Cliff Grassmick/Daily Camera
Cliff Grassmick/Daily Camera
Cliff Grassmick/Daily Camera
Cliff Grassmick/Daily Camera
With the reverse handoff developing behind him, Colorado quarterback Steven Montez squared up and knocked New Hampshire defensive end Jae’Wuan Horton to the ground.
Then, he spotted UNH linebacker Michael Balsamo and knocked him to the ground.
One play, two pancakes for the Buffs’ junior quarterback.
“I Need Some Syrup,” Montez tweeted Sunday after someone tagged him with a video of the play.
A CU penalty negated the play, but not the fact that Montez was yet again doing his part to help his team. Three games into junior season, Montez is doing the little things (such as blocking) and the big things (such as throwing touchdown passes) in playing the best football of his career with the Buffs.
“He’s played really well,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “He’s been really sharp, done some really good things. I think he’s a heck of a football player. He’s going to need to play well for us to be successful, and I definitely believe he will.”
No, Montez hasn’t been perfect, and his interception at the end of the first half of Saturday’s 45-14 win against New Hampshire was an example, but the good in his game right now is, by far, outweighing the bad.
Statistically, Montez is 69-for-94 (73.4 percent) for 855 yards, 8 TD and 2 INT. Nationally, only seven quarterbacks have a better completion percentage, and all seven have thrown fewer passes.
Most impressive, however, has been Montez’s poise on the field. He was in complete command of the offense during the Buffs’ 45-13 rout of Colorado State in the opener, was even more impressive as a leader during the 33-28 win at Nebraska, and then had the offense focused during Saturday’s win against New Hampshire.
CU still has its most important games to play, but Montez’s numbers, poise and focus thus far have to give the Buffs confidence going forward.
A few random thoughts from the weekend:
1. On a personal level, Saturday’s win was a fun one for me. In recent years, I’ve had a couple chances to bring my wife or kids to sit with me in the press box for games. On Saturday, for the first time, I had my dad join me. Not sure why it took so long to get my dad to a game, but it was a lot of fun having him there with me to enjoy the press box experience for the first time.
2. I realize he’s done most of his work against backups in “garbage time,” but it’s great to see Beau Bisharat having some success running the football for the Buffs. Highly touted come out of high school, Bisharat, now a junior, has been mainly a blocking back during his career, coming into this year with 106 yards on 36 career carries. So far this year, he’s got 144 yards on 20 carries, including 92 yards against UNH.
3. Ronnie Blackmon has the ability to return a punt for a touchdown at some point, but he’s made some risky decisions so far this year, and it might bite the Buffs down the road.
4. CU’s coaches know more about their players than any fans or media, as they watch them every day in practice. Clearly, Sam Noyer has been their choice as the No. 2 quarterback, with redshirt freshman Tyler Lytle being third-string. While Noyer may have earned the No. 2 job through practice, he’s been underwhelming enough in his limited game time that, in my opinion, Lytle should get a crack at the No. 2 spot the next time the Buffs are in that position. I’d like to see Lytle get a chance to do something besides hand the ball off in a game situation.
The week’s best Buffs
During the win against New Hampshire, several players stepped up for the Buffs, but here are five I thought really stood out:
1. RB Travon McMillian: It’s too bad the Buffs only get him for one year. He’s fun to watch, and had his best game so far, with 162 yards and two touchdowns.
2. CB Delrick Abrams: Yet another strong performance for the junior college transfer, who had four tackles and two pass breakups.
3. DE Mustafa Johnson: So far, Johnson has been one of the most impressive players on the defense. He picked up a sack and two tackles for loss.
4. BUFF Davion Taylor: Continues to improve, and on Saturday he scooped up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown.
5. WR Tony Brown: Stepping in for injured Juwann Winfree, Brown caught five passes for a team-high 80 yards.
Interesting note about this group: Only one of these guys – Brown – was on the team in 2017, and he sat out the season because of the NCAA transfer rule.
Stat of the week
So far this season, Colorado has 35 points off of turnovers, converting seven takeaways into five touchdowns – including Taylor’s fumble return for touchdown on Saturday.
During the entire 2017 season, the Buffs had 34 points off of turnovers, converting 14 takeaways into four touchdowns and two field goals.
This season, the only times CU failed to score after a takeaway: In the fourth quarter against Nebraska, the Buffs missed a field goal after a Nate Landman interception; and on Saturday, CU got a late fumble and didn’t really try to score, running the ball on four straight plays (Lytle’s only action of the game) to chew up the clock.
Pac-12 players of the week
Colorado has had a conference player of the week twice already (Nate Landman in Week 1, Laviska Shenault in Week 2). Running back Travon McMillian was the Buffs’ only nominee this week, so the streak might end. But, here’s who I voted for this week:
Offense – Khalil Tate, Arizona: Known for his running last year, Tate had a great game throwing the ball, completing 13-of-20 passes for 349 yards and five touchdowns against Southern Utah. In all, he had 363 yards in total offense on just 24 plays, a 15.3 average.
Defense – Justin Hollins, Oregon: Filled the stat sheet with eight tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and one interception in a win against San Jose State.
Special teams – Travell Harris, Washington State: One of three players in the Pac-12 with a kickoff return for touchdown last weekend, Harris had a 100-yard return against Eastern Washington and leads the conference with 37 kickoff return yards per game.
