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CU@Game CU At The Game: 2015 Grades – Offense

Discussion in 'CU Buffs Newsroom' started by RSSBot, Dec 11, 2015.

  1. RSSBot

    RSSBot News Junkie

    Jul 8, 2005
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    2015 Grades – Offense

    With Colorado’s 4-9, 1-8 record now relegated to the history books, and with (some) of the emotion of yet another close season-ending loss to Utah subsiding, it’s time to take a look at how the different units on the team performed this fall.

    The standard applied looks not only at the raw numbers produced, but how those numbers match up with the expectations we had for those units when the season opened in September. It is also worth noting that no player or unit operates in a vacuum … a great running back can take a great deal of pressure off of a quarterback, while a sieve of an offensive line can leave the best quarterback in the country running for his life.


    In his sophomore campaign in 2014, Sefo Liufau set or tied a total of 51 school records. He set season marks for all major categories: attempts (498), completions (325), passing yards (3,200) and touchdowns (28), with total offense records of plays (567) and yards (3,336).

    While Buff fans were not necessarily looking for a repeat performance in 2015, there were expectations of maturation. Liufau’s 28 touchdown passes in 2014 were mitigated by his 15 interceptions. There were concerns about his abilities on certain throws and his decision making. And then there was, of course, the lack of any victories in Pac-12 play.

    In 2015, the Buff Nation got improvement from Liufau in one category … he only threw six interceptions. Otherwise, it was a mixed bag from Liufau. Before being injured late in the season, Liufau threw for 2,418 yards and nine touchdowns, and led CU to all four of its victories. Yet, once again, the important “over-the-hump” victory eluded him.

    Liufau’s replacement for much of the final three games of the season was Cade Apsay. There is a saying that there is no more popular player on the team than the backup quarterback, and Apsay certainly fit the bill. Problem is, when Apsay got his chance, he did not prove to be able to produce the break-through win for the Buffs, either.

    Apsay went 59-for-92 for 582 yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions in his three games behind center before also being injured. Jordan Gehrke came in in relief of Apsay in the finale against Utah, going 11-for-20 for 113 yards against the Utes, with one touchdown and one interception in the Buffs’ last failed comeback attempt of 2015.

    Overall, the passing numbers equate to CU’s success – or lack thereof – on the field:

    Colorado went from 19th in the nation in passing in 2014 (286.4 yds/game) to 48th (240.6 yds/game).

    As noted above, CU’s failures to win more games cannot be isolated to one position, but it is safe to say that the Buffs and their fans expected more from the quarterback position in 2015.

    Grade … C-.

    Running backs

    In pure numbers, the Colorado offense got as much out of its rushing attack in 2015 as it did in 2014.

    In 2014, the Buffs ran for 154.6 yards per game.

    In 2015, the Buffs ran for 156.2 yards per game.

    Then why does this fall’s results feel like such a disappointment?

    The previous three seasons, Christian Powell led the team in rushing. This fall, it was felt that Powell – or one of his compatriots – would have a break out campaign. The offensive line was deeper and more experienced, and the Liufau/Spruce connection was still on the roster.

    Instead, the Buff rushing attack failed to dominate. Take away the 390 rushing yards against UMass and the 358 rushing yards against Nicholls, and you are left with a team which averaged 116.6 yards per game in its other 11 games … which would have ranked CU 118th in the nation, ahead of only Washington State (a team indifferent to running the ball) in the Pac-12.

    Phillip Lindsay led the team in rushing, with 653 yards and six touchdowns. Lindsay is a popular player with the Buff Nation, but that has much to do with his outspoken leadership as his ability to strike fear into the hearts and minds of opposing defenses.

    Bottom line … when CU was 4-5 at the end of October, and still fighting for a chance at a bowl bid, the CU rushing attack ceased to exist. In November, the Buffs produced rushing “attacks” of 83 yards, 59 yards, 85 yards, and 49 yards.


    That is not getting it done.

    Grade … D+.

    Wide Receivers / Tight Ends

    Like quarterback Sefo Liufau, wide receiver Nelson Spruce had a banner year in 2014. Spruce set or tied 31 school records, and was a semi-finalist for the Biletnikoff Award.

    This fall, Spruce was to set a slew of new records … and he did.

