against Oregon State, its first loss to the Beavers in the Coliseum in 61 years. The Trojans have the sort of defense a struggling offense can get right against. Win, and the Buffs will have an off week to prepare for lowly Arizona with a chance to get back to .500.

Alas, this isn’t most seasons. And “struggling” fails to describe the depths of ineptitude displayed by the CU offense for the better part of the past three games. If that becomes four games, and with a bye week looming, the time will be ripe for change if the Buffs once again struggle to even gain first downs.

Three weeks of a stagnant offense that has netted a total of just 20 points during that span has elevated the decibel level on cries for change. Change quarterbacks. Change the play-caller from Darrin Chiaverini to quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf. Heck, even change back to the hideous, old-school powder blue uniforms if it will change the Buffs’ mojo. Still, as difficult as some of these performances have been to stomach, it’s understandable why Dorrell has been hesitant to make such changes so far.

Changing quarterbacks means turning to true freshman Drew Carter, who has even less experience — on the field and in the program — than the embattled Lewis. Changing play-callers or making outright staff changes could be interpreted as a sign of panic, and despite his Pac-12 Coach of the Year honor from last year’s COVID season, Dorrell remains a coach who still has not yet logged a full season’s worth of games as the leading man. Crumpling up and tossing aside his best-laid plans before October isn’t something any coach wants.

Fail to put a meaningful dent in the scoreboard, however, and any debate about whether those changes should occur will come to an emphatic end.