In early August, I had a chance to sit down and chat with Colorado nose tackle Javier Edwards for a few minutes.

The senior, who came to CU from Blinn (Tex.) College 18 months ago, was nearly 60 pounds lighter than when he arrived in Boulder. One of the most enjoyable personalities on the team, Edwards talked to me about the importance of him being a better player this year.

Edwards was well aware that he - and his fellow defensive linemen - didn't have a great 2017 season. As we talked, Edwards expressed his excitement to get the season going.

"I'm a lot better," he said. "Technique wise and run stopping, I'm really good at that. I'm getting so much better at that right now."

During Colorado's 45-13 rout of Colorado State on Friday night, I, like everyone else, noticed the dominance of quarterback Steven Montez, receiver Laviska Shenault and linebacker Nate Landman. They were the clear stars of the night.

In reviewing the game, however, Edwards jumped off the screen and I thought he was one of the unsung heroes of that victory against the Rams - proving that he is, indeed, a lot better.

CU's official stats will come out early this week, but by my count Edwards was on the field for 32 plays, quite often taking on double-teams from the guard and center or a lineman and fullback. He was credited that night with one assisted tackle and one quarterback hurry.


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As a nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme, however, he's not in a position to rack up numbers; his job is to be disruptive in the middle.

Last year against the Rams, Edwards, playing in his first Division I game, was consistently pushed around by the Rams and their senior center, Jake Bennett. (And, it wasn't the only time Edwards got pushed around like that in 2017).

Bennett has graduated, but Edwards spent most of Friday night battling with the Rams' most experienced lineman, senior center Colby Meeks. Edwards routinely dominated the one-on-one battles and even double teams.

A few plays that stood out:

1. With 2 minutes to play in the first quarter, Edwards blew past Meeks and drove H-back Nate Ryken - another senior - back three yards. He took both completely out of the play, freeing up the middle for Jacob Callier, Nate Landman and others to take Izzy Matthews down for a 1-yard run.

2. At the 2:32 mark of the second quarter, CU had pinned CSU at its own 1. On 1st down, Edwards drove Meeks backwards, into Matthews, who was held up for a moment. That gave Kyle Trego and company time to make a tackle for a 2-yard gain.

3. On the second play of the third quarter, Edwards plowed through left guard Tyler Bjorklund and drilled quarterback KJ Carta-Samuels as he threw a deep ball, which fell incomplete.

4. Just under 11 minutes to play, CSU had 2nd-and-2 at the Buffs' 16. Edwards tosses aside his blocker and was one of a few Buffs in the backfield for a 2-yard loss.

5. Two plays later, the Rams had 1st-and-goal at the 2, and Edwards busted through two linemen and was one of three Buffs to force a 7-yard loss on a Marcus McElroy run (great tackle from backup safety Derrion Rakestraw, by the way).

It's too early to declare that Edwards will have a Josh-Tupou-in-2016-type of season, because he and the Buffs are going to face much better offensive lines. However, CSU was a team that got the best of Edwards in 2017, and he clearly won Round 2. To me, the improved play of Edwards was one of the most encouraging aspects of that victory.

Steven Montez, right, and Laviska Shenault were two of the best players for Colorado during the opener.
Steven Montez, right, and Laviska Shenault were two of the best players for Colorado during the opener. (Cliff Grassmick/Daily Camera)

The week's best Buffs

I've already mentioned a few of them, but here's the five Buffs I thought stood out the most against CSU:

1. WR Laviska Shenault: Easy choice here. He had an epic breakout game, with 11 catches for 211 yards and a touchdown.

2. LB Nate Landman: He had an epic breakout game on defense, with 16 tackles, two tackles for loss and an interception.

3. QB Steven Montez: Sure, most of his completions came on those quick jet-sweep flips, but he played like a veteran in control, completing 22 of 25 passes for 338 yards and four touchdowns, while adding a 38-yard touchdown run.

4. NT Javier Edwards: Given how much heat he took for his 2017 season, I was really impressed with his performance in the middle of the defensive line. 

5. WR KD Nixon: He's not here only because of his numbers (6 catches, 112 yards, 1 TD). His blocking was exceptional, including one he had on Montez's TD run.

