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Colorado’s win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers in GIFS

There were so many turning points in this game.

Colorado v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

The 2018 rendition of the Nebraska Colorado series carried a lot of emotional weight. New Husker head coach Scott Frost had his homecoming spoiled by an emotional roller coaster of a bare knuckle fight. The Buffs pulled a win out of pure will and skill, and plenty of impactful plays.

Playcaller Darrin Chiaverini picked up right where he left off against CSU. The flat routes to great receivers netted them 45 points last week, so why not start there? In this play, he adds a fun little wrinkle with two misdirecting motions. First, Laviska Shenault is motioned across the formation. As a key for the defense, this should tell Montez how the safeties and linebackers are lined up and what they’re focusing on. The lack of movement tells the QB that they’re reading the backfield and looking for run. When the ball is snapped, Montez has the ability to hand off to the RB if he thinks that’s the better read. Given that we see the LB’s stay put in the middle of the field, Montez makes the read and pulls it out. The play action sucks the linebackers in, while KD Nixon, also in the backfield, sprints out to the sideline. Montez makes the easy throw, and with the entire second level of defense occupied, Nixon has an easy ten yards. For extra fun points, watch Winfree’s block near the end.

Later on in the drive, Steven Montez makes a play that shows his growth in the offense. In this quick pass, the protection breaks down almost immediately and he’s pressured before his first read is open. In 2017, this is the type of play that Montez whips around and rolls to his right on in order to try to throw. But this is 2018, mature Montez, and he takes what’s given. Kyle Evans gets enough on the safety to give Montez a chance to escape to the left, where there’s a whole lot of grass. It kept the drive alive and led to points.

There’s not much to break down in this trick play. The sideline to sideline action buys Montez time and gives Laviska a chance to go against single coverage. Guess who wins that battle.

The Buffs quickly get into goal-to-go position on their first drive. This play is remarkable for two reasons. One, KD Nixon ran his pick route perfectly. He looked for the ball and didn’t outright block the defensive back. He just got in his way. Two, watch Montez’s footwork. It’s compact, sound, and consistent. Kurt Roper seems to be doing work with Montez. He puts a little extra on the ball, but if anyone can handle his fastballs, it’s Jay MacIntyre. Easy 6.

After a Martinez fumble, the Colorado Buffaloes get the ball back in plus territory. It’s a short jaunt to the goal line. Chiaverini puts Nixon in the backfield again (something I hope we see more of), and calls up a simple trap to the right side of the line. The offensive line struggled all game, but this one hurt. If you watch, Nixon gets up after the tackle and starts talking to Josh Kaiser. I would be mad, too. Kaiser pulled well, but completely whiffed on the linebacker (#7). If Kaiser hits that block, Nixon just has to beat the safety one-on-one to walk into the end zone. This is something that Kaiser will look at in the film room and hit himself in the head over. It didn’t cost a score, but it did cost a scoring opportunity.

Once again, this is a simple play that CU has run plenty of times this year. Get Shenault into the flat. However, this is one of his best plays of the game. Just revel in his greatness. It takes five Huskers to get him down, and HE STILL FALLS FORWARD TO GET THE FIRST. What a player.

Nate Landman has obviously been the new star on defense, but don’t discount Mustafa Johnson just because he doesn’t have the stats (though he does have fantastic stats). Check out the strength, smarts, and quickness on this play. Johnson is ignored early so the offensive lineman can deal with a streaking Rick Gamboa, and Johnson recognizes the QB keeper immediately. He takes fast, choppy steps towards Adrian Martinez, shrugs off the stiff arm, and pulls him down hard. That is perfect DL play against the option. Mustafa was a stud all game.

This is the first play that Nate Landman really popped out to me. This is picture perfect from the middle linebacker. This is actually a pretty cool running play by Nebraska, with the TE pulling all the way across the line to lead block for the running back. Their offensive line does a great job opening a big hole. It’s all going according to plan. Then Landman throws a monkey wrench. He engages the lineman, keeping his eyes on the ball and his body free. Once the RB hits the hole, he disengages, shoots the gap, and wraps up beautifully.

This is the first of two critical fourth down stops that Landman made. While he makes the tackle here, and shoots the gap well, this play was blown up from the starts. Completely across the line, the Buffs get penetration and push. Almost immediately, the entire OL is knocked a yard backwards. Gamboa gets the first hit right away by picking the right gap (he’s very smart) and fighting through a block. This is an overall fantastic job by the front seven.

At the start of the third quarter, the Buffs had to regroup defensively. A disastrous second quarter yielded two touchdowns and a bunch of rushing yards. D.J. Eliot and Mike MacIntyre made a lot of halftime adjustments, but the big thing was to tackle lower. That’s how Mustafa Johnson gets Martinez to the ground here and arguably causes a fumble (it was not reviewed). However, this play is also important because it might be Israel Antwine’s best in a Colorado uniform. Just watch #95 (far side of the field) bullrush the right tackle, beat the double team, and collapse the pocket. Antwine will get better every game, but this is a good start.

After a Nebraska score, CU needs to respond quickly. The drives that were stalling in the second quarter are suddenly moving, partially due to Chiv opening up the downfield passing. This play also shows Will Sherman in his first meaningful game action at LT. Kaiser went down with an unfortunate injury, meaning the redshirt freshman had to finish the game. He actually played well, well enough to warrant getting more and more snaps as the year goes on. In this play, he passes the defensive end off to the center after getting a block, and slows down the stunting defensive tackle just enough for Montez to get the throw off. And let’s talk about the throw. For my money, this is Montez’s best play. Sure, he made prettier throws, but this was different. He had a dirty pocket, hands around his feet, and a limited window. Instead of escaping the pocket (and possibly running into the overruning linebacker), he trusted his footwork, stepped up, and threw a beauty as he was getting hit. If this is the Montez that shows up against the Pac-12, he will shoot up draft boards.

Another beautiful play between Shenault and Montez. This is a perfect throw on 3rd and 14. The ball is dropped in a spot where only the receiver can get to it, and Shenault extends his hands just enough to snag it. What a fantastic play.

Davion Taylor had an up-and-down game against Nebraska. He forced the fumble early, and was instrumental in stringing some runs out to the edge. But he was also brutalized by Adrian Martinez and missed a few key tackles on the speedy QB. Eliot rotated Kyle Trego and Drew Lewis pretty heavily with Taylor, which seemed to mitigate some of Nebraska’s success. I wanted to highlight this play because it easily the best play of Taylor’s CU career. This is what happens when a fast player plays confidently and aggressively. Taylor recognizes the fake immediately and shoots towards the quarterback. His freaky acceleration forces a quick pitch from Martinez to JD Spielman, who wasn’t ready for the ball. The result is a fumble that’s quickly covered by the Huskers. This sets up a third and long. Taylor caused all of it.

Finally, we end with the play before the play. CU got the ball back with about two and a half minutes left and was marching down the field. Facing a third and six out of field goal range, they needed a conversion. Montez walks up to the line and notices a vacated middle of the field. As the ball is snapped, Travon McMillian (who had been carving the Huskers up with runs) sprints out left. The two stars of the day, Jay MacIntyre and Laviska Shenault, appear to be blocking for him. This draws the linebacker out of the middle of the field, leaving a huge gap. Montez takes a step back, plants, and surprisingly doesn’t laser the ball. If you watch the ball when it leaves his hand, it’s slower than most of his passes. Montez knew he needed a catchable ball, and he guided it right to Tony Brown for the easy first.

Of course, after that play, we all know what happened. But in case you don’t...