BOULDER – Colorado quarterback Steven Montez revealed his true colors – the green of Colorado State and the red of Nebraska really aren’t on his mind.
Not at the moment, anyway.
He’s thinking more about progressing day by day than those back-to-back rivalry games to begin the season.
After winning the Pac-12 South in 2016, the Buffaloes slipped to 5-7 last season. They’re eager to get back on track and prove last season, not the division title, was the anomaly.
“We’re not looking ahead and down the line,” said Montez, who threw for 2,975 yards and 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2017. “Just focus on what we’re doing. We don’t need to be focusing too much on opponents right now.”
The Buffaloes were tabbed to finish fifth in the South in the preseason Pac-12 media poll. They lost quite a bit in tailback Phillip Lindsay (now with the Denver Broncos), cornerback Isaiah Oliver (Atlanta Falcons), defensive back Afolabi Laguda (Los Angeles Rams), and receivers Bryce Bobo (Broncos), Shay Fields (Washington Redskins) and Devin Ross (Tennessee Titans).
The outside expectations are muted. Then again, when the team made its march in 2016, it was picked to finish last.
“I would call us good – plain and simple,” Montez said. “On offense, we have dudes that can play ball. On defense, as of right now, we’re looking tough. Looking strong. I love this team.”
Colorado has a tough opening slate as it begins the season against Colorado State in Denver on Aug. 31. The next week, the Buffaloes renew their rivalry with Nebraska in a game at Lincoln. It’s the first time the former Big 12 rivals have met since 2010.
And while the team is downplaying it, the matchup remains a popular subject around town.
“If I go to Sweet Cow to get some ice cream, I hear about it,” said coach Mike MacIntyre, who’s entering his sixth season. “Everybody is talking about it. ... There’s no tip-toeing into anything. We have to be ready to play.”
The biggest adjustment will be life without Lindsay, who was an integral part of their offense. Nicknamed the “Tasmanian Devil,” Lindsay departed as the school’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards.
“He left a legacy for guys to have the voice and understanding of what it takes to be successful,” MacIntyre said.
Things to know as the Buffaloes embark on a season in which they play eight teams who went to a bowl game in 2017:
COACHING CHANGES: Co-offensive coordinator and QB coach Brian Lindgren accepted a similar position with Oregon State. With his departure, former Colorado receiver and co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini will call the plays this season. Offensive line coach Klayton Adams shares the coordinator title with Chiaverini.
Ashley Ambrose was added as cornerbacks coach and Kwahn Drake as defensive line coach. In addition, Kurt Roper was brought in to oversee the quarterbacks. He worked with All-American Eli Manning when the two were at Mississippi. “Anything he tells me, I take it to heart,” Montez said.
STEPPING UP: A Grateful Dead appearance at Folsom Field this summer didn’t stop Montez and receiver Juwann Winfree from finding a place to work on timing routes. They took to the streets outside their apartments.
“His work ethic is probably one of the best I’ve seen, if not the best,” Montez said. “He just doesn’t have an off button.”
CAPTAINS: One of the seven captains voted in by teammates will be senior receiver Jay MacIntyre, the son of the head coach.
“It means a lot,” Jay MacIntyre said. “Always being around the Colorado Buffaloes football team since I was a junior in high school, it’s been fun and really exciting for me.”
CASE DISMISSED: Last month, U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez dismissed a lawsuit filed by the ex-girlfriend of former Colorado assistant coach Joe Tumpkin against Mike MacIntyre and other Colorado officials. The suit claimed they knew of abuse against the ex-girlfriend and didn’t properly address it. Also named in the suit were Tumpkin, Chancellor Philip DiStefano, athletic director Rick George and CU President Bruce Benson. Her attorney, Peter Ginsberg, said in an email that they are appealing the judge’s decision. Tumpkin resigned in January 2017. Civil and criminal cases against Tumpkin remain active.
FOLSOM HISTORY: The game against Utah on Nov. 17 will be No. 500 at Folsom Field. The team is 312-172-10 all-time at the stadium.
AP freelance writer Monica Costello contributed to this report.