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Sunday Afternoon Quarterback

 

… Game Four … Colorado 38, UCLA 16 … 

— CU rushing offense v. UCLA rushing defense —

By the numbers … Travon McMillian had 21 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown, with quarterback Steven Montez posting 11 carries for 81 yards and two scores. Laviska Shenault contributed five carries for 18 yards, including a one-yard touchdown run from the wildcat formation. Overall, Colorado had 48 rushing attempts (including three kneel downs at the end of the game), going for 209 yards and four touchdowns.

Grade: A- … If you offer Buff fans 209 yards rushing – and four touchdowns – per game in Pac-12 play, they’ll probably take it. The Buffs had three red zone opportunities in the game, and scored three rushing touchdowns. The rushing score from outside of the 20-yard line was a beautiful 35-yard run for a score by Steven Montez, after Montez faked out everyone (including the television cameras), to put the finishing touches on a 38-16 win. All the Buffs need to do here to make this grade an A is for the offensive line to eliminate sacks (two), and to post similar numbers (especially the four rushing touchdowns) against a quality Pac-12 offense.

— CU passing offense v. UCLA passing defense —

By the numbers … Steven Montez was almost perfect against the Bruins, completing 22-of-26 passes for 237 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown pass to Laviska Shenault, tying the score at 7-7 early in the first quarter. Wide receiver Jay MacIntyre completed a 31-yard pass to fellow back Kyle Evans on a trick play which helped set up a third quarter touchdown, giving the Buffs for lead for good at 21-16. On the receiving end, Laviska Shenault continue to amaze, with 12 receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown. When the Bruins double-teamed Shenault, Montez found Tony Brown, who had six receptions for 77 yards.

Grade: A- … Steven Montez continues to make good decisions, and continues to complete passes at a high rate, despite the fact that the Colorado passing game is more than just fly sweeps and short outs. The 268 yards was lower than CU’s season average, but an evening with only four incompletions and no interceptions is an excellent night.

— CU rushing defense v. UCLA rushing offense —

By the numbers … Junior Joshua Kelley had a career-high 124 yards rushing against the Buffs, including a 44-yard gain. Otherwise, the Bruins were held in check by the Buffs, with UCLA finishing with 151 yards rushing on 28 carries.

Grade: B+ … Any time you hold a Pac-12 offense without a rushing touchdown, it’s been a good game. That being said, you don’t want to give a transfer from UC-Davis a 100-yard game at home.

— CU passing defense v. UCLA passing offense — 

By the numbers … Freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson was given the start, even though senior transfer Wilson Speight was healthy enough to play. Thompson-Robinson completed 17-of-35 passes for 138 yards, with one touchdown and three sacks.

Grade: A- … Average 138 passing yards allowed for a season will land you in the top five in the nation in that category. Still, the Bruins were successful early in the game, with Thompson-Robinson completing six straight passes in leading the Bruins to ten first quarter points. Other Pac-12 quarterbacks, who are more experienced and more talented, could have more sustained success.

— CU special teams — 

By the numbers … Ronnie Blackmon did have a 22-yard punt return, but he also had a second return where he was obliterated, risking a fumble when he should have fair caught the ball. On UCLA’s first punt, Blackmon let the ball bounce in front of him at the 32, with the ball rolling down to the CU 13-yard line. The Buffs also allowed a 32-yard punt return in the first quarter, setting up the Bruins for their only touchdown drive. Punter Davis Price, subbing for the injured Alex Kinney (broken collarbone) had a 41.8 yard average on four punts. James Stefanou was good on his only field goal attempt, a 41-yarder in the fourth quarter.

Grade: B … Davis Price continues to do good work pulling double duty while Kinney is on the mend, with two of his four punts ending inside the 20, and six of his seven kickoffs going for touchbacks. The Buffs had only given up five yards – total – in punt returns before allowing a 32-yard return in the first quarter when the game was still competitive.

Overall Grade: B+ … If you look at the final statistics, you have to be happy with the Buff effort. Colorado had 477 yards of total offense, holding UCLA to 289 total yards. The Bruins’ only touchdown came on a short field (47 yards), with the Buff defense forcing the UCLA offense to settle for three field goals the final 3 1/2 quarters of the game. The Buffs scored the final 24 points of the game to post a 38-16 final, but that was too scary. Colorado was down, 16-14, in the third quarter to a winless team which was dominated at home, 38-14, the week before … by Fresno State. 4-0 and a national ranking are wonderful, but there is still work to be done if the Buffs are going to contend for a Pac-12 South division title.

