Ryan Moeller didn't appear to be one of those options, but in CU's 41-38 win at Oregon, the junior found himself in the starting lineup.
"I was just happy," said Moeller, who made three tackles on the day. "I was thrilled to be out there and able to play."
Facing a speedy Oregon team that could potentially burn the Buffs with plays to the edge, the Buffs went unconventional by replacing the 6-foot-3, 250-pound McCartney with the 6-1, 215-pound Moeller, who normally plays safety.
"I'm really proud of Moeller," CU defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt said. "We played Moeller at outside linebacker and he's never played there. (Safeties coach Joe Tumpkin) really wanted to try Moeller there and he asked me about it earlier in the week and I said, 'Sure why not?' We decided to start him."
The plan worked out, with Moeller playing a solid game in his new spot.
"That was a lot of fun, too, being down in the trenches," he said. "I got rough with a lot of people. That new position was definitely I think it's a good fit for more. Not that safety wasn't, but it's where my team needed me this week and that's definitely where I needed to be.
"The coaches spent a lot of time with me through this last week to get me prepared for that position and coming into this weekend. The message was let's just play ball.
Ross impressive again
Receiver Devin Ross had another monster day, with seven catches for a career-high 153 yards and a touchdown.
Through four games, the junior has 25 catches for 355 yards and five touchdowns, scoring at least once in each game. He had 25 catches for 324 yards and two scores during the entire 2015 season.
"It was so fun," he said. "(Co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini) believes in me and Montez believed in me today too. I'm just glad he threw it up to me and he trusted me and I got to make the play and I'm just proud of myself and the team."
Room to run
Quarterback Steven Montez played a big role in CU racking up 260 rushing yards, picking up 135 on his 21 carries.
Running backs Phillip Lindsay and Kyle Evans were very good, as well. Lindsay had 72 yards on 15 carries, including a 33-yard burst on the opening drive to set up the Buffs' first touchdown. Evans finished with 61 yards on 10 carries.
Together, they were tackled for loss just one, for minus-1 yard. Ten runs by Evans or Lindsay went for five yards or more.
"It was important for us to get going," Lindsay said. "Offensive line just dominated. That's it. When it was our turn to run, in our head we know we need 3-4-5 yards, not 2 yards. We need to get 5. As long as our offensive line is rolling, we're going to be fine."
In their three wins, the Buffs' rushing totals have been 260 (Colorado State), 262 (Idaho State) and 260 (Oregon). They had just 64 yards in a loss to Michigan.
All the Buffs had high praise for backup quarterback Steven Montez, who racked up 468 yards in his first career start. Several comments were used in other articles. Here's a few others:
WR Bryce Bobo: "I think Montez did a great job, especially his first start. He's just going to keep better as time comes. We all have trust in Montez that he can get the job done."
CB Ahkello Witherspoon: "It was great to see, just to see him come out there poised and confident. I think he had a great week of practice. I just like that he went out there and owned the position. He didn't look like a backup quarterback. He owned it, made mistakes like any football player does, but just kept pushing."
QB coach/co-OC Brian Lindgren: "I thought it was incredible. For a young guy to go into an atmosphere like this and get your first career start, against a good defense and make some of the plays that he did, I thought was just really impressive. We had all seen glimpses of that through the spring and in practice and knew he was capable. But to have him go out there and make those plays in that environment was good to see."
Defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt: "How about Montez? I mean, how about that? That was impressive. That was really impressive."
- Montez finished with 333 passing yards. In 20 previous meetings with Oregon, the most by a CU quarterback was 282 by Steve Vogel on Sept. 15, 1984.
- Montez became the 10th different quarterback to get a start for the Buffs since 2005, and he's only the third to get a win in his debut. The other two - Cody Hawkins (in 2007) and Sefo Liufau (in 2013) went on to become the all-time leading passer in CU history.
- After going 1-for-13 on third downs at Michigan, the Buffs went 6-for-12 against the Ducks. Oregon finished 6-for-15.
- Going into the game, CU and Oregon were the only teams in the Pac-12 that had not thrown an interception. Montez threw two, however, and Oregon quarterback Dakota Prukop threw one.
- Oregon star running back Royce Freeman missed the game with a leg injury. Backup Tony Brooks-James ran for 120 yards and a touchdown in his place.
- After a dismal game at Michigan, the Colorado punt team had no issues Saturday. Punter Alex Kinney averaged 40.3 yards on three punts and pinned the Ducks inside their 10-yard line once.
- Samson Kafovalu, Jimmie Gilbert and Jordan Carrell all registered sacks for the Buffs.
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.