Editor’s note: The following is a Q&A between Maria Khan, football beat reporter at The Daily Californian, and Logan Standard, sports editor of the CU Independent. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Maria Khan: Before last weekend, both Colorado and Cal were sitting at 1-4 overall, which is not so great, especially seeing that the Buffaloes had given up at least 30 points in each of their last three games. If you could attribute these losses to a singular fault, what would it be?
Logan Standard: We are having major issues with moving our offense: poor play-calling, running at bad times — just not a great choice. The coaches were talking about changing that offensive play-calling — moving it to someone else to try and get something moving. Our defense has been OK, so I don’t think that’s the issue. It’s the play-calling issues on offense that make it difficult to move the ball.
MK: Losing 30-0 to Minnesota can be exemplary of a lackluster defense or perhaps a stingy offense, yet many have been quick to criticize the Buffs’ D-line. Talk about your defense.
LS: Minnesota is our worst showing of the season, both defensively and offensively. The D-line has been more of an issue than other aspects of the defense. I know the Texas A&M game was a good showing for our defense, and we were able to hold the team to just 10 points. That has a similar issue with the play-calling. The opponent made a difference, but the confidence coming out of that 10-7 loss against Texas A&M was a bit cocky. Going into the game against Minnesota on that defensive aspect, you could say they weren’t really prepared for the run game. That was a major issue. In my opinion, when our defense is strong, it is very strong. But when it is lackluster, it’s very poor. It gets down on itself very quickly and allows runners, like tailbacks, to sneak through.
MK: If there is something that could put Colorado on top of Cal, what would it be?
LS: What would put the Buffs over Cal, or pretty much anybody, would be the offensive performance. Our starting quarterback, Brendon Lewis, is a freshman and needs to get some work in the pocket, be willing to make those big throws and have better play-calling. The offense is what’s going to make or break that game and every other game this season.
MK: Talk about Lewis. You mentioned that he is a freshman — it’s unusual to see a player that young starting.
LS: It’s good that they’ve given him an opportunity. It is disappointing that our transfer from Tennessee, who is a sophomore this year, got injured before the season even started. J.T. Shrout would have provided a big difference for our offense, based on what the coaches have said that they’ve seen in the short time that he could play before his injury. But I am glad that they’re giving Lewis an opportunity. They should open that up to somebody else at this point because, since that Week 1 win against Northern Colorado, he hasn’t shown a whole lot. Last week wasn’t horrendous, but he is not consistently throwing touchdowns or any long passes. He needs to gain more confidence before he takes on that full starter role by himself.
MK: Seeing Cal’s lacking record, what do you expect from the Bears going into this game?
LS: It’s going to be a really good game — I’m excited to watch it. Colorado and Cal are similar in a lot of aspects, specifically in their records and their poor performances thus far. I do not think either is a bad team; they both just have a lot to work on to improve. It will be a well-matched game that a lot of fans are going to be really excited to watch.
MK: There has been consistent chatter regarding your offense and trying to get it “locked in.” Some would like coaches fired or a change in the starting quarterback. What could bring the offense together?
LS: A change in quarterback would be a massive difference, even if it isn’t a whole new starter. Maybe start with Lewis, and switch over to a new quarterback later in the game. We have freshmen who could use the plays and opportunities. Also, a change in play-calling. I do not believe that anybody needs to be fired. Everyone is good at their job, but at this time, it’s just not clicking. There is a key missing aspect that just needs to get locked in place before the offense can drive.
MK: How are the losses affecting team morale?
LS: I have talked to a few players who still have very high hopes. They think that the season will progress upward from here on out. At the end of games, there has been a lot of disappointment. I talked to Lewis, and he is not happy with how he’s playing. He’s aware of his own issues. A couple of other players are aware of their issues as well. There’s some frustration, but I don’t think anybody’s given up. If anything, they’re becoming more motivated to succeed.
MK: Who would you call Colorado’s best player? Or the one who can give Cal the most trouble?
LS: We have a couple of strong players on both offense and defense. Offensively, I would say our strength right now, especially if we can really get him on the ground moving, is Jarek Broussard. He is agile, fast and has a great run game, and our offensive line has not allowed him a lot of great runs this season. He’s had a few but not nearly as many as he did last season. So I would say he is our offensive star. Nate Landman is very talented. He’s consistently strong on defense, but he does need more practice and a bit more confidence in this season, given that he has had some tough matchups.
MK: Carson Lee, who was recently charged with felony assault, is still on the team. How is that affecting the players and the overall atmosphere on the field? Does it have the potential to throw off a few plays?
LS: That’s something we’re going to find out. There may be some rumors and frustration within the locker room, but knowing the Buffs, I don’t believe it’s going to mess up their play. They’ve had a couple of weeks to adjust to his absence. That’s a tough scenario because obviously it’s not a position that any coach or program wants to be put in, where they have a player get themselves in trouble like that. They’ll be strong and know that they need to work with whomever they have on the field.
MK: This game might be both teams playing reflections of each other, seeing as both defensive and offensive lines are not “doing their jobs.” What similarities do you see between Cal and Colorado?
LS: I agree. Most teams in the Pac-12 that are struggling right now have the same issue. We can talk about struggling quarterbacks all day long. But realistically, if the offensive line and the defensive line are doing their jobs, even if the quarterback is struggling, you can still have big runs. There is the opportunity to win when they do their jobs. Since both Cal and Colorado have been lacking in those categories, that is the outstanding similarity that I see between the two.
MK: What is your final score prediction?
LS: This game will be determined by one score. Whether it’s a field goal or a touchdown, I don’t think it’ll be a blowout on either side. And I’m guessing it’s going to be a lot of back-and-forth action. I would guess maybe somewhere in the 20s, 28-21. It could go either way. It’s a game that fans are not going to want to miss.
Maria Khan covers football. Contact her at [email protected].