Laviska Shenault’s return to form not enough for CU Buffs

Star WR scores two TDs in loss to Falcons

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The silver lining of Colorado’s stunning overtime loss against Air Force? That’s easy. The biggest thrill for Buffaloes fans on an otherwise frustrating day at Folsom Field was an electrifying performance by receiver Laviska Shenault.

It wasn’t enough, of course, as CU dropped a 30-23 overtime decision. However, for the first time this season Shenault was not routinely double-teamed by an opposing defense, with the Falcons utilizing a mix of well-conceived blitzes to pressure CU quarterback Steven Montez while often taking their chances with one-on-one coverage against Shenault.

Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer
Colorado’s Laviska Shenault scores a touchdown during the first half on Saturday.

It worked well enough for AFA, which celebrated at Folsom in the first game between the Front Range rivals in 45 years. But they rolled the dice with Shenault, who finished with eight receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown.

“They pretty much were the same as what we watched on tape,” Shenault said. “We just weren’t executing. We weren’t doing the little things right.”

It’s not as if Shenault had pulled a complete disappearing act during the first two games. In the opener against Colorado State he finished with three catches for 48 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown with 25 seconds remaining in the first half that gave the Buffs the lead for good. Shenault also drew two pass interference calls against the Rams, both of which contributed to scoring drives.

Like the CSU game, Shenault was the focal point of Nebraska’s defense last week. He finished with five receptions for 31 yards, with that latter total the lowest by Shenault since he emerged as a star with a 211-yard performance in the opener against CSU last year.

The defensive attention drawn by Shenault during the first two games allowed for more opportunities for Tony Brown (131 receiving yards in the first two games) and KD Nixon (148 against Nebraska), but Saturday was Shenault’s time to shine.  On the opening drive alone he caught three passes for 63 yards, a burst that included a short pass that Shenault turned into a 42-yard touchdown after shaking free from a pair of Air Force defenders.

Of Shenault’s other five receptions, four gave the Buffs conversions on third down, and the other was a 15-yard reception on second-and-15. Shenault also contributed with his legs out of the wildcat formation, converting a fourth-and-one with a 19-yard run to set up Dmitri Stanley’s first career touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. Shenault later tied the game with a two-yard touchdown run, but his heroics weren’t enough to lift the Buffs past the Falcons.

“We were moving, we were moving. We were unstoppable,” Shenault said. “But like I said little things messed us up, kind of slowed us down and we tried to pick it up. We could pick it up but like I said it was the little things. Little things just messed us up. It’s a good teaching moment.”