Quarterback Steven Montez was an important figure in Colorado Buffaloes football from 2016-2019, setting numerous records during his time in Boulder. He began his career as a redshirt freshman in 2016 and started every game for the Buffaloes from 2017-2019. Montez accrued an overall record of 17-22 (9-21 in Pac-12 play).
Montez has set over 40 school records. He is the all-time leader in passing yards with 9,649 passing yards and has 63 passing touchdowns.
How representative of Steven Montez is His 17-22 Record?
Montez had some great moments in a Buffaloes uniform but also had some not so great moments. Accountant Brandon Westbrook, a Buffaloes fan for over 20 years, believes that the record is representative of the type of quarterback Montez was at CU.
“(Montez) does have some stats that make him look a lot better, but I think ultimately his (17-22 record as the Buffaloes’ starter) speaks to the caliber of quarterback he was,” Westbrook said.
A fan may look at a 17-22 record and think Montez was mediocre. Some fans, including Westbrook, believe this to be the case. However, Neill Woelk, the contributing editor at CUBuffs.com, points out an important statistic that he believes sets Montez apart: touchdown to interception ratio. Montez ranks No. 1 in that category with 63 touchdowns and 33 interceptions.
Despite Records, Fans Left Frustrated With No Bowl Game Appearances Last Three Seasons
Many fans will give reasons why Steven Montez was great for the Buffaloes, while other fans may give reasons as to why it may have been frustrating for fans to watch his career unfold. Despite fans being awed by his arm strength and physical capabilities, Montez never led the Buffaloes to a bowl game in his three full seasons as the starting quarterback (2017-2019).
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“At the end of the day though, we never really got to the promised land,” CU Student Drew Sharek said. “(Montez was a) heck of a talent, great arm, great personality, but just never was able to get the ultimate job done (of making a bowl game).”
The Colorado Buffaloes football team finished 5-7 each of the last three seasons with Montez as the starter. Fans of any team lay a good chunk of the responsibility for the team’s record on the quarterback. Montez was never able to get the team to the promised land, and that is why he will not be looked in the same light as other CU quarterbacks, such as Kordell Stewart and even Sefo Liufau.
However, there are plenty of people within the Buffaloes’ faithful who supported Montez, including Keith McCormick, a Buffaloes fan for 60 years who lives in Westminster, Colorado.
“I’m a fan of Steven Montez,” McCormick said. “I’ve always believed that he plays better under pressure and under a faster-paced game.”
Montez’s Biggest Home Win: September 7, 2019 Versus Nebraska
One example of Montez playing well under pressure was on September 7, 2019, when the Buffaloes welcomed the rival Nebraska Cornhuskers to Folsom Field.
They trailed Nebraska 17-0 at halftime and looked out of sorts under new head coach Mel Tucker. Then, the Buffaloes offense and Montez alike got going in the second half.
McCormick remembers the play that ended with 14:06 remaining in the fourth quarter that cut Nebraska’s lead to 17-14. It was the flea flicker to wide receiver K.D. Nixon that silenced the Nebraska invaders at Folsom Field. Montez took the pitch back from running back Alex Fontenot and threw the ball deep down the middle of the field to Nixon, who dashed into the end zone.
“That one play completely turned the game around, and the momentum and the emotion and gave (the Buffaloes) the opportunity to come back,” McCormick said.
It was time for Montez to come up strong in the clutch. The offense got to the Nebraska 26-yard line with 46 seconds left to play, and Montez threw a perfectly placed pass to wide receiver Tony Brown in the right corner of the end zone to tie the game at 31. The Buffaloes would go on to win the game in overtime, 34-31, with Montez recording 375 yards passing with two touchdowns and one interception to go along with it. Both McCormick and Neill Woelk believe that this game was his legacy game.
“That’s going to go down as his highlight as a CU Buff,” McCormick said.
“That’s the kind of game that I’m going to remember from Steven because it demanded a big play at a big moment,” Woelk said.
