Tony Brown knows it’s coming. Maybe this week, maybe not. But certainly soon.
So far, Colorado’s senior wide receiver has made the most of the space afforded to him by opposing defenses. Sometimes, like the highlight-reel catches he made in the end zone against Nebraska and Arizona State, that space has been almost nil.
Yet as Brown continues to pile up numbers more applicable to a unanimous No. 1 receiver than a guy perceived during the preseason as the Buffs’ third option, at best, in the passing game, he expects defenses to start clamping down on him a little more intensely. After amassing 19 receptions for 291 yards over the past two games, that added scrutiny could arrive as soon as Friday night when the Buffs tackle what likely will be their toughest challenge of the season at No. 13 Oregon (8:05 p.m. MT, FS1).
“So far, no. But I expect it,” Brown said about the potential of facing double coverage. “The way I’ve been performing, I really expect people to have double coverage and stuff like that. But it’s all going to work out because we still have KD Nixon and Laviska (Shenault). You can’t double-coverage all of us. So we’re all weapons, and we use that to our advantage.”
Brown is quite correct in his assertion that Nixon and Shenault will make teams pay for giving him added scrutiny. The caveat is there is no guarantee either player will see the field Friday night at Autzen Stadium. Shenault missed last week due to a core muscle strain, and by the end of CU’s 35-30 home loss to Arizona, Nixon was on the sideline, too. Both players remained among the Buffs’ lengthy list of walking wounded described as day-to-day this week by head coach Mel Tucker.
“It makes a big difference (having Shenault),” Brown said. “When you have two people on one guy, that’s going to leaves everybody else open. Somebody’s going to come wide open. That’s an advantage with everyone.”
After forming a solid relationship with receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini while both were at Texas Tech, Brown eventually transferred to CU. He cracked the Buffs’ rotation last year, finishing third on the team in receptions (33) and receiving yards (333) while grabbing only one touchdown pass. Brown has nearly topped those numbers in the just the past two weeks, posting a career-best 150-yard, three-touchdown effort during the Buffs’ win at ASU Sept. 21.
CU played nearly the entire ASU game without Shenault, who was injured in the first quarter. The Buffs then faced Arizona without Shenault and partially without Nixon, who managed just one catch for seven yards before sitting out most of the second half while Brown recorded a career-best 10 receptions for 141 yards. (Nixon did throw a touchdown pass to Dmitri Stanley.) Obviously the Buffs are a better team with Shenault and Nixon sharing the load, yet if they remain sidelined in Eugene, Brown has more than proven he can lead the way in CU’s passing game.
Brown goes into the Oregon game with 29 receptions for 442 yards and four touchdowns. He ranks fourth in the Pac-12 at 88.4 receiving yards per game, and only three Pac-12 receivers have recorded more touchdown catches.
“He’s done it all year, whether the guys are healthy or guys have been out,” Tucker said. “He’s done it in spring ball. He’s done it in fall camp. It seems like every single week we talk about Tony Brown. His name keeps coming up. And that’s because he’s very consistent and he always makes plays. I just think there’s a reality we have to come to that he’s a good player. That’s what it is.”