From the moment he first hit the field as a freshman in 2017, Colorado linebacker Nate Landman has produced big plays for the Buffaloes’ defense.
One of the top tacklers and most instinctive linebackers CU has had in years, Landman is now becoming more of an asset in pass coverage.
In Saturday’s 20-14 win against Washington, Landman picked off a Huskies pass, knocked down another pass and has proven too valuable to take off the field.
“Last year … I wasn’t in on third down,” said Landman, who has played 96 percent of the Buffs’ defensive snaps this season. “(Pass coverage) was something I had to improve on and keep working on in the offseason.
“I struggled a bit in the beginning of the season, but I think now I’ve got the feel for it. (Linebackers coach Ross) Els and the defensive staff are doing a great job coaching me up and I’m getting comfortable back there, dropping and reading the quarterback and reading routes, and just getting better each week and improving that aspect of my game.”
For Landman, the difference has been in simply getting more opportunities to play in passing situations and learning from them.
“In high school, you don’t really read coverages, and you just kind of (play) downhill linebacker,” said Landman, who will lead the Buffs in tackles for the second season in a row. “So I felt I was fine in the run game and I wasn’t tested in the pass until I came to college. So getting those reps and that experience was key for me.”
CU quarterback Steven Montez had some struggles in the middle part of the season but wound up going 2-0, with victories against Stanford and Washington, in his final two games at Folsom.
While neither game was high scoring, Montez had good command of the offense in both games and posted combined numbers of 37-for-58 (63.8 percent) for 468 yards, one touchdown, one interception and 96 yards rushing with a touchdown.
“I am really proud of Steven,” head coach Mel Tucker said. “It is great to see him play well and finish on a positive note in Folsom as a senior. It’s important to him. I had a coach tell me that when you look at your seniors – and our seniors sit in the front in the team meeting room – if you see fire in their eyes then you have a chance. With Steven and all those seniors, they just want it so bad.
“They work at it and they believe in each other and in our program and what we are doing. I am just happy for our seniors. Thank God we have one more game with them.”
Long time coming
Outside linebacker Carson Wells, who had 4.5 sacks a year ago, finally got his first of the season against Washington.
“It took way too long,” said Wells, who is fourth on the team in tackles. “I’ve been kind of getting on myself about it, so that’s not helping, but it was good to get the monkey off my back tonight.”
Former Buffs quarterback Kordell Stewart was an honorary captain Saturday as CU celebrated the 25th anniversary of the “Miracle in Michigan.”
Stewart threw the 64-yard Hail Mary pass to Michael Westbrook for a last-second, 27-26 victory at Michigan on Sept. 24, 1994. It is recognized as one of the greatest plays in college football history.
“It’s an honor to be back, having a chance to be the honorary captain and celebrating a play that happened 25 years ago,” Stewart said. “It’s always talked about. It’s arguably one of the most remembered played in college football history.”