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Laviska Shenault Returns But Buffaloes Drop Fifth Straight

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.  Ok, you have heard this before, but let’s belabor the issue anyway.  The Colorado Buffaloes lost again last Saturday, this time to the wide-open offense and bulwark defense of 8th ranked Washington State in Boulder.

The 31-7 loss, Colorado’s fifth straight, leaves the Buffs with a razor-thin margin of error over their last two games if they hope to have any chance at a bowl berth.

After Travon McMillian put Colorado up 7-0 with a 3-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter, the wheels came off for the Buffaloes.

After a sluggish start, Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew settled in and began picking apart the Buffs’ D.  Without the threat of any Colorado pass rush whatsoever (no sacks for the Buffalo defense for the first time all season), Minshew repeatedly had ample time to make his reads and, when necessary, check down to wide open backs in the flat. The Cougars’ junior finished the day 35 of 58 for 335 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Twelve WSU receivers caught passes on the day.

As if to twist the knife a little, Washington State’s offensive domination wasn’t limited to the passing game.  The Cougars also ran for 131 yards and two scores.

Once their offense got things rolling, WSU’s defense had their way with Colorado, recording 3 sacks and 6 tackles for loss.

At a certain point in the latter stages of this game, some Colorado players, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, seemed to lose interest on some plays.  I would never want to accuse anyone of quitting, but, well, that certainly looked to be the case for some on Saturday.

QB Steven Montez

The Buffs’ quarterback had an unremarkable day, to put it bluntly.  Finishing 20 of 35 for 199 yards (67 in the first half) with no touchdowns, Montez certainly did neither himself nor his team any favors with this lackluster performance.

Especially with the return of stud wideout Laviska Shenault from his turf toe injury, a better performance from Colorado’s signal-caller seemed to be in the offing.

The stingy (and underrated) Washington State D has to be given a great deal of credit for the ho-hum performance of Montez.  But a veteran QB simply has to be better than this, especially at home and this late in the season.

Grade: C

Draft Stock: 5th-6th round

Preview for Utah: Montez will face a Ute defense that is every bit the D Washington State’s was.  Utah has one of the best pass rushing units in the PAC-12, if not the country.  If the Buffs’ QB doesn’t play light years better than he did last weekend, Colorado will take the “L” once again, and the outcome will be even uglier this time around.

HB Travon McMillian

Over the past few weeks, McMillian has been the one constant in terms of production for the Colorado offense.  On Saturday the senior RB picked up 73 yards on only 9 carries.  His 3-yard touchdown run in the first quarter gave the Buffs their only points.

McMillian’s day surely would have been better stat-wise had Colorado’s defense not forgotten to show up Saturday.  The Buffaloes’ utter lack of a pass rush against a wide-open offense like Washington State’s was a recipe for a big loss.  Had the Buffs D managed to make a play here and there along the way on Saturday, their offense would not have been forced into a one-dimensional mode and “Mr. Consistency” could have had a monster day.

Grade: B

Draft Stock:  4th round

Preview for Utah: The Utes feature the nation’s 10th ranked rushing defense.  But I have a hunch that McMillian will still have his usual lunch pail day.  But if Montez plays poorly, just pretend you never heard me say that.

WR Laviska Shenault 

The Buffs’ dynamic wideout finally returned to the field on Saturday and reminded Colorado fans just what they had been missing.  Shenault caught 10 passes for 102 yards.  The versatile star added 1 carry for 18 yards.

One can only imagine how much better these numbers would have been without the nagging turf toe injury that has hampered him for the past few weeks.  The absence of fellow wideout K.D. Nixon only made things more difficult for Shenault Saturday.

All things considered, last weekend’s performance might have been his best of the season.

Grade: A-

Draft stock: 2nd round

Preview for Utah: As mentioned earlier, the Utah defense can be a nightmare against both the run and the pass.  If Montez plays poorly in the face of the Utes’ pass rush then Shenault might have his first statistically poor game of the season.  However, I’m still thinking that Travon McMillian will play well, opening things up a bit for the Buffs’.  Just a bit, but a bit is a lot with a player like Shenault.

LB Rick Gamboa

The senior MLB had a very productive afternoon against the Cougars, collecting 7 tackles, 5 solos.  Considering the wide-open system he faced Saturday, those numbers are all the more impressive.  Washington State doesn’t exactly line up and tell you what’s coming like many teams seem to do offensively. Seven tackles against a chaotic offense are awfully good for Gamboa.

Grade: B+

Draft stock: UFA

Preview for Utah:  Gamboa should be able to improve upon last weekend’s productive outing as Utah plays a much more traditional, ball control style of offense.  That being said, the Utes have a way of making opposing defenses’ key players disappear in the course of a game. Playing a hunch yet again, I like Gamboa’s chances this weekend.

SS Evan Worthington

Worthington missed his second straight game with concussion symptoms.  The absence of the veteran DB certainly didn’t help against the wild and woolly offense of Washington State.

Draft stock: 7th round

Preview for Utah:  Last I checked, Worthington is listed as questionable for this Saturday with those concussion-like symptoms.  Should he go this weekend, lining up against the smash-mouth style of Utah certainly would afford him his share of opportunities to make plays.

Especially in run-support, his presence on the field would definitely be a welcome sign for the Colorado D.  Again, if he does play, I could see a big comeback-style game for Worthington.

Mike Clark

Author Mike Clark

Founder of the sports blog Redbloodedsports.com Member, Football Writers Association of America

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