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Football: CU Buffs’ Alex Fontenot has resurgent performance in loss to USC

Colorado running back Alex Fontenot rushes for a first down against Southern California on Friday in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John McCoy)
Colorado running back Alex Fontenot rushes for a first down against Southern California on Friday in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John McCoy)
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LOS ANGELES — Alex Fontenot wasn’t going to celebrate a personal achievement on Friday night, especially after the Colorado football team was routed by USC, 55-17.

There is no question, however, that the sixth-year senior running back felt some satisfaction after his performance at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Fontenot rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries in the loss to the No. 8-ranked Trojans. It was his first 100-yard game since tallying 105 yards against Washington on Nov. 23, 2019.

“Everybody was hyping me up and stuff (after the game),” he said. “To me personally, it just means nothing if you don’t get the win. To me it was just another game. But of course, it is an accomplishment, which I am also proud of.”

Fontenot led the Buffs (1-9, 1-6 Pac-12) with 874 rushing yards in 2019, his only season as the full-time starter. Since then, he’s battled injuries and fought for playing time when healthy.

In the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, Fontenot didn’t play at all because of a hip injury. Last year, he played all 12 games, but as a backup to Jarek Broussard.

This season, he was the Buffs’ starter in the first two games but a chest injury in the second game forced him to sit out the next six contests. Friday was his second game back.

“Just coming back from my injury, it felt really good,” he said. “I felt really fresh, fast and stronger. Taking that time off to just really work and hone my skills.”

With Deion Smith sitting out Friday with an injury, the Buffs leaned on Fontenot more so than at any point this year. In fact, Saturday was the first time since the 2019 game against Washington that he had more than 15 carries.

“He ran really hard,” interim head coach Mike Sanford said. “You could see it last week (against Oregon), in a couple of his runs that he had. … I thought Alex just really competed at a high level and ran really hard.”

Fontenot’s night included a 37-yard run that is the longest run of the season for the Buffs. He also had a 27-yarder, tying the second-longest run of the year for CU (he also had a 27-yarder against Oregon a week ago).

The most impressive run of the night, however, might have been his 3-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Initially stopped short, Fontenot powered his way into the end zone with a second effort.

“I just wanted it more,” he said. “That’s really all it was. That’s every play.”

Fontenot added some muscle and weight to his 6-foot, 205-pound frame during his time off and he threw that strength around Friday night. It was arguably his most impressive game as a Buff.

“I just felt like I was flying all over the place,” he said. “I felt really good, just getting back to what I do. Being off for all those games, I kind of felt like I had something to prove.”

In his career, Fontenot has rushed for 1,476 yards — two more than Broussard, who transferred to Michigan State last winter. He is on the verge of hitting the 1,500-yard milestone that only 29 players in CU history have reached.

Most importantly, with only two games left, Fontenot is savoring his final moments in college football, despite a dismal season for the Buffs.

“At this point, it’s like I can’t get down on myself every game,” he said. “I would just drive myself into a wall doing that. I’m out here just enjoying the time that I have left with all my brothers because I know I probably won’t ever get that time back with them. You probably won’t see a lot of them for a while.”

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