One is attempting to make a productive return from a significant injury. The other is hoping to take the next step from intriguing prospect to dependable performer.
Together, Alex Fontenot and Ashaad Clayton are aiming to give Colorado one of the deepest, most versatile backfields in the Pac-12 Conference in their respective roles behind starter and reigning Pac-12 offensive player of the year Jarek Broussard. And during the Buffaloes’ season opener against Northern Colorado on Friday night, Fontenot and Clayton gave an early indication they are more than ready for that challenge.
While Broussard did the heaviest lifting for the CU offense in a 35-7 win at Folsom Field, Fontenot and Clayton showed the Buffs potentially will have plenty of weapons for first-year starting quarterback Brendon Lewis.
“I’ve been waiting for that (touchdown) for years,” Fontenot said. “So it was great just getting that experience.”
Fontenot’s touchdown midway through the third quarter helped break the game open for CU, pushing the Buffs’ lead to 21-0. For Fontenot personally it put a bit of a triumphant conclusion to his comeback from a hip injury that kept him sidelined for the entire 2020 season.
In 2019, Fontenot was the Buffs’ leading rusher, recording 874 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Fontenot’s absence last year allowed Broussard to emerge from his own injury absence, as he rushed for 813 yards in just five regular season games.
While Broussard paced the Buffs’ 281-yard rushing effort with 90 yards and a touchdown against the visiting Bears, Fontenot and Clayton carried their fair share of the load after halftime as the Buffs steadily pulled away. Clayton collected 51 yards on eight carries, while Fontenot finished with 40 yards on eight carries. For Clayton, the output surpassed his entire true freshman season a year ago, when he recorded 31 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries.
Clayton’s touchdown on Friday reasserted the Buffs’ 21-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
“Every practice is like we’re competing. We’re never slacking on that,” Fontenot said. “Then just competing makes us work even harder. Because we always want to show each other up in a competitive way. Which is good. That just gives our offense more weapons.”