1,111 Days – The Legacy of Steven Montez

Three years, two weeks, and two days.

With the Pac-12’s eight-year calendar rotation*, Oregon was off of CU’s schedule for the past two seasons. As a result, it was just over three years – 1,111 days, to be exact – between the 2016 game and the Buffs’ return visit to Eugene in 2019.

The last time Colorado played Oregon was on September 24, 2016. It was the sixth game played between the two teams as members of the Pac-12, with the Ducks winning the first five games by scores of 45-2; 70-14; 57-16; 44-10; and 41-24.

For those not willing to do the math, that’s an average score of 51-13.

That the Buffs entered Autzen Stadium in 2016 as only ten-point underdogs – with a quarterback making his first career start – was something of a surprise.

The bigger surprise came a few hours later, when red-shirt freshman Steven Montez led the Buffs to a 41-38 victory.

It’s been an interesting three years since that game, both for the two teams involved, and for Steven Montez.

It may come as a surprise, but the records of the Buffs and Ducks since September, 2016, are not all that dissimilar. Colorado, since the last time the two teams played, posted an overall record of 20-19. The much more acclaimed Oregon program, over that same time frame? 22-17.

Both teams have fired their coaches since the last meeting, with Oregon’s Mario Cristobal having a year’s head start on CU’s Mel Tucker.

Both teams have turned over most of their rosters, with only a handful of players remaining who played in both games.

One of them is Steven Montez.

In the 2016 game, Montez not only won his first career start, he became the first player in CU history to pass for over 300 yards (333, with three touchdowns) and run for over 100 yards (135 yards and another score) in the same game.

In the 2019 game, Montez threw a career-worst four interceptions, finishing with 131 yards passing and 12 yards rushing.

With the loss to Oregon, Montez has a career record of 15-18 as a starting quarterback. His 33rd career start ties him with Kordell Stewart for fourth on CU’s all-time list, with his 30th consecutive start one shy of the school record (31, Gale Weidner, 1959-61). Montez already has the record for the most career games with over 300 yards of total offense (16), and by the time his career ends, he will likely pass his predecessor, Sefo Liufau, on most of the CU career charts:

  • Career passing yards … 1. Sefo Liufau – 9,568 … 2. Steven Montez – 8,435 … 3. Cody Hawkins – 7,409 …
  • Career total offense … 1. Sefo Liufau – 10,509 … 2. Steven Montez – 9,286 … 3. Kordell Stewart – 7,770 …
  • Career touchdown passes … 1. Sefo Liufau/Cody Hawkins – 60 … 3. Steven Montez – 56 … 4. Joel Klatt – 44 …

Despite being in position to claim the top spot in most of CU’s quarterback records, Steven Montez will not leave Boulder considered to be CU’s GOAT. Like Liufau, who finished his career with a 16-24 record as a starter, Montez has his detractors.

One thread on the Rivals CUSportsNation message board this past week – and mind you, this was before the four-interceptions-in-four-straight-possession game against the Ducks – was entitled: “Worst 5th year senior in college football?”, while over at 247 Sports BuffStampede message board a thread was started with a simple but to the point, “Not a winner”.

While internet trolls need to be taken at face value, there is room for legitimate criticism. Montez is a fifth-year season, with a world of experience, and should be considered one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. Instead, Montez isn’t even considered to be one of the best quarterbacks in his own conference. The Lindy’s preseason All-Pac-12 team went three-deep at each position – no Steven Montez. Phil Steele’s preseason All-Pac-12 team went four-deep – no Steven Montez. In Athlon’s preseason unit rankings, CU’s quarterbacks came in at No. 7.

Montez has gone through three offensive coordinators in three seasons, and has been to two Manning Passing Academies. He’s had plenty of instruction, but continues to throw off of his back foot, and still tends to scramble backwards instead of stepping up into the pocket.

Pro Football Focus currently has Steven Montez as the No. 7 quarterback in the Pac-12, and the No. 30 quarterback in the nation, behind such luminaries as Eastern Michigan’s Mike Glass III, Indiana’s Michael Penix, Jr., and UAB’s Tyler Johnston III.

Should Buff fans expect more from its fifth-year senior quarterback?

It’s cliche that quarterbacks get too much of the credit for wins, and too much of the blame for losses. Montez threw an interception in the end zone late in the first half against Oregon. A touchdown for the Buffs would have made it a 17-10 game just before halftime, but tight end Brady Russell failed to come down with the ball. Oregon defensive back Verone McKinley III, however, did come up with the tipped pass. Eight plays and 80 yards later, it was a 24-3 game at the break, instead of 17-10.

