Throughout the offseason, Colorado quarterback Steven Montez often drew praise from first-year head coach Mel Tucker.
The fifth-year senior made a good impression on Tucker in the season opener, too.
Montez completed 13-of-20 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns during CU’s 52-31 win against Colorado State on Friday, but it was more than numbers that stood out to Tucker.
“He did a really good job tonight,” Tucker said. “He was into it and he was really excited. He was confident going into the game. I talked to him (Thursday) night when we got to the hotel. He said, ‘Coach, I feel so prepared’ and ‘I’m so ready to go’.
“He was able to settle in and make some big plays for us. He ran a good show for us.”
CU’s new-look offense is designed for balance and to take some pressure off of Montez. He needs to play well, but he doesn’t have to be the star of the show every week.
“We’re not leaving it up to one guy,” Tucker said. “We were able to run ball, which helps him; we had good play action; and we have several play makers that can make plays for him.”
Montez’s performance against CSU was solid, but it was the run game that stood out. The Buffs’ offensive line paved the way for 243 rushing yards and kept Montez from getting sacked.
“(The run game) helps me out by just taking a little bit of the pressure off and not having to come out and throw every play,” Montez said. “Big credit to our O-line today. They played an absolutely phenomenal game. No sacks, they were moving guys around in the run game and also a huge credit to Alex Fontenot coming out in his debut game and having 125 yards and three touchdowns. That’s huge for us. If we can get that every week that would be real big.”
Van Diest’s first start
Inside linebacker Jonathan Van Diest made his first career start on Friday. Now in his third year with the program, it was Van Diest’s first significant playing time since his senior year at Cherry Creek High School in 2016.He has battled through several injuries since then.
“It was years of waiting, rehabbing, waiting some more, and just working to have a moment like this,” he said. “It’s a dream come true and it’s a process, as well. I’m grateful and I thank God for keeping me healthy and encouraged throughout the whole process, because it’s been a grind. But, it’s only beginning.”
Van Diest finished with six tackles and one sack, a huge play in the fourth quarter that forced a fumble which as recovered by lineman Mustafa Johnson and returned for a touchdown.
A relatively new trend in college football is the sideline props teams use as rewards for defenders who get turnovers.
On Friday, CU debuted its reward. The player who forces or gets a turnover wears a boxing robe and pummels a punching bag.
Safety Mikial Onu was the first to wear the robe after a first quarter interception. He had two interceptions overall.
“I like that robe,” Onu said. “It looks really good. Turnovers are really big in college football, especially momentum swings and things like that. You want to celebrate that stuff as much as you can.”
Safety Aaron Maddox, who forced a fumble, is a fan, as well.
“I really love it,” he said. “It brings even more fun into the game; even more fun when you make a turnover.”
Davis Price and James Stefanou split kickoff duties on Friday. Price, who handled 125 of CU’s 126 kickoffs the past two years, had touchbacks on two of his six kickoffs. Stefanou had touchbacks on all three of his kicks. … Nate Landman led CU with 11 tackles. … Montez became the fourth player in CU history more than 7,000 career passing yards. He is now at 7,073.