After a week of speculation on who would start at quarterback for the Buffs, it was Steven Montez under center once again. He earned back his trust as he turned in his best performance of the season. It turns out he just needed to be benched in the first place to play with more focus.
After CU and Cal traded punts to start the game, the Buffs finally found their rhythm. On 3rd-and-2 from their own 46-yard line, Phillip Lindsay busted through the line for 39 yards before getting shoved out of bounds. Montez took a frustrating sack after that, but he responded with a perfect throw to find Devin Ross in the end zone on a 22-yard score.
Cal also found their rhythm on their second drive. Powered by running backs Patrick Laird and “Thicc” Vic Enwere, the Golden Bears physically dominated the Buffs as they easily moved down the field. They tied up the game on a trick play that saw receiver Vic Wharton III find Kanawai Noa wide open in the end zone.
On Colorado’s next possession, Montez showed his deep ball potential. He found freshman receiver Laviska Shenault on a perfect pass deep over the middle for a 58-yard gain. It seems that every time Shenault steps onto the field, he’s making a huge play — he’s going to be a problem for college football once he’s playing more regularly. On the following play, Montez ran in a 7-yard touchdown on a read option.
After the first quarter, Colorado legend Rashaan Salaam was posthumously honored. His number 19 was retired by the team as a statement that the Heisman-winning running back will never be forgotten.
After the ceremony, Colorado continued to look superb. Backed up at their own 2-yard-line to start their drive, the Buffs had found the perfect balance between the pass and the run as they moved towards Cal territory. Then on the play we’ve been missing all year, Montez found Shay Fields in perfect stride deep down the field for a 65-yard touchdown.
Then up 24-7 after a James Stefanou field goal, the Buffs defense wasn’t too concerned with the Cal rushing attack. Ross Bowers isn’t the most consistent quarterback, so the Buffs were thrilled to pin their ears back and make him uncomfortable. It was the first Pac-12 game this year where Colorado actually had a fearsome pass rush, probably because it was their first game with a decent lead. Not to be overlooked, the Buffs secondary was superb as well, even with Isaiah Oliver on the sidelines with a leg injury.
Colorado’s defense was playing exceptionally well, but Cal still got on the board before halftime. The Bears put together a methodical drive that lasted over five minutes of game time. After Drew Lewis got his first sack of the season — finally, after 20 quarterback hurries — Bowers and Noa combined on a gorgeous 27-yard touchdown pass with 1:16 left in the half. Dante Wigley’s coverage was textbook, but Noa made a superb play to get to and hang on to a perfect pass.
Colorado answered with their own successful drive, but due to lack of time, they had to settle for a field goal to give the Buffs a 27-14 lead at the break.
The third quarter started with an injury scare. Montez took the ball on a read option, was stopped at the line of scrimmage, and then was drilled in the head on a late hit by Jordan Kunaszyk. Targeting was called on the play, but it was overturned after review. Montez, meanwhile, was helped off the field and examined on the sideline. Sam Noyer stepped in and completed a pass on third down, but he fumbled the snap on 4th-and-inches. After the Colorado defense held Cal to a three-and-out, our concerns were eased when Montez took the field once again.
Nothing much happened in the third quarter, but when you’re up by two scores, a stalemate is fine. The defense continued to look great, especially Jase Franke leading the defensive line (!). They finished the game allowing only 61 rushing yards on 25 carries and it took garbage time stats for the Bears to get to 374 passing yards.
In the fourth quarter, the scoring resumed and Colorado’s hold on the game remained. Montez started dicing up the defense and Lindsay started to go into overdrive. They marched down the field and Montez eventually found Jay MacIntyre for a 22-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 34-14. Montez finished the game with 347 yards and three touchdowns on an efficient 20-26 passing performance, plus he extended plays and drives with his legs and had that rushing touchdown.
Cal followed that score up with their own to make it 34-21, but once the Buffs got the ball back, they started to feed Lindsay. Once Lindsay smells blood, he goes in for the kill. With every carry, he seemed to get faster and tougher, all while draining the game clock. He had 161 yards today to put him at 1,254 for the season. If he continues at his 139-yard average, he will finish the regular season with 3,970 yards, which will break Eric Bieniemy’s career record of 3,940.
After Stefanou made another field goal — he’s now 13 of 15 on attempts this year — Cal drove the length of the field against a semi-relaxed defense. Then Nick Fisher picked off a pass 9 yards deep in the zone and returned it for a pick-6, only the fourth endzone-to-endzone defensive touchdown in CU history. Cal scored again with a minute left, but it only impacted the final score. Colorado kneeled after recovering the onside to seal the 44-28 victory.
Colorado looked like the team we were all hoping they would be and they’re now only one win from bowling. Their next game is on November 4th at Arizona State and if they play like they did today, we should be celebrating a week from now.