One of the lest surprising draft decisions is officially in the books.
One of the best wide receivers at this level when healthy, Laviska Shenault confirmed Tuesday that he has decided to forego his remaining collegiate eligibility and make himself available for the 2020 NFL Draft. It had been widely expected this would be his decision, with the receiver intimating in recent days that this was indeed the direction in which he was headed.
“First and foremost, I want to thank all of my friends, family and all those who helped me get where I am today,” Shenault said in a statement released by the football program. “I took in a lot of wisdom and knowledge from all of you and used it to make me a better man on and off the field. I’m blessed to be in the position I am today and I know my dad would be proud of the foundation I left as I pursue my dream of playing at the next level and declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft.”
Last season, Shenault led the nation with 9.5 receptions, finishing the year with 1,011 yards and six touchdowns on 86 catches. He scored five more touchdowns on the ground.
This season, as he battled injury, Shenault finished with 56 receptions for 764 yards and four touchdowns receiving and 21 rushes for 161 yards and two touchdowns rushing.
“Laviska Shenault represented our relentless culture and was one of the most dynamic, dominant and versatile players that I have ever coached,” said CU head football coach Mel Tucker. “He embodies the true ‘show me, don’t tell me’ competitive spirit. I look forward to watching him develop and compete at the elite level and thank him for his contributions on and off the field. Once a Buff, always a Buff.”
Colorado head coach Mel Tucker was on the verge of delivering a signature and historic victory on Friday night but the team whose motto is ‘Fight On’ just wouldn’t give up on leaving Boulder with a victory. USC avoided what could have been an awful upset as they mounted a comeback to beat Colorado 35-31 in a #Pac12AfterDark special in front of the Flatirons.
Sparking the charge with a 21 point outburst in the second half was none other than Kedon Slovis, the young freshman quarterback for the Trojans who helped his team finally notch a win on the road in 2019 by finding his talented group of wide receivers running free all over the field down the stretch. He finished the night with 406 yards, four touchdowns and an interception but most of the heavy lifting was done by the guys on the other end of the throws. Tyler Vaughns notched 104 yards and a score through the air while Michael Pittman was a big play machine on a night where he recorded 156 yards and two touchdowns of his own. Fellow receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown was also heavily involved in the display, catching five passes for 55 yards while also getting some featured touches at tailback and running for 50 more yards and scoring off a nifty play up the gut.
The outing by the offense helped cover up for a defense that was on the field for over 34 minutes and gave up a number of big plays in the second and third quarters to sound the upset alert on a chilly night of action.
The Buffs took advantage of that tired and banged up Trojans unit to break out of their own offensive slump the past two games, averaging nearly seven yards per play and going 4-for-4 in the red zone. Steven Montez threw for 324 yards and three scores while Laviska Shenault went off for 172 yards and a touchdown of his own to finally look healthy for the first time in weeks.
It wasn’t enough in the end however as the team ran out of steam and lost their aggressiveness late. Despite controlling the game pretty much from the start on both sides of the ball, Tucker’s decision to punt inside the opposing 40 yard line instead of going for it on fourth down was something fans of the black and gold soon won’t forget — especially given that it resulted in an 89 yard game-winning scoring drive going the other way. The result dropped CU to 3-5 on the season, leaving little margin for error the rest of the way if there’s any hope of making a bowl game in the coach’s debut campaign.
The flip side of not notching the program’s first ever victory over USC is that opposite number Clay Helton’s hot seat can simply stay warm instead of being set fully ablaze by cardinal and gold supporters. The Trojans rather improbably remain atop the Pac-12 South thanks to their win over Utah earlier and return home to the Coliseum next week to face what has proven to be the conference’s best team in Oregon. That game wasn’t expected to carry significant national and conference implications but that is the case with the calendar rolling over November.
Many Buffs fans will have to sit back and wonder what if after a few calls down the stretch but the bottom line is that the team that is supposed to fight on did just that to live another day in yet another wild start to the college football weekend out West.
Pac-12 road teams have struggled in recent years when on the road for Friday night games in conference play and we might be on the verge of adding another victim to the list this week if Colorado can keep things up against South Division rival USC.
The Buffs were giving the visitors everything they could handle to lead 17-14 at halftime on a chilly Boulder night and looking for more after the break in a game that both sides badly need to have as they move deeper into the second half of the season.
