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Colorado v. Stanford – “T.I.P.S.” for CU’s try for two in a row over the Cardinal

Is it a feign? A ploy to keep the Stanford coaches guessing?

Or … is it CU’s reality for the final three games of the 2019 season?

There are many Buff fans who believe that the CU coaches should, in the final three games of the 2019 season, begin focusing on the 2020 season. Towards that end, they believe that younger players should be given the opportunity to play, even if that hurts the Buffs’ chances at victory (with the associated belief that CU isn’t going to win those games, anyway).

Tops on the list of players these fans want to see replaced is quarterback Steven Montez. The fifth-year senior is having, by any reasonable measure, a disappointing season. The promise of the red-shirt freshman who beat Oregon in Eugene in 2016 never became the star quarterback Buff fans hoped he would become.

In a world where Montez should have been one of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-12, if not the country, Montez is rated 11th in passing efficiency in his own conference (behind two true freshman quarterbacks, another pair of sophomores, and even the struggling Kahlil Tate at Arizona).

So, will the last three games be an audition for sophomore Tyler Lytle (if healthy) and/or redshirt freshman Blake Stenstrom?

Don’t count on it.

“I’m very confident that Steven gives us our best chance,” Tucker said Monday when asked about replacing Montez. “We’ll work with him to get him better. He’s obviously got to make great decisions, got to take care of the football. He missed a couple throws, had a couple of poor reads, but he also made some good plays. We have to play better around him. Everybody’s got to be on the same page and doing their job in order for us to get the job done.”

It appears that Steven Montez, who is currently tied with Sefo Liufau and Cody Hawkins for the most touchdown passes in CU history (all three have 60), will have his chance at school record No. 39 this weekend.

This week’s “T.I.P.S.” for CU v. Stanford … Saturday, 1:00 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks

T – Talent 

Two games ago, Stanford took on UCLA at home with sophomore quarterback Jack West behind center. The third-stringer was God-awful, completing 15-of-32 passes for all of 143 yards in his first career start. The Cardinal were held to 198 total yards as UCLA defeated Stanford, 34-16, for the Bruins’ first win over the Cardinal in 11 years.

Reason for optimism in the Buff Nation?

Nah.

As (CU’s) fate would have it, Jack West will not be taking the field this weekend, as senior K.J. Costello returned for Stanford’s next game, going 31-for-44 for 322 yards and three touchdowns as the Cardinal had its way with Arizona, 41-31.

Not good news for a CU secondary which may have the wide receiver-turned-cornerback-turned-cornerback starter Tarik Luckett penciled in as starter if fellow freshman K.J. Trujillo can’t go. (Note to Buff haters who criticize the CU defensive staff for having their cornerbacks play back from the line of scrimmage … CU doesn’t have shut down cornerbacks on the roster right now).

Leading the resurgent offense is a line which has started four – count ’em, four – freshman this fall. Several starters, including star offensive tackle Walter Little, have fallen to injury. The Arizona game, however, marked the second consecutive game in which Stanford was able to start the same five linemen.

The line is blocking for fifth-year running back Cameron Scarlett, who has been a workhorse for the Cardinal, rushing for 700 yards
on 159 attempts and five touchdowns. He also has 16 receptions for 159 yards. Scarlett eclipsed 100 yards for the second time in his career in the win over Arizona, totaling 102 yards and matching his career high with two touchdowns.

Junior receiver Connor Wedington continues to prove himself as a threat in all facets of the game. Through eight games, Wedington leads the team with 913 all-purpose yards (371 receiving, 512 kick return, 30 rush).

The defense is led by All-Pac-12 defensive back Paulson Adebo, who had two interceptions against Arizona. Adebo has four interceptions on the season, sixth-best in the FBS. He is one of just three FBS players to have at least four interceptions in each of the last two seasons.

I – Intangibles 

— As has been the case for almost every Pac-12 game, Colorado is playing a team which has struggled at times, but finds itself on an upswing just as CU appears on the schedule.

Stanford began the season as the nation’s No. 25 team, but then quickly disappeared from the national season. The Cardinal opened with a 1-3 record, with the only victory a 17-7 home win over struggling Northwestern (the Wildcats are 1-7 this fall).

