The 2019 Colorado Buffaloes entered their bye week 3-1 and with plenty of optimism. As they now shift back towards game preparation, Colorado and their fans are hopeful about what is in store for the Mel Tucker era. The new head coach’s relentless attitude has helped the Buffaloes compete until the very end in all of their games while instilling confidence into the players.
Tucker has accomplished feats previous coaches did not. He beat a ranked opponent on the road for the first time in 30 games, and in that same victory left Sun Devil Stadium with Colorado victorious for the first time in six tries.
But in all the optimism there have been twists and turns. Inconsistencies on offense have led to close nail-biters and thoughts of something more. Still, for all the inconsistencies the Buffaloes have flashed, the team has remained consistent in one aspect: making sure the games are competitive. Regardless of who the Buffaloes have played, all the games have been within one score at some point in the fourth quarter. The Buffaloes were able to prevail in three of these four games, but they may not have been the combination of wins many who follow the program were expecting to see.
The Buffaloes were expected to beat Colorado State, and they did 52-31.
Many thought Nebraska was going to be a close game, and the Huskers were slightly favored. Colorado was able to push through adversity and make up a 17-point deficit to win in overtime.
However, the next week, the Air Force Falcons shocked everyone in Boulder and gave the Buffaloes a permanent stain on their season, defeating them 30-23 in another overtime game.
The Buffaloes then went the unexpected route and beat a ranked Arizona State team on the road in their Pac-12 opener. Unpredictability has been this team’s calling card.
Take the Nebraska game. The Buffaloes looked like a team with no sense of identity for the first 40 minutes, as they were down 17-0 until getting their first score late in the third quarter. Then suddenly, the script changed. The Buffaloes were a team on a mission and though it took them a while to warm up, they made a 180-degree turn and became one of the best teams in the country for 20-plus minutes.
2019 Colorado Buffaloes Strengths
Conditioning: Mel Tucker has stressed being the best-conditioned team. The Buffaloes have been able to stay in games late and improved as games have progressed. The players are more energized as the games go on, and their conditioning helped in comebacks against Nebraska and Air Force.
Wide Receivers: The wide receivers group, coached by Darrin Chiaverini, has been a huge strength of the team. With Laviska Shenault facing double teams and being injured in the Arizona State game, the other wide receivers, namely Tony Brown, were able to pick up the slack. Known as “Touchdown Tony Brown” in high school, Brown is trying to reclaim that nickname in his senior year.
2019 Colorado Buffaloes Weaknesses
Inconsistency on offense, particularly the offensive line and Montez: The offense has looked extremely choppy at points this season. There has not been a consistent flow to the offense, and as a result, they’ve had various versions of the offense on display through the first four weeks.
Against Colorado State, it looked like the offense was figuring out how to deal with the double teams Laviska Shenault was receiving. Against Nebraska, it took nearly three quarters to pick up steam.
The offensive line’s struggles were magnified against Air Force, as Montez was struggling in the pocket, throwing off his back foot on numerous occasions. With an offense that features three upperclassmen in Arlington Hambright, Kary Kutsch, and Tim Lynott, and a senior quarterback in Montez, it is frustrating when the chemistry has been off for one reason or another this season.
Secondary giving up big plays: The Buffaloes struggled to contain big plays in the opening game of the season against Colorado State, but the defense has improved each week. They have a bend-but-don’t-break attitude and turnovers have been their calling card. Cornerback Delrick Abrams has struggled on numerous occasions, as opposing receivers have had decent games against him.
The defense has given up 31, 31, 30, and 31 points in their games this season, and secondary play will have to improve before the Buffaloes will be able to hold opponents under 30 points.
Offensive MVP: WR Tony Brown
Stats: 19 Receptions, 301 Yards, 4 Touchdowns
It may surprise some that Laviska Shenault is not the offensive MVP of the Buffaloes right now. Some may point to the fact that he has been underutilized by offensive coordinator Jay Johnson, and an undisclosed injury prevented him from being fully utilized against ASU. Because of this Tony Brown has benefited. He has come in the clutch for the Buffaloes’ offense on numerous occasions this season, including catching two crucial fourth-quarter touchdowns. The first of these crucial touchdowns came trailing Nebraska in the final minute of the game when the Buffs were down 31-24. He was able to catch the ball in the end zone and send Folsom Field into a frenzy.
His second fourth-quarter touchdown came two weeks later in the Arizona State game to give the Buffs a 31-24 lead. This play was huge because it came on a 2nd-and-goal from the ASU 20-yard line. Most teams would have been assured of a field goal on this drive, but this would not be the case as Brown went up over a defender to catch the clutch touchdown.
Defensive MVP: S Mikial Onu
Stats: 27 Tackles, 3 Interceptions, and 2 Forced Fumbles
Onu, a graduate transfer from SMU, has been the main tone-setter on defense. The defense’s calling card has been the turnover this season, and Onu is the driving force behind that. He was the first to don the “turnover robe” in the CSU game when he came up with the first of his two interceptions in that game. He also had an interception and a forced fumble in the Air Force game. Those two turnovers were arguably the only reasons the Buffaloes were even in that game in the fourth quarter. Onu is second on the team in tackles, and has had a profound impact on the successes of the Buffaloes defense so far this season.
Most surprising player: RB Jaren Mangham
Mangham, a freshman, has had some timely runs for the Buffaloes this season and has shown his physicality that he brings to the table at 6-2 and 215 lbs. He had two red zone touchdowns in the Nebraska game, which were a contributing factor to the Buffs being able to come back and win those games. He might not get as many carries as Alex Fontenot, but he is going to get noticed more if he continues to be a physical presence running the football.
2019 Colorado Buffaloes Week 6
There are many positives to take away from the first third of the 2019 Colorado Buffaloes season. These will be crucial moving forward, as Colorado faces six straight Pac-12 opponents before another bye week on November 16.
To succeed will require flipping the script from last season, as the Buffaloes failed to win a game after beating Arizona State in 2018. This task begins against Arizona, a team that will challenge Colorado.
The Wildcats may be without Khalil Tate, who has given the Buffs fits in the past. However, Arizona beat UCLA with backup quarterback Grant Gunnell in College Football Week 5. With the parity in the Pac-12 on great display this season, Brown, Onu, and the rest of the Buffaloes cast need to come prepared as they try to beat the Wildcats at Folsom Field for the first time since 2011.