Pac-12 Team of the Week
Washington State: I realize the Cougars haven’t had the toughest schedule around, but they look better than I thought they’d be this season. They pulled away in the fourth quarter Saturday for a 59-24 win against Eastern Washington. QB Gardner Minshew, a graduate transfer from East Carolina, has played really well so far, and on Saturday he completed 45-of-57 passes for 470 yards and two touchdowns. Their visit to USC on Friday night will be intriguing.
National Team of the Week
BYU: The Cougars’ 24-21 win at then-No. 6 Wisconsin was impressive. Not simply because they won, but how they won. The Cougars were very physical against the Badgers, rushing for 191 yards and averaging 6.8 yards per carry. Running back Squally Canada and linebacker Sione Takitaki are fun to watch. Not sure which BYU team will show up each week – they looked really good vs. Arizona, too, but not so good against Cal – but the Cougars are much better than last year.
A few thoughts on the Pac-12 after Week 3:
1. Going into the year, I knew the North division was better than the South, but the gap is huge right now. The two projected best teams in the North (Stanford and Washington) are already 2-0 against the two projected best teams in the South (USC and Utah), winning by a combined 38-10. So far, five of the six best teams in the conference, in my opinion, are from the North.
2. It’s been a rough start in Los Angeles, where UCLA (0-3) is dreadful and USC (1-2) hasn’t been much better. There was a lot of hype in the offseason about UCLA’s hiring of Chip Kelly as head coach, but he doesn’t have a roster anywhere near like what he had at Oregon years ago. The Bruins were completely disjointed in a 38-14 loss to Fresno State. USC’s 37-14 loss at Texas may have been more surprising. The Trojans led 14-3 early and then gave up 34 straight. Maybe the Trojans get things figured out, as they did in 2016 after a 1-3 start, but Sam Darnold isn’t coming off the bench to save them this year.
3. Speaking of USC, perhaps the most stunning statistic I saw this week in the Pac-12 was the Trojans’ minus-5 rushing yards against Texas. And, that’s with a 23-yard touchdown run from Stephen Carr. The sophomore finished with 13 yards on 6 carries. Outside of his touchdown, his other five carries went for 1, 0, minus-2, minus-3 and minus-6 yards.
4. Oregon State missed out on a great opportunity to win its second in a row, falling at Nevada, 37-35. Receiver Isaiah Hodgins was fantastic (14 catches, 200 yards, 2 TD), but you gotta feel for kicker Jordan Choukair, who missed a potential game-winning 34-yard field goal on the last play (Choukair also had the missed 52-yarder that would have tied the game against CU last year). The Beavers have lost 13 in a row to FBS opponents and 21 straight on the road. The last road win: 36-31 against CU on Oct. 4, 2014, in Boulder.
5. Oregon State is obviously in major rebuilding mode, but I’ll be interested to see how the Beavers do this week. Arizona comes to Corvallis. Despite their 62-31 win against FCS Southern Utah, Arizona’s been a big disappointment this year. That’s not an easy game for the Wildcats.
6. I think Oregon is good, but I’m not sure. The Ducks are 3-0, but they should be after a non-conference schedule that had them playing home games against Bowling Green (58-24 win), Portland State (62-14) and San Jose State (35-22). The real test comes this week when Stanford visits Eugene.
After week 3, here’s how I rank the teams in the Pac-12:
1. Stanford (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12): The Cardinal continue to play efficient football, rolling past UC-Davis, 30-10.
2. Washington (2-1, 1-0): The Huskies’ 21-7 win at Utah wasn’t a pretty game, but they got a key win in a tough road environment.
3. Oregon (3-0): Non-conference play has been relatively easy for the Ducks, who got past San Jose State, 35-22.
4. Colorado (3-0): Off to a 3-0 start for the second year in a row, the Buffs have been more impressive than last year and have arguably been the best team in the South.
5. Washington State (3-0): Needed a huge fourth quarter, 24-0 run to put Eastern Washington away, 59-24. Still the Cougars are off to a better start than expected.
6. California (3-0): Remained undefeated with a 45-23 win against Idaho State. Gave up two late touchdowns, but led 45-9 at one point.
7. Arizona State (2-1): Against a good San Diego State squad, the Sun Devils suffered their first loss.
8. Utah (2-1, 0-1): The offense struggled once again, but the defense kept the Utes in the game against Washington.
9. USC (1-2, 0-1): It’s been an ugly two weeks for the Trojans, who also lost kicker Chase McGrath to a season-ending ACL injury.
10. Arizona (1-2): It’s going to take more than a rout of Southern Utah to move the Wildcats up these rankings, but that was a much-needed win for this team.
11. Oregon State (1-2): OSU is still getting going, but they’ve shown some firepower on offense so far.
12. UCLA (0-3): It’s been ugly so far for the Bruins. Very ugly.
Quote the of week
Asked about the 28-yard touchdown pass he threw to Laviska Shenault – a play in which Shenault simply reached over the defense to snag the ball and then broke a couple tackles to get to the end zone – Montez said:
“He’s one of those guys that, even if he’s kind of covered, you still give him a shot because he’s just such a great player, such a great athlete. He’s going to make a lot of those plays in his time here at CU. It’s going to be real good for the offense, obviously.”
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at email@example.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.