The stat line shows CU’s final drive before halftime ended in a Steven Montez interception, but was he really to blame for the turnover? Yes and no. The ball was forced into traffic, but should have been caught (see photo of the play, below).

At the break, Justin Herbert and Steven Montez had combined to throw for 300 yards … 225 for Herbert; 75 for Montez. An ineffective offense? Or a ridiculously porous defense? Both?

After the break, the floodgates opened. Montez threw three more interceptions on CU’s next three possessions. Oregon scored two more touchdowns in the first five minutes of the second half to turn a 24-3 game into a 38-3 beat down … with 25 minutes of football left to be played.

In a 45-3 embarrassment, there are plenty of fingers to be pointed. The Buff defense gave up over 500 yards of offense, including nine plays of 20 yards or more. The Buffs committed 14 penalties for 114 yards, including major penalties after the Buff offense twice had the ball inside the Oregon ten yard line.

But, just as Steven Montez will always be fondly remembered for going 3-0 against Colorado State, and 2-0 against Nebraska (engineering fourth quarter comebacks in both games), he will also be remembered for games like the 2019 Oregon game.

“I don’t want to take anything away from Oregon, they have a really good team and a really good defense,” Montez said. “But I think there’s a lot of plays we had out there we could have easily made and it could have gone our way. Those 50-50 balls — a tip interception — you can’t control everything. Sometimes those plays go your way and sometimes the don’t.”

In his career, unfortunately the Buff Nation, there are as many (or more) 50-50 balls (and games) which haven’t gone his way as those which have.

1,111 days before he returned to Autzen stadium as a fifth-year senior, Steven Montez set a school record as the first Buff to ever post 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in the same game. The 41-38 victory will remain part of his legacy forever.

His four interception game in the same stadium, however – some three years, two weeks and two days after one of his greatest triumphs – will also be a part of his legacy at the University of Colorado.

—–

What might have been … The Montez-to-Russell pass in the final minutes of the second quarter. Instead of falling into Russell’s arms, the ball was tipped up again, with Verone McKinley III (not even in the picture) coming down with the interception.

Photo courtesy of CUBuffs.com (click to enlarge):

 

 

 

 

 


*In the Pac-12’s unbalanced scheduling, teams from the South Division play the Washington and Oregon schools six out of every eight years, and play Cal and Stanford in alternating home-and-home series (which adds up to four games against the Cardinal and Bears every eight years). CU played Oregon in each of the first six years of the Pac-12’s existence (2011-16) before taking off the next two (2017-18). The 2019 season marks the start of the second time the conference is cycling through the eight year calendar (with CU missing Cal and Oregon State in 2019-20).

11 Replies to “1,111 Days – The Legacy of Steven Montez”

  1. Too many times it just seems that Montez has not only NOT gotten better…he has regressed. Nothing more than a big guy with a big arm AND horrible footwork. Too bad, really loved the kid’s moxy at times…

  2. Bottom line, there has been no visible improvement during his entire time…from So. – Sr. year he looks like exactly the same player (a little thicker, and slower withstanding). Footwork issues leading to poor throws all over the field…
    I’d like us to change up a bit on O…we need to protect the D vs. EVERYONE at this juncture. Stevie needs to channel his inner Sr. year Sefo and we need to power run w/the QB heavily involved..get Viska and WRs more involved in run attack. Hit big plays as folks say on 1st read.

  3. Honestly, since Kordell CU has not had a QB that was the total package. Many have had the overt physical qualities, but not the intangibles to make it all work. Or the brains but not the physical. Many years I wondered “is this the best CU can get?” Remember the Bernard Jackson season? Or the Cody Hawkins years? Sefo aand Montez have been a sure improvement but were plagued by OL play, and you wonder how much that held back their development. Would be interested what others think.

    1. I’d counter to say Kordell wasn’t a natural passer, and he had the MOST Talented CU O ever around him…I think our GOAT really is Koy, when his knees were right he was fantastic.

  4. Not a word here about the O lines Steve has had to play behind. They might be somewhat improved this year but an exclamation point to that was that last series before the half ended when the Buffs had a first and goal. He never had a chance to set his feet

  5. My theory with this is that the coaching staff will ride montez till he cant throw a pass anymore and next year, the coaching staff will be all in on Brendan Lewis (committed recruit) when he comes to campus. they ‘re not even concerned with lytle or stenstrom at this point.

  6. Some time it helps to see the game from the side line just to have break and get a new perspective. We also need to see if the quarterback starter for next year is even on the team. If there is that much difference between the one and two we have a big problem . Coach needs to find out sooner rather than later.

