Throughout a month of struggling through Colorado’s four-game losing streak, Brendon Lewis said he didn’t listen to any of the criticism thrown his way.
“I don’t pay attention to that,” the Buffaloes’ freshman quarterback said. “I just keep my head down, keep working with my teammates.”
Lewis’ hard work paid off Saturday in a 34-0 win against Arizona at Folsom Field, as he put together the best game of his young career.
The maligned quarterback completed 12-of-19 passes for a career-high 248 yards and he had the first two-touchdown game of his career.
“Really felt good about that progress that we worked on with getting him kind of more foundationally set in doing some really, really good things for us offensively,” head coach Karl Dorrell said.
A bye last week gave CU a chance to step back and take a long look at the struggles. CU (2-4, 1-2 Pac-12) went into the bye on a four-game losing streak and the offense had scored just 34 points during the streak.
A first-year starter, Lewis threw for just 475 yards and two touchdowns – with two interceptions – in the first five games combined. The Buffs came into the week ranking 127th nationally (out of 130 teams) in pass efficiency and passing yards.
Dorrell has spent the first half of the season, however, trying to keep his young quarterback confident.
“My approach with that was to tell Brendon that it’s not all his fault, which it wasn’t,” Dorrell said. “Protection was bad and just things that we’re doing that it looks like he’s doing everything wrong and it wasn’t. Sometimes receivers weren’t open. So it was a number of things that we weren’t doing effectively to help him do his job.
“When I pointed those things out in front of a team setting, with everybody watching, they had a better understanding about, ‘I gotta do my job better.’”
They all did their jobs better on Saturday and Lewis in particular.
Although the offense didn’t get into the end zone until 1 minute, 42 seconds to play in the third quarter, Lewis led them on four scoring drives – the most for the offense since a Week 1 win against Northern Colorado.
“I was able to keep my head up because of the support that my teammates and my coaches have shown me throughout this adversity,” Lewis said. “But I feel like they really helped me and they’ve all had my back and helped me continue to grow.”
Lewis had a 31-yard pass to Brenden Rice on the second offensive snap of the game and that helped to set up a first-quarter field goal. In the second quarter, he scrambled, kept his eyes downfield and found wide-open running back Alex Fontenot for a 43-yard gain. That set up a second field goal.
In the third quarter, he hit Rice in stride for a 62-yard touchdown pass – the longest scoring play for the Buffs this season.
Then, in the fourth, he had an 18-yard pass to Rice and a 22-yarder to Montana Lemonious-Craig. Those helped to set up an 11-yard touchdown pass to Dimitri Stanley.
“We stood behind B-Lew,” Rice said. “We knew what we were capable of in the beginning of the season; we knew that we could be electric. So it was just a matter of time, like he said before we actually went out there and did our thing. We’ve just got to make plays and execute every day in and day out.”
While Arizona has now lost 18 in a row, Lewis enjoyed his best game against a Wildcats defense that came in allowing just 154.0 passing yards per game and had held opposing quarterbacks to a 55.1 completion percentage.
“I think this game really for me and the receivers, we trusted, we know we can do this,” Lewis said. “We know we can make plays; it’s just a matter of time. I think this game really is going to boost us through the rest of this season to continuously just make plays.”
Certainly, it wasn’t a perfect game for Lewis, but it was a major step forward and a confidence builder.
“I think his body of work today was pretty good, but he still held on to the ball a couple times today,” Dorrell said with a smile, “and I’ll remind him when I get into meetings with him. … He’ll tell you he’s very excited about the things that have happened today, no question, but there’s always a handful of things that we’re still going to try to shore up, we’re still going to try to clean up and fix as he moves forward.
“He made a huge step of progress and he should be rewarded for the hard work he’s put in these two weeks that showed today.”