TEMPE, Ariz. – Colorado’s bye week could not be coming at a better time.
While the Buffaloes pulled off a 34-31 upset of No. 24 Arizona State on Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium, they left the desert as a bruised and battered football team.
Receiver Laviska Shenault (undisclosed injury) and defensive tackle Mustafa Johnson (ankle) both left the game in the first quarter with injuries and did not return. Cornerback Chris Miller was knocked out of the game with a sternum injury late in the third quarter.
Along the way, cornerback Delrick Abrams (shoulder), safety Mikial Onu (leg) and running back Jaren Mangham (arm) left the game with injuries, as well, but all three returned.
CU didn’t flinch, despite the losses.
“We coach everybody,” head coach Mel Tucker said. “We coach all the players the same; we coach the walk-ons, we have developmental periods a couple days a week. We have confidence that all of our guys can go in and get their job done.
“When guys going in the game, it’s next man up and you’re a starter and the expectation is for you to play at that level.”
CU was already playing without starting safety Aaron Maddox (leg laceration against Air Force on Sept. 14), so the secondary is especially banged up.
While the next-man-up expectation is there, it’s beneficial for CU that it doesn’t play again until Arizona visits on Oct. 5.
“It’ll be good for us,” quarterback Steven Montez said. “We’ll get healthy as a team and hopefully we can just get our mind right and prepare for U of A.”
Getting rest and getting healthy are goals for the bye week, but Tucker said this next week can’t be a lazy one for the Buffs.
“We need to get better,” he said. “We need to take the opportunities we get to meet and to practice and improve.”
On the positive side of the injury front, linebacker Carson Wells returned to the lineup after missing two games with a concussion.
Line steps up
Against Air Force on Sept. 14, the Buffs’ offensive line had a rough afternoon. CU gave up a pair of sacks, Montez was under pressure all day and the run game had a hard time getting on track.
Facing one of the best defensive teams in the country on Saturday, the line stepped up. The first-team unit of Arlington Hambright, Kary Kutsch, Tim Lynott, Colby Pursell and William Sherman allowed zero sacks, very little pressure and paved the way for 140 rushing yards.
“I saw grit and determination,” Tucker said of the line. “Our offensive line is very well coached. Coach (Chris Kapilovic) does a fantastic job with those guys. And you know, as they play more together, get more snaps under their belts and really see what they’re capable of doing, I feel like we’ll be able to run the football we’ll be able to protect the quarterback.”
Pursell, who plays right guard, said the linemen knew they had to bounce back and play well.
“We always have to challenge ourselves to be better every week,” he said. “Obviously, last week wasn’t the result we wanted. We knew this week we’d have a big task going into conference play. We knew we had to execute.
“It feels great. It’s the goal to keep (Montez) clean, open up run lanes. That’s what you want.”
Brown’s big night
Receiver Tony Brown set career highs in catches (nine), yards (150) and touchdowns (three) for the Buffs. He tied the school record for touchdown receptions in a game, becoming the fifth player in CU history with three.
“It was fun for me to be in there, but it was overall very important for me to step up, with Laviska being out,” he said. “I knew my role, I did my assignment.”
CU is 2-0 against ranked teams this year. Over the previous nine years, the Buffs were 2-30 against ranked foes (both wins in 2016). … Defensive tackle Janaz Jordan got his first career start. Defensive end Jeremiah Doss, safety Mark Perry and cornerback KJ Trujillo all made their CU debuts. … Montez posted the 12th 300-yard passing game of his career, setting a new CU record. The previous mark was 11, by Sefo Liufau. … Montez has started 28 consecutive games, tying Kordell Stewart (1992-94) for the second-longest streak for a quarterback in CU history. Gale Weidner (31 from 1959-61) has the longest starting streak. … CU won the coin toss for the fourth time in four games this year. The Buffs are a remarkable 33-9 on the toss in their last 42 games.