The legend of Laviska Shenault continues to grow. And how.
The breakout star of the young football season for Colorado turned in another video-game like performance Friday night, once again leading the Buffaloes offense in a 38-16 win against UCLA at Folsom Field in both teams' Pac-12 Conference opener.
Shenault's sudden assault on the CU record book kept pace against the Bruins, as the sophomore receiver recorded 12 catches for 126 yards with a highlight-reel 57-yard touchdown reception that gave the Buffs their first score.
After recording just seven receptions for 168 yards as a freshman a year ago, Shenault has sported the look of a future NFL star through the Buffs' 4-0 start. It was the third 100-yard receiving effort for Shenault in four games, and the 6-foot-2 receiver has recorded a touchdown catch in each game so far for CU.
"It opens up a lot," said running back Travon McMillian, who balanced the Shenault-led passing attack with 102 rushing yards. "Viska's versatile, so you can move him around. It's hard to defend him. when guys are doubling him, it's less guys in the box, so that opens up the run game for me. I'm just really appreciative of the players that we have.”
Through four games, Shenault is well on his way toward challenging the CU program's single-season record for receptions (108 by Nelson Spruce in 2014) and receiving yards (1,343 by Paul Richardson in 2013). Shenault also has recorded at least 10 receptions in three of four games, and Friday night's effort left him with season totals of 38 receptions for 581 yards. Given Friday's game completed the first third of the Buffs' schedule, Shenault has those single-season marks well within sight.
While it was the highlight catches that thrilled the Folsom crowd on Friday — Shenault completely left a UCLA defender in his wake on the 57-yard scoring grab — much of Shenault's damage was done with a more blue-collar approach. A 14-yard catch in the second quarter allowed CU to convert a second-and-12 situation, setting up a 10-yard Steven Montez touchdown run, and a 17-yard catch by Shenault along the sideline made with his arms outstretched along the boundary line showed his gaudy receiving totals so far have as much to do with his superb hands as his superior athletic ability.
Once again, co-offensive coordinator/receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini did a commendable job of moving Shenault into optimal situations, utilizing him on an array of jet sweeps, throws out of the backfield, and more conventional downfield assaults that kept the Bruins defense guessing. Shenault also made another appearance in the backfield as the quarterback in a wildcat formation and gave the Buffs the lead for good with a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
"I think he can really do it all," Montez said. "They've got him playing at the tight end position. Whenever he's not getting the ball, he's dreawing two, three defenders, because that's how many guys it takes to get him on the ground. I think he's a very special player for us, I think he makes a lot of great plays. He plays a little quarterback back there in the wildcat. He can do it all. Great player. My dog."
Shenault became the first CU receiver to score two rushing touchdowns in a season since Rae Carruth in 1996.