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“Preseason” ratings – Unit-by-Unit review of CU’s non-conference games

With Colorado taking a break between non-conference play and the start of Pac-12 conference games, it seems appropriate to take a step back and review how each unit has fared, not only based upon the numbers, but upon results compared to the expectations Buff fans had heading into the 2108 campaign.

NoteBelow is a review of how the offense played. A review of the defense will be posted Sunday morning …

Quarterbacks … 

By the numbers … Steven Montez has completed 69-of-94 passes for 855 yards, with eight touchdowns and two interceptions (18 rushes for 27 yards, which includes nine sacks for a minus-53 yards). Sam Noyer and Tyler Lytle have received some reps with the backups in garbage time against Colorado State and New Hampshire. Against New Hampshire, Sam Noyer threw five passes,with three completions for 14 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.

Non-conference grade … A- … Steven Montez is one of the main reasons Colorado has gone 3-0 to open the season. Montez is highly ranked nationally in a number of categories: completion percentage (8th – .734); passing yards (16th – 855 yards); passing efficiency (18th – 173.6); and total offense (28th – 294.0 yards/game). More importantly, Montez has been making good decisions (the two interceptions notwithstanding), and has showed poise in the pocket.

There was hope this off-season that Montez would mature, with his mental game catching up with his physical ability. QB guru Kurt Roper was brought in to coach the quarterbacks, and Montez traveled to the Manning passing camp to be mentored by the Manning family tree of quarterbacks.

Still, there were lingering doubts about how well Montez would be able to lead the offense. Those concerns became fears when the captains for the season were announced. The Buff players chose seven captains for the season … and none of them were named Steven Montez.

Since the start of the season, though, Montez has done a great deal to allay those fears. His play has been exemplary, and he has shown leadership both on and off the field. One of the most memorable moments of the early season came when, after kicker James Stefanou missed not one, but two, fourth quarter field goal attempts which would have given Colorado the lead against Nebraska in Lincoln, it was Steven Montez who was first to go to Stefanou to console his kicker.

Hard to complain about the quarterback play so far in 2018.

The reason this grade is not an A … the ineffectiveness of the backups. I understand that they have only seen play when games were already decided, and have been playing with second- and third-string units, but Sam Noyer has looked tentative when he has played … and threw a terrible pick-six against New Hampshire.

Running backs … 

By the numbers … Senior Travon McMillian has had 33 carries for 290 yards and three touchdowns. McMillian has had two 100-yard games, including a career-best 162 yards against New Hampshire. Beau Bisharat has had 20 carries for 144 yards, including a 92-yard effort against the Wildcats. Senior Kyle Evans, who has started all three games, has 109 yards and a touchdown with his 29 carries. CU’s fourth back, red-shirt freshman Alex Fontenot, has 11 rushes thus far, going for 43 yards and a touchdown.

Non-conference grade … A- … The departure of Phillip Lindsay to the NFL gave preseason pundits reason to question whether Colorado would be cobble together any semblance of a rushing attack in 2018. After all, after Lindsay, the returning running back with the most carries was Beau Bisharat, who had 21 carries for 61 yards in 2017.

Enter Travon McMillian.

The graduate transfer from Virginia Tech has had two 100-yard games in his first three games, and has looked good in doing so. His 49-yard touchdown run against Colorado State was a thing of beauty, as McMillian juked a linebacker in the offensive backfield, then a safety in the defensive backfield. His 75-yard scoring run against New Hampshire showed he has the speed to outrun defensive backs in the open field.

And he is not even the starter, as Kyle Evans has opened each game on the field, and has played well when given the chance.

Against both Colorado State and New Hampshire, the backups were given ample opportunities, with both Beau Bisharat and Alex Fontenot having their moments.

The reason this grade is not an A … the 44 net rushing yards in 35 carries against Nebraska. Even if you take out the seven sacks, the Buff rushing attack against the Cornhuskers comes to 37 carries for 87 yards … 2.3 yards per carry. Nebraska may be the most physical defense the Buffs will play all season, but Washington, Utah, Cal, and Washington State all have good defenses which will test the Colorado running game.

Wide Receivers … 

By the numbers … Laviska Shenault is first in the nation in receiving yards per game (151.7); third in the nation in receiving yards (455 yards); fourth in receptions per game (8.7); and thirteenth in the nation in all-purpose yards (155.0 yards/game). Shenault had 11 receptions for 211 yards and a touchdown in the opener against Colorado State, earning Pac-12 Offensive Player-of-the-Week honors. Shenault then posted ten catches for 177 yards and a game-winning touchdown against Nebraska. Nursing a sore shoulder, Shenault had five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown in one half of work against New Hampshire.

These are not just first-team All-Pac-12 numbers … these are first-team All-American numbers.

