Steven Montez has never been a dual threat quarterback in the traditional sense, but running the football was a big part of his game during his first three years with the Colorado Buffaloes.
Last Friday, Montez dusted off that old weapon and looked a bit like his old self in a 35-31 loss to Southern California.
Montez finished with 45 yards and a touchdown on seven carries against the Trojans. It was the first time all season that his running was a big part of the game plan and if he had his wish, it would be a part of it going forward.
“To be honest, I love that,” said Montez, who had 35 yards on 28 carries the first seven games combined. “I love running the football and I loved it when I first showed up here. Then I kind of got into the mentality that I was trying to turn into like a pocket passing quarterback. I think I’m just a lot more comfortable when I can go and finish a few runs and it kind of just gets me in the flow of the game.”
While Montez is on track to graduate as CU’s all-time leader in passing yards (he needs 681 in the last four games) and passing touchdowns (he needs two more), he has also rushed for 887 yards and nine touchdowns in his career.
Only nine quarterbacks in CU history have rushed for more yards, but most of them played in run-dominated offenses. Montez, Kordell Stewart and Sefo Liufau are the only quarterbacks in CU history with at least 4,000 passing yards and 800 rushing yards.
Against USC, Montez ran aggressively, lowering his shoulder for extra yards rather than sliding to avoid contact. He said he made a conscious choice before the USC game to change his running approach.
“When you slide they take you five yards back from when you originally started your slide, so we don’t pick up the yards that we feel like we needed to pick up,” he said. “I’m going to put my head down and I’m going to go get that yardage for us.
“My way of thinking now is kind of when in doubt, you need to finish the run because when you’re letting up and letting somebody hit you from in front and from behind, that’s when people get hurt. So I figured just play it safe, finish the run and get that yardage.”
Head coach Mel Tucker likes that mentality – when the situation calls for it.
“There’s a time and a place for everything and obviously when you need to get down … you get down, you slide and you don’t take that hit,” Tucker said. “Sometimes you gotta take the hit. I have a lot of confidence in Steven. He competes at a high level, he plays really hard. When we ask him to run the ball, he runs it. When he needs to extend plays, he tries to extend the plays and keep the chains moving.”
Preparing for the Bruins
CU (3-5, 1-4 Pac-12) will try to snap its four-game losing streak when it visits UCLA (3-5, 3-2) on Saturday in Pasadena, Calif.
Although the losing streak continued last week, Tucker said the Buffs had their best week of practice of the season and it showed in a solid all-around performance. This week is off to a good start, too.
“What we’re doing right now is we’re really building on some of the really good positive things that we saw Friday night and working to eliminate the negatives,” he said. “We had a really physical practice today. The attitude has been really good; the attention to detail, the focus, the preparation – it’s very similar to what it was last week.”
No breaks for Tucker
With inclement weather and more expected, the CU campus closed around lunch time on Tuesday. Many on campus headed for home, but not Tucker, who is laser focused on CU’s game against UCLA this Saturday.
“(The snow day) doesn’t mean anything to me,” Tucker joked. “I don’t have to leave if I don’t want to. I have a sleeping bag in my office, so I can just camp out. There’s no issues there for us.”
Montez, who is from El Paso, Texas, said he’d probably get some extra film work in, but was pleased to avoid walking to class through the snow.
“I think it was like, what, 13 degrees today and felt like eight,” he said. “That’s not El Paso weather, I’ll tell you that much.”
In the Los Angeles area, the Getty fire continues to burn and high winds are expected this week. As of Tuesday, Tucker had not heard word that the fire would impact Saturday’s game. … UCLA running back Joshua Kelley had his first career 100-yard game against CU last year (124 yards on 12 carries). Beginning with that game, he’s topped the century mark nine times in his last 16 games, including each of the last two.