Since then, however, Stanford has won three out of four, including impressive wins over Washington and Arizona (with the lone loss when the Cardinal had to start Jack West, the not-ready-for-primetime third stringer who struggled against UCLA).

With second-team All-Pac-12 quarterback K.J. Costello back behind center, the Cardinal are surging … sigh.

— Meanwhile, over in the CU locker room … how are the Buffs holding up after dropping their fifth straight game?

“Football is the ultimate team sport and we have to have a discipline to do our jobs on a consistent basis,” said Mel Tucker at his Tuesday press conference. “All of our coaches and all of our players understand that consistency and performance is how you become successful. Playing complementary football and everyone doing their job at a high level on a consistent basis on and off the field will give us our best chance to be successful. That’s our goal, that’s what we’re striving to do every day.

“Looking at our last our last game, I have to ask myself, ‘how can we grow, what did we do right, and how can we get better, what direction are we going in?’. I saw some very positive things from a lot of guys, and we’re going to build on those. I also saw some things that need to be cleaned up. Where we need better execution on both sides of the ball and special teams. That’s why our practices, our meetings, everything that we do is so critically important. Culture is how you behave, how you live day to day. It’s also as a work in progress, but I’m really excited about the direction we’re going.”

… Read into that what you will …

P – Preparation/Schedule

— Guess who had a bye week to have extra time for their trip to Boulder?

Yup.

Stanford defeated Arizona, 41-31, two weeks ago, and the Cardinal coaches and players were home watching as the Buffs traveled to Los Angeles to play UCLA last Saturday. So, a Cardinal team which was losing games earlier in the season due to a rash of injuries has had an extra week to heal … while the CU list of walking wounded – running back Alex Fontenot (concussion), wide receiver Laviska Shenault (undisclosed), cornerback K.J. Trujillo (undisclosed), linebacker Delrick Abrams (undisclosed), quarterback Tyler Lytle (shoulder) – continues to grow.

Well, at least CU gets a bye next week, with a chance to heal up for the Washington game. At least for that game, it will be Colorado which will have the advantage of extra preparation … oh, wait, Washington will have a bye next weekend as well.

Figures.

— The weather forecast for the 1:00 p.m., Saturday kickoff is magnificent (sunny; high of 67-degrees) – perfect football weather. The only advantage here for the home team is that the kickoff will be at noon on the body clocks of the Cardinal players.

Stanford had an early-for-them road game earlier this year against Central Florida (12:30 Pacific time), and got boat-raced, falling behind 21-0 in the first seven minutes of the game on their way to a 45-27 defeat. It may be too much to hope that the Buffs will dominate Stanford from the opening gun. Still, the way the Buffs have struggled to open games lately, if the Buffs can even stay even with the Cardinal in the opening quarter … it will be a plus.

— Even if the weather does not amount to an advantage for the Buffs on the field this weekend, it could be helpful to the program in the long run. CU will have a multitude of recruits on campus. The Homecoming game was always targeted as a big recruiting opportunity, and there will be a number of committed members from the CU Recruiting Class of 2020 on hand for their official visits, as well as a number of uncommitted prospects.

One of the recruiting tools used against Colorado is the cold weather. When recruits come to Boulder and see shirt-sleeve weather in November?

Can’t hurt.

S – Statistics

— Stanford has started seven true freshmen this fall, tied for second-most in the country (including the four freshmen offensive linemen, the most of any school);

— Entering a crucial month and needing two wins to reach bowl eligibility for the 11th straight season, Stanford’s late-season success under David Shaw cannot go unnoticed – the Cardinal is 25-7 under Shaw in the month of November;

— Stanford leads the all-time series, 6-4, including a 3-1 advantage in games played in the Pac-12. The lone CU victory since joining the conference came the last time the team’s played, a 10-5 win in Palo Alto in 2016;

What to watch for – Part I … If the Colorado defense is going to break its 14-game streak of allowing 30 points or more to its opponents, Stanford is CU’s best remaining bet this fall. Stanford is 106th in the nation in scoring, posting 22.6 points per game;

What to watch for – Part II … Stanford is one of the best teams in the nation in hanging onto the football, with only six lost turnovers this season. Colorado, meanwhile, is one of the best at generating turnovers, with 15.

Prediction … It’s been a roller coaster ride the last few days for the Buff Nation.

And that’s actually good news.

