For much of this season, the attention given to the Colorado football team has centered around its offense, and in particular receiver Laviska Shenault and quarterback Steven Montez.
That attention is certainly warranted. However, the most consistent aspect of the Buffaloes (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) this season has been their defense.
On Saturday, the Buffs host Oregon State (1-6, 0-4) and they bring one of the Pac-12’s top defenses to the field.
CU is allowing just 21.4 points per game (fifth in the Pac-12) and 351.4 yards per game (fifth). Only seven rushing touchdowns have been scored against CU (tied for first in the Pac-12).
In two of the most important defensive categories, the Buffs rank third in total takeaways (12) and fourth in opponent third-down conversion rate (32.3).
It’s all been a dramatic improvement for a defense that struggled in 2017.
“I believe I saw a change in culture that made me believe that we could be good if we wanted to be,” senior safety Nick Fisher said. “The bond that we have has a lot to do with it. I could see that early on. If the guys bought in, which we have, I thought the defense would be good. That bond, I don’t think we had that back then (in 2017). You want to fight for the guys you’re playing with now. Less individualism and more team.”
The Buffs will look to keep it going Saturday against an Oregon State offense that has struggled at times, but has a dynamic run game.
Not so fantastic finishes
Two weeks ago, Steven Montez was the national leader in completion percentage, at 75.2 percent. In the past two games, his season percentage has dipped to 69.3.
Montez has completed just 57.3 percent of passes (43-of-75) in the last two games combined, but it’s really been how he’s finished those games that has impacted his overall percentage.
In a 31-20 loss at USC on Sept. 13, Montez completed just one of his last 10 throws; he was solid at 67.6 percent before that.
Last week at Washington, he started 17-for-21 (81 percent), but finished 0-for-7 with an interception.
“I think getting through progresses is one of the areas I need to improve on right now and it needs to improve quick,” he said. “Just not getting stuck on the primary (receiver) and getting all the way through the primary to our third/fourth read. We’ve been working on that in practice and it’s getting better each day we work on it.”
Getting Montez back on track will certainly help the offense regain some of its mojo.
“I think it’ll be huge for us this week to get some positive things going on offense. I think we have a good offense here,” Montez said. “Oregon State is going to be a good team. We’ve got to see who brings their A game on Saturday. Hopefully we go out on Saturday and execute.”
A few notables for Saturday’s game:
- Montez is making his third career start against Oregon State and so far has a 2-0 record against them. He’s also thrown five touchdown passes and no interceptions against the Beavers.
- CU is 7-for-14 on fourth downs this year, but no team in the Pac-12 has gone for it more often on fourth down than Oregon State. The Beavers have been rather successful, too. They come into this game with an 80-percent (16-for-20) conversion rate on fourth down. Only seven teams in the country have a better success rate.
- Two CU receivers are nearing the 1,000-yard mark for their careers. Jay MacIntyre (988 yards) needs 12 yards, while Laviska Shenault (948) needs 52.
- CU linebacker Rick Gamboa has 340 career tackles. Only seven players in school history have reached the 350 mark.
- Nose tackle Javier Edwards will be celebrating his 22nd birthday today.
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at email@example.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.