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CU Buffs football notes: Focus on Laviska Shenault creates opportunities for others

Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Colorado receiver Laviska Shenault had three catches for 48 yards against CSU.
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Last year, Colorado’s Laviska Shenault set a high standard that would be difficult for any receiver to match from week to week.

Even Shenault couldn’t match the standard last week in the Buffaloes’ 52-31 win against Colorado State.

The junior, who led the country with 9.6 catches per game in 2018 (along with 112.3 yards per game), opened the season with a solid, but not sensational game.

With CSU defenders following him everywhere, he finished with three catches for 48 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 35 yards and drawing two pass interference penalties that added up to another 26 yards for the Buffs.

“It’s for sure frustrating,” Shenault said on Tuesday. “I’m also learning how to do deal with it. I just have to keep my head on the bigger picture. If we’re winning and the team is doing everything right, we’re good.”

Shenault had at least five catches and at least 64 receiving yards in all nine games he played last year. In five games he had 10-plus catches for over 100 yards.

With defenses focusing on him, Shenault’s numbers might not look the same, but the opportunities could be there for others, such as Tony Brown, KD Nixon, the tight ends and more.

“It definitely opens it up,” Shenault said. “It’s good when every guy can come in and do their part and do their job.

“When your type of offense can do that, it opens up everything. We can do anything we want, honestly, when everybody can touch the ball and everybody can be trusted. It’s definitely a good thing.”

Clean game

In the opening week of the season, CU was one of just three teams nationally to have no turnovers or sacks allowed while committing fewer than five penalties. The Buffs were penalized four times for 43 yards.

Quarterback Steven Montez was particularly pleased with no sacks allowed.

“First of all, you have to give credit to the big guys up front,” he said. “They did a phenomenal job on Friday of protecting me and doing good things not only in the run game but also in the pass protection game. They played their butts off.  I think it’s also me making sure I get the ball out quicker and getting through those reads a little faster.”

Praise for Fontenot

Montez was also pleased to see sophomore Alex Fontenot have a big game in his first start at running back. Fontenot rushed for 125 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries against the Rams.

“He’s a very dynamic back, very fast and very shifty,” Montez said.

Montez was particularly impressed with Fontenot’s 22-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. On the play, Fontenot slipped through a couple tackles and somehow stayed on his feet en route to the end zone.

“His balance I think is his best quality,” Montez said.

Notable

Last week, the Buffs were plus-four on turnover margin (four takeaways, no turnovers). It’s just the second time since 2007 that they had that big of a margin in a game. The other time was a plus-four during a 10-5 win at Stanford in 2016. … Shenault had 10 catches for 177 yards and a touchdown, along with a 3-yard touchdown run, in last year’s 33-28 win at Nebraska. … The Cornhuskers lead the all-time series, 49-19-2.