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Colorado football: Buffs’ offense showing progress…in practice

Coaches gaining confidence in passing game after rough start to season

Air Force cornerback Eian Castonguay, front, breaks up a pass intended for Colorado wide receiver Jordyn Tyson in the first half of their game Saturday at Falcon Stadium. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Air Force cornerback Eian Castonguay, front, breaks up a pass intended for Colorado wide receiver Jordyn Tyson in the first half of their game Saturday at Falcon Stadium. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The quarterbacks are battling. The receivers are working extra hard. The offensive line is putting its work in, too.

After two dismal performances on offense to open the season, the Colorado Buffaloes are doing all they can fix their issues. The true test will come when the Buffs get on the field at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Saturday against Minnesota (1:30 p.m., ESPN2). But, three days into the work week, there are encouraging signs, according to coaches.

“We’ve had really good practices,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said Wednesday. “The details are heightened, the execution has been heightened.”

Defensively, the Buffs have allowed 79 points and they rank last in the country against the run. But, that group has also put CU in position to win games and the numbers on defense might not look so bad if the offense was on track.

Using two different quarterbacks, the Buffs (0-2) have managed just 23 points, including a late touchdown that didn’t do anything but make the score look a little more respectable in a 38-13 loss to TCU in the opener.

Dorrell and receivers coach Phil McGeoghan have both seen a different level of success in practice so far this week.

“I’m more confident (in the offense stepping up) because of the areas that they’re working and improving; you can see that,” Dorrell said. “Our practices have been fairly efficient regardless, but you can see the heightened awareness about really trying to hit every pass in team periods and things like that. So I’m encouraged with how their antennas are up higher and with more urgency about learning and getting things cleaned up.

“When your quarterback is playing well, that gives a chance for everybody to play well, and they understand that and I think they’ve taken that to heart and are really working hard.”

The quarterbacks, Brendon Lewis and JT Shrout, continue to battle for the starting job. Lewis started the opener, while Shrout played the entire game in Saturday’s 41-10 loss at Air Force.

Dorrell challenged both this week as he looks for someone to separate. Lewis and Shrout have split first-team reps this week, as they’ve done for the past couple of months.

“They’re both trying to make their point right now, which is what you need,” Dorrell said. “You need those guys to continue to press the envelope, which is in front of them so that the offense can get better when they get better.”

McGeoghan’s group has a sense of urgency, too.

In the loss to Air Force, the receivers had several costly drops. The rainy weather was a factor, as it made the synthetic gloves worn by the receivers too slick. That led to the group taking the gloves off, but it wasn’t a good day overall for the passing game.

“It’s difficult (to catch the ball in rain), but I’ve seen it done a lot of times,” McGeoghan said. “I’ve been a part of doing it well a lot of times and I was a part of doing it not so well this time. It’s been like that before with NFL players.

“There really isn’t any magic glove to catch the ball in the rain. It’s your eyes and your hands and you have to narrow your frame…you’ve got to just lock in and catch the football and look it into the frame and you really have to have heightened awareness and situational awareness when you’re dealing with those conditions – and they’re gonna happen again.”

Rain or not – there is a slight chance of showers in Minneapolis on Saturday – McGeoghan said his receivers are locking in this week and he shares Dorrell’s confidence that the offense will play better.

“I’m frustrated we (haven’t) shown the progress that we’re making in the pass game,” McGeoghan said. “We will show it and I think that’s where our resolve and our collective resolve, we have to just focus on the things that we know. We had a great day of practice today and yesterday. We feel good about our plan going forward and I’m confident in our players.

“I want them to have some success in throwing and catching and timing and then have fun making plays. What happens right now is you start to press and you’re trying to make every play, trying to score 21 points on one play…let’s catch the ball, let’s get a first down and then let’s start systematically moving the ball down the field and let’s obviously score touchdowns. Just settle in and play.”