Pat Shurmur’s offense made me fall asleep twice. And it definitely wasn’t because of the 8:15 kickoff, and totally not because of any rumored second beer at 9:00. It was Pat Shurmur’s offense that lulled me sleep.
If Colorado is in the business of blaming coordinators for their struggles, why can’t we? Play-calling controversies are usually symptomatic of much larger issues, but still – when the hot-shot offensive guru gets demoted for an offensive analyst/legacy consultant 32 hours before kickoff, people are gonna talk. This season has been a lot of things, but boring isn’t one of them. If anything, this was par for the course.
I’m not totally sold that Shurmur’s ideas – which, let’s remember, he had like 36 hours to implement – will all be duds because CU got worked by one of the more physical defensive fronts in the Pac-12. But I’m not blaming anyone for feeling underwhelmed either. Saturday night’s numbers aren’t pretty: the offense averaged more than a yard less per play than usual, and their 17 offensive points were way lower than the season average of 30. That also gives Colorado a lot of credit for scoring 14 of those 17 points in the 4th when the Beavs were up by three scores. Remember when this season was fun?
It seems like we should all remind ourselves that the Buffs offense is supposed to be prolific. In his best season as the head coach at Kent State, Lewis’ offenses led the FBS in yards per game (606!) while scoring almost 50 points per game. Everywhere he’s gone, his offenses have been highly efficient, explosive and fun. They’ve also been fairly successful, which feels important.
The hire made sense, and for the most part, seemed like it was working. Shedeur Sanders and Travis Hunters were the headliners, but other guys were having huge years too: Xavier Weaver currently has the 21st-most receiving yards in the FCS, and Jimmy Horn Jr’s already set career highs in receptions and touchdowns.
They couldn’t run the ball or really block at all on Saturday night, but that’s nothing new. What’s more concerning, and the reason why Shurmur’s first eye test felt so worrisome, is that they couldn’t even do the stuff they’re good at. He made the Buffs look boring.
There just weren’t a whole lot of inspiring ideas on the field Saturday night – nothing, at least, that made it obvious why it was a change that needed to be made. Putting up 52 yards of offense in the first half of your debut is a tough look, and their clock management – especially at the very end of the half – was, gently put, embarrassing.
Getting the running backs more involved as pass catchers was the glaring fix, although trying an offense of only swing passes seems like a practice thing. The quick throws made plenty of sense, but that doesn’t seem like something you need Shurmur to accomplish? I don’t know what Sander’s average aDOT is this year, but I bet Saturday night lowered it.
That was, to me, the biggest difference: it just didn’t feel like the Buffs were attacking the defense with the same ruthlessness that they normally do, or at least try to. Sanders’ two longest passes of the night – a 40-yard completion to Travis Hunter and a 36-yarder to Xavier Weaver – came on the Buffs’ final two drives of the game, both of which ended in touchdowns. Weird!
Shurmur’s not the long term answer, and putting aside the fact that reinstating Lewis as OC after one game would be the type of juicy disaster that the team only needs to avoid for three more weeks, I do actually agree with the argument. Shurmur’s experience with line play is, in theory, useful.
The problem, of course, is that the disaster that is CU’s line is way past needing theoretically-useful coaching. If they were going to get any better this season, they would have. There is no real scheme fix or coaching point that can help a unit which has allowed an average of five sacks per game for 10 weeks. And even if there was, I don’t think it’s coming from someone on this current coaching staff.
The Buffs’ offense is broken, and that’s not something that gets fixed by letting Shurmur give it a try for the last month of the season. Hopefully they can recruit offensive coordinators well too.