  7. Yo Stuart,

    You gotta love the fact that Montez has a physical skill set at QB that we haven’t seen since Kordell Stewart. He’s not in Kordell’s league physically, but who is? Also, Darian Hagan was an athletic monster, but that was as an option QB.

    As far as football smarts goes, no one was ever better at CU than Koy Detmer. They guy just didn’t have the body for major college football or the NFL… although he was so football savvy he managed to do both. I still remember at the Daily Camera when the sportswriters were talking about this skinny kid who at 18 already knew more about breaking down defenses than his new coaches at CU. Having a savant like Detmer around also helped Kordell do the things he did.

    What makes me sad about Montez as a 5th year senior is the continuing and extremely frustrating insistence of throwing off his back foot. It’s the equivalent of a fade away jump shot in basketball. But that doesn’t work in football. In hoops, once the ball is gone, the defense cannot just jump up and grab the ball before it reaches the rim. In football they can go after those floaters. And they do.

    Often, the receivers are wide open when the ball is thrown. But the defense has the opportunity to catch up to those floaters. It also makes the receivers take a lot more punishment.

    I really don’t want to harp on the kid, I really blame the coaches he’s had. They were all so enthralled with what he was capable of doing that they were willing to overlook the bad things he did over and over. That hurt Steven’s development, and I fear now that it’s too late to fix it.

    I’ve written before that I (and many other Colorado fans) are sick and tired of “record-setting QB’s” on sub .500 teams.

    To quote the hated Al Davis, “Just Win Baby.” That’s the only record that counts. And that is to the coaches, not the players. Tucker and his coaches have said over and over that they will play the guys making the plays. Seems to be the case for everyone but QB. All the potential in the world doesn’t mean anything if you only have your A-game half the time. I’d rather have a QB committed to doing it right and take his lumps on the way. But that decision is there for the coaches to make.

    Personally, I think a half or full game on the bench would do Montez a world of good for his future. A young Montez made his first start against Oregon way back in 2016. I remember many on this site worried because they thought only Sefo Liufau gave us a chance and that his injury had doomed us. They said the same thing then that they say now, that there were no backups on the team good enough. Then Montez played a record setting game in the win to prove everyone wrong.

    We don’t know anything about the backup QB’s on the roster until they get a chance to play some meaningful snaps. You gotta give ’em a chance to run the offense, not just hand off 10-12 times at the end of a blowout loss. And just an aside, did anyone notice Tyler Lytle on the sideline next to Montez? That kid is a good two inches taller than Montez and looks like a very well-built 220 pounds. I’d love to see him actually play when the game is starting or tied.

    If Colorado is going to be relegated to yet another losing season, it would be a good idea to find out which of their younger QB’s are game day leaders. Montez is gone after this season. Time to plan for the future.

    Mark
    Boulderdevil
    GoldenBuffs.com

  8. Mixed emotions, overall neutral on Montez during his career. Putting last night’s performance aside, there are clutch plays like the last TD passes in the past two Neb game that show what he can do when things are on the line. On the other hand, there are examples like the horrendous start against Cal last year with last gasp bowl eligibility on the line and the records from the last two years of 5-7. I feel most of last year’s overall performance was Macintyre’s gutless, fear driven game management but the QB also has the responsibility to put the team on his shoulders and find a way to win one game out of 7. Only an armchair QB opinion obviously. What I feel is more telling: last year, players elected team captains. Montez was not one of them if I recall correctly. He has tangibles. His intangibles are the question mark that lead some people to say things like: “not a winner”. I think the rest of this season, even though a tough road with team injuries and inexperience, are an opportunity for Montez to show he can overcome his worst career game and find a way to get 3 wins on the remaining schedule. Hopefully: UCLA, Stanford, and one other upset. For his sake and for the program, I hope it happens. Otherwise, his legacy may be, fairly or unfairly, the 5-7 QB.

    1. Those pass plays you talk about (neb game) are #1 option or first read throws. I Remember plays like the 3Rd and 4 of the last drive in the Arizona game. I believe Steven had decided, before the ball was snapped, that he was going to throw a deep ball up the sideline instead of letting the play develop and hit a WIDE OPEN slant for a first down. Did we lose that game because of him? No, but those are the type of winning plays a 3 year starter and 5th year senior have to make. Steven struggles with hanging in the pocket and finding his 2nd and 3rd option. Does he have the best oline? No, but many times he has a nice pocket to step up into, but starts floating to his right or left where actual pressure is and the ball ends up 20 rows in the stands.

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