A sudden resurgence by the Colorado offense has been fueled by freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis.
Head coach Karl Dorrell is, of course, pleased with the progress of Lewis, but said there is still much more room for growth as the Buffs (3-6, 2-4 Pac-12) prepare to face UCLA (5-4, 3-3) on Saturday in Los Angeles (7 p.m., TV: Pac-12 Network).
“(The game) has slowed down some, where you’re seeing a lot of improvement from him in the passing game,” Dorrell said. “We’re still leaving some offense out there. We’re still leaving some things. So he’s not seeing everything in the way that we would want him to, but he’s come big, huge gaps and milestones from where he was at the start of the season. He’s definitely grown so much.”
Through the first seven games, Lewis had thrown four touchdown passes and three interceptions and had a passer rating of 113.28. In the last two games, he’s had six TDs, no interceptions and a 162.98 rating.
“He is confident and we’re going to continue to bring progress for him as he moves forward,” Dorrell said. “But we’ve had some opportunities, even in (Saturday’s 37-34 double overtime win against Oregon State) to really put more points on the board and we just missed those opportunities by not seeing it. So he’s still learning.”
Dorrell then emphasized, “We’re very pleased. I want you guys to know we’re very pleased with where he’s going, but he’s still growing.”
Like old times
When Mustafa Johnson, who earned a waiver to return to CU after declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft, was reinstated on Oct. 2, it reunited a defensive line that’s played a lot of football together.
For the past four weeks, Johnson, Jalen Sami and Terrance Lang have started up front – as they’ve done for much of the previous two seasons.
“It’s just (bringing back) memories, especially with us three: me, T-Lang and Mustafa,” Sami said. “We’ve been here for years. Missing him the first four games and then he came back for (USC). He was a little rusty, but now we’re all starting to get into it and trying to play our best football in November.”
Johnson and Sami, in particular, have excelled next to each other. Johnson had four tackles, a tackle for loss and three quarterback hurries against Oregon State on Saturday, while Sami had two tackles, both for zero yards.
“With me and him, we always communicate,” Sami said. “Having that expertise and the relationship we have, the connection that we have, we know that we just want to make each other right. If you win you win, and I’ll cover you. Everything is just a natural game for us. We over-communicate so we can all be on the same page. It’s been definitely a good thing (to have Johnson back) because this is what I’ve had for the past three years with him. I’m just looking forward to the rest of this season and we’ll see how it goes from there.”
Prepping for the Buffs
UCLA is coming off a bye, so the Bruins have had plenty of time to prepare for the Buffs. Head coach Chip Kelly sees a CU team that is improving.
“I think offensively the quarterback has started to play really well for them,” Kelly said. “He’s a very athletic kid that can run around. They’re running the ball right now. They’ve got an explosive receiver in Rice that they’ve taken advantage of some play-action passes and had some big plays.
“It’s been an interesting year for them. … It’s a good team that had come up on the short end a couple times early in the year but they’re starting to kind of figure it out. It’s like any game in this league. I think anybody can beat anybody in this league and you’ve got to be prepared.”
Asked specifically about running back Jarek Broussard, who had 151 yards on Saturday, Kelly said, “There are some good backs in this league and he’s one of the top guys.”