BOULDER – The Colorado Buffaloes put together their first convincing team performance in conference play against Cal on Saturday. With a commanding 44-28 win over the Golden Bears, the Buffs found the offensive rhythm that has eluded them since the start of the season.

Steven Montez did not appreciate getting benched, came out with guns blazing against Cal

After weeks of struggling to get the offense going and putting together a 21-yard first-half performance against Washington State that resulted in his benching, Montez came to play on Saturday. The Buffs starting quarterback was poised in the pocket, made smart decisions and protected the football.

Perhaps the re-opening of the quarterback competition this week renewed Montez’s drive. He had a new fire as he racked up points against Cal, going 20-of-26 for 347 yards, three passing touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown. Montez was able to involve his entire offense, hitting five different receivers for significant gains during the matchup, as well as leaning on lead rusher Phil Lindsay throughout. Perhaps most importantly, Montez appeared to finally regain his deep ball as an option, tossing a deep touchdown to Shay Fields and adding a big chunk of yardage on a deep throw to Laviska Shenault.

The defense found a pass rush and it was game-changing

Since the kickoff of conference play, the Buffs’ defense has struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, which has severely limited their effectiveness and put additional pressure on their secondary. This week, they stepped up big time, recording four sacks and five quarterback hurries through the afternoon.

Breakout safety Evan Worthington, rising star linebacker Drew Lewis, and Jase Franke each picked up their first sack of the season and George Frazier recorded the first of his career. Keeping that level of pressure on Cal’s quarterback was a huge part of the Buffs success on Saturday, with Leo Jackson and Derek McCartney both playing a big role as well.

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The wide receivers stepped up big time

The entire offense stepped up on Saturday, including Montez and the offensive line. But the wide receivers were a huge part of the Buffs win over Cal, with three of them finding the end zone and all of them coming up with big plays. Fields, Devin Ross and Jay MacIntyre each scored a touchdown, while Shenault had a 58-yard grab that set up Montez’s rushing score. Bryce Bobo also had a handful of big grabs and Fields broke the 100-yard mark for the first time against a Pac-12 opponent this year.

No, Cal doesn’t have a great defense. But this is the ‘Black Out Boyz’ that Buffs fans were promised in the offseason, and seeing them put it all together is incredibly important for CU moving forward. If the Buffs had a shot at sneaking into a bowl game this year, they needed this offense to get it done, and on Saturday, they proved that they can do just that.

For the first time since week three, the Buffs look like they have built some momentum that they can carry into their final few tilts of the season. With USC, Utah and Arizona State still to come, CU needs at least one more win to secure a bowl invite.

Sam is a sports writer and photographer from Austin, Texas. She covers the Colorado Buffaloes for BSN Denver and the NFL for SB Nation. Twitter and Instagram: @SamanthaNWeaver