Things started out well for the Trojans as they marched right down the field on their opening drive, using wide receiver Amon Ra-St. Brown at tailback due to injuries and allowing the youngster to sprint 37 yards up the gut for a touchdown. He finished the first half with 50 yards on the ground and combined with speedy freshman Kenan Christon (19 yards rushing, 1 TD reception) in the backfield. Quarterback Kedon Slovis had a few flirtations with disaster but posted 120 yards, one score and one interception.
Opposite number Steven Montez looked a lot better throwing the football around, bouncing back from a few rough outings in recent weeks to throw for 147 yards and two touchdowns by the midway mark. Colorado’s star player Laviska Shenault seemed to be fully healthy and fully incorporated in that passing attack, notching six receptions for a nice 69 yards against a banged up secondary.
Penalties were a big issue however and something head coach Mel Tucker will no doubt, uh, discuss with his team in the locker room after the Buffs racked up six flags — including a few drive-killers that zapped some late momentum. CU still held the lead and get the ball back for the second half though as they are hoping to keep things rolling for home teams in some Friday night #Pac12AfterDark action.
Some times, one stat line really does tell the whole story. Anthony Gordon threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns, while Steven Montez mustered only 129 yards and two interceptions. Those numbers add up to a blowout score and, sure enough, Washington State beat Colorado 41-10.
The game was pretty much over in the first quarter, when Gordon threw touchdowns to Max Borghi and Dezmon Patton and Borghi added a 47-yard scoring scamper to give the Cougars a 21-3 lead.
Washington State (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) led 24-3 when Laviska Shenault made his presence known with a 6-yard touchdown run to pull the Buffs within 24-10, but Gordon answered with a 44-yard scoring strike to Brandon Arconado.
Gordon posted his fourth and final touchdown pass on a 1-yard toss to Davontavean Martin with 11:31 left in the game.
Colorado (3-4, 1-3 Pac-12) rushed for 179 yards to Washington State’s 128, but the Buffs lost the passing game, 369-141, while backup Blake Stenstrom was intercepted once to go with Montez’s two.
The formula for No. 13 Oregon is a simple one each week: play swarming, lockdown defense and let quarterback Justin Herbert cook in the passing game. When it works to perfection, as it did on Friday night in a 45-3 rout of visiting Colorado, it makes you think that all that talk about the Ducks being the Pac-12’s lone College Football Playoff hope has something to it.
Not everything went Oregon’s way with a host of key players going down along the way but it was still the team’s best overall effort of the season against a Power Five opponent and could carry a lot of weight going into a huge matchup against rival Washington next weekend in Seattle.
In front of a number of NFL general managers and over two dozen scouts, Herbert was sharp in throwing for 261 yards and two touchdowns. His numbers would have been better had there not been a few drops and the score not gotten out of hand early but he once again looked like the first round caliber signal-caller many expected to see this season. His strong start helped loosen the Buffs defense and allowed UO’s offensive line to take over the rest of the game, paving the way for a ground attack that rolled over their opponent as things wore on.
C.J. Verdell played a big role in that as the tailback racked up 171 yards on just 14 carries, looking quite healthy after leaving last week’s game against Cal with a minor injury. Cyrus Habibi-Likio vultured three touchdowns from his fellow tailback while Jaylon Redd scored on the ground and through the air (four catches, 75 yards and the score receiving).
Defensively, the Ducks were as good as they have been all season in posting four turnovers (leading to 21 points the other way) and limiting a pretty good Colorado offense to just 299 yards. There was some concern on the injury front however, as Herbert’s top target in TE Jacob Breeland was injured going out of bounds (later seen on crutches) and safety Jevon Holland (seen with a boot on in the second half) got hit by his own man and exited the field on a cart.
There was actually some good news for the Buffs despite the final score as they got back top receiver Laviska Shenault from injury. His impact was limited to just four catches for 70 yards in limited action though as the passing game was tough to watch at times. QB Steven Montez tossed a career-high four interceptions (on just nine throws over the 2nd and 3rd quarters) and finished with just 131 yards passing. The rushing attack did average close to five yards a carry at one point but the margin was so great that it didn’t really matter as the team dropped to. 500 on the year.
Oregon, meanwhile, improved to 5-1 on the season to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the Pac-12 North. They remain the league’s best hope of making a dint in the national radar, even if the injury report wound up being a little longer than Mario Cristobal would like coming out of an easy win over a conference rival.