Pac-12 Power Rankings

Note … These are my subjective Power Rankings, which will be updated every Sunday. (Please feel free to post your own rankings in the comments section) …

12. UCLA (0-4, 0-1) … Ranking last weekend: 12

This weekend … Lost to Colorado, 38-16.

The Bruins are 0-4 for the first time since 1971. First-year head coach Chip Kelly, who lost only seven games in four years as the head coach at Oregon, could reach that total number of losses before November. Kelly has plenty of goodwill in Westwood, which affords him time to play his “Baby Bruins”

Up next … No. 10 Washington … Saturday, TBA

11. Oregon State (1-4, 0-2) … Ranking last weekend: 11

This weekend … The Beavers tried on several occasions to make a game of it against Arizona State Saturday night. After falling behind, 24-3, Oregon State scored two touchdowns to make it a 24-17 game. It was still a game, at 38-24, heading into the fourth quarter, but two more Sun Devil scores made it a 52-24 rout.

Oregon State has a win on the season, giving it a slight edge over UCLA for the No. 11 spot. Still, the win was over Southern Utah from the Big Sky Conference. The last win over an FBS team for the Beavers was the 2016 season finale against Oregon.

Up next … Washington State, Saturday, 7:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

10. Arizona (2-3, 1-1) … Ranking last weekend: 8

This weekend … The Wildcats lost to USC, 24-20, Saturday night, but the final score is somewhat deceiving. The Trojans built a 24-0 lead in the third quarter before softening. Arizona scored to make it a one score game with 1:40 left to play, but an onside kick attempt was unsuccessful, and USC ran out the clock.

A week after going for 284 yards rushing against Oregon State, running back J.J. Taylor was held to 50 yards on 18 carries by the USC defense. Kahlil Tate, who ran wild against the Pac-12 last season, had a season-high 38 yards rushing against USC.

Up next … California, Saturday, 8:00 p.m., MT, FS1

 

9. Utah (2-2, 0-2)… Ranking last weekend: 10

This weekend … The Utah offense scored 21 first half points on the road against Washington State, which was a huge surprise for an offense which had struggled to open the season. Then, the Utah defense, which had been a strength, gave up a game-winning 89-yard touchdown pass with four minutes to play, falling 28-24 to the Cougars.

Pac-12 losses to Washington at home and to Washington State on the road are not unforgivable. However, it puts Utah in an 0-2 hole in Pac-12 play, with a road trip to play Stanford coming up next.

Up next … at No. 14 Stanford, Saturday, TBA

8. California (3-1, 0-1) … Ranking last weekend: 4

This weekend … The Bears had it all going for them. A good non-conference resume – 3-0, including a road win against a surprising BYU team – a good defense, and a bye week to prepare for Oregon. The Ducks limped into town after a disappointing home loss to Stanford, and should have been primed for an upset. Instead, No. 18 Oregon throttled No. 24 Cal, 42-24, giving the Ducks their first Pac-12 road win since 2016.

The Bears have a chance at redemption this week, but they will have to do it on the road against Arizona.

Up next … at Arizona, Saturday, 8:00 p.m., MT, FS1

7. Arizona State (3-2, 1-1) … Ranking last weekend: 9

This weekend … The Sun Devils had ridiculous success against Oregon State . A week after Arizona’s J.J. Taylor went for 284 yards against the Beavers, Eno Benjamin went for an ASU school-record 312 yards on 30 carries to lead the Sun Devils to a 52-24 romp over Oregon State. Benjamin had 187 yards in the first half alone, as the Sun Devils built a 31-17 lead at the break.

On the defensive side of the ball, Arizona State was not as dominant. Oregon State freshman Jermar Jefferson gained 254 yards on 31 attempts and scored twice for Oregon State, becoming the third Beaver in school history to top 200 yards in a game twice in a season.

Expect an offensive shootout at Folsom Field Saturday afternoon.

