Before Saturday’s showdown with Oregon, Steven Montez said simply that he would be prepared for anything and that he had to play better. He couldn’t have been more correct.
Montez, putting his body on the line, carried the ball 21 times for a game-high 135 yards. At times, he was noticeably shaken up and even looked a little woozy after taking so many big hits, but you could’ve said the same for the Oregon linebackers who could barely bring him to the ground without the help of another teammate.
We’ve seen Sefo Liufau run, and run well, but Montez and his 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame was a different beast, bowling over defenders at every opportunity.
But let’s not forget, he also completed a ridiculous 71.8 percent of his passes — he started the game 17/18 — and threw for three touchdowns and added another on the ground.
We saw a little bit of inexperience on his two interceptions, but imagine the storyline if Montez didn’t step up, after throwing two picks, and acted like a true freshman?
The headline in the paper would’ve read, “Buffs blow double digit lead as Montez mistakes are costly.”
But no, Montez looked as poised as a four-year starter and didn’t let it get to his head. Instead, he put on a performance of a lifetime, something not many other freshman could’ve done, especially in a stadium like Autzen where 53,000 screaming Oregon fans are rooting for you to fail.
And you thought Michigan was tough for this kid? Maybe with a little bit more practice time he would’ve been running over Jabrill Peppers and that impressive defense, too. But that story is for another time.
Now, the Buffs are trying to determine who will start for them on Saturday against Oregon State. With Liufau still battling an ankle injury, Montez might have to be ready to step up again.
“Steven played phenomenal, and Sefo isn’t 100 percent, so we’ll see how the week goes from there,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “We have two really good quarterbacks, and we have two really tough quarterbacks, so we’ll make sure Sefo is 100 percent.”
When asked how poised Montez was, the coach couldn’t help but talk about Montez’s career before CU.
“In El Paso he took his high school team further than any other person had taken a team in the history of El Paso football,” MacIntyre said on Monday. “When I watched him play basketball, he scored 26 points in one quarter.”
MacIntyre continued to call Montez a leader, and by the way he was speaking, it seemed as if Montez will get another week behind center, while the team let’s Liufau ankle heal.
And if so, he’ll be aided by a group of receivers that are capable of making unbelievable, game-changing, jaw-dropping, SportsCenter-Top-10 catches at any moment.
“It’s awesome when you throw the ball up and say, ‘Uh, it might have not been the best ball,’ and we end up coming down with it, and we have guys all across the board that can do that for us,” Montez said ecstatically. “They’re a very good group of recievers.”
Bryce Bobo who had five receptions for 72 yards made quite possibly the play of the year on Saturday when he turned around and snagged the ball out of mid air with one hand to give the Buffs a 41-38 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Devin Ross also had quite the performance, hauling in a team-high seven receptions for 154 yards, including another highlight-reel catch where he burned the defender, caught the ball, tripped and still maintained possession of the football while crossing the goal line.
Ross also added a 61-yard catch in the second quarter, which eventually led to a Montez rushing TD.
Montez continued to sound humble, though, saying that the Buffs still have to improve on their mistakes.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Montez added.
The star freshman said players like Nelson Spruce and others reached out to him via phone and Twitter to congratulate him on the biggest win in recent CU history.