KD Nixon and Laviska Shenault made a habit out of starring together at De Soto High School in Texas.
During their three years together at Colorado, they’ve rarely had big games on the same night. On Friday, they did.
In Colorado’s 35-31 loss to Southern California at Folsom Field, Shenault caught nine passes for 172 yards and a touchdown, while adding a 17-yard run on a fourth down conversion. Shenault’s catch and yardage totals were both season highs.
Shenault’s 71-yard touchdown, on the second play of the third quarter, gave the Buffs a 24-14 lead. It was, by far, his longest play of the season, topping the 42-yard touchdown he had against Air Force in Week3.
“I made the grab and once I saw all the green I knew I was gone,” he said. “It felt good to make a big play right after halftime and hype the crowd up.”
Nixon caught three passes for 30 yards, scoring on two of those catches. It was just the second two-touchdown game of Nixon’s career, as he also had two scores against Oregon State last year.
Friday marked just the second time that the longtime friends have scored in the same game. The only other time they did that was in the 2018 season opener against Colorado State.
For both, it had to relieve some pressure of what has been a frustrating stretch.
Shenault came into the year on just about every publication’s preseason All-American team, but injuries and defenses keying on him has limited his production. Coming into Friday, Shenault had caught just 25 passes for 342 yards.
“I’ve gotta give him credit,” head coach Mel Tucker said. “He’s fought through some injuries and he’s done a really good job trying to get back and get healthier and he’s getting healthier and healthier as we go. Obviously he’s an outstanding player. He can make some plays. We work to give them the ball the best we could and he’ll continue to make plays for us.”
Nixon came into the night with 21 catches for 340 yards, but most of that was early in the year. In the three weeks before this one, Nixon had caught only four passes for 45 yards. His only other touchdown came on a 96-yard flea flicker against Nebraska in Week 2.
Nixon also topped the 1,000-yard mark for his career. He has 78 catches for 1,023 yards in his career.
“I treat every game like it’s my last play,” he said. “I give my all. You can go watch the film; I’m blocking, I’m doing everything they tell me to do. I’m playing my role.”
On Friday, his role was a big one, as the two friends exploded on the same night.
Dominant on ground
CU’s ever-improving run game took another step against the Trojans, as the Buffs finished with 196 yards on 34 carries.
This was the sixth week in a row that CU’s rushing total increased from the previous game, and the 196 was the second-best total of the season. The Buffs had 243 yards in the opener against Colorado State.
“It’s good to just not be one dimensional,” tailback Alex Fontenot said. “Getting it around to everybody is always a good thing.”
Individually, nobody had a big game for the Buffs, but several players contributed. Fontenot led the way with 57 yards and fellow running back Jaren Mangham had 38. Quarterbacks Steven Montez (45 yards) and Blake Stenstrom (27) got into the act, as did Shenault (17), Tony Brown (8) and Nixon (4).
On Friday, the Buffs wore a throwback logo on their helmets, going with a gold charging buffalo decal. That logo debuted in the 1940s and was the most popular selling CU logo until 1981, when the school adopted what is now the official mark of the Buffs – the Buffalo with the “CU” in the middle.
Friday’s game was the first time CU had something other than its traditional logo on its helmets since Sept. 19, 2009, when the Buffs wore throwback uniforms against Wyoming. That day, they wore silver helmets with black horns.
A few Buffs hit some milestones on Friday, including quarterback Steven Montez, who started his 32nd consecutive game, a record for a Buffs’ quarterback. Overall, it was Montez’s 35th career start, tying Darian Hagan for second (Sefo Liufau started 40 games).
Montez also inched closer to the Buffs’ career record for TD passes. He has 59, one behind Liufau and Cody Hawkins.
Shenault moved into a tie for 12th place on CU’s career list for catches (127) with Charles E. Johnson. He also moved up to 11th in receiving yards (1,693), passing Daniel Graham, Devin Ross and Bryce Bobo on Friday.
With seven points, kicker James Stefanou now has 193 for his career, moving past Tom Field for ninth among all CU players and fourth among kickers.
Star Davion Taylor, tight end Brady Russell and punter Alex Kinney served as the Buffs’ captains. … Because of safety concerns, Ralphie did not run on Friday night. It marked just the fourth time in the 12-year career of Ralphie V that she did not run before either half. … Penalties continued to be an issue, as the Buffs were flagged 13 times for 109 yards. … Attendance was announced at 48,913. … There were 13 scouts from 10 different NFL teams in attendance. … CU is now 0-7 all-time when wearing all black. … CU had a school record four consecutive games without a fumble.