1. Do not blame Steven Montez
I realize this is a vocal minority, but Twitter is crawling with ghouls who cast every blame on Steven Montez. It feels like he’s been here for 10 years, for better or for worse, but he’s the most dynamic and talented quarterback Colorado has had in a long time. Sometimes he makes mistakes that cost the team. Sometimes he disappears for an entire half and CU has to dig themselves out. Sometimes he scrambles, but aborts a clear lane to the first down in a critical juncture. This is all true, but it doesn’t mean you can blame him.
Montez was brilliant in the first half against Arizona. He completed 11 of his first 15 passes, and four of those incompletions were dropped, including one that was an absolute dime on a 40-yard go route. Offensive penalties took away another couple great plays. If the Buffs had avoided these mistakes, Montez probably would have had them up 31-14 at halftime, instead of just 20-14. He made a more mistakes in the second half — three bad throws in a row leading to a three-and-out, not running for the first down when he had clear yardage — but there was still more good than bad for him.
Montez was almost perfect on Saturday, so don’t blame him for not saving the Buffs. It’s also not Montez’s fault that CU played conservatively in the red zone and settled for two field goals inside the 10-yard-line.
2. My goodness, this defense
Instead of blaming Montez, blame the Colorado defense, or at least the situation that lit fire to it. Even healthy, the Buffaloes have one of the worst defenses in the Pac-12. Against Arizona, that Buffs defense was without Mustafa Johnson (ankle), Aaron Maddox (laceration) and Chris Miller (ACL), then during the game they lost Mikial Onu (torso) and Jalen Sami (undisclosed). The Buffs had to rely on freshmen linemen in Austen Williams and Na’im Rodman, and inexperienced defensive backs in freshman K.J. Trujillo and former backup quarterback Sam Noyer.
This isn’t to blame or make fun of those substitutes, but when you had a below-average defense and take away five starters, there’s not much you can do. Even the first half defense was fine apart from allowing two big plays through the air. Once the injuries piled up, this turned into a shootout in which CU was never going to get a defensive stop. That’s why it hurt to see Colorado play conservatively.
3. Tony Brown, Star Receiver
At what point does Tony Brown become a player that other teams fear? Jack and I talked about this on our last podcast that in wake of Shenault being double-teamed or injured, Brown hasn’t become Shenault as much as he has become Tony Brown, star receiver. He’s a legit number one option because of his savvy route running, his chemistry with Montez, and his ability to catch any pass near him. Throw him the ball and he’s going to come down with it. He showed that with his game-tying catch against Nebraska, proved it emphatically with his 3-score performance against Arizona State, and he did it again on Saturday with 10 catches and 141 yards. He’s doing this without Shenault, keep in mind, so it’s not like Viska is taking away all the attention and Brown is feasting on one-on-ones with no safety help.