Colorado quarterback Steven Montez has a habit of looking great in practice, only to stub his toe a bit in front of fans during open scrimmages.
On Saturday, the junior had the best open scrimmage of his career, looking sharp during his time on the Folsom Field turf. It was the final tune-up for the Buffs in front of fans and media before the Aug. 31 opener against Colorado State.
"Steven in the past has struggled in scrimmages, so it was exciting to see him come out and operate at a high level," co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini said. "He operated quickly, he got the ball out and made good decisions and he avoided mistakes."
Montez connected with Tony Brown and KD Nixon on short touchdowns and hit Nixon for long passes of about 33 and 51 yards. Those were a few of the many highlights for the offense.
Sam Noyer had 50-yard touchdown passes to Maurice Bell and Kabion Ento, Tyler Lytle had a couple nice throws to Jaylon Jackson and Bell, and Donovan Lee and Beau Bisharat both scored on the ground.
"I thought the offense made some big plays," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "Defensively we didn't cover as well as I think we need to. But, I thought we kept playing hard. Overall, I was more pleased with the offense than the defense, but we've got to keep going."
Defensively, the Buffs were short-handed, as projected starting linemen Chris Mulumba (groin) and Mustafa Johnson (mild concussion) both sat out of practice. Safety Evan Worthington (concussion) also sat out, and cornerback Chris Miller came up limping with an apparent hamstring injury after a play during the practice portion of the day.
"We had to put some backups in there at those spots, but that's good reps for them and it's good experience for them," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "They need to learn from their mistakes and get better at those."
True freshman Israel Antwine and redshirt freshman Terrance Lang both got extra opportunities up front and made good plays. Other defensive highlights were provided by redshirt freshman linebackers Chase Newman, who intercepted a Noyer pass, and Jonathan Van Diest, who had a fumble recovery.
The day belonged to the offense, however.
"We have a long ways to go," Chiaverini said. "We made some plays today, but we have to keep pushing and keep pushing so in three weeks we can go out there and play good football."
New look on defense
In an effort to take advantage of all their playmakers, the Buffs are using senior Drew Lewis, who led the team in tackles and started all 12 games at inside linebacker last season, at outside linebacker.
At times, the Buffs played with Lewis on the outside with senior Rick Gamboa and sophomore Nate Landman inside.
"We thought it would be best if we had all three of those guys on the field, and then you have Davion (Taylor) on the other side," MacIntyre said. "On regular downs we have a ton of speed out there. We feel like we're a better football team with all those guys. When we go nickel, Drew can go in and play the inside jack backer. We feel like having all three of those guys out there gives us a better chance to play better defense."
Gamboa and Lewis are the returning starters inside, but Landman is quickly emerging as a physical playmaker that needs to be on the field.
"We you have your two top tacklers (out there) and another young guy that we think can be a top tackler, that helps your defense," MacIntyre said.
From his spot inside last year, Lewis was one of CU's leaders at putting pressure on the quarterback. Now, he'll be able to do that from another spot.
"He has a lot of ability and we're working with him to try to get him to where he needs to be," Eliot said. "He has great speed and great hips and those are two of the most important things in a great pass rusher."
Moretti coming along
Redshirt freshman tackle Jacob Moretti got some work with the first-team and second-team offense and continues to play well when healthy, as he battles back from a leg injury.
"He's an excellent football player," MacIntyre said. "We have to just take it day to day with his leg. He keeps pushing through it and doing well and getting better and better and better. If he's healthy, he'll be playing."
Injuries have prevented Moretti from playing in a game since 2015, his junior year at Pomona High School. His talent continues to shine, though.
"Right now, we kind of have him on a pitch count and we're going to build that as we go," co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Klayton Adams said. "He's doing a heck of a job when he's out there. He's very natural at a lot of things. He has the ability to make you look like a real smart coach at times."
Redshirt freshman receiver Jaylon Jackson, who has played just one game in the past three years because of injuries, had the catch of the day. Extending his body on a dive, he reached out and snagged a pass from Lytle for a first down. ... Receiver Juwann Winfree did not participate and has been limited in camp. Chiaverini said Winfree will be fine, but with his injury history, "we're being a little cautious with Juwann." ... Kicker James Stefanou was perfect on field goals, hitting from 44, 25 and 19 yards. Davis Price went 2-for-2, from 30 and 19 yards, and Evan Price hit one from about 35 yards out.