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CU football notes: Playing in slot sparked Buffs’ KD Nixon

Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer
Colorado receiver KD Nixon scored two touchdowns against USC on Friday.

KD Nixon has made a lot of big plays as a wide receiver for the Colorado Buffaloes.

Last week, the Buffs gave him more opportunities to make plays in the slot, and the junior responded with two touchdown catches in a 35-31 loss to Southern California.

“KD’s a talented player and we were just trying to find a combination to get us going a little bit because we were struggling a little bit in the passing game the last couple weeks,” CU receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini said Wednesday as the Buffs (3-5, 1-4 Pac-12) continued preparation for Saturday’s matchup at UCLA (3-5, 3-2). “We wanted to get (quarterback Steven Montez) some confidence and KD’s been practicing at a very high level. And we wanted to get him some touches, too.”

Nixon had caught only four passes in the previous three games combined, with a total of six targets in those games. Against USC, he had modest overall numbers, with three catches for 20 yards, but had seven targets and the two touchdowns.

“He hadn’t gotten as many touches the last couple weeks, so I think (putting him in the slot) was a way for us to kind of game plan for No. 3 and get him the ball in space and let him do some things and he did a good job with it.”

On Nixon’s first touchdown, he was in the right slot and caught the ball running across the middle. The second touchdown had a similar look and Nixon was lined up tight, but didn’t have a receiver outside of him.

Chiaverini said the game plan was not a negative reflection on freshman slot receiver Dimitri Stanley, who has had a solid season in his own right, but was more about getting Nixon involved.

“Dimitri’s a really good player,” Chiaverini said. “He’s a freshman and he’s playing at a high level. But for us to get (Nixon) some touches, we had to kind of move him around a little bit and I think we’ll see some more of that going forward.”

Although the Buffs lost the game, Nixon, Laviska Shenault and Tony Brown all had good performances, and Stanley caught both of his targets.

“It was all so fun , because it felt like fall camp again,” Nixon said. “You’re just having fun. You’re working but you’re just having fun going against a good group of guys (at USC) and just taking advantage of them.”

Video game return?

New NCAA regulations could allow college athletes to make money off their image and likeness in the near future. The impact of that decision still needs to be sorted out, but the revival of a popular video game has excited sports fans this week.

EA Sports’ “NCAA Football” game was popular until it was discontinued in 2013 after an image and likeness lawsuit filed by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon. The NCAA’s new policy could open the door to the game returning, and Chiaverini said he’d be all for it.

“When I was in college, we used to play it all the time,” said Chiaverini, who played at CU from 1995-98. “Kids want that game, and we should have that game. And I’m glad that the NCAA is doing something like that with likeness and image. It’s good for college football, it’s good for our players to have those games out there because people like the competition, they like to have fun with it. It’s good for our sport.”

Chiaverini said when he was playing, he had a “gold number” rating on the video game as one of the Buffs’ top players.

Asked which of his current receivers might get gold numbers on the game today, he laughed and refused to get baited into that discussion, but said, “I know they’d be arguing about who’s a 90, who’s a 95 and who has an 80 or something like that.”

Notable

In addition to his production as a receiver (24 catches, 360 yards, three touchdowns), Nixon had several knockdown blocks, Chiaverini said. The Buffs have a leaderboard for receiver blocks and Chiaverini said, “KD’s kind of running away with knockdowns.” … The Buffs will wear all white – helmets, jerseys and pants – at UCLA. … California firefighters continue to battle the Getty fire near Brentwood. At this point, there has been no discussion of the CU-UCLA game being impacted. The Bruins have practiced outside the past three days.