Daniel Arias was a busy man after Colorado's 27-13 loss to Washington on Saturday at Husky Stadium in Seattle.

A true freshman receiver at CU, Arias had a lot of family and friends at the game, which was played near his hometown of Mill Creek, Wash., and he spent some time afterward chatting with them.

Arias has played in every game this season, mostly on special teams, but injuries at the receiver position gave him an opportunity to shine on offense against Washington. It could not have come at a better time for Arias.

"It means a lot, doing it in front of my family and all my friends that came to watch," he said.

Arias had never played a game at Husky Stadium, but attended several UW games when he was in high school and he participated in camps at the stadium.

"It was really cool seeing some of the guys on the UW team, because I know most of them," he said. "They just came up to me and it felt good. It just felt good to see my friends and family."

It felt even better to make a big play in front of them. Arias had his first career catch on Saturday, hauling in a 37-yard pass from Steven Montez for the Buffs' only touchdown of the day.

"I got excited, but I was kind of nervous at the same time," he said of knowing he would get an opportunity against the Huskies. "I just keeping telling myself, 'Daniel, you're going to get one chance. You're going to get one shot.' I just kept saying that to myself. I didn't want to mess it up.

"When I saw that ball in the air, I wanted it so bad, so I went up and got it.


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Hopefully I keep doing the same thing down the road. I just have to keep working and keep helping my team out to get to the top."

Arias was targeted a couple other times, but had just the one catch. That was enough to boost his confidence, though.

"This definitely gave me some confidence on what I can do," he said. "Just go back to practice and keep getting better and keep asking questions and just stay ready so when my name is called or my number is called I can make plays when I get the chance to do it."

When the Buffs are at full strength at receiver (Laviska Shenault and Jay MacIntyre missed the UW game with injuries), Arias may not get many opportunities this season. Saturday was at least a glimpse into the future, though.

"That won't be the last touchdown he scores at the University of Colorado," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "He's going to be an excellent football player."

A few thoughts from the weekend:

1. I'm typically hesitant to blame play calling for a loss, because I think there's so much that goes into it. Often, the plan is good, but the defense was ready with a better one. Or the play call was fine, but the execution was poor. That said, I think CU co-offensive coordinator and play caller Darrin Chiaverini has had back-to-back head scratching games. In his first year as the Buffs' play caller, I have, for the most part, liked what Chiaverini has done this year, but going against a couple of Pac-12 traditional powers the last two weeks, the Buffs' offense has been dismal and surprisingly cautious at times. I trust Chiaverini's football knowledge over mine any day of the week, but a few things I don't understand about this offense right now:

  • a. At different times over the past two years, we've heard about Kabion Ento and Juwann Winfree being the best receivers on the team during practices. Both have had their trials (Winfree's injuries, Ento's redshirt in 2017), but have they both really been so forgotten that true freshmen Daniel Arias and Dimitri Stanley were more attractive options at Washington? That's not a knock on Arias or Stanley, both of which I think will be very good players at CU. But, even with Laviska Shenault and Jay MacIntyre out with injuries, Winfree and Ento were targeted a combined one time (Winfree) and had no catches. I was excited to see what both could do this season, but if they don't get looks on a day like Saturday, it may never happen for the two seniors.
  • b. Sticking with the Ento/Winfree theme, CU has done a really nice job recruiting big receivers lately. Ento is 6-foot-3 and his leaping ability is unreal. Winfree is 6-3 with a big, strong frame. Arias is 6-4. Tony Brown is 6-1. In theory, that would seem to be several nice options near the goal line to have Steven Montez throw it up high and let his big guys go get the ball - especially against Washington corners Byron Murphy and Myles Bryant, who are both extremely talented, but both under 6 feet tall. So, with 2:12 to play in the first half, the Buffs trailed 14-10 and had first-and-goal at the Washington 9 after a Nick Fisher interception. Travon McMillian ran up the middle for a yard on first down. On second down, Montez threw a slip screen to 5-foot-8 KD Nixon for a 1-yard loss. And, on third down, McMillian caught a pass and slipped for no gain. CU settled for a field goal. Three plays inside the 10, including two passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage, and the Buffs never looked at the big receivers and never even took a shot at the end zone.
  • c. Fans have been upset about the use of McMillian in the wildcat formation for a crucial fourth-and-1 at the Washington 45-yard line midway through the third quarter. That's a spot where Shenault has shined. It hasn't been as successful without him. But, I get CU's call there. Going into Saturday, McMillian was 2-for-2 on getting the first down in third or fourth-and-1 situations (Shenault is 6-for-6), and they did get two yards on the McMillian run out of the wildcat on the previous play. However, once the Buffs lined up in that formation, it was pretty obvious what they were going to do. Washington's a smart defense and was ready, stuffing McMillian for no gain and ending the drive. In my opinion, that's a situation where you put the ball in the hands of your best play maker. With Shenault out, the best play maker is Montez. Get the big QB under center and push the pile forward, or let him make a play with his arm.

