On Dec. 11, Colorado wide receiver K.D. Nixon announced that, “[a]fter much prayer and discussion,” he would be entering his name into the 2020 NFL Draft. Eight days later? Never mind.
For now, at least.
In a statement Thursday, Nixon abruptly and unexpectedly reversed course, announcing that he will no longer be a part of next April’s draft pool. Instead, and as he never signed with an agent, he will return to Colorado and play for the Buffaloes in 2020.
“After thoughtful evaluation and conversations with [head coach Mel] Tucker and others about my future in football – and beyond, I have decided to continue my college football career at Colorado, earn my degree and declare for the NFL Draft in 2021,” Nixon said in his statement. “I look forward to contributing to the Buffaloes next season and making a difference for our team.”
It should be noted that draft-eligible players have until Jan. 20 of next year to make themselves available for the 2020 NFL Draft.
Nixon was third on the Buffaloes this season with 35 receptions for 465 yards. His three receiving touchdowns were good for second on the team. A year ago, Nixon set career-highs with 52 catches, 636 yards and four touchdowns.
Prior to Nixon’s flip-flop, and with Tony Brown‘s expired eligibility and Laviska Shenault leaving early, Tucker and his offensive coaching staff would have been forced to replace 147 receptions (the team had 257), 1,936 yards (2,858) and 12 touchdown catches (18).
“Our goal is not only to build a championship-winning team and culture but also to prepare our players for life,” Tucker said in his statement. “Our entire team is excited that K.D. has decided to continue his education and play for the Buffaloes his senior year. We look forward to him being a difference-maker on and off of the field.”
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.