    But he did not have the year Buff fans were hoping for.

    Spruce leaves Colorado with 43 school records, a list which almost every significant CU mark associated with the position: most touchdown catches in a game, season and career (3, 12, 23); most receptions in a game, season and career (19, 106, 294); and most receiving yards in a career (3,347).

    He’s also the all-time Pac-12 leader in career receptions (294), is tied for the conference record for most catches in a game (19), is eighth in all-time Pac-12 receiving yards (3,347) and is a two-time second team all-Pac-12 selection.

    He also leaves town with only a handful of Pac-12 victories.

    Shay Fields was supposed to take some of the pressure off of Spruce this fall, and, when healthy, he did. Despite being hampered with injuries the second half of the Pac-12 campaign, Fields production closely matched that of last season (2014: 50 catches for 486 yards and four touchdowns; 2015: 42 catches for 598 yards and four touchdowns).

    After Fields, however, there was again a significant drop-off in wide receiver production. While Devin Ross (25 catches, 324 yards, two touchdowns), Bryce Bobo (24 catches, 207 yards) and Donovan Lee (26 catches, 128 yards) had their moments, none caught the imagination of the Buff Nation … or the attention of opposing defensive coordinators.

    And did we mention that Colorado has pass catching tight ends?

    You will be forgiven if you have positive memories of Sean Irwin, Dylan Keeney and George Frazier making plays this fall. There were moments – a combined total of 27 catches for 350 yards and one touchdown – but, as Frank Sinatra would say, “too few to mention”.

    Grade … C-.

    Offensive Line


    Where do we start?

    Perhaps the bookend losses at the start and the end of the season best summarize the Buffs’ offensive line woes.

    Against Hawai’i in the opener, the Buffs finished with two scores in four red-zone opportunities, with Sefo Liufau being sacked four times in a 28-20 loss.

    Against Utah in the finale, the Buffs finished with one score in three red-zone opportunities, with Buff quarterbacks being sacked six times in a 20-14 loss.

    Colorado finished the 2015 season 120th (out of 127 teams) in red zone offense, and 116th in sacks allowed. Had the Buffs been even marginally successful in those categories this fall, the Buffs and their fans would be preparing for a bowl game right now.

    True enough, the offensive woes cannot all be laid at the feet of the offensive line, but the success of the offense begins and ends with the play of the line.

    Is it possible that the loss of left tackle Jeromy Irwin, who suffered a torn ACL in the second game of the season, was the most significant personnel loss of the year? The loss of Irwin first brought sophomore Sam Kronshage onto the field for his first career start, coming in at the all-important left tackle position. Later, when Kronshage was unable to handle the role, Stephane Nembot over from his right tackle position. When Nembot moved over to left tackle, red-shirt freshman John Lisella made his first career start at right tackle.

    And so on … and so on …

    In all, the Buffs used nine different offensive line combinations in 2015, and none proved effective. In addition to the first career starts by Kronshage and Lisella, Shane Callahan (v. Oregon State) and Sully Wiefels (v. Stanford) were also placed into starting lineups for the first time in their careers.

    The CU offensive line loses only Nembot to graduation, so the 2016 offensive line will return a number of players with starting experience.

    … It just that they weren’t supposed to be that “experienced” just yet.

    Grade … D.


    Colorado finished the 2014 season with a 2-10 record, with an offense which was 10th in the Pac-12 conference and 64th in the nation in scoring, at 28.5 points per game. Record-setters Sefo Liufau and Nelson Spruce were back, along with almost every receiver except Tyler McCulloch and every running back except Tony Jones.

    Improvement on 2014 numbers were not an unrealistic expectation.

    Instead, the Colorado offense regressed considerably.

    The Buffs finished the 2015 campaign averaging 24.6 points per game, 97th in the nation, ahead of only Oregon State in the Pac-12.

    The Colorado defense made significant strides this fall, with the per game scoring average dropping from 39.0 points per game to 27.5.

    The final tally in the only numbers that matter – 4-9, 1-8 – therefore, must rest with the unit which did not progress in 2015.

    Grade … D+.


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  2. Bufffan68

    Bufffan68 Club Member Club Member

    Sep 8, 2014
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    All fair grades. And if Lindgren isn't sent packing I will disappointed.

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