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CU Buffs football notes: Price, Hambright earn Pac-12 honors

Buffs’ reserve kicker rewarded for clutch effort

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A week ago, Evan Price wasn’t sure if he’d be playing against Stanford.

On Monday, he was named Pac-12 special teams player of the week.

Colorado’s redshirt freshman kicker was honored by the conference after a performance in which he went 3-for-3 on field goals, scored 10 points and booted a 37-yard game-winning field goal as time expired to beat Stanford, 16-13, on Saturday at Folsom Field.

Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Evan Price of Colorado won the Pac-12 special teams player of the week honor this week for his 3-for-3 effort on field goals.

Senior left tackle Arlington Hambright was also recognized as the Pac-12’s offensive lineman of the week.

Price was filling in for injured James Stefanou and didn’t know until last Thursday that he would be kicking against the Cardinal. He had played in just one other game this year, without a field goal attempt.

Price joins his older brother, Davis, in earning conference player of the week honors. Davis, a senior kickoff specialist, was honored as Pac-12 special teams player of the week on Oct. 1, 2016. Davis was also an injury replacement when he earned the award.

The Prices are the first set of brothers from CU to earn conference player of the week honors since Bobby and Dick Anderson were recognized by the Big 8 in the late 1960s. Bobby earned the honor five times and Dick was honored twice.

Hambright played all 71 snaps on offense in the win against Stanford, getting a season-high grade of 88.7 percent (based on CU coaches’ grading). He had eight knockdown blocks, a touchdown block and helped the Buffs rush for 172 yards.

CU’s only other weekly honor this year went to Mustafa Johnson, who was defensive lineman of the week after his performance against Nebraska in the second game.

Defensive improvement

Going into last week, CU defenders knew they had given up 30-plus points in 14 consecutive games, but they didn’t let that ugly streak – the longest in the nation – get to them.

“We kind of had in the back of mind how many points we’ve let up,” linebacker Nate Landman said. “We see it every week. At the end of day, it’s just who scores more. If our offense gets more (than the other team), we don’t really care.”

On Saturday, the offense did get more – barely – as the defense held an opponent under 14 points for the first time since a 45-13 win against Colorado State in the 2018 opener.

“I think we did a great job today and I love seeing that low score,” Landman said.

Despite giving up a lot of points this season, the Buffs have actually shown steady improvement, and it led to that side of the ball being the major factor in the win.

“Oh man, they played phenomenal,” quarterback Steven Montez said. “They played their butts off, man. If they don’t play the way they do, we probably don’t have a shot to win that game. All the credit to them and I’m just very happy that they got it done the way they did. They were very dominant.”

For the past several weeks, the Buffs have been much better at getting pressure on the quarterback and that was a key against Stanford. Cardinal quarterback KJ Costello was sacked twice and hit several other times in rushing throws.

“We wanted to get him flustered and I think we do a great job on third down of pressuring the quarterback and confusing offensive lines,” Landman said. “We wanted to get him off his mark because he’s a great quarterback, accurate quarterback, and we felt if we can get him off his mark, it would be in our favor.”

Culture change

A year ago, under then-head coach Mike MacIntyre, the Buffs finished the season on a seven-game losing streak as they couldn’t stop the negative momentum. Saturday, now under Mel Tucker, the Buffs snapped a five-game skid.

“It’s just more like being poised in adversity,” senior receiver Tony Brown said of the difference between last year and this year. “Last year we weren’t really too calm and things just got out of hand. Coach Tuck came in and when he came in, he was just cool, calm and collected.

“When things are not going right, he’s just calm. He tells our guys, ‘Hey let’s get right; keep pushing, cut down on mistakes. He talks to the players the right way instead of keep yelling, keep yelling. That’s the type of coach that you want.”

Notable

The kickoff time for CU’s final home game, Nov. 23 against Washington, will not be announced until Sunday. That game is one of four that the Pac-12’s TV partners selected for a six-day notification. The possibilities are 1:30 p.m. (ESPN), 5:30 p.m. (ABC) or 8 p.m. (FS1 or ESPN). … Through the first five games, the Buffs averaged 34.6 points per game; in the last five, they’ve averaged 14.8.