Montez Also Beat Nebraska On the Road in 2018
Along with the heroics of 2019, Montez led the Buffaloes to victory against the Cornhuskers in Lincoln on September 8, 2018. He was able to accomplish this in what was Nebraska head coach Scott Frost’s first game in charge. Frost, who was Nebraska’s quarterback on their national championship-winning team in 1997 and is revered by the Cornhusker faithful. The Buffaloes played spoiler, as the offense got the ball back with 2:23 left to play in the game. Montez delivered, as he hit wide receiver Laviska Shenault for a 40-yard touchdown with 1:06 left to play, giving the Buffaloes a 33-28 lead. The defense would hold on for the victory.
When Buffaloes fans think Steven Montez, the two wins against Nebraska will stand out as some of the best memories of the team while he was quarterback. Even though Nebraska football may be looked at by some as worse than Colorado, the win was vitally important to Buffaloes fans.
Beating Oregon in 2016 Another One of Montez’s Great Moments
Another standout game in the minds of many fans was Montez’s first start of his career his redshirt freshman year in 2016. The Buffaloes had never beat Oregon since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, and Montez had to come in relief for injured starting quarterback Sefo Liufau. Montez introduced himself to the fans and left a great first impression, leading the Buffaloes to a 41-38 victory in Eugene. Drew Sharek was particularly impressed with many throws by Montez in this game, including his pass to wide receiver Bryce Bobo to give the Buffaloes the lead in the fourth quarter.
“It was incredible to see him scramble around (the pocket), stay calm, and make some absolutely perfect throws,” Sharek said.
Beating Oregon was thought to be a stepping stone for greater achievements to be had in Montez’s career, but Brandon Westbrook believes these achievements never came.
“I would have thought he would have gotten better over the years but I actually think he regressed each year,” Westbrook said.
Frustrating Losses Also a Part of Montez’s Legacy
A frustrating loss that sticks out in Westbrook’s mind is when the Buffaloes played USC on October 25, 2019 in Montez’s senior season. The Buffaloes were coming into the game off of two embarrassing road losses to Oregon and Washington State, 45-3 and 41-10, respectively. The Buffaloes built up a 31-21 lead going into the fourth quarter but would ultimately lose the game 35-31.
Montez left the game momentarily late in the third quarter after he took a hit while rolling out to his left. He came back, and Westbrook thought he did not look the same. Even though it was the defense that gave up the 10-point lead, Montez and the offense had one last chance. On a 4th and 4 in the Buffaloes’ own territory, Montez threw a swing route to running back Alex Fontenot that was behind the line of scrimmage. Westbrook believes this was a bad decision by Montez and a product of not being able to improve each year.
“When the offense is looking out of sync, that comes back on the quarterback,” Westbrook said.
Inconsistencies Go Back to Constant Coaching Carousel
Montez may have been wildly inconsistent at many points throughout his career, but he also had to deal with coaching changes throughout his career. He had three quarterback coaches, three offensive coordinators, and two different head coaches in his career. Neill Woelk attributes this as one of the main reasons Montez was inconsistent.
“It’s been hard for Steven to develop any kind of continuity because every year there’s a new quarterback coach saying, okay, this is the way we do things,” Woelk said.
Fans have expected the Buffaloes to have more success with Montez at quarterback, but it never yielded the results of a bowl game. However, Keith McCormick felt empathetic towards Montez with having to go through coaching changes.
“I just felt for the kid,” McCormick said. “(Montez) had a lot on his plate during mid-season last year. I know he was close to coach (Mike) MacIntyre.”
Montez could have foregone his senior season to test the NFL waters but decided to stay. He had some good moments as the quarterback on first-year head coach Mel Tucker’s team. He led the Buffaloes to surprise victories in conference against Stanford and Washington. Although the season did produce its struggles, Tucker stood by Montez the whole season.
“Hats off to Mel Tucker for hanging in with him and letting him finish out his senior year,” McCormick said.
Montez Will Be Remembered As Decent, Not Great Quarterback
Some of Montez’s struggles can be attributed to the coaching changes, but he kept showing the same inconsistencies throughout his time at CU. He was never able to elevate his play enough against good teams, and that will be the knock against him. Steven Montez was a great statistical quarterback at CU, but in reality, he was a decent to average quarterback for the Buffaloes.
McCormick goes up to Boulder for the parade before the first game each year and met Steven Montez at this parade.
“I was taking some video and he walked right past me,” McCormick said. “I took a couple snapshots and a selfie, and he was very professional about it, very friendly and talked with me.”