Husker opponent preview: Everything you need to know about the Colorado Buffaloes

Colorado quarterback Steven Montez had 232 passing yards and two touchdowns in the Buffaloes' week one win against Colorado State.

Colorado Buffaloes

2019 record: 1-0 (0-0 Pac-12)

Offensive yards per play: 7.9 (T-4th nationally)

Defensive yards per play: 6.3 (107th)

Turnover margin: plus-4(T-2nd nationally)

Penalty yards per game: 43.0 (69th)

COACH

Mel Tucker (1-0 at South Alabama, 1-0 career)

The 47-year-old former Wisconsin defensive back has made most of his living as a DBs coach. He graduated in 1994, then had stints at Michigan State, Miami (Ohio), Ohio State, the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears, Alabama then Georgia, all coaching the defensive side of the ball. He was on Alabama’s 2015 national title team. In 2011, he was the interim coach for the Jaguars, going 2-3 in place of the fired Jack Del Rio. From 2016 to 2018, he was the defensive coordinator at Georgia under Kirby Smart. During that time, Georgia had one of the best defenses in the country. Colorado hired him after firing Mike MacIntyre, who went 30-44 in six seasons.

OFFENSE

Type: Spread

Coordinator: Jay Johnson

Everything revolves around quarterback Steven Montez and wide receiver Laviska Shenault. Johnson came from Georgia, where he was an offensive analyst in 2017 and 2018. He’s somewhat of a quarterback guru. He coached QBs at Minnesota in 2016, Louisiana from 2011-2015, Central Michigan in 2010 and Kansas from 1999 to 2000. They’ll use Shenault in every possible way. At running back, at receiver, even at tight end. Montez threw 30 passes in the season opener, but threw 50 against Nebraska last year.

DEFENSE

Type: 4-3

Coordinator: Tyson Summers

Summers also came from Georgia, where he was a defensive analyst for quality control. While there, the Bulldogs won the 2017 SEC championship. He also coaches safeties at Colorado. He’s done that nearly everywhere he’s gone, which includes stops at Georgia, Georgia Southern, Alabama-Birmingham, UCF (just before Scott Frost got there) and Colorado State. 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Montez: The quarterback completed 64% of his passes last season for 2,849 yards, 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He started his season 13 for 20 for 232 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Montez from El Paso, Texas, can run, but doesn’t have the burst of Adrian Martinez. But he can get out of the pocket and make a play, if needed. He had himself a day against Nebraska last season with 351 passing yards and three touchdowns. That was the most yards he threw for last season.

Shenault: The 6-2, 220-pound junior from DeSoto, Texas, was a 1,000-yard receiver last season with six touchdown catches. He also ran for 115 yards and five touchdowns. He’s shifty, his hands are glue and Colorado will use him as a decoy. But Nebraska needs to be concerned about where he is at all times. He scored the game-winner last year in Lincoln.

Jonathan Van Diest, linebacker: He recorded six tackles in the opener, including one tackle for loss, one sack and one forced fumble. The sophomore from Louisville, Colorado, appeared in one game last season against New Hampshire. It could’ve been Game 1 luck, but he showed he can make some plays.

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THEY SAID IT

“Shenault is an unbelievable player, but (Steven) Montez makes that thing work. He controls the offense, he can make all the throws, he made some unbelievable throws last year against us. So, we gotta keep him in the pocket, we gotta get the pass rush on him, we gotta get our hands up, but he’s a good player.” — Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander.

“Thank God I came here. Happy to be here and hopefully we take it to them on Saturday." — JoJo Domann, a Colorado native, talking about choosing Nebraska over the Buffaloes.

“As far as the talking goes, they’re talking enough for the both of us.” — Colorado quarterback Steven Montez.

THREE STATS

10: Years since Nebraska has been to Boulder. The last game was 2009, when Nebraska beat Colorado 28-20. It is the longest absence for Nebraska in Boulder since the gap between 1904 to 1948.

Five: Colorado has beaten Nebraska in back-to-back years five times in the history of the rivalry. The programs have played each other 70 times.

0.867: Colorado’s current points per play. That is first in the country.

SCHEDULE

Aug. 31, Colorado State (W, 52-31)

Sept. 7 vs No. 25 Nebraska

Sept. 14 vs. Air Force

Sept. 21 at Arizona State

Oct. 5 vs Arizona

Oct. 11 at No. 16 Oregon

Oct. 19 at No. 22 Washington State

Oct. 25 vs USC

Nov. 2 at UCLA

Nov. 9 vs No. 23 Stanford

Nov. 23 vs No. 14 Washington

Nov. 30 at No. 13 Utah

Chris Heady covers Husker football and is the Nebraska men's basketball beat writer. He started at The World-Herald in 2017. Follow him on Twitter @heady_chris. Email: chris.heady@owh.com.

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