Considering that the last month has been a long, continuous downhill ride as the Buffs have posted five straight losses … a positive jolt upward on the roller coaster was most welcome.

The announcement that five-star defensive lineman Antonio Alfano had signed a Financial Aid Agreement with CU brought a fresh splash of positive enthusiasm to the Buff Nation.

A five-star defensive lineman? One of the top five recruits in the entire nation from the Class of 2019?

Holy crap!

How big is that for CU? Well, a poster on the 247 Sports message board going by Royson put it in some perspective: Had Alfano committed to CU last December, and been part of CU’s Recruiting Class of 2019, he would have moved CU’s 247 Sports national Class ranking from No. 44 to No. 23 … one spot behind Stanford and No. 4 in the Pac-12.

Think Buff fans can live with a Top 25 Recruiting Class every December?

I’m going with “yes”.

Still, despite the high the Alfano news brought Buff fans, the reality is that Alfano won’t be on the field for the Buffs until the 2020 opener in Ft. Collins (at the earliest).

In the meantime, the depleted Buff defense will again try and keep a quality Pac-12 quarterback from picking it apart, while the Buff offense will again try and find some answers.

“In order to have efficiency on offense or defense, everyone has to do their job,” Tucker said. “If one guy doesn’t do his job on a particular play, you’re going to lose that down. We have to get more guys on both sides of the ball and special teams on the same page at a high level on a consistent basis in order to get what we want”.

I thought that last weekend against UCLA would be the break through game for the Buffs, but was treated instead to a first quarter reminiscent of some of CU’s darker days.

Brighter days are ahead, and the signing of Alfano helps us to believe that Mel Tucker will be the one to lead the Buffs to those brigher days?

The real question: Just how long do we have to wait?

Could this be a breakthrough weekend? …

Prediction … Stanford 30, Colorado 27 … 

Previous predictions … 

UCLA 34, Colorado 31 … Actual: UCLA 31, Colorado 14

USC 38, Colorado 20 … Actual: USC 35, Colorado 31

Washington State 35, Colorado 24 … Actual: Washington State 41, Colorado 10

— No. 13 Oregon 33, Colorado 17 … Actual: No. 13 Oregon 45, Colorado 3

Colorado 38, Arizona 31 … Actual: Arizona 35, Colorado 30

No. 24 Arizona State 27, Colorado 17 … Actual: Colorado 34, No. 24 Arizona State 31

— Colorado 34, Air Force 24 … Actual: Air Force 30, Colorado 24 (OT)

Colorado 37, No. 25 Nebraska 31 … Actual: Colorado 34, No. 25 Nebraska 31 (OT)

Colorado 38, Colorado State 20 … Actual: Colorado 52, Colorado State 31

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16 Replies to “CU v. Stanford – “T.I.P.S.” for Homecoming, 2019”

  1. As Montez goes so go the Buffs. Can he pull together a complete game? Can the O Coordinator just run the ball, and then run it again, and again, oh ya and again so that we don’t have to rely on Montez? Just to be clear I like the kid, but for some reason he is the same player he was 3 years ago (actually slightly worse statistically I have heard).

    I have to say I doubt it. I unfortunately agree with Stu’s assessment we are likely in for another massive loosing streak to finish the season.

    Stu, If this game starts going south would you throw Senstrom in or is it in Tucker we trust and let Montez finish out his career? I would like to have Senstrom play in a winnable game before Utah and Washington……

    1. If it were me, I would let Stenstrom play, but that doesn’t seem to be Tucker’s philosophy.
      He wants to play the players which will give him the best chance at winning, and apparently Montez, warts and all, gives the Buffs the best chance to win.
      I don’t know if Brendon Lewis is the answer, and will be able to start as a true freshman, or if the Buffs can find a transfer portal or graduate senior QB to take over in 2020. I do know that there will be no more important question for Year Two than who will be the starting quarterback …

  2. Buffs will score more points than Stanford, and will score more than 10 points. It was surprising to me that CU has never scored more than 10 points against Stanford since joining the PAC.

  3. I’ll go out on a limb (combination of emotion and wishful/hopeful thinking) and predict CU in a squeaker. During this miserable 5 game losing slide the two home loss games played (AZ 35-30 & USC 35-31) shoulda-woulda-coulda been wins if not for numbgourd lapses. Buffs 34-31 over Stanford.

