Colorado’s Laviska Shenault may not be 100 percent healthy, but that didn’t stop the Buffaloes’ star from making plays last week, and he’s hoping to make even more this week.
“I feel pretty good,” Shenault said Tuesday after the Buffs’ practice. “I’m trying to get there fully. I felt like I can do everything, but I’m not 100 (percent). But I can do what I can. I’m very close.”
Shenault, who collected several preseason All-American and All-Pac-12 honors over the summer, left the Buffaloes’ Sept. 21 game at Arizona State early in the first quarter after a core muscle strain. That injury caused him to also miss the Oct. 5 game against Arizona, but he returned last week at Oregon to catch four passes for 70 yards and draw 30 yards in penalties against the Ducks.
“It’s all my decision,” he said of deciding to return. “They know what’s going on with me, so it was basically my decision of how I felt and how I could go.”
It was almost exactly one year ago – on Oct. 13, 2018 – that Shenault left the Buffs’ 31-20 loss at Southern California with a turf toe injury that caused him to miss the next three games.
To that point, Shenault was sensational. During the first six games of the 2018 season, he caught 60 passes for 780 yards and six touchdowns, while rushing 15 times for 90 yards and five touchdowns. Those numbers had him in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy – and it helped that CU had a 5-1 record.
In CU’s 12 games since, the Buffs are 3-9 and Shenault has missed four of those because of injury. In the eight games he’s played in the last calendar year, he has 47 catches for 527 yards and two touchdowns, along with 11 rushes for 94 yards and one touchdown.
During the past year, Shenault has dealt with toe and shoulder injuries – both required offseason surgery last winter – in addition to his current core muscle strain.
“I definitely think about my long term (health); my coaches and everyone does,” he said. “That was the first question they asked me and the first thing we talked about when we sat down, trying to figure out what we’re going to do going forward.”
For now, there is not enough concern to keep him out, and Shenault is eager to help the Buffs snap their two-game losing streak.
“We just have to come in, listen to our coaches, listen to what we gotta do, do all the little things right, do it the right way and everybody just has to come ready – come with that dog mindset,” he said.
Praise for Borghi
Washington State’s “air raid” offense is well known for its gaudy passing statistics and big-time numbers for its quarterbacks and receivers.
One of the most dangerous weapons the Cougars’ have, however, is running Max Borghi. The true sophomore from Pomona High School in Arvada, has racked up 678 yards in total offense and scored seven touchdowns.
“He could play anywhere in the country,” Buffs head coach Mel Tucker said. “He’s a dynamic guy. They run a lot of offense through him, he can do a lot of different things and he’s a high level competitor. He plays with toughness, so I really like him.”
Although Washington State is throwing the ball on 76 percent of its offensive snaps, Borghi has been one of the most efficient runners in the Pac-12. He has 407 yards on 58 carries – a 7.02 per carry average that is second only to Utah’s Zack Moss (7.56).
Since Mike Leach took over as Cougars’ head coach in 2012, he’s had just one running back with at least 600 yards rushing for the season – Gerard Wicks with 610 in 2015. Borghi is on pace for 814.
“He’s a very talented guy,” Buffs defensive coordinator Tyson Summers said. “Obviously, they’re trying to look to find ways to get the ball in space to him. What they do offensively gives him a chance to not have to be in (pass) protection very much. You can see where he’s able to take over games through series. Really talented guy.”
Defensive end Mustafa Johnson is day-to-day with a high ankle sprain that has kept him out of the last two games. … Tucker has faced a Leach-coached team just once. In 2002, Tucker was the defensive backs coach at Ohio State and Leach the head coach at Texas Tech. In the season opener that year, OSU defeated Tech, 45-21. … Washington State has won two in a row against the Buffs, outscoring them 59-7. … The Buffs will wear all white – helmets, jerseys and pants – against the Cougars.