To say Colorado’s offense has struggled the past two weeks would be an understatement. The same unit that averaged 37.8 PPG through their first five wins of the season, put up 20 points against USC - many of which came during garbage time, and just 13 against the 15th ranked Washington Huskies.
Part of their struggles can be attributed to the injury of receiver Laviska Shenault, who missed last week’s game with turf toe. With Shenault out, the receivers recorded just 94 receiving yards and one touchdown. Freshman Daniel Arias and Dimitri Stanley also had their first starts and meaningful snaps at wideout. But despite their lack of experience and production in their starting debuts, quarterback Steven Montez has confidence in their ability in Shenault’s absence.
“Everybody in the room knowns that Laviska is one of the best receivers in the country, if not one of the best athletes as well,” Montez said. “When he’s not on the field obviously it’s not good for us, but we’ve got some young guys that can come in an make plays and execute while he’s out.”
Despite the lack of explosiveness on offense most of the day Saturday, there was a glimpse of hope when Montez connected with Arias for his first career reception on a 37-yard touchdown catch on the team’s opening drive. However, Arias was silent the rest of the afternoon while the offense was unable to get in rhythm.
Although the receivers deserve some blame for struggling to gain separation, some accountability rests on Montez’s shoulders. While he made strides early in the season in his mechanics and going through his progressions - something that allowed him to spread the ball around to a number of different receivers, the junior has regressed a bit in the team’s last two games.
Rather than focusing on finding his most open read right away, getting the ball out of his hand quickly, and putting his weapons in a prime position to make plays, he’s reverted back to 2017 panicky form staring down his number one read before the play breaks down.
But the second year starter is willing to identify his struggles head on, while seeking improvement in the near future.
“Getting through progressions is one of the areas that I really need to improve on right now - and it needs to improve quick,” he said. “Just not getting stuck on the primary, and just getting all the way through from primary to our third, fourth read. We’ve been working on that in practice, and it’s getting better.”
Even after two disappointing performances, the offense has no time or reason to hang their head. For one they were able to stay in the game against two elite defenses on the road. More importantly, Utah beat USC last weekend, meaning CU is still square in the mix to win the Pac-12 South. Sitting at 5-2, the Buffs are also one win away from clinching a bowl berth.
No matter how one views the situation, the team still has a ton to play for in their final five games. Which is why it’s important for Montez and the rest of the offense to learn from their mistakes, embrace adversity, put the two losses in the rear view mirror, and most importantly move forward in what could turn out to be a program defining stretch run. Regardless of recent performance, the offense has all the playmakers and tools to get back in a big way against a OSU defense that ranks last in the conference.