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Opponent Offense Preview: Colorado Buffaloes

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You live by the Montez, you die by the Montez.

NCAA Football: Air Force at Colorado Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports

Key Stats

Yards per play: 5.5

Points per game: 24.7

3rd downs per game: 15.5

Points per play: .336 (#91)

Passing yards per game: 247

QB sack percentage: 4.03% (#20)

Red zone scoring percentage: 81% (95% at home)

Offensive Philosophy

When Colorado hired Mel Tucker from Georgia last year, he brought with him offensive quality control coach Jay Johnson to be OC. Johnson previously had called plays at Minnesota for a season and Louisiana Lafayette for 4 years before that. Mel Tucker played at Wisconsin and most recently coached on defense at both Alabama and Georgia, and he’s made it no secret he wants his offenses in the mold of the physical SEC. While he has a defensive background, he wants to build a downhill run game that controls the clock. Things haven’t quite worked out that way for the Buffalo run game averaging about 150 yards per game and just over 4.0 yards per carry. They are roughly even in their run and pass split, running about 35 of each play per game. QB Steven Montez gets tons of opportunities and only once has less than 30 pass attempts in a game this season - game one against Colorado State, a 52-21 victory.

NCAA Football: Air Force at Colorado
Laviska Shenault and K.D. Nixon are a strong 1-2 punch at receiver.
Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports

OC Jay Johnson’s attack will remind you a lot of Utah, except they pass much more out of the same formations and sets, compared to Utah’s more run heavy tendencies. They run mostly a single back offense, with 3 wide receivers and an H-back, which is usually TE Brady Russell. They play to their strengths in terms of that personnel grouping - they have some star power with the WR trio of Laviska Shenault, Tony Brown, and K.D. Nixon, and Montez pulling the trigger. They run a lot of RPO and zone reads, many times out of the pistol and shotgun formations to utilize quick passing. A lot less hard play action than you see from a team like UW. Colorado’s offensive line has taken steps forward since last season as well, when they suffered from significant injuries and youth.

Key Players

QB Steven Montez - 2,428 yards, 63% completion, 14 TD/10 INT, 6.9 yards per attempt

Steven Montez is one of the more up and down QBs in college football. The Colorado offense goes as he goes. He has moments of brilliance where he looks like an athletic, strong armed QB who can escape the pocket and make all the throws. At other times he is inconsistent and makes too many questionable decisions. His overall numbers are solid but his TD:INT ratio highlights his boom or bust capabilities. The senior and 3 year starter is a good quarterback, but rarely puts it all together for an entire game. He isn’t taking as many sacks this year and is not afraid to keep the ball on zone reads or lower his shoulder on designed QB runs.

RB Alex Fontenot - 148 attempts, 720 yards, 4 TD

Colorado had a massive question mark at running back going into the season and the sophomore Fontenot has helped answer the bell, providing stability for an inexperienced unit. At 6-0 and 195 pounds, he doesn’t have immense size and is not much of a workhorse, with only two games this year with over 20 carries. He’s more a speed back as opposed to power, and uses his vision to find the creases. Behind him is freshman Jaren Mangham, who provides a more physical running style. Colorado is not terribly deep at running back and they account for almost all the carries.

WR Laviska Shenault - 45 catches, 621 yards, 3 TD. 15 rushes, 119 yards, 2 TD.

Last season Shenault was one of the Pac-12’s brightest young stars and a national name with his versatile receiving and running abilities making weekly highlight reels. He’s come down to earth a bit this year with the coaching change and Colorado’s general offensive struggles, but is still proving to be one of the most dangerous weapons in the conference. He isn’t getting as many carries as last year but will get usually get at least one true rush on either a direct snap or jet sweep. At 6-2, 220 pounds, he has great size to go along with nice speed. He is a physical and efficient runner who doesn’t waste movement and knows how to find a crease with his excellent patience and vision. He’s again dealt with some injuries this year but looks to be healthy for Saturday.

WR Tony Brown - 51 catches, 656 yards, 5 TD

Senior Tony Brown transferred in from Texas Tech in 2017 and has put in two productive seasons for the Buffaloes. This year he has especially risen his game and is a reliable option out wide for Montez, with even more catches than Shenault. As he showed against Arizona State, he is capable of using his 6-1 frame and catch radius for spectacular touchdown grabs.

WR K.D. Nixon - 33 catches, 448 yards, 3 TD

The 5-8 Nixon does not bring the size that Brown or Shenault do but is very solidly built and is targeted frequently. Like Shenault and Nixon, he hasn’t gone a game this season without a catch and has at least three in his last four games. Last week he got a couple of carries in a zone read look, lined up next to Montez as a running back. He’s got a bit of play making ability to him and it will be interesting to see if that look shows up against the Huskies.

X-Factor

Which Montez are we going to get? He’s capable of the spectacular while just as easily can make a bone headed mistakes a senior shouldn’t be making. If we see “good Steven”, Colorado’s offense is hard to slow down as he can escape a pass rush, pirouette a defender, and then uncork a bomb to one of his stud wide receivers. On the other hand, “bad Steven” will turn it over, run into sacks, and just generally derail the offense with bad decision making. Washington’s front seven, and defensive line in particular, has started to come alive in recent weeks which could create an uncomfortable pocket for the mistake prone Montez. What kind of performance he turns in could go a long way in determining the outcome of the game.

Conclusion

Overall this is a fairly average Colorado offense that is better through the air than they are on the ground, largely on the backs of their stud WR corps. Montez is as experienced as they get but it seems as if he hasn’t improved at the rate many Colorado fans and coaches hoped he would. At this point, you just take the good with the bad with him. In their last five games, Colorado has scored 16, 14, 31, 10, and 3 points. No surprise the game in which they scored 31 (at home vs. USC) Montez lead the way, with 324 yards and 3 touchdowns (7.4 yards per attempt) no turnovers, and just one sack.

Other than a great performance at Arizona State they have been significantly better at home and with the late kick off, it doesn’t bode well for the Huskies. But the UW defense is getting better and better each week and coming off a bye week. The emergence of Joe Tryon and young playmakers like LB Edefuan Ulofoshio and Trent McDuffie in the secondary is making this Husky defense look more like what fans have been used to. That should be enough to derail Colorado.

Poll

How many points will Colorado score against Washington?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    0-7
    (8 votes)
  • 30%
    8-15
    (61 votes)
  • 49%
    16-22
    (97 votes)
  • 10%
    23-28
    (20 votes)
  • 4%
    29-35
    (9 votes)
  • 1%
    35 or more
    (2 votes)
197 votes total Vote Now