Honorable mention: RB Beau Bisharat. The junior had his best game as a Buff, with a career-high 52 yards on 7 carries, and his first collegiate TD, on a 4-yard pass from Montez.

My favorite postgame moment

Standing in the stadium tunnel late Friday night, I looked up to see big No. 97 walking toward the locker room. Defensive lineman Mo Bandi and I made eye contact and he flashed a big smile. "I got in!," he said to me.

Bandi is a senior walk-on from Niwot High School and a native of India. In May, I wrote a feature story on Bandi, who is a triple major in neuroscience; molecular cellular and developmental biology; and pre-med studies. He's also minoring in biochemistry.

Needless to say, Bandi is impressive academically, and he was a blast to interview. Really nice young man. During our conversation in May, Bandi told me it "would mean to the world to me," if he could get into a game - even if it was just one snap. He could have two years of eligibility, but will graduate next May, so this season is his last shot.

With 26 seconds to play Friday, CSU's offense got back on the field and Bandi lined up at left defensive end. He didn't make a tackle or record a stat, but that didn't matter.

"It was just one play, but it was fun," Bandi said as he gave me a fist bump and flashed a big smile.

Stat of the week

Coming into this season, Stanford running back Bryce Love and Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate were near the top of the list of Heisman Trophy candidates. Love, the Heisman runner-up in 2017, came in as the odds-on favorite.

Together, Love (2,118) and Tate (1,411) combined for 3,529 rushing yards in 2017. Colorado junior running back Beau Bisharat came into this season with 106 yards for his career - on 36 carries.

All of that makes these Week 1 rushing totals quite stunning:

52 - Bisharat
43 - Love and Tate combined

Love was bottled up by San Diego State for 29 yards on 18 carries. Tate, meanwhile, had 14 yards on 8 carries in a loss to BYU, spending most of his night throwing the ball instead of using his legs.

Bisharat was one of three Buffs to out-rush the duo of Heisman favorites. Travon McMillian had 103 yards and Kyle Evans 59.

Pac-12 players of the week

When the Pac-12 sent out its ballot for player of the week honors, I admittedly went into it thinking Shenault would be my choice on offense, with Landman having a shot on defense. Landman got my vote, but Shenault didn't.

Offense - JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford: Shenault was great, but Arcega-Whiteside racked up six catches for 226 yards and three touchdowns - and did it against a tougher opponent, San Diego State.

Defense - Nate Landman, Colorado: Had 16 tackles, two TFL and an interception in his first career start. I nearly went with Ugochukwu Amadi of Oregon, who had 5 tackles, a sack and an interception return for touchdown against Bowling Green.

Special teams - Chase McGrath, USC: Hard to beat a kicker that goes 5-for-5 on field goals, hitting from 46, 38, 29, 47 and 36 yards. CU punt returner Ronnie Blackmon was a candidate, but my next choice would have been ASU punter Michael Sleep-Dalton (4 of 5 punts inside the 20 with 3 inside the 10, and a long of 62).

Pac-12 Team of the Week

Stanford: This wasn't a slam-dunk choice, but I went with the Cardinal because I think they had the best win, 31-10 against San Diego State, which is a contender for the Mountain West title. Despite the Aztecs shutting down Bryce Love, the Cardinal found another way to win, and they were dominating on defense.

National Team of the Week

LSU: Coming in at No. 25, the Tigers don't have lofty expectations, but they had the most impressive victory of the first full week, thumping No. 8 Miami, 33-17. Led by Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow at QB, the Tigers had a 33-3 lead going into the fourth quarter. Runners-up: No. 9 Auburn (for its win vs. No. 6 Washington) and No. 12 Notre Dame (for its win vs. No. 14 Michigan).

A few thoughts on the Pac-12's opening week:

1. Arizona's opener was, um, interesting. The Wildcats, a trendy pick by some to win the Pac-12 South, were dominated at home for much of its 28-23 loss to BYU. Arizona was down 28-10 going into the fourth before rallying. Most puzzling was a game plan that had Khalil Tate throwing all night instead of running. Credit BYU's game plan on defense (and the Cougars are clearly much better than in 2017), but this was not a good start to the Kevin Sumlin era in Tucson.