Up next … at Colorado, Saturday, 2:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

6. USC (3-2, 2-1) … Ranking last weekend: 5

This weekend … USC raced out to a 24-0 lead against Arizona, but then let the Wildcats back into the game, eventually leaving the desert with a 24-20 victory.

At times this season, the Trojans have been dominant; at others, pedestrian. In a down season for the Pac-12, USC should not only be ranked, but a College Football Playoff contender. Instead, USC looked only fair against UNLV in the opener, looked poor in road losses to Stanford and Texas, and then had to sweat out the final minutes in wins over Washington State and Arizona.

A bye week is just what the Trojans and their freshman quarterback need … with Colorado coming to town next weekend.

Up next … Bye … next weekend, Colorado, Saturday, October 13th, TBA

5. Washington State (4-1, 1-1) … Ranking last weekend: 7

This weekend … I have Washington State jumping over USC, even though both teams won this past weekend, and the Trojans defeated the Cougars last weekend. The rationale is that Washington State’s four-point win over Utah is more significant in my mind than USC’s four-point win over Arizona. The Utes are a known quantity, especially on defense, but the Cougars got the job done. USC, meanwhile, has yet to act like the dominant team everyone expected them to be a month ago.

In the past two weeks, Washington State was within a field goal against USC on the road, and picked up a win over Utah at home. Colorado also plays USC on the road, and has Utah at home. How many Buff fans would take a similar result for the Buffs this fall?

Up next … At Oregon State, Saturday, 7:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

4. Colorado (4-0, 1-0) … Ranking last weekend: 6

This weekend … As the calendar turns from September to October, the Colorado Buffaloes are the only unbeaten team in the Pac-12 conference. The Buffs have taken on three teams – Colorado State, Nebraska, and UCLA – which generated more preseason ink than did the Buffs, and Colorado has emerged victorious against all three.

The Buffs have been rewarded with their first national ranking since the end of the 2016 season. Up next is an Arizona State team which is 3-2, but which arguably has a better resume. CU’s September opponents are a combined 1-16, while Arizona State already has a win over a ranked opponent (No. 15 Michigan State). The Sun Devils’ only two losses have been one-score defeats, both on the road, to a very good San Diego State team and a top ten team (Washington).

The Buffs have met every test put to them so far this season … with the biggest test to date coming this weekend.

Up next … Arizona State, Saturday, 2:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

3. Oregon (4-1, 1-1) … Ranking last weekend: 3

This weekend … Oregon should be undefeated and a top ten team. The Ducks had Stanford dead to rights – twice – but fumbled the victory away. To their credit, the Ducks responded well to the adversity, dominating Cal on the road, coming away with a 42-24 victory. Oregon now has the best case scenario … a bye week to prepare for the Pac-12 North showdown against Washington. The game will be in Eugene, and the Ducks have a week off while the Huskies must travel to Los Angeles to take care of business against the UCLA Bruins.

Up next … Bye week … next weekend, Saturday, October 13th, Washington, TBA

2. Stanford (4-1, 2-0) … Ranking last weekend: 1

This weekend … Stanford’s College Football Playoff aspirations took a severe hit in 38-17 road loss to No. 8 Notre Dame. Even worse, star running back Bryce Love left the game against the Fighting Irish with an ankle injury and did not return. Hopes for a Pac-12 championship are still in tact, and the Cardinal does have wins over Oregon and USC in its back pocket. Still, if Love is out for any significant amount of time, the Cardinal could drop from College Football Playoff contender to Holiday Bowl aspirant.

Up next: … Utah, Saturday, TBA

1. Washington (4-1, 2-0) … Ranking last weekend: 2

This weekend … After a lackluster 27-20 win over Arizona State, Washington dominated No. 20, BYU, 35-7. The Huskies were up 21-0 at the half, and were within 41 seconds of a shutout. With Stanford falling to Notre Dame and USC playing mediocre football, the Huskies (with apologies to the Buff Nation) remain the Pac-12’s best hope for a College Football Playoff berth.

A road trip to beat up on UCLA is the only stumbling block between Washington and a date with Oregon in Eugene to decide the front-runner for the Pac-12 North lead.

Up next … at UCLA, Saturday, TBA.

… Your thoughts? Post your rankings in the comments section … 

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2 Replies to “Sunday Afternoon Quarterback”

  1. IMO, CU will never take the next step up until they get the TE position ingrained into the offensive scheme.

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