There was a lot to love on Friday night in Denver. The weather behaved, the fans (in CU’s student section, at least) were great, and the Colorado Buffaloes drubbed the Colorado State Rams. There were plenty of fireworks, with almost every offensive play in the first half going for more than ten yards. New playcaller Darrin Chiaverini came out fast and strong, and got the ball to the best players. Well, the best player, at least. Laviska Shenault ruined the CSU defense. But we all know all of this already. Upon rewatch, I tried to take note of plays that haven’t already been highlighted but were integral to the success of the team.
The first gif was an easy choice. This was the first RB run that the Buffs truly broke. And, from the overhead angle, it’s easy to see why. Colby Pursell, the center, ragdolled the DT and combined with Tim Lynott to swallow up the MLB. Brett Tonz used inside leverage on his double team to drive the right defensive end to the side, and what’s left is a double wide corridor of open grass. Travon McMillian gained about 20 on that play, but I wager that any CU fan could get at least ten. This play kicked off a surprisingly good performance from the CU offensive line.
This play didn’t go for a crazy amount of yards, but I just wanted to highlight the play design. Laviska Shenault and Kyle Evans surround Steven Montez in a fun shotgun-fullback thing. The play-action draws the ends and linebackers to the left side of the field, so when Shenault runs his flat route to the right, there’s no one there other than defensive backs. Jay MacIntyre and Juwann Winfree, who did yeoman’s work blocking all night, keep the DBs five yards off the line of scrimmage, meaning Shenault doesn’t get touched until he’s five yards downfield. Beautiful.
It’s a shame I waited until the end of the first quarter to highlight Mustafa Johnson. The junior college transfer (who is only a sophomore, by the way) was dominant all night. He made Nate Landman’s job a lot easier, and frequently beat double teams. Like in this play. Johnson is so damn quick that he splits the double team before the LG is even in his stance fully. He has 70 pounds on Jacob Callier and beats him to the quarterback. Granted, it is CSU’s offensive line, so take it with a grain of salt, but that quickness can’t be faked.
Now it’s time to look at the one mistake Steven Montez made all game. His job was dead simple all night long - give the ball to your best as quick as possible. He attempted precious few passes beyond the line of scrimmage because he didn’t have to. This play is an interesting case. The design is gorgeous. The boundary receiver, in this case K.D. Nixon, runs three steps and sits, making him look like the primary read. The nickel back sees the stop and passes off the slot receiver to the boundary corner, who is farther down the field. It’s during this pass off that the slot receiver gains separation. Granted, if Montez doesn’t underthrow this ball, the safety help over the top might have killed the pass, but it’s hard to say. JayMac had two steps on the CB. Montez reverts back to 2017 form on this play. He has happy feet in the pocket from the get-go, and throws that pass nearly flat-footed. He didn’t step into the throw at all, and this is the result.
Once again, it’s a travesty that I didn’t gif more Nate Landman first half plays. The MLB is a cannon. His form tackle on K.J. Carta-Samuels was fluid carnage. I chose this play because it shows how his instincts are an even bigger asset that his closing speed or power. Landman reads this play right away from the top of the screen. Watch him take one step and then immediately shoot the gap. Watching his helmet makes me laugh every time. If you notice, the entire line of scrimmage has gold and green hats stalemating and moving laterally. Then there’s one flash of gold that’s just barreling downfield.
I love this play. Number one, it shows that Colorado is still keeping simple power runs, even in this super-speed offense. This is a classic trap to the right side. Look at the push that Haigler and Lynott get on #94. Laviska even does great clearing a path. The only person who lost their battle was Colby Pursell, a rare event for the night that should have stopped the play. But Kyle Evans is a patient runner. He picked his cuts, surveyed the line, and found a nice gash on the opposite side of the play. That’s why he’s so valuable this year, even with Travon McMillian’s natural gifts.
Best play of the night for Steven Montez. He walks up to the line of scrimmage, sees single coverage on Juwann Winfree with a flat safety, and trusts his guy. Winfree knows where to go and Montez lasers a ball to the back shoulder. That is exactly what an end zone fade is supposed to look like.
Watch Mustafa Johnson on the right side of the line on this play. Wow. He beats the chip block out of the gate, steps in between the pitch man on the option so KJCS has to keep it, then spins out of his block to make the tackle. Just great stuff. Also take note of Rick Gamboa diagnosing the play immediately and knifing through for the stop.
From there, I take a huge jump in time. The 2nd half was not very exciting (other than Shenault). The same play-calls worked again and again, so there wasn’t anything new to dissect. The defense locked down, and Delrick Abrams grew more comfortable. He is going to be good. He is long and lanky, which draws comparisons to Ahkello Witherspoon, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen Witherspoon make hits like these. That running back outweighs him by a good amount, and he gets rocked. He and Dante Wigley were great in run support all night.
Finally, we end with a great play by a depth piece. Derrion Rakestraw got significant run at the end of the game, and he played very well. As a backup safety, he eased some of my fears should injury occur. Not a great route by the tight end or throw for the quarterback, but Rakestraw broke on the ball very well and closed. That’s good work.
There’s plenty of fun plays I missed, but this game has enough that you should just watch the whole thing again.