2. Washington State might be OK at quarterback. East Carolina grad transfer Gardner Minshew is the new leader of the Mike Leach offense, and he completed 38-of-57 passes for 319 yards, three touchdowns and in interception in the Cougars' 41-19 win at Wyoming.

3. Speaking of Washington State, that Max Borghi kid can play. The true freshman running back from Pomona High School was once committed to CU, but changed his mind and picked Wazzu. He's a perfect for the Cougars' offense, and while he had just 32 yards of offense (and lost a fumble), he had two touchdowns: scoring on a 14-yard run (his only carry) and on a 6-yard reception. He had six catches overall, but only for 18 yards.

4. It's amazing that with all the talent at USC every year, it's a pair of true freshmen that led the way on offense in Saturday's 43-21 win against UNLV. Quarterback JT Daniels completed 22-of-35 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown led the team with seven catches for 98 yards and the TD from Daniels. A year ago at this time, Daniels and St. Brown were starring together at Mater Dei High School. They'll be fun to watch.

5. Chip Kelly has some work to do at UCLA. The Bruins struggled quite a bit in a 26-17 loss at home to Cincinnati. In four seasons as the head coach at Oregon (2009-12), Kelly went 46-7 and never lost back-to-back games. That's sure to change, as the Bruins travel to No. 7 Oklahoma this week. The next few games after that aren't easy, either: Week 3 vs. Mountain West contender Fresno State; Week 4 at Colorado; Week 5 vs. Washington.

6. Washington will be fine. The 6th-ranked Huskies, who seem to be the Pac-12's best hope to reach the College Football Playoff, opened with a 21-16 loss to No. 9 Auburn in Atlanta. This was viewed as a big test for the Pac-12, which is coming off a 1-8 record in bowl games and desperately needs a signature win on the national stage. Had the Huskies won, they'd be squarely in the national title conversation at this point. Losing a close game in what was essentially a home game for Auburn, however, won't kill their chances. Coach Chris Petersen's team has no margin for error the rest of the season, though.

Pac-12 rankings

After week 1, here's how I rank the teams in the Pac-12:

1. Stanford: The Cardinal got the best win of the weekend, against a good San Diego State team.

2. Washington: Despite the loss, they're the best team in the conference. I just can't put an 0-1 team at the top!

3. USC: Slow start vs. UNLV, but the Trojans ran away with the win.

4. Oregon: The Ducks rolled past Bowling Green, 58-24, in the opener.

5. Colorado: Coming off a 5-7 season, the Buffs needed a strong debut and got it.

6. Utah: Got behind 10-0 to Weber State, and then rattled off 41 straight to win 41-10.

7. Arizona State: I don't know if UTSA is any good, but it doesn't matter. The Herm Edwards era got off to a great start with a 49-7 win.

8. Washington State: Very nice start for Mike Leach's squad, rolling past Wyoming, 41-19.

9. California: The Golden Bears haven't figured out its QB situation (they rotated 3 players in the opener, but the defense was sharp in a 24-17 win against North Carolina.

10. Arizona: Nobody in the conference had a more head-scratching opener. Kevin Sumlin's team looked out of sync in the 28-23 loss to BYU.

11. UCLA: A Chip Kelly offense scoring 17 points against Cincinnati?!

12. Oregon State: We expect the Beavers to be in for a long year, and getting routed at Ohio State, 77-31, was no surprise. They've got a RB to watch, though, with Artavis Pierce, who had 168 yards and touchdown runs of 80 and 78 yards.

Quote the of week

Washington State coach Mike Leach could be here almost every week. Asked about playing in the altitude at Wyoming, he said, tongue-in-cheek, "Well, we strategically have seasonal forest fires as we prepare for the season in the event that we do find ourselves in altitude. I really believe that our oxygen was more diminished with the smoke in the air with those forest fires, so I thought it was great training for us to come up here. I think God smiled on us with the forest fires and it worked very much according to plan today. And, the other thing is, and I'm from the state (of Wyoming) and we used to talk about elevation all the time and I love talking about it myself, just like I like talking about jackalopes. I sold a bunch of jackalopes to people to this day from back east that think there are spots out west where jack rabbits actually have horns. I actually have one at my house and if someone ever asks, 'Is that real?,' I say, 'You're damn right it's real.' So, we used to talk about elevation the same way. But, I think there's being shape and not being in shape."

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