Laviska Shenault was expected to put up big numbers for the Colorado football team this season.
So far, he hasn’t, but Shenault’s break out performance could come at any time.
“He’s going to keep playing hard, the ball is going to find him and he’s going to make some big plays for this program,” CU receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini said Wednesday. “He’s done it in the past, he’s done it this year. I’m not worried about it and he’s not worried about it, either.”
CU (2-0) will host Air Force (1-0) on Saturday at Folsom Field (11 a.m., TV: Pac-12 Networks) and Shenault is sure to be a focal point of the Falcons’ defense.
Last season, Shenault led the country with 9.6 catches per game and he was fourth with 112.3 receiving yards per game. He earned several preseason All-American honors this summer.
Two games into this season, the Buffs’ offense has scored 79 points and averaged 469.5 yards per game, but Shenault has caught just eight passes for 79 yards. He’s tied with KD Nixon and Tony Brown for the team lead in receptions, but well behind both in yards.
“He gets a little bit frustrated, but I’m glad he gets frustrated,” Chiaverini said. “I’d be more worried if he wasn’t frustrated. He doesn’t show it. He goes out there and competes.”
The lack of production isn’t because the Buffs aren’t trying to get him the ball, but more a product of the Colorado State and Nebraska defenses focusing on him. Both teams were burned by Shenault last year, but bottled him up this year.
“We all know Laviska is a great player,” Chiaverini said. “It’s not like we’re not going to get him the football. It’s going to come for him, so keep playing the game. We have a lot of football left to go in the season. We’ve played two games and he’s been a big part of our game plan, but people are doubling him, people are bracketing and that’s just respect for No. 2.”
Respect for Shenault has led to Brown and Nixon getting off to great starts to the season.
Aside from receiving, Shenault has six rushes for 46 yards. Half of his 14 touches have produced a first down. He’s also been an asset in blocking downfield.
Confidence boost for Tchangam
Senior outside linebacker Alex Tchangam was one of the better players on the CU defense during Saturday’s 34-31 overtime win against Nebraska, recording two sacks and four tackles.
It was the biggest game of Tchangam’s CU career, which began last year when he signed as a junior college transfer.
“Oh yeah, for sure,” he said. “It meant a lot because this was my first game getting two sacks. It felt pretty good. It felt amazing out there.”
Last year, Tchangam, who didn’t play in high school and is still relatively new to the game, played just 90 snaps on defense and recorded one sack.
Tchangam got his first career start against Nebraska and he’s been on the field for 56 snaps already this year.
“When I first got with the (new coaching staff in the offseason) and we were looking over my last year’s tape, and then they just knew what type of potential I had and what type I player I could be,” he said of the turning point for him. “Just getting to work with them. Right when I got to work with them, I knew everything was going to change.”
Falcons D a challenge
Air Force is known for giving opponents trouble with its option offense, but the Buffs will have a tough challenge with the Falcons’ defense, too.
“They’re sound on defense,” Chiaverini said. “They’re aggressive, they play a lot of man coverage in the secondary and they’re going to be disciplined in their fronts and disciplined in their blitzes. They’re a good football team. We have to be prepared to go out there and play hard, play fast and make plays.
“We can’t start slow. We have to start fast, stay on the field and get third-down conversions.”
Chiaverini said he felt “like a proud father” watching receiver Jaylon Jackson make a couple big plays against Nebraska. Jackson missed basically three full seasons from 2015-17 because of injuries and his biggest impact on Saturday, with a 57-yard catch and 14-yard run. … Saturday will mark CU’s first game against any of the service academies since a 31-0 win against Army on Oct. 1, 1977. … The Buffs have won eight consecutive non-conference games, and they’ve won 13 consecutive non-conference games in the state. … CU will wear black helmets and pants and gray jerseys on Saturday.