Shenault’s running mate is K.D. Nixon, who has 17 catches for 181 yards, including a sweet 46-yard touchdown against Colorado State. Tony Brown has 102 receiving yards, while Jay MacIntyre had two touchdowns in the win in Lincoln.

There are even more arrows in Darrin Chiaverini’s quiver, though. Juwann Winfree, Kabion Ento, and Jaylon Jackson have suffered from various injuries, and are waiting their turn to make a splash once Pac-12 play begins.

Non-conference grade … A – … Preseason magazines bemoaned the fact that Colorado graduated three of the top eight (at least in terms of receptions) receivers in CU school history. Buff fans knew that there were a number of talented receivers waiting their turn, however, and were hopeful that there would be no drop off in production.

Turns out we were right, and the preseason prognosticators were dead wrong. Laviska Shenault has captured the attention of the national media, as well as opposing coaches.

“They may have the best receiver in the league right now,” UCLA head coach Chip Kelly said during Tuesday’s Pac-12 coaches teleconference. “Give Mike and his staff credit for putting the young man in places where he can be productive, and then give him credit for being able to handle all of that stuff”.

The reason this grade is not an A … Zero catches for CU’s tight ends. It’s hard to complain about how successful the CU passing game has been the first three weeks of the season. But … as Pac-12 teams scheme to take away Laviska Shenault & Co., it would be nice to have a few passes down the middle to the Buff tight ends.

Offensive Line …

By the numbers … The Buffs opened the season with the same starting five along the offensive line against both Colorado State and Nebraska … Left tackle: Senior Josh Kaiser, Left guard: Brett Tonz; Center: red-shirt freshman Colby Pursell; Right guard: junior Tim Lynott, Jr.; and Right tackle: junior Aaron Haigler.

Against New Hampshire, however, two starters were inserted at the guard positions, with red-shirt freshman Jacob Moretti starting at left guard, and sophomore transfer Kary Kutsch getting the starting nod at right guard.

Overall, the offensive line is responsible for an offense which is generating 494.0 per game in total offense (28th in the nation) and 41.0 points per game (31st in the nation).

Non-conference grade … B … For a team which in 2017 averaged 417.8 yards per game in offense (48th nationally) and 28.4 points per game (81st nationally), the first quarter of the 2018 season has been an unequivocal success. However, there are some warning signs – the CU offensive line gave up seven sacks against Nebraska, and posted a grand total of 44 yards rushing against the Cornhuskers.

There is also the annoying habit the Buffs have of mixing and matching offensive lines. I’m totally on board with having eight or nine linemen who have game experience, and having linemen who are well versed in several different positions.

But it is also true that successful teams have a core group of offensive linemen which has been through the wars together. When it comes to offensive line play, familiarity doesn’t breed contempt … it breeds success.

The offensive line was the biggest question mark for the offense a month ago, and will remain the biggest question mark heading into conference play.

Overall … Offense … Non-conference grade … B+ … Colorado scored on its first three possessions of the 2018 season, racing out to a 21-7 lead over Colorado State and never looking back. There was a span in the first half of the Nebraska game where the Buffs went three-and-out four straight possessions, reminding Buff fans of how the offense struggled through much of the 2017 season … but then the Buffs righted the ship and played a strong second half against a hostile crowd in Lincoln.

If the Colorado offense can get through the Pac-12 conference season averaging 41 points and almost 500 yards of total offense per game – as it did the first three games – the Buff Nation will be more than satisfied.

We’ll see how it goes …

… Coming Sunday morning … a unit-by-unit review of the defense .. 

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3 Replies to “First Quarter Grades – Offense”

  1. B+ is a fair grade. Higher than most expected. Okay not the top competition. But stil

    Uh Oh Up the Mighty Buffalo.

    Note: So you gonna rank the coaching?

    Note 2: Up to 26 in the AP poll

  2. 7 sacks given up to Knebraska. 6 of those came before the 11:20 mark in the 3rd quarter. 1 after that. Coaching and adjustments.

    Buffs.

    The $.50 Frosty couldn’t make it happen. This ain’t the AAC you young kornholer whipper snapper. Took Mac 4 years to figure it out. Fire the DC after year 2. Fire the OC after year 5. Get a real recruiting coordinator after year 3. Get a real OC after year 5. Get a real qb coach after year 5.

    This ain’t the MWC boy.

    Up the Buffalo.

    Whip the Bruins

  3. Scott frost, Troy Walters and co are clearly terrible coaches. Just terrible. The ucf turnaround musta been complete luck. Maybe helped by a special qb.

    Wow. Those huskers. Next year’s visit to boulder should be fun.

    For those who don’t get my sarcasm, I have to still believe Frost and co can coach. But wow. And? Our win in Lincoln is looking increasingly suspect. Still a great win for us, but maybe not a true test after all. But? Now is when the fun starts. Bring on the pac 12.

    Go Buffs.

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