Nine games into his tenure as Colorado’s head football coach, Mel Tucker is well aware that plenty has to change for the Buffaloes to get on the winning track.
Right now, however, he doesn’t believe a change at quarterback is required.
On Monday, two days after a 31-14 loss at UCLA, Tucker gave a vote of confidence to senior quarterback Steven Montez despite the Buffs (3-6, 1-5 Pac-12) losing their fifth straight game and Montez struggling for the third consecutive road game.
“I’m very confident that Steven gives us our best chance,” Tucker said. “We’re working with him to get him better. Obviously he’s got to make great decisions, got to take care of the football. He missed a couple of throws, had a couple poor reads, but he also made some good plays and we’ve got to play better around him. Everybody’s got to be on the same page and doing their job in order for us to get the job done.”
CU will host Stanford (4-4, 3-3) on Saturday at 1 p.m. (TV: Pac-12 Networks) and hopes to stop the bleeding and get back in the win column.
Montez will play a key role in that quest, while redshirt sophomore Tyler Lytle and redshirt freshman Blake Stenstrom continue to wait their turn. Together, Lytle and Stenstrom have thrown just nine career passes. Lytle spent the past two weeks limited because of a shoulder injury.
Montez has set numerous records during his CU career, including the longest starting streak ever for a Buffs’ quarterback, at 33 games. He needs one touchdown pass and 486 passing yards to break career records in those categories.
Despite the records, the victories haven’t been there. Montez was 12-8 in his first 20 career starts, but 3-13 since. While the win-loss record is never all on the quarterback, Montez has had ups and downs during that stretch, especially lately.
In the last month, Montez played very well in a 35-31 loss to Southern California on Oct. 25 at Folsom Field but he’s had a rough go on the road. In his last three games away from Boulder, Montez is 56-for-102 (54.9 percent) for 455 yards, one touchdown and seven interceptions. The offense has managed a total of just 27 points in those road games.
Fixing the Buffs goes beyond the quarterback position in the eyes of Tucker, though.
“Coming off of a really tough game, I’m still very, very excited about the direction of this program, in terms of changing the culture, understanding what’s important, things we have to do on a day-to-day basis to be successful,” he said. “We didn’t get the results we wanted last week, however, there’s opportunities to grow from it.
“We have to have the discipline to do our jobs on a consistent basis. Consistency and performance is how you become successful. And until we do the things that we need to do to be consistent, we’re not going to get where we want.”
Tucker said he understands there is going to be negative energy in the locker room during a five-game losing streak, but added, “We have to focus on the positive. It’s not easy to do. What our goals are, where we want to go, it’s a hard road, but I’m very confident that we’ll get there.”
For now, at least, it will remain Montez leading the Buffs down that road.
“I told the players today that we have plenty enough players to get the job done,” Tucker said. “This really comes down to execution.
“I feel very comfortable with our schemes on both sides of ball and special teams. We have to make adjustments, we have to continue to find ways to put our guys in the best position where they can be successful. But it really comes down to execution.”
Mangham making impression
True freshman Jaren Mangham got his first career start at running back last week because of leading rusher Alex Fontenot missing the game with a concussion.
Mangham rushed for 77 yards and 17 carries in his first appearance as the Buffs’ lead back.
“I thought he played really hard,” Tucker said. “He’s a good young player. He’s getting better. I have confidence in him that he can get the job done when called upon. There’s still some things he has to work on, but that’s why we’re practicing. He’s got a lot of promise. We’ll continue to work with him to get him better.”
Montez’s predecessor, Sefo Liufau, is the only quarterback in CU history with more career starts (40). … Montez needs 32 yards rushing or passing for 10,000 total offense yards in his career. … Mangham has 396 rushing yards this season. Only eight freshmen in CU history have reached 400 yards. … Senior receiver Tony Brown needs just 43 receiving yards to reach 1,000 in his CU career. During his college career, including two seasons at Texas Tech, he has 107 catches for 1,335 yards.