Montana Lemonious-Craig didn’t grow up as a USC fan and didn’t go to games at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
The Colorado receiver is well aware of the venue’s history, however, and he can’t wait to play there when the Buffaloes (1-8, 1-5 Pac-12) visit No. 8 USC (8-1, 6-1) on Friday (7:30 p.m. MT, FS1).
“I’ve been waiting to go play in the Coliseum,” said Lemonious-Craig, a native of Inglewood, Calif. “Not necessarily that I was a USC fan as a kid, but I grew up seeing the Coliseum and I know the great history that it has, so I’m excited to go in and play there.
“I’ll be playing 20 minutes or 15 minutes from my house. I’m excited to go home, play in front of my family and friends and go out there with a potential chance to get a W. … At the end of the day, it’s another game and I’m going to treat it like every game with my preparation and everything. But it’ll be interesting. It’ll be fun.”
Finally playing in the 99-year-old iconic stadium will be fun for Lemonious-Craig, but his top priority is stepping up as the Buffs look to replace dynamic freshman Jordyn Tyson, who suffered a season-ending injury in Saturday’s 49-10 loss to Oregon.
Tyson had emerged as CU’s top playmaker the past few weeks and leads CU in receiving, with 22 catches for 470 yards and four touchdowns. Without him in the last three games, the Buffs will look to Lemonious-Craig and others to step up.
“That’s like my little brother, so it really hurt me seeing him go down,” Lemonious-Craig said. “Me and him have been a 1-2 punch as the season has being ongoing, so we’ve been playing off each other, getting each other open.”
Lemonious-Craig is tied for second on the team with 19 receptions and third with 258 yards. He also has two touchdowns. Like Tyson, he has had most of his production in the last month. He has 14 catches for 209 yards and both of his touchdowns in the last four games.
Making up for Tyson will be a collective effort, however.
“We’re just gonna have to step up more as a room,” Lemonious-Craig said. “As guys go down, guys have to know that their role is going to be increased and they have to be able to execute when they get in the game. We know the kind of sport that we’re in; we know the kind of sport that we’re playing, so guys have to be ready to step up.”
Senior Daniel Arias is on that list, too. After several drops, he lost his starting job and hasn’t played much on offense the last two weeks, but he’s still second on the team in receptions (19) and yards (309).
“He’ll be a part of it,” interim head coach Mike Sanford said of Arias. “Obviously, Montana, he’s been playing good football, really, the last three or four weeks and he’s gonna have a lot of opportunities, which is obviously for him an exciting week being a couple of miles from his home. So, we’re excited to see Montana step into that role. There’s a chance we could see a re-emergence this week of Chase Penry, as well.”
Penry battled an injury early in the season, but has been a healthy scratch the last four games as CU has contemplated redshirting him. The true sophomore, who has one catch this year, could play in one more game and still redshirt.
Seniors RJ Sneed and Maurice Bell and redshirt freshman walk-on Jack Hestera are others who could see more targets down the stretch.
“I’m looking forward to each and every wideout getting their opportunity and taking advantage of it,” Lemonious-Craig said. “I’m a team guy, so as long as whoever’s in there can be able to get the job done, we’re ready to roll.
“Honestly, (the opportunity to step up for Tyson) is not necessarily exciting for me. It’s what I’m supposed to do. That’s my job to do, to help the team get a win, so I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”