Through their first five games the Buffaloes looked like the offensive powerhouse of the Pac-12. Colorado ranked fourth in the conference in passing yards, and fifth in rushing. Led by star wide receiver Laviska Shenault and bell cow running back Travon McMillan, they were seemingly unstoppable in either dimension of their game.
But against USC, the offense struggled to get anything going, scoring a mere seven points before the Trojans entered their prevent defense in the fourth quarter. The primary reason Colorado struggled was the ineffectiveness of the plays that have allowed them to establish an identity on offense: jet sweeps, bubble screens, quick slants, hard nose between-the-tackles runs. When they weren’t able to pick up yards with any of those, their offense completely stalled.
The most concerning aspect of Saturday’s performance was how offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini seemingly lacked diversity in his play calling and was unable to adapt on the fly or stray away from gameplan to find ways to move the ball. However, he was willing to take accountability for his poor play calling, and the offense’s struggles.
“I did a terrible job,” Chiaverini said. “I know how this game works and when we don’t play well, it’s on me. When we play well it’s on me. I have no problem saying I have to do a better job and I’ll do a better job getting the ball to our kids and giving us a better plan.”
The main problem all night was that once USC shut down the Colorado preliminary batch of plays, they had no bluff to call. But thankfully for Buffs fans, Chiaverini wasn’t shy in admitting that he struggled to abandon his comfort zone and typical playbook. In doing so, he acknowledged that the team needed both more plays and greater diversity, as well as a more open mind about how to attack the defense.
“If we’re getting stuffed and things aren’t working, then we’ve got to look other ways to run and maybe do some other things.”
Through the struggles, we’ve learned a lot about Chiaverini’s true colors. Unlike a lot of coaches around the league who repeadedly throw their players under the bus, he was willing to step up and take the blame for his unit’s struggles.
This speaks volumes about the rookie play caller’s character and leadership within the team. He trusts the offense’s playmaking ability, has their back through thick-and-thin, and most importantly holds himself accountable for maximizing their production. Additionally, he seems more than willing to put the previous game out of his memory and move on to the second half of the season at full speed ahead.
As CU seeks improvement, Chiaverini will have to make adjustments quickly. Not only will the team likely be without their biggest playmaker in Shenault, but they’re going up against a Washington Huskies defense on the road that is among the best in the country. The Huskies have had Colorado’s number since the 2016 Pac-12 championship game, outscoring them 78-20 in two contests.
Despite the team’s underwhelming performance on Saturday, and their struggle to score points against the Huskies in previous meetings, the legendary Buffs wide receiver hasn’t shied away from his aggressive nature or competitive spirit.
“It doesn’t hurt my feelings when someone calls me a bad name or says I’m not very good. I’m going to go out there and and still do what we do. We’ll be aggressive. You have to love the challenge [of playing Washington]. If you’re scared you’re in the wrong business; you’ve got to have the mindset that you’re going to compete.”