What good is a Louis Vuitton quarterback if his handles keep falling off?
“It’s a struggle to run the ball,” CU football coach Deion Sanders said after a 28-16 loss to UCLA inside a Rose Bowl with thorns, the Buffs’ fourth defeat in five games. “And we’ve got to figure that out, because now you’re one-dimensional. And it’s easy to stop a team when they’re one-dimensional and that’s who we are at this point in time.”
Shedeur Sanders, the coach’s son and the offense’s only hope, needed an injection for the pain at halftime, thanks to a bruising bunch of Bruins and seven sacks allowed. The kid wouldn’t need a shot if he wasn’t taking so dang many of them in the pocket, week after week.
Run the darn ball, Coach Prime. For your son’s sake, if nothing else.
From a play-calling front, the Buffs are too dang easy right now. CU’s playing checkers in a Pac-12 full of chess masters. Blitz Shedeur. Shadow Shedeur. Mash Shedeur. Rinse and repeat.
“He’s hurt,” the elder Sanders said of his QB1, who threw for 217 yards and a score even though the Bruins knew what was coming next. “He’s hurting everywhere. Trust me.”
Ease his pain. And his burden.
Mix it up. Go big or go home.
Yeah, yeah, we know. Worst offensive line in the free world. Papa Sanders spent at least a third of his postgame news conference looking for a bus big enough to chuck his hogmolies under.
When I asked Coach Prime if running the ball more might help Shedeur’s health, given the big picture, Sanders fired back quickly.
“The big picture? You go get new linemen,” Coach Prime replied. “That’s the picture. And I’m gonna paint it perfectly.”
That said, offensive coordinator Sean Lewis’ play-calling — against one of the top defensive units in the Pac-12, granted — was anything but a work of art.
During the first three quarters, in which the Buffs either led or were within a score of the offensively-challenged Bruins, CU ran 20 first-down plays. Only two were designed runs. Another two became rush plays on Shedeur scrambles — he netted 13 yards on one jaunt, one yard on another — while two more were sacks.
On second-and-4 or less through three quarters, the Buffs logged three snaps and called a designed run once. On third-and-four or less through three stanzas, CU had two shots … and threw twice.
In the red zone? Six plays. Zero designed runs. One sack, one scramble. Poor Dylan Edwards looked lonelier than the Rockies’ third base coach.
Look, we get Prime’s reluctance. To a point. Nationally, only Baylor (2.72), Arkansas (2.66) and BYU (2.60) entered last weekend averaging fewer yards per first-down run than CU’s 2.83. The Buffs were 105th in second-down rush attempts (82) and 125th in average yards per second-down carry (2.96).
It’s the “giving up” that drives you nuts.
The Buffs headed into UCLA tied for 99th nationally in rush attempts on third down and 3 yards or fewer (just 17) while converting on 13 of them (77%). As for throwing off third-and-3? CU hit Saturday night tied for seventh nationally in attempts (15) while managing a first down on eight of those tries.
“I think we committed to (the run) on first down, (and it become) second and 15,” Coach Prime stressed. “Those are the type of things you don’t want to do and get behind the 8-ball. First downs are so vital. First downs are everything. …
“And when we’re getting negative yards on first down, that’s a tremendous loss, because now you know you’re going to throw the ball on second down. And they’re calling their defenses pertaining to that loss.”
The Bruins are Iowa with a spray tan. UCLA’s already adopted a Big Ten West look a year before they join that league: Iffy quarterbacking, killer pass rush, punt to win. It was a sneak preview of that Utah matchup to come on Thanksgiving weekend. In all the wrong, physical, painful ways.
“Yeah, I’m a little banged up right now,” the younger Sanders admitted after the game. “But that’s just what happens after games … (when) you’re playing against tough opponents, a great rush, defensive (pass rush), that is what happens.”
It’s happening far, far too often.
Run the darned ball, Coach Prime. You can still showcase your kid with a fullback. Or two tight ends. Or a little play-action.
“The hardest thing to acquire is linemen,” the elder Sanders said. “When people have a good one, you rarely see linemen jump (into the transfer portal) and go to different schools. I think we have some guys that (are) gonna be good with a little seasoning. But overall, we just don’t have the fight or the passion to do what we want to do.”
Shedeur has the goods to carry a lot of things by himself. Just not a program. Not up this hill. Not in this conference.
“I’m a little biased because I’m his father, but I think we have the best quarterback in the country,” Prime said of Shedeur. “I don’t think any other quarterback could put up with it, stand and deliver like (he does) week-in and week-out and (while) taking the beating that he’s taking.”
No father wants that kind of baggage on his tab. And it’s awfully hard to win a Heisman if you’re too busy lying on your back.