The spotlight is shining on Steven Montez this week.

How long that remains is unknown, however, as the Colorado football team returned to practice on Monday and turned its focus to Saturday's home date with Oregon State.

After a sensational performance in leading the Buffaloes to a 41-38 upset at Oregon on Saturday, Montez was named the Pac-12 offensive player of the week on Monday.

"It's always awesome to get some individual awards, but I can't take the entire credit for that," said Montez, who threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 135 yards and a touchdown in his first collegiate start. "I have to give the credit, obviously, to my offensive line for protecting me all the time, for the receivers that are making plays and getting open and catching the ball and for our running backs blocking and running the ball like crazy. The individual awards are a team effort."

Montez was filling in for senior starter Sefo Liufau, who sprained his right ankle during the third quarter of the Buffs' 45-28 loss to Michigan on Sept. 17. Liufau, who ranks sixth nationally with a 182.0 passer rating, figures to get his starting job back when he's healthy.

The Buffs (2-1, 1-0 Pac-12), however, went into Monday not knowing who will start against Oregon State (1-2, 0-0).

"Sefo worked out there today," head coach Mike MacIntyre said after Monday's practice. "He's still not 100 percent. We'll just kind of see how the week progresses along and go from there."

Montez's performance against Oregon affords the Buffs the opportunity to be cautious with Liufau, who was the Pac-12 offensive player of the week after the opener.


Advertisement

"We'll make sure that Sefo is 100 percent," MacIntyre said. "On your ankle, as much as we do with those quarterbacks, he's got to be able to go and move."

Liufau provides leadership and experience that Montez doesn't have at this point. But, Montez proved on Saturday that he's got the goods to direct this team in Liufau's absence.

"I knew the kid could do it," CU co-offensive coordinator/receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini said. "You see him do it in practice, and if a kid does that in practice, he's going to do it in a game. The kid had a great week of practice."

Chiaverini, who came to CU last winter after two seasons at Texas Tech, said it didn't take long to see star qualities in Montez during spring practices.

"I talked to (Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury) on the phone and I'm like, 'Kliff, this kid reminds me of a young Pat Mahomes,'" Chiaverini said. "Very raw, great arm strength. His footwork and fundamentals are not always sound, but he knows how to throw the football, he knows how to create, which you can't coach that. That's on the kid.

"He's got a little bit of that X-factor that all great quarterbacks have. He has a long way to go to get to that level of a Pat Mahomes, but he looks like a young Pat."

Mahomes, by the way, currently ranks second in the country in passer rating, at 198.2 for the Red Raiders.

Montez gained a lot of respect from his team throughout spring practice, but stumbled in relief of Liufau at Michigan. He said a great week of practice really helped to gain trust going into Oregon, however.

"I think it happened in practice, all the preparation before," he said. "I think they saw that I was ready and they were confident in me going into the game."

A lot of teams might simplify the game plan with a young, inexperienced quarterback in the lineup, but CU didn't do that with Montez.

"We didn't try to hold anything back," Chiaverini said. "We were going to run the offense and we were going to be aggressive.

"You have to have belief in your guys. Once you start to doubt your players and you start to just try to manage a game, then you get yourself in trouble. I'd rather be really aggressive, play fast, get the ball out in space, let our guys make plays and when you do that, the receivers are confident, the quarterback is confident and everything opens up."

It opened up to the tune of 41 points, 593 yards, a player of the week honor and confidence that there are now options at quarterback. If Montez had enough attempts to qualify, he would rank 20th nationally with a 161.8 rating.

"I think we have two good quarterbacks," MacIntyre said. "I also think we have two really tough quarterbacks, which is impressive."

Which one will play this week and beyond? Nobody really knows.

"I'm not really sure what they're going to do with the job, but all I know is that I'll be ready to play any week this year and I know Sefo is definitely going to be ready when he's healthy again to play again," Montez said.

Either way, the Buffs appear to be in good hands.

Brian Howell: howellb@dailycamera.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.