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Steven Montez’s poise, leadership big in CU Buffs’ win at ASU

Quarterback had 337 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday’s win

Perhaps the tone was set on Friday afternoon, when the Colorado football team dressed in newly tailored suits for their “business trip” to Tempe, Ariz.

Certainly the no-excuses, relentless approach of head coach Mel Tucker and his staff came into play on Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium.

Photo courtesy CU Athletics
Colorado quarterback Steven Montez went 23-for-30 for 337 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday’s 34-31 win against Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.

From start to finish, CU’s 34-31 upset of No. 24 Arizona State was a workmanlike effort. The Buffs clocked in, put in a full four quarters of good work – for the first time this season – and punched out. The Buffs (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) were remarkably calm under pressure and displayed maturity through adversity.

The suits and Tucker’s demeanor set the table, but in the heat of the game, the coolest, calmest, most mature guy on the field was Buffs quarterback Steven Montez.

A week after his lackluster performance in a disappointing overtime loss at home to Air Force, Montez had one of his best games and displayed leadership throughout a significant win for the Buffs.

“That’s why I believe in him,” Tucker said.

Statistically, Montez could not have been much better. He completed 76.7 percent of his passes (23 of 30) for 337 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions.

Naturally, when asked about his bounce-back performance, Montez treated the praise like a hot potato and passed it off to others.

“I just made a couple throws,” he said. “It’s more about what the O-line did today; zero sacks. Zero sacks was huge for us up front. I mean, we played a phenomenal game up front. And having the run game kind of open up for us a little bit like it did tonight. I mean, that helps a ton in the pass game. And then also those catches that the receivers made, those weren’t easy catches. They had to make some difficult catches.

“So I mean … I played a decent game, but I think it was more an overall team effort.”

He’s not wrong. The offensive line had its best game of the season. The running backs – Alex Fontenot, Jaren Mangham and Deion Smith – churned out some important and difficult yards throughout the night. And, the receivers, particularly Tony Brown, KD Nixon and Dimitri Stanley, made big-time catches.

Montez is the man that makes the offense click, however, and he spent the entire game maintaining his poise, delivering accurate passes and directing the Buffs’ offense to a shredding of an ASU defense that was nearly unbreakable the first three weeks.

Montez’s ever-developing leadership can’t be discounted either.

Tucker names three captains for each game, and Montez got the nod last week. He’s the first player on the team to be named a captain twice this season.

It’s not a title he takes lightly.

Prior to the start of the second half, Montez walked over to cornerback Delrick Abrams, who was sitting by himself trying to shake off a first-half injury. Montez sat down and chatted with Abrams for a minute before patting him on the shoulder and heading over to join the offense. Without hearing the words exchanged by the two seniors, it was clearly an encouraging message being delivered by the quarterback.

“I’ve seen it since spring ball, what type of player he is; what type of leader he can be; what type of leader he is; and the plays that he can make,” Tucker said.

With eight games to play during the regular season, and several of them against tough competition, Montez is sure to have some highs and lows the rest of this season. Yet, on Saturday night, the senior showed up when his team needed him. He wasn’t the only reason the Buffs won – far from it – but they likely don’t win that game without his leadership, maturity and talent.

“I’m not surprised at what I see out of Steven because it’s not like … miraculously this ability just came out of nowhere,” Tucker said. “I mean, he’s got talent, and he’s got experience and he competes.”


The Buffs have a bye this week and will play their next game on Oct. 5 against Arizona (2-1) at Folsom Field. Start time is likely to be announced Monday. … CU is one of only three teams in the country – along with Auburn and Southern California – to have two wins against Top 25 opponents this year. … The Buffs did not make it into the Top 25 this week, but they did receive votes in both the Associated Press and Amway Coaches’ polls. … CU was 10-for-17 (58.8 percent) on third downs against ASU, and 21-for-36 (58.3 percent) the past two games. … Kicker James Stefanou has made eight of his last nine field goals, dating back to last season. He’s 6-for-6 this year.