June 22, 2024

BOULDER, Colo. — Colorado coach Deion Sanders said he had no regrets about making an offensive playcaller change before Saturday night’s 26-19 loss to No. 16 Oregon State, noting “a whole lot of intangibles” led to his decision.

Buffaloes analyst Pat Shurmur, the former coach of the NFL’s New York Giants and Cleveland Browns, took over playcalling duties and was elevated to co-offensive coordinator. Sean Lewis, who had called offensive plays for Colorado’s first eight games, remained in the co-coordinator role and worked with the quarterbacks while signaling in plays from the sideline. Tight ends coach Tim Brewster moved into an off-field role to make room for Shurmur as the 10th assistant.

Colorado’s offense struggled mightily through three quarters, producing just 78 yards and three offensive points, before surging in the fourth quarter for 160 yards and two touchdowns. After starting 3-0, the Buffaloes have dropped five of six games and are below .500 for the first time under Sanders.

“We’re not going to demean Sean Lewis, we’re not going to take that tone,” Sanders said. “Sean is a good man, I think he is a good playcaller. We just needed change at the time. We needed to try something else at the time, and that’s what we did. I don’t look back on it. I don’t second-guess myself whatsoever, because there’s more to it than what you may know.

“Let’s just trust the process.”

Sanders did not disclose details of what contributed to the change, although he said Shurmur and former NFL player Dennis Thurman, the team’s director of quality of control for defense, sit at his sides during staff meetings and have been trusted advisors throughout the season. Shurmur last served in a playcalling role as Denver Broncos offensive coordinator in 2021.

Under Lewis, Colorado scored 36 or more points in four of its first five games and averaged 500.3 yards in those four contests. The offense had been less productive in two of the past three games and produced only 16 points and 242 yards in last week’s loss at UCLA.

“I’m not going to disclose all my thoughts, man, my thoughts are my thoughts,” Sanders said. “Just know that I made the decision and I don’t stumble or stutter on it, and I’m not looking back. It is what it is, and that’s what it’s going to be. I make a decision to help this team win. You guys don’t know all the intangibles yet. You’re just looking from the outside of the crib, looking in.

“I got tinted windows and you can’t even see in the house, but you’re making conclusions on what I should and should not do.”

Lewis left his post as Kent State’s coach after five seasons and brought his up-tempo offense to Colorado under Sanders.

Quarterback Shedeur Sanders set a Colorado single-game team passing record (510 yards) in the season opener and rose to become one of the nation’s passing leaders, but he also repeatedly took sacks and hits as the offensive line struggled.

Sanders continued to take punishment against Oregon State, which recorded four sacks, three by linebacker Andrew Chatfield, and seven quarterback hurries. He briefly went to the locker room in the second half before returning to throw both touchdown passes and finish with 245 passing yards.

“What type of guy would I look like, leaving all 80 of us out there hanging?” Shedeur Sanders said. “It’s got to be life-or-death situation for me to just leave everybody hanging like that. The pain of not being there for them overrides the pain that’s going through my body.”

In the first half, Colorado benefited from two Oregon State fumbles, both inside the Beavers’ 30-yard line, but generated only 15 total yards on the ensuing possessions and scored just three points. Other than two pass interference calls, Colorado’s long gain in the first half was 11 yards, and the offense finished the half with 52 total yards (1.7 yards per play) and just 2 net yards in the second quarter. Shedeur Sanders finished with his lowest first-half passing total (41 yards) of the season.

The Buffaloes didn’t eclipse the 100-yard mark until early in the fourth quarter, when they strung together their first three plays of longer than 13 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown pass from Sanders to Travis Hunter.

“It’s not really a big change, you know, we’re all in this together,” Shedeur Sanders said of the playcaller switch, adding that he has no preference on who calls plays. “We use the same concepts, same everything, I mean, it’s football.”

Sanders, who got up slowly from the interview table after the game and appeared to be limping a bit, said that the “grit and pain” from the past six weeks will serve him and Colorado better in the long run. Deion Sanders praised his team for fighting back against Oregon State but acknowledged what the team has lost after its hot start.

Colorado must win two of its final three games — at home against Arizona and on the road against Washington State and Utah — to become bowl eligible.

“The passion of that first game, the passion of those [early] games, we’re missing that,” Deion Sanders said. “That’s something we’re trying to apprehend and locate.”

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