Final Rocky Mountain Showdown at Mile High memorable for all parties

Aug 30, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes running back Alex Fontenot (8) runs for a touchdown carry in the second half against the Colorado State Rams at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

After multiple lightning delays, the weather eventually passed Friday night but the electricity remained on the field in Denver.

With a final score of 52-31, Colorado won it’s fifth straight over their neighbors to the north, Colorado State. Although the Rams scored more points than they had in their last three meetings with the Buffaloes combined, they were unable to outlast Colorado.

The game was a back and forth battle, not a great defensive showing for either team. Colorado had difficulty stopping Colorado State on several drives, but costly turnovers and mistakes by the Rams brought the Buffaloes scoring opportunities and momentum.

There were a few bright spots for the Rams, though. Junior receiver Warren Jackson proved to be a difficult match-up for the Colorado secondary, with Collin Hill finding him seven times for 78 yards and a touchdown. True freshman Dante Wright also seemed untouchable for most of the first half. He finished with 59 yards and a touchdown on the ground and 72 yards and a touchdown through the air for Colorado State. Mike Bobo may have found his top offensive weapon for years to come after the explosive night from Wright.

After a booming 211 yards in last year’s Rocky Mountain Showdown, Laviska Shenault Jr. produced only 83 total yards and one touchdown Friday night. At times, Shenault was out wide against one-on-one coverage and there was no attempt by Steven Montez to ensure the ball was going the way of Colorado’s No. 1 playmaker.

Early in the game, the plan was clear: Run the ball. That was understandable with the youth at that position and the background of Mel Tucker. Going forward Colorado will likely try to involve Shenault more, especially if he is as open as he was for this touchdown in the second quarter.

While Shenault had a pedestrian performance, the run-heavy play-calling by Jay Johnson greatly benefitted sophomore running back Alex Fontenot. He racked up 19 carries, 125 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Freshman Jaren Mangham had a solid debut for the Buffaloes with 40 yards and a touchdown, considering how many snaps Fontenot got as the hot hand.

There was plenty to enjoy and get excited about during the game, but weaknesses were exposed on offense and defense, as well. The decision making by Montez looked much like the last couple years. Some questionable choices, such as throwing when he has a running lane and late throws putting his receivers in vulnerable positions, are areas Montez can continue to improve on as the season progresses.

On defense, SMU graduate transfer Mikial Onu grabbed two interceptions to kick off his Colorado career. Other than that? There are more than enough examples of missed tackles, blown coverages, and poor execution for Mel Tucker and defensive coordinator Tyson Summers to teach from in film study. On the bright side, the defense has nowhere to go but up.

Colorado improved to 1-0 and faces Nebraska next week.

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