At one point this season, it appeared there would be almost no shot for Maddox Kopp to get on the field for the Colorado Buffaloes.
“I’ll be real candid, there was a time where legitimately he was probably the sixth-string quarterback on the roster,” said interim head coach/quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford. “I’m being 100% honest.”
With only five scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, being sixth isn’t good. But, on Saturday, Kopp was in the lineup, starting and playing the entire game as the Buffs closed the season with a 63-21 loss to No. 14 Utah.
A redshirt freshman who transferred from Houston last winter, Kopp made his collegiate debut in the loss to Utah. He played in a game for the first time since 2020, when he was a senior at St. Thomas High School in Houston.
“I was ready to play football,” he said. “I’ve been dreaming of this my whole life to go out and run out and start and play a full game. Literally it’s been my dream, since I really can remember.”
It was a rough start for Kopp and the Buffs, who trailed 42-0 at halftime. But, he finished strong, completing 15-of-28 passes for 123 yards and his first career touchdown.
JT Shrout, who started the previous five games, was unable to go after getting banged up in last week’s 54-7 loss to Washington.
Throughout the season, CU also lost opening day starter Brendon Lewis to the transfer portal. True freshman Owen McCown, who started three games, was injured on Oct. 15 against California and wound up redshirting.
That all left CU with Kopp and Drew Carter going into Saturday. Kopp found out Wednesday he would start against the Utes.
“It’s been a long year,” he said. “I’ve come a long way in the process of developing and becoming a quarterback that can really play and develop. I got all the first team reps in practice (Wednesday) and it was kind of just like, alright, we’re rolling with this.”
Sanford said earlier in the season, Kopp was really struggling in practice.
“He went through a pretty long period of time, fall camp even into the first four weeks of the season where he had the yips throwing the football,” Sanford said. “I’m talking major yips. … It was to the point and I was honest with him, I said, ‘I love your professionalism, I love how well you study the game, but I have to be able to see you make some throws.’ And it’s really weird, the last two, three weeks, I’ve watched his growth throwing the football, his confidence grow. And I expected him to play well today because of how he had been growing.”
Down 42-0 at the half, the Buffs certainly weren’t going to get back into the game after intermission. However, they played a much better second half and it started with sophomore cornerback Nikko Reed making a big play.
On the fifth play of the third quarter, Reed picked off Utah’s Bryson Barnes and returned it 54 yards to the Utes’ 11-yard line. That set up an Alex Fontenot touchdown and helped the Buffs to a second half in which they tied the Utes 21-21.
“We just had to go out there and do our job and that’s what I did,” Reed said. “After the interception, it felt like the game was much closer. I don’t know why, but it felt like we were in a hard fought battle. It allowed our offense to have the good field position that they needed to get in the end zone. We just started fast in the second half, which was way better than how we started first half.”
Kopp was the fourth quarterback to start for CU, joining Lewis, McCown and Shrout. It’s the first time in program history that four started for the Buffs. CU, Northern Illinois and Rutgers are the only FBS teams to start four this year. … CU wound up breaking some rough records this season on defense. The Buffs gave up 6,117 yards, an average of 509.8 on the season. Those broke the old records of 5,862 and 488.5 in 2012. The Buffs gave up slightly fewer points (534) than the record of 552 in 2012. … CU scored just 15.4 points per game this season, the worst by a Pac-12 team since CU and Utah joined in 2011. The previous low was Arizona’s 17.2 points per game in 2021. … Utah is 10-2 against the Buffs since the two joined the Pac-12.