Eric Bieniemy has been in his role as Colorado's offensive coordinator for a season and a half, or 19 games. He concedes he's faced a learning curve in his new job, but he won't concede it is steeper than he can handle.
"Has there been a learning curve? Yes. Is it something that's a huge learning curve? No. You know what I mean? It's not a difficult one," Bieniemy said Monday, taking a break for a Q&A session with CUBuffs.com as he and his offensive staff continued preparations for Saturday's game at No. 11 Southern California.
Bieniemy contended being an offensive coordinator is "not as scientific as a lot of people would like to make it out to be. It comes down to X's and O's."
But the X's and O's - as well as the W's - have eluded the Buffaloes. In a 1-5 start to Jon Embree's second season, CU is still searching for the strong running game and balanced offense that Bieniemy and Embree said would be their trademark.
This week's Pac-12 Conference statistics show CU at No. 10 in both rushing offense (110.8 yards a game) and total offense (327.3 yards). The Buffs are ninth in passing offense (216.5 yards) and last in scoring (20.8 points a game).
The "EB" Q&A:
CUBuffs.com: You're in your second year with this . . . do you feel like when you came into this there was a big learning curve as far as being a coordinator?
Bieniemy: "Yes and no . . . yes there is because first and foremost you're overseeing the entire offense. Secondly, calling plays obviously was something I hadn't done. But other than that, football is football. That's when certain positions and certain titles can become overrated. At the end of the day, we all collectively have to coach our guys and we've all got to be on the same page . . . we've got to make sure we're putting our guys in the right situations to be successful."
CUBuffs.com: Do you feel like every day, every game is still a learning experience for you?
Bieniemy: "It has been, but after doing it - and I haven't done it for years - but after doing it you find your rhythm. The thing is, after doing all the studying and preparation you do during the course of the week that helps you. You have so much time to figure teams out and they're going to do what they do. It's not like they're going to reinvent the wheel; if they're great at it they're going to do what they do. They thing is, we've got to do what we do and be better than how well they execute their scheme."
CUBuffs.com: Jon said following the Arizona State loss (51-14 last Thursday night) that he would have a conversation with you and your coaches on offensive improvement. Has that conversation taken place?
Bieniemy: "Yes . . . at the end of the day, it just comes down to us executing. We play pretty good football for a half. We come out in the second half, we get a good drive going and then all of a sudden we just don't execute. One thing we cannot do is be our own enemy. Like I've said before, I'd like to see a game where we stop shooting ourselves in the foot . . . that's basically what it comes down to. We've got to keep coaching the details more and more. But also, too, we have to make sure our players keep understanding the importance of accountability, understanding that we only have 'X' amount of opportunities to make something happen."
CUBuffs.com: Are you saying this offense practically has to be error-free to be efficient?
Bieniemy: "You hate to say perfect, but the thing is . . . let's just put it this way: If we physically get beat on a play, that's fine. But when we don't do it right, that's an issue. You know what I mean? We're scaling everything down, so we've got to be much better than we are."
CUBuffs.com: Have you scaled back things even further than you did several weeks ago?
Bieniemy: "Oh, yeah."
CUBuffs.com: "What's the percentage of your playbook that you're using now?"
Bieniemy: "It's hard to give a percentage. I'd just say it's simple. We just need to go out and play fast and execute."
CUBuffs.com: Do you feel like your move to the sidelines has been beneficial?
Bieniemy: "It's been since the Washington State game, but that seems like it was years ago . . . but it's been great. You get a great feel for everything. There's nothing like having an opportunity to talk to the kids right after they come off of the field and hearing what they say. Nine out of ten times they're going to be 100 percent correct in what they're seeing and stating. That's the beauty of being down there. And just getting the rhythm and seeing what's going on . . . what's the ebb and flow? How does the defense look? And on top of that, there's nothing like looking a kid in the eye . . . that goes a long ways as well."
CUBuffs.com: We haven't talked about an obvious need for more skill position players . . .
Bieniemy: "We're not there yet. Obviously we still need some more firepower. That goes without saying. But to our credit, our kids fight every week. They play hard, they fight the fight . . . we haven't had any kick back or anything like that. These kids are all in and that's what makes it so frustrating because you want these kids to have so much success. The thing we need to understand is we have to make sure we overcome self. That's where our struggles have been."
CUBuffs.com: Jordan Webb has started all six games at quarterback. He's done some good things, but has he been as consistent as you would like?
Bieniemy: "Webb is still the starter, but our other guys will get reps. I believe (Webb) has that fight in him and has heart. He does need to be more consistent, and that's the hard part."
CUBuffs.com: Will you get Christian Powell back this week? (The Powell missed the ASU game with a deep thigh bruise.)
Bieniemy: "Yes, and that should help us. He's a different style of runner; he packs a little more oomph."
CUBuffs.com: What's been the most frustrating thing for you during the first half of this season?
Bieniemy: "I just want to see what happens if we play a game where a team physically beats us and can say 'we're better than you.' I just want to see us play assignment-sound football. I know you can't always be perfect, but I just want to see us execute a game plan and give ourselves a chance to have a chance. Then let the chips fall. If we're not good enough, we're not good enough. But let's get it to the fourth quarter and see what happens.
"It's tough, it's very challenging. It makes you find out a lot of things about yourself. For whatever reason, we've been placed in this situation and I've accepted this challenge. What makes it worth the while is our kids. They fight, they fight.
"We had a hiccup in Fresno (a 69-14 loss to Fresno State), but other than that our kids . . . they've played hard and fought their asses off every game. It's not like they're going out there with the intent to make mistakes. There's nobody slacking off; they're going out there playing every play to win."