BOULDER – While audiences on both sides of Friday night’s matchup expected a shootout, the Rocky Mountain Showdown ended in a 17-3 victory for the Colorado Buffaloes. The relatively low final score can be partially attributed to impressive defensive play by both teams, but it also highlighted an area of concern for CU. Despite high expectations this season for their explosive receiving corps and dominant run game, the Buffs’ offense largely went dormant.
In his first game as the official starter for CU, quarterback Steven Montez had plenty of impressive moments. He found Jay MacIntyre in a crucial third-down situation and tossed a beautiful touchdown to Shay Fields.
“That’s the player he is,” Fields said. “He has that cannon for an arm and then we kind of make eye contact. That contact told me to go and that he could throw it way out there. That’s just one of the unique talents that he has.”
Montez also stumbled in parts of his 2017 debut. He struggled to utilize all of his offensive weapons or extend drives, particularly in the second half. He tossed two interceptions, both intended for receiver Devin Ross. Head coach Mike MacIntyre identified one area in particular that they would focus on improving.
“(Steven Montez) was holding it a little bit,” MacIntyre said. “We’ll learn from that and he’ll see where he’s got to go with the ball to get it out of his hands a little quicker.”
The head coach is also confident in his quarterback’s abilities and believes Montez will continue to improve as the season goes on.
“Steven did a good job,” MacIntyre said. “As he keeps growing and keeps doing it, and keeps understanding it, and we keep improving, we’ll be a really good offense.”
This season’s sky-high expectations for the offense rest largely on the shoulders of CU’s veteran receiving corps. The unit was expected to rack up points on Friday night, but Fields was the only wideout to eclipse 50 yards or find the end zone. The Buffs went scoreless in the second half, unable to open up the offense or get many of their biggest weapons involved.
“We are a team that thrives off of big plays,” lead rusher Phil Lindsay said. “Anytime we can get momentum shifting our way, that’s what we want. We didn’t score like we wanted to, but it was Montez’s first time as the head man. I’m excited for him, he’s a great quarterback and he’s going to win a lot of games in the Pac-12. We just have to go back to square one and that starts Monday. We’re going to get all the rust off, and get our receivers because we have some lethal receivers that need to get the ball.”
Center Johnathan Huckins agreed that momentum had slowed after the first half and the offense would have to improve in the later quarters.
“I think we started strong as y’all can see and we kind of just simmered off toward the end and we have to just keep our momentum high,” Huckins said. “We have to play and adjust to how they’re adjusting to us. I think that’s a big thing for us, coming out in the second half and putting out more points in the second half.”
The offensive line had their own struggles on Friday night. While they paved the way for running back Lindsay’s first quarter touchdown and helped him to a 140-yard game, they also allowed five sacks during the matchup.
The absence of veteran tackle Jeromy Irwin and blocking tight end George Frazier (who were both in attendance but didn’t play) had a huge impact on the line’s performance. Irwin and Frazier are starters and team captains, and the offensive line clearly missed their leadership opportunity.
Huckins, who is also a veteran lineman, spoke about improving communication and increasing speed along the line moving forward.
“I think the biggest thing, especially for the offensive line is communication,” Huckins said. “That obviously starts with me. I have to help communicate better, I have to get people in the right spot faster. I think we have to move at a faster tempo next game as well. I think we simmered off in the second half and we could have pushed it if we went a little faster.”
At the end of the day, the Buffs will turn to the tape to correct their offensive errors and move forward.
“We made a few mistakes here and there, the offensive line jumping offsides, a missed block or a missed read, those kinds of things,” MacIntyre said. “We’ll see that on film, we’ll correct it, and we’ll move on. We will be an explosive offense. Someday this group will really be explosive, and I can’t wait until they do it. Hopefully, it’s next Saturday.”
With a week one win in the books, CU can turn its attention to a home game against Texas State next weekend. This matchup should allow them to really get their offense going and showcase exactly what the Buffs are capable of doing.