2. Eventually - and I mean in 2019 or 2020 - the Buffs might have a pretty solid offensive line. I really like the young talent the Buffs have up front. Right now, however, that group is having a rough time. Again, I typically trust the knowledge of these coaches over mine on any given day, but it's rather surprising that we're now seven games into the season and the Buffs haven't figured out their best combination of five linemen. I'm not an O-line expert, but over the years I've interviewed a lot of coaches and a lot of linemen - not only at CU, but with the Denver Broncos - and they often talk about how crucial it is for the offensive line to have continuity. Even current CU co-OC/line coach Klayton Adams has talked about the importance of getting that five-man unit to play as one. I've got to think that's hard to do with constantly rotating personnel. And I get it: nobody has really separated themselves in practice. That's what we're told, anyway. But all season, the Buffs have been shuffling linemen in and out of the games, especially on the right side. Lately, the Buffs have pretty much left the left side - tackle William Sherman, guard Brett Tonz and center Colby Pursell - alone. But the right side has been a revolving door at guard and tackle with Tim Lynott, Aaron Haigler, Josh Kaiser and Frank Fillip, and outside of the win against Arizona State, the line has struggled. At some point, the best option could be to pick a starting five and roll with them and let them develop as a group.

3. This defense is pretty good, folks. Give coordinator DJ Eliot some credit. In his second year with the program, he's turned that side of the ball around. The defense put CU in position to win each of the last two games. Last year, the defense was a big reason the Buffs missed out on a bowl. This year, it may be what carries them to the postseason. Might be nice if the offense takes advantage of the opportunities, though. CU has forced five turnovers in the past two weeks, and scored just three points off of them. The field goal after the Fisher interception against Washington was the only takeaway that resulted in points.

The week's best Buffs

Four times this year, I've had Shenault No. 1 on this list. Another time, I had him second. With him missing the Washington game with a toe injury, the door was open for others this week.

1. S Evan Worthington: Finished with seven tackles and a sack and led a defensive effort that kept CU in the game all afternoon.

2. LB Nate Landman: Led the team with 11 tackles, including one for loss, and forced a key fumble that gave the offense an opportunity in the fourth quarter.

3. RB Travon McMillian: It wasn't his best game, but he churned out 86 tough yards on the ground to keep the chains moving, especially in the first half.

4. PK Evan Price: The true freshman walk-on made his collegiate debut because James Stefanou was out with a hip injury. Price nailed both of his field goals and his one extra point.

5. QB Steven Montez: His numbers weren't great (17-for-28, 144 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and he's played much better most of the year. But, I thought he did a solid job throughout the day of keeping the Buffs in the game.

Stat of the week

During the past two games, the Buffs have averaged just 2.2 yards on first down (122 yards on 55 plays). That's a dramatic drop off from the first five games, when CU averaged 6.5 yards on first down (1,083 yards on 167 plays).

The lack of success on first down has put the Buffs in bad positions, leading to several third-and-long situations.

In the first five games combined, CU was in just 20 third-and-long (10 plus yards to go) situations, converting seven of those. In the last two games, CU is 1-for-16 in third-and-long situations.

Overall, CU is just 10-for-36 (27.8 percent) on third downs the past two games compared to 43.1 percent in the first five games.

Pac-12 players of the week

Several impressive performances around the Pac-12 this week, but here's who I voted for:

Offense - Tyler Huntley, Utah: I had a tough time deciding between Huntley and Washington State's QB Gardner Minshew, as both were exceptional in great wins. I gave the nod to Huntley, who had a better all-around game. He completed 22-of-29 passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns and also ran for 33 yards and a touchdown in a blowout win against USC.

