After a sluggish start, the Colorado Buffaloes pulled away in the 3rdquarter to defeat Chip Kelly’s UCLA Bruins 38-16 Friday night in Boulder. With the win, the Buffaloes improved to 4-0 for the 31st time in program history, but first since 1998. Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, the Buffaloes are now 3-5 in conference openers.
Here are my three biggest takeaways from the Buffaloes big win:
1. Steven Montez continues to impress; OLB Drew Lewis breaks out
Laviska Shenualt may be grabbing most of the headlines, but through four games, the guy throwing him the football is having one hell of a season. Against UCLA, Steven Montez completed 22-of-26 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown. He also added 81 yards on the ground and two more scores. On the season, the junior has thrown for 1,092 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s also completing 75.8 percent of his passes, which ranks second among FBS quarterbacks entering Saturday. Aside from the numbers, what’s really impressed me about Montez is his how much he’s developed from last season.
“He’s grown up a lot. He continues to grow every single day,” senior wide receiver Jay MacIntyre said after the UCLA win. “He’s always had the talent. He’s always had the arm. Now it’s just putting it all together and it’s something special to watch.”
It’s evident that Montez’s decision-making has improved a lot since last year, and he’s grown into a player that can potentially lead this team back to another Pac-12 South title.
One of the leaders on D.J. Eliot’s defense, senior Drew Lewis, had one of his best games since moving to outside linebacker to start the season. The Sammamish, Wash. native had the first multi-sack game of his career and finished with eight total tackles (3 for a loss) and a pass breakup against UCLA. It’s nice to see Lewis, who led the Buffs with 119 tackles last season, making an impact in his new position.
2. Trick play ignites Buffaloes offense
It’s not uncommon to see an offense fail to click coming off a bye week. Such was the case with Darrin Chiaverini’s unit Friday night against UCLA. Aside from a 57-yard touchdown strike from Montez to Shenault, the Buffaloes offense looked flat, almost lethargic in the first half against the Bruins.
“I thought in the second half, the offense and the defense really made just good adjustments at half time,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “Hats go off to our coaching staff. I thought our kids came out in the second half and kept playing and playing.”
One of those adjustments was a trick play which ignited the Buffaloes offense. Trailing 16-14 early in the third, Montez threw a quick out to Jay MacIntyre at the UCLA 40-yard line, who in turn, threw a dime to Kyle Evans setting up first-and-goal from the nine.
Three plays later, Shenault, out of the wildcat formation, punched it in the endzone from one-yard out giving the Buffaloes a lead they would not relinquish. It was certainly nice to see the Buffaloes pull away after a brilliant play call from Chiaverini and as their schedule gets tougher (see below), we may be seeing more trick plays to get the offense going.
3. What do we really know about the Buffaloes?
My colleague Sam Metivier posed the question after non-conference play, and after defeating UCLA, we still don’t have an answer in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, starting 4-0 for the first time in twenty years is great. But the Buffaloes first four opponents are a combined 1-14. The next three weeks will be very telling. Colorado hosts a tough Arizona State squad next Saturday before road contests at USC and at Washington. If the Buffaloes can take two of their next three contests, the Buffaloes could be headed back to Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, Calif.) in late November to play for another Pac-12 Championship.
NEXT UP: October 6 vs. Arizona State (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) – 2:00pm MT
After knocking off Chip Kelly’s Bruins, Mike MacIntyre and company face another first-year head coach next Saturday, Arizona State’s Herm Edwards. Who is the best receiver in the Pac-12? Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry or Colorado’s Laviska Shenault? Looking forward to watching the two talented wideouts settle that debate on the field Saturday afternoon in Boulder.