  4. Yo Stuart,
    This is a tough one to call. CAN Colorado beat Stanford? Yes. Will they? Probably not.

    There was only one game this year that the offense put away another team when they had the chance. That was in August against Colorado State. Since then, our offense has done absolutely nothing to help out the defense.

    Sure, they came back against Nebraska… but they did nothing for nearly the first 3/4 of the game. In all our close games, both wins and losses, the offense failed over and over again to put games out of reach when Colorado had the chance.

    Blame the play calling, blame the execution, whatever. They’ve had the chance over and over this season and have come up short in that regard since CSU. If they had come through by putting the pedal to the metal several times they would be sitting at six wins instead of three and everyone would be talking about the resurgent Buffaloes.

    And if they had come through, chances are the Buffs would have made much better showings against the three teams they tanked against.

    Sad to say, we’ll have to wait and see who shows up on Saturday. Will they play like they care on offense? Or will they just go through the motions like against UCLA? And even if they do play like they care at first, will they keep it going if they get a lead? Or will they get conservative again? Or will they even get a chance?

    If the QB just goes through the motions again, will they let someone else play? I’m hoping Steven is finally motivated enough to play as well as he’s capable. It’s homecoming. It’s the second to last home game of his long career at Colorado. Two more records await his play.

    We will see…
    Mark
    Boulderdevil
    GoldenBuffs.com

  5. After reading your article its clear to me the Buffs will lose this game. Stanford is looking hot and the Buffs under Montez stay losing the second half of seasons. When you keep in a guy who continues to lose, what kind of message does this send to the rest of the team? Can’t believe they won’t give another guy a chance. Hopefully I’m wrong, but it’s getting painful

    Stanford 31 – CU 13

    Bummer

  6. Dosnt hurt to give some reps to next years backup. In reality, Coach obviously feels that Montez has the best tools to give the Buffs a chance to continue selling tickets this season.

  7. Wow. Cricky took the words out of my mouth. Tucker must not feel either CU QB is worth developing. Must have someone else up his sleeve. Montez a true buff, but 3-13 last 16 games. Time to move on.

  8. I think that Tucker thinks that next year’s starting QB is not on the team right now. No reason to develop players who aren’t going to play and Montez is the best chance to beat Stanford.

    1. You may be some what correct, add in trying to keep his recruit’s interest until signing day and there are a few reasons HE may feel he needs to stick with Montez; conscience or subconscious, admitted or not. Good Montez is the best chance to beat Standford, if O-line and running game shows up too.

      Maybe if Montez struggles, give a rookie a chance to create a spark, even if for a quarter or so, while Montez gets his head straight & sees he can get pulled.

    2. I wonder about that too, Cricky. Certainly seems to be the case. Or, that they just feel a guy who’s started nearly 40 games in his career, and sometimes plays at a very high level, still gives them the best chance to win.

      Beyond that though, I won’t be surprised to see Stenstrom be a solid QB. He’s got an NFL QB as a Dad, so it would seem he probably knows the game backwards and forwards (reading defenses, particularly). Although we’ve only seen him play like three plays, he seems to have some athletic ability, and he’s got decent size and mobility.

      Lytle? Who knows? Highly regarded recruit, but… whether he was a man among boys in high school, who just didn’t take the next steps, or can be a real solid D1 QB is anyone’s guess at this point (other than the staff’s; they know, b/c they see these kids day in and day out).

      Anyway, I just want to see the “good Buffs” Saturday, whoever that means is on the field.

      Go Buffs.

    3. Dosnt hurt to give some reps to next years backup. In reality, Coach obviously feels that Montez has the best tools to give the Buffs a chance to continue selling tickets this season.

  9. Stanford 38 CU 31. More points at home for Buffs but not enough to overcome the struggling D and the continual self inflicted wounds. Again, I hope to be proven wrong and will be there rooting but just don’t see it.

  10. I like the close score Stuart. I get a feeling the offense will bounce back and score some points. But the score will be close enough to go either way (like Arizona and USC).
    Also I think the Buffs D has trouble scheming for dual threat QBs. Costello is a traditional style and I would like to see the blitz creativity we saw vs. USC that put some pressure on Slovis (also traditional style).

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