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Colorado Buffaloes vs. Washington Huskies: Three keys to the game

Here’s what it will take for the Buffs to stay in bowl contention.

NCAA Football: Colorado at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes return to action following a bye week, looking to keep their bowl hopes alive as they face the 6-4 Washington Huskies on Senior Day at Folsom Field. The Buffs are going to need a few things to go their way in order to notch their fifth win of the season.

Consistency from Steven Montez

It has been an up and down season for the senior quarterback out of El Paso, Texas. After leading the Buffaloes to a 3-2 record with ten touchdowns and two interceptions, Montez’s production immediately vanished. The Oregon game was pretty much the turning point in the season as Steven threw four interceptions in a 45-3 blowout loss in Eugene. The Washington State game was no different as Montez failed to throw a touchdown pass in consecutive weeks, tallying two picks in a 41-10 loss to the Cougars.

Montez bounced back with a solid performance against USC then followed up with another snoozer against UCLA – you get the picture. Needless to say, Colorado is going to need consistency out of Montez in order to get a primetime win over Washington in the season finale at Folsom.

It all starts in the trenches. Colorado is going to need the run game to get going with Alex Fontenot and Jared Mangham to ease the play-action game for Montez. Colorado has weapons on the outside as we all know but if the offensive line and run game can get things going early and often, it should be smooth sailing for Montez on senior day.

More Viska, please.

Laviska Shenault Jr. has been the best player on the field in many of the Buffaloes games this season. In the latest Pro Football Focus Mock Draft, the junior out of Desoto, Texas is projected to go 15th overall to the Dallas Cowboys and team up with former Buff Chidobe Awuzie.

You can say it’s been a pretty weird year for Viska as he was battling injuries yet again in the first half of the season. The junior is second on the team in receiving yards, trailing Tony Brown by just 35 yards. Brown was the go-to receiver with Viska out.

In Colorado’s last contest at home vs. Stanford, Shenault caught eight passes for 91 yards – not to mention one of the loudest five yard runs you’ll ever see. Colorado needs to be more creative with Viska in the offense. Screen passes, reverse end-arounds, wildcat – you name it. They need to do everything in their power to give their playmaker a chance to help this team win in what could possibly be his last game at Folsom Field.

Time of Possession

Yes – it sounds pretty cliché, but that has to be the game plan for the final two games of the season. Colorado’s defense under first year head coach Mel Tucker has been ailing all season, giving up 34.4 points per game (2nd worst in Pac-12). You’re not going to win many games when you let an opponent average 480.1 yards per contest.

Colorado needs to establish the run game and setup opportunities for Steven Montez to make easy reads and limit turnovers. Colorado is going up against a Washington team that allows just 21.2 points per game which is 3rd best in the Pac-12.

Washington is coming off a 19-7 win over Oregon State, snapping a two-game losing streak. Jacob Eason struggled, completing just 50% of his passes while throwing two interceptions. Salvon Ahmed was the difference maker for the Huskies, rushing for 174 yards and two touchdowns. The junior running back has been having a big year for the team, accounting for 941 all-purpose yards.

If the Buffs want to steal one from the Huskies who are currently favored by -14.5, Colorado’s must execute by controlling the clock and winning the turnover margin.