BERKELEY, Calif. – Late in the first quarter on Saturday, the Colorado offense marched into California territory, looking to get on the scoreboard for the first time.
Then, the Buffaloes moved backward. A running play for a 1-yard loss was followed by quarterback Brendon Lewis being sacked on consecutive plays. CU punted on fourth-and-20.
While it was just three plays, that sequence was a microcosm of the type of day CU had in the trenches. Once again, the Buffs’ offensive line struggled, getting manhandled in a 26-3 loss to Cal at Memorial Stadium.
Cal controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in the first half but was particularly dominant against CU’s porous offensive line.
“In the first half, we couldn’t quite figure them out what they were doing against us on our defense,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell. “Then we couldn’t quite get much continuity going on the offensive side to sustain some drives and make some plays.”
The defense figured things out in the second half, but the offense did not, and that process has been a season-long struggle.
On Saturday, the Buffs gave up six quarterback sacks to a Cal defense that had managed only 10 all season. Sack numbers figure into rushing stats, but the Buffs couldn’t do much when trying to run the ball, either. They finished with 35 rushing yards on 28 attempts – a remarkable number when considering they had 40 yards on their first five attempts. That would add up to minus-5 on the last 23 attempts.
The struggles up front are baffling to Dorrell.
“Can’t quite put a finger on that,” he said when asked why the line is not playing well. “I’m trying to figure that out and we’re going to have to really look at that and see what’s going on there but we’ve had some issues up front.”
That’s an understatement.
Under the direction of second-year offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue, the Buffs have had a rough season up front. They’ve now given up 22 sacks and have been one of the worst rushing teams in the Pac-12. Coming into the weekend, CU ranked 10th in the Pac-12 with 3.53 yards per carrying, but that number is now down to 3.29.
“I figured that at this point in time we should have some of those things cleared up but apparently we’re still struggling with doing some things,” Dorrell said. “We’ve got to go back and really analyze what our issues are and try to get those things fixed in a hurry.”
The struggles are particularly surprising considering the Buffs’ experience. Although they lost left tackle William Sherman to the NFL after last season, the rest of the line returned.
Left tackle Jake Wiley is a new starter, but left guard Kary Kutsch, center Colby Pursell, right guard Casey Roddick and right tackle Frank Fillip are all veterans with starting experience before this year.
“There has been a lot of guys that have played a lot of football up front, but it’s hard to put a finger on it. It really is,” Dorrell said. “I wish I had the remedy to fix it. We’ll figure that out. I think that’s what we’re gonna have to do as coaches and try to figure out what are our issues and try to get that thing shored up as quickly as we can so that we can get back to hopefully playing some productive football.”