The Colorado Buffaloes’ offensive struggles this season have led to a number of players lacking in production, but no one has had to shake off more dust than Buffs wide receiver Dusty Sprague.
Sprague led the team in catches the last season, grabbing 43 for 468 yards and one touchdown. During his redshirt freshman season two years ago, he played in 10 games, including an eight-catch, 101-yard effort against Texas A&M, making him only the second freshman in CU history to have a 100 yard game in their inaugural season.
This year, however, the Buffs offense has been struggling to find a rhythm, and Sprague has seen a more limited amount of action than he is accustomed to. He has only four catches for 35 yards through four games.
“Our offense is growing every day,” Sprague said about his struggles this season. “We are getting on the same page with the quarterbacks. You might have 10 catches one week and one the next. All that matters is that you are winning. If you don’t win, catches don’t mean anything.”
Head coach Dan Hawkins and the passing style of offense he ran at Boise State before coming to CU ranked 13th in the country, and receivers in that system got a lot of exposure. Buffs offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, however, has been forced to employ limited game plans for the offense due to the lack of experience with the system.
“We are continuing to grow every day,” Helfrich said. “We want to get Dusty the ball as much as we can, because he is an outstanding player, but we have to get on the same page before we can do that. We are getting there.”
Sprague did get in the end zone in the Buffs’ last game against Georgia, only to have the points taken off the board due to a false-start penalty on the play.
“It’s upsetting to have that one taken back,” Sprague said. “You don’t get there very often, and it would have been a huge boost for the team in that game. You want to take advantage of all the opportunities you get.”
The quarterback situation for the Buffs has been somewhat unsettled, with junior Bernard Jackson taking over the starting duties after the first game of the season. Sprague said the quarterback shuffle has not had an adverse affect on his play.
“You can always point at things and find something, but your play is really put on yourself,” Sprague said. “How you come out every day – take advantage of opportunities you get – defines your game.”
Jackson and Sprague joined CU in the same recruiting class in 2003, so the two are comfortable with one another. According to Jackson, it is just a matter of getting comfortable with the offense.
“We want to get everybody involved,” Jackson said. “The more comfortable we get with the system and the better we execute, we will be that much better.”
Sprague said he is pleased with the way Jackson and the offense are progressing.
“Bernard is playing with a lot more confidence and starting to sling the ball around,” Sprague said. “Hopefully, we can just get better as an offense and grow as he grows.”
The Buffs have lost eight games in a row dating back to November of last season. The team begins their Big 12 conference play this week against Missouri, and winning the Big 12 North is still a possibility for the team.
“I’m tired of losing,” Sprague said. “I want to sing that fight song after a win, and I want to sweep it and win the Big 12 North and retain our title. We can still do all those things.”