Following a bye week, only two games remain in Mel Tucker’s first season with Colorado. Plenty of storylines surround the closing of the season.
The team has seen progress on defense as younger players gain experience, but inconsistencies on both sides of the ball have cost the Buffs some opportunities at wins. But on Saturday night not all of the story lines will be a part of the game. As the team celebrates Senior Night, Ralphie, the greatest live mascot in sports, fifth of her name and leader of the Buff stampede will not run and will retire after the game.
Thank you Ralphie!
— Colorado Buffaloes (@CUBuffs) November 14, 2019
Colorado (4-6 overall, 2-5 Pac-12) faces Washington (6-4, 3-4) Saturday night at 8 PM (MT) in Boulder. The game will be broadcast on ESPN. Pac-12 after dark on national television, nothing better than that.
Pac-12 play is often up in the air. That’s one of the reasons that the conference has a hard time making it into the college football playoff. At the moment, however, Oregon (9-1, 7-0) sits 6th in the rankings and Utah (9-1, 6-1) is 7th. Washington lost to both of the conference’s top teams in back-to-back weeks with both games decided by one score. The Huskies did manage to bounce back two weeks ago, defeating Oregon State (5-5, 4-3) in Corvallis before having last week off.
Colorado’s defense played well against Stanford and has had a week to prepare for the Huskies and Jacob Eason. The junior quarterback is 27th in the nation in passing yards with 2,472 and has also tallied 20 touchdowns.
Eason’s favorite target is Washington’s leading receiver, tight end Hunter Bryant. The 6’2″ junior has 647 yards and three touchdowns this year. With Colorado’s issues covering the middle of the field, this will be a key match up to watch.
Pressuring Eason and forcing turnovers can give Steven Montez and the Colorado offense a good opportunity to beat the Huskies. In Washington’s win over Oregon State, Eason threw two interceptions and no touchdowns and only put 19 points on the scoreboard.
Montez is only a few spots behind Eason at 33rd nationally in passing yards. But even with 2,428 yards and 14 touchdowns, poor decision making has led to 10 interceptions. Montez must trust his receivers and not force throws. This will open up the field for the running game and some big plays for the Buffs.
While Montez and others on the Colorado roster will not play at Folsom Field again after this weekend, he has made it clear that his focus is on the immediate future and winning games. With only two more opportunities, he wants this team to make a statement to end his senior year.
Colorado’s receivers will definitely be looking to make an impact in the final two games. The trio of Laviska Shenault Jr., Tony Brown, and K.D. Nixon will likely be pursuing opportunities in professional football after this season. Each has had highlight moments this season, including the memorable flea flicker touchdown to Nixon against Nebraska and the ground-shaking fourth and one run from Shenault against Stanford.
Brown’s consistency over the course of the year has him leading the Buffs with 656 yards and five touchdowns. Shenault is close behind him, hauling in 45 receptions for 621 yards and three touchdowns. He’s added 119 yards and two touchdowns on the ground as well.
So Tucker’s first year as a college head coach has shown potential. The Buffs have the ability to win tough games and execute in big situations, but there is still room to improve. The recruiting buzz has been louder this season and that was a noted strength for Tucker. Darrin Chiaverini plays a large role in recruiting too as assistant head coach, and is also responsible for coaching the receivers.
But with two games left to get all they can from Steven Montez and a great group of receivers, Colorado aims to close out trending upward. It has been a rollercoaster of a year between injuries, overtime heartbreak, and the thrill of last second wins. Now all that is left is 120 minutes of football, including a final 60 at home on Saturday.
Colorado is a 14 point home underdog. But anything can happen in Pac-12 after dark football. Especially at Folsom Field.