BOULDER - The Colorado Buffaloes found their offensive momentum for the first time since the start of conference play on Saturday, running away with a 44-28 victory over Cal. In a commanding performance, CU won out in all phases of the game and got one step closer to earning a second consecutive bowl game invitation.
Much of the offensive success against Cal was the work of quarterback Steven Montez. A week after being benched against Washington State and having to compete for the starting job in practice, Montez put together one of his best games of the season. He racked up 347 yards through the air, three passing touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown, completing 20 of 26 attempts in the matchup. Perhaps most importantly, Montez appeared more confident and composed in the pocket, making smart decisions and big plays out of bad situations.
"The whole week I had a huge chip on my shoulder," Montez said. "I had to prove why I should be out there and I think we did that today."
The Buffs head coach seemed incredibly pleased with his quarterback's improvement after the game.
"I was happy with the way Steven played - I expect him to play that way all the time," head coach Mike MacIntyre said.
Part of Montez's success this weekend was due to the improved play of his offensive line. After struggling for much of the season, they put together a strong performance against Cal.
"I think what helped [Steven] was our offensive line inside, they didn't let it get to him as much," MacIntyre said. "He was able to sit there and step up, so I give a lot of credit to the offensive line there."
Montez was not alone in his exceptional performance today, as the CU wideouts exploded against Cal. Three different Buffs receivers found the end zone, many scoring their first touchdowns against Pac-12 opponents this year. Jay MacIntyre, Devin Ross and Shay Fields each scored once, and Fields cracked 100 yards for the first time in conference play this season, with the majority of his 101 yards coming on a 65-yard bomb from Montez. Freshman receiver Laviska Shenault had a huge play, hauling in a 58-yard pass from Montez that set up the quarterback's rushing score.
A true team effort in all phases of the offense led to a big win for the Buffs. With a bowl game still on the line and three games left for the Buffs to hit the six-win mark, a victory over Cal was nearly a necessity. Not only has CU earned a little breathing room in their hunt for a winning season, they have finally built the offensive momentum that they have been lacking all year. Next is to carry this confidence into a pair of tough road matchups and a home game against ranked USC.
"We needed to win bad, especially at home," MacIntyre said. "That was our first gold game and now we've got three more. Were want to win them all and we're going to try to win them all, but you just have a better chance at home. That's just a fact. We needed to take care of that and we did today. I think that's big for all of those kids' confidence."
For the first time since kicking off Pac-12 play, the Buffs offense looks like they are headed in the right direction. It took CU all season to get their passing game going, but they might have figured it out just in time.