SEATTLE — Colorado’s roster is filled with talented playmakers, but there’s no denying that one of them is very different from the rest, and not having him impacted the Buffaloes on Saturday.
Dynamic sophomore receiver Laviska Shenault didn’t make the trip to Seattle because of a toe injury sustained a week early against Southern California.
Without him, the Buffaloes struggled offensively in a 27-13 loss to Washington on Saturday.
“It goes without saying, Laviska is just so special after the catch and what he can do with the ball in his hands,” quarterback Steven Montez said. “Not having him obviously didn’t help us at all, but I think we definitely have receivers outside of Laviska that are very capable and that can play, as well.”
Shenault has 60 catches for 780 yards and six touchdowns this season, leading the country in catches (10.0) and receiving yards (130.0) per game. He also has five rushing touchdowns.
The Buffs also played without starting slot receiver Jay MacIntyre, who is recovering from a concussion. MacIntyre 14 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns this season.
“It doesn’t change my mind set at all,” Montez said of missing two of his favorite targets. “I still go through progressions just like I would if they were on the field. We have a ton of talent on the field. We have guys that can go make plays out there.”
Washington kept CU’s receivers in check, however.
CU’s second-leading receiver this season, KD Nixon, had just four catches for 36 yards. The Buffs’ third-leading receiver, Tony Brown, had two catches for minus-3 yards.
Senior Juwann Winfree made his return after missing four games with an ankle injury, but didn’t have a catch.
The Buffs turned to some new targets to get a spark.
True freshman Daniel Arias made his first career catch on a 37-yard touchdown in the first quarter, but he didn’t get the ball again. Another true freshman, Dimitri Stanley, made his first career catch, as well, and finished with three receptions for 24 yards.
Even tight end Brady Russell made an impact. A redshirt freshman, he had his first career catches, too, finishing with four receptions for 23 yards.
The Buffs lacked the big plays that Shenault so often brings, however. They even missed him on his wildcat runs, which have produced five touchdowns and seven first downs this year.
Running back Travon McMillian ran out of the wildcat a few times Saturday, but didn’t enjoy the same type of success.
“We’re not going to make excuses about who is there or not there,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “We have to find a way to win. We have enough talent and I know our quarterback is good enough for us to get more points on the board. We’ll find a way to do that.”
Having Shenault as a weapon helps, of course, but the Buffs aren’t sure how long he or Jay MacIntyre will be out.
“They were getting treatment this weekend and doing different things,” coach MacIntyre said. “Hopefully we’ll get them back. I think we’ll know a little bit more Monday on a few of the (injured) guys.”