Stepping up

Throughout this season, the Colorado football team has had several players come off the bench and contribute to a victory. Here's a list of some of the top performances from those players:

LT Shane Callahan, Sr.: When the Buffs went to Arizona on Nov. 12, they played without standout left tackle Jeromy Irwin, who was ill all week. In his only start of the season, Callahan played an exceptional game in Irwin's place. He helped the Buffs rush for 213 yards in a 49-24 victory, and he didn't allow a sack.

WR Kabion Ento, Jr.: Starter Bryce Bobo went down with an ankle injury during a 38-24 win against Washington State on Nov. 19 and also missed the Buffs' 27-22 win against Utah the next week. In his place, Ento caught a total of four passes for 59 yards and came through with several key blocks in those two victories.

DB Nick Fisher, So.: Going into that game against Washington State, Fisher wasn't expecting to play much. But, in the early moments, Ryan Moeller went out with a concussion and Afolabi Laguda was ejected for targeting. Fisher had six tackles, four third down stops, a critical fourth-down stop and a pass breakup. He was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the week.

QB Steven Montez, Fr.: When senior starter Sefo Liufau injured his ankle in Game 3 at Michigan, Montez took over for three weeks. He went 2-1 as a starter, including a brilliant performance in a 41-38 win at Oregon on Sept. 24 in his first start. That day, Montez became the first player in CU history to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards in the same game. He threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 135 yards and a touchdown, earning Pac-12 offensive player of the week honors.


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PK Davis Price, Fr.: Kicking has been an adventure for the Buffs this season, but Price came off the bench on Oct. 1 to go 2-for-2 on field goals in a 47-6 win against Oregon State. His first career field goal was from 54 yards, the longest ever for a CU freshman. It was also the second-longest field goal by a Pac-12 kicker this season. He was named the Pac-12 special teams player of the week.

Moments after Colorado's Nick Fisher entered the game as a substitute on Nov. 19, Washington State's offense had a couple of big plays.

Fisher felt he could have done more to help.

"After I had let a run go up the sideline ... I said to myself I don't want to be the reason we lose tonight," Fisher said. "So, I just tried to step up and do my part."

All he did the rest of the game was make big play after big play in crucial situations in a 38-24 victory, earning Pac-12 defensive player of the week honors.

Clutch performances like Fisher's are a big reason why the Buffaloes are still playing.

On Dec. 29, the Buffs (10-3, No. 10 College Football Playoff, No. 11 Associated Press) will take on No. 12 Oklahoma State (9-3) in the Valero Alamo Bowl. It's the first bowl appearance for the Buffs in nine years.

No doubt, the stars, such as quarterback Sefo Liufau, running back Phillip Lindsay and defensive backs Chidobe Awuzie, Tedric Thompson and Ahkello Witherspoon, have played major roles in CU's resurgence.

The Buffs wouldn't be here, however, without the supporting cast.

"We say, 'Star in your role and everybody's dreams can come true,'" head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "If they didn't star in their roles, we wouldn't be (enjoying this type of success)."

In Hollywood, there wouldn't be an Oscar for supporting roles if they weren't important. If the Buffs gave out an award for best performance in a supporting role, the competition would be intense.

Three times this year, the Buffs have had players come off the bench and perform so well that they were honored as Pac-12 players of the week — quarterback Steven Montez on Sept. 24, kicker Davis Price on Oct. 1 and Fisher against Washington State.

Not too long ago, the Buffs were so thin that the thought of relying on substitutes to win a game would have made everybody cringe. This year, CU's exceptional depth has come in handy.

"A lot of guys in the past didn't believe coach Mac when he tells us that, 'Some of you will play more than you ever expected in this game,'" Liufau said. "He said that before the WSU game and lo and behold Nick Fisher is out there a bunch making plays.

"The biggest thing is that we trust the guys coming in. No one is worried when other guys come in and other people get hurt."

When the Buffs went to Arizona on Nov. 12, they had to play without standout left tackle Jeromy Irwin, who was ill all week. Senior reserve Shane Callahan got his first and only career start at left tackle that night and played well in a 49-24 win.

"I just went in there and I wasn't worried about anything but just playing that one snap at a time and playing as hard as I could," Callahan said.

That's been the mindset of everybody on the roster this season, regardless of how much they actually play.

"They're all committed to the process," co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini said. "They've all been committed to what we've been preaching to those guys about staying ready. They've been doing that."

Receiver Kabion Ento got his turn in that Washington State game, as well. Starter Bryce Bobo went down an ankle injury. Ento played the rest of the game and got his first career start the following week against Utah. In both games, he caught passes and made contributions as a blocker.

"I try to practice every day just like I was going to play every snap," Ento said. "I had to be ready. You always have to be ready in the moment."

MacIntyre said there have been a lot of unsung heroes this season, including players nobody really noticed, because they went into the game for a play or two, even on special teams, and got the job done.

"That's why it's important to have a good, overall football team," he said.

Having so many players come off the bench and play well this season has been motivational for everybody, Ento said.

"It helps keep everybody confident," he said. "You know if a guy goes down and you bring the next guy in and he's doing the same exact thing, it makes the team not worry. It makes coaches not worry. It makes the individual feel good because he knows he can go in and do the exact same thing the starter did.

"To be able to fill in the gap and not miss a step, that's great."

Filling in the gaps has been critical for the Buffs this season. As a group, they recognized early in the year that this could be a special season - but only if everybody bought in.

They have, and the Buffs are in the midst of a special season.

"You have to make the best of your chances and most of all have fun," Ento said.

"It's great to see people buying in. It just shows how together we are and how much we play for each other. We're always excited for each other and we realize it's going to take all of us."

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