Defense - Jalen Thompson, Washington State: The Cougars were impressive in the win against Oregon, and Thompson led the way on defense. He had seven tackles and three pass breakups - two of them late in the game to preserve the win. Washington LB Ben Burr-Kirven was my runner-up choice.

Special teams - Stefan Flintoft, UCLA: Averaged 48.4 yards on seven punts, with three of them over 50 yards. Two of those punts landed inside the 20-yard-line.

Pac-12 Team of the Week

Washington State: The city of Pullman had waited years for ESPN's College GameDay show to come to town. The school, the team and the community put on a show. The Cougars jumped to a 27-0 lead and held on for the 34-20 win against No. 12 Oregon.

National Team of the Week

Purdue: The Boilermakers put together perhaps the most stunning upset of the season to this point, dominating No. 2 Ohio State, 49-20. Purdue came into the game at 3-3, but crushed the Buckeyes and pulled away late, with a 28-point fourth quarter. After an 0-3 start - with the three losses by a combined eight points - the Boilermakers have won four in a row.

A few thoughts on the Pac-12 after Week 8:

1. Just three weeks ago, I was ready to bury Utah. Now, the Utes might be the scariest team in the Pac-12 - certainly in the South. Led by QB Tyler Huntley and that typically strong defense, the Utes have pummeled Stanford, Arizona and USC in consecutive weeks, and they've topped the 40-point mark in each win. Right now, the South is Utah's to lose.

2. Things could certainly change this week when Washington State has to visit Stanford, but right now, the Cougars are the best team in the North. Their second half wasn't impressive against Oregon last weekend, but their early 27-0 lead was stunning. Pullman is a tough place to play and the Cougars get three more games there.

3. Just when I thought that the USC/Washington stretch was Colorado's toughest, the back-to-back against Washington State and Utah next month looks rather daunting. At least both games are at Folsom Field.

4. CU caught UCLA at a good time. The Bruins are going to be a tough out the rest of the way. You could sense they were getting better, even as they left Boulder with a 38-16 loss in the Pac-12 opener. Now, they've won two in a row to move to 2-5. It makes Friday's game vs. Utah very interesting.

5. USC is in a tough spot this week. Starting quarterback JT Daniels left the Utah game with a possible concussion and backup Matt Fink left the game with broken ribs. The Trojans could be down to third-stringer Jack Sears this week against Arizona State. Having the game in Los Angeles should help, though.

Pac-12 rankings

After week 8, here's how I rank the teams in the Pac-12:

1. Washington State (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12): As the only one-loss team remaining in the conference, the Cougars have earned the top spot.

2. Washington (6-2, 4-1): Nice bounce-back win for the Huskies, who took care of business against Colorado.

3. Utah (5-2, 3-2): There's not a hotter team in the conference right now.

4. Stanford (5-2, 3-1): A very workmanlike win over ASU last week got the Cardinal back in the win column.

5. Oregon (5-2, 2-2): Ducks blew a golden opportunity last week at Washington State.

6. USC (4-3, 3-2): This is a very average USC team - and it still might win the South.

7. Colorado (5-2, 2-2): Buffs compete, but haven't proven they can beat the better teams in the conference.

8. UCLA (2-5, 2-2): Bruins are coming on. The schedule gets tougher, but they're playing well.

9. Arizona State (3-4, 1-3): Sun Devils continue to play well enough to be in games, but not win them. All four losses have come by a touchdown.

10. Arizona (3-5, 2-3): Wildcats headed for a losing season in Kevin Sumlin's first year.

11. California (4-3, 1-3): Bears snapped a three-game skid with a blowout of Oregon State.

12. Oregon State (1-6, 0-4): Even at home, the Beavers couldn't hang with a Cal team that was winless in Pac-12 play.

Quote the of week

Buffs running back Travon McMillian, talking about the Buffs remaining confident after two straight losses:

"I think we're in a good position right now. We just have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot with the penalties and things like that. We have a great squad, we have the brotherhood, we have everything. We just have to put it all together. I think we're going to be able do that next week for sure."

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.