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J.T. Daniels bounces back to help USC to halftime lead over No. 19 Colorado

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USC’s true freshman quarterback bounced back from a rough first quarter to throw a trio touchdown passes and help the Trojans secure a 21-7 lead at halftime in a pivotal Pac-12 South battle with No. 19 Colorado at the Coliseum on Saturday night.

After an extremely ugly (and slow) start for both sides, it was the Buffs that started to get things going in the second quarter thanks to, who else, all-everything star Laviska Shenault. The receiver not only led his team in yardage through the air, but he was also CU’s leading rusher thanks to a 49 yard rushing touchdown for the game’s first points. QB Steven Montez couldn’t find his favorite target as much as he would have liked to, being forced to check down plenty while completing 14 passes for only 60 yards and taking a number of sacks.

Opposite number J.T. Daniels wasn’t any sharper early for USC but rebounded as the game went on deep into the cool Los Angeles night. Following two first quarter interceptions (one of the first offensive snap of the game), the freshman signal-caller started launching bombs to his wideouts down the field and seemed to find plenty of success as a result. All told, Daniels threw for 255 yards in the half and found both Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman Jr. (twice) for a trio of touchdowns all told.

The Trojans didn’t have any sort of ground game to lean on at all with a paltry seven yards rushing, making the throws their quarterback was making even more impressive. They also limited the Buffs’ ground attack, aside from the Shenault run, despite the absence of senior linebacker Cameron Smithwho was in street clothes for the game with an injury.

This is the biggest test yet for undefeated Colorado against the defending conference champions and doubles as the first of several key games in the South Division for both sides. There was already a shakeup in the North earlier in the day and as #Pac12AfterDark started setting in L.A., it appears one on the other side of the league is starting to take hold as well given the way this one is trending.

Chip Kelly still winless at UCLA as Laviska Shenault powers Colorado to another big win

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There were times at Oregon where it felt like head coach Chip Kelly would never lose. Now at UCLA, it seems like that’s all he’s doing.

The Bruins big offseason addition remains winless in Westwood as his team dropped their Pac-12 opener at Colorado 38-16 on Friday night as the powder blues’ offense once again sputtered out on the road.

True freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson got the start at quarterback just over a week after his father made critical comments of the UCLA coaching staff but had a rough outing, throwing for only 138 yards and a touchdown on 35 attempts. Protection up front was once again an issue for the team as the signal-caller was sacked three times and had to scramble around in the pocket several other times to avoid getting tackled.

The Bruins actually held the third quarter lead at one point thanks in part to a trio of long field goals from kicker J.J. Molson but three straight three-and-outs by the offense allowed the Buffs to open things up and win this one going away. If there was a silver lining to the effort it was that Joshua Kelley did manage to crack the century mark with 124 yards rushing and Michael Ezeike snagged a pretty impressive touchdown catch in the first quarter right over the helmet of a defensive back.

Though Colorado did get off to a slow start in the game following a week off, they eventually found their groove in the second half and sent the crowd home quite happy. Leading the way once again for the Buffs was budding all-purpose star Laviska Shenaultwho rushed for a touchdown and recorded 126 yards and another score as a receiver. He’s now scored in every game this year for the team and should be a legitimate contender to make several midseason All-America lists given how much of a boost he’s provided to the offense.

Of course, Shenault isn’t doing things alone as quarterback Steven Montez was nearly perfect against a lackluster defense that allowed several big plays after missed assignments. All told he went 22-of-26 passing with 237 yards and a touchdown while also showcasing his legs with 81 yards rushing and two more scores on the ground.

Defensively, linebackers Drew Lewis (two sacks), Nate Landman (nine tackles) and Rick Gamboa were all over the place for CU.

While the story nationally will likely remain focused on the bad start for Kelly and company, the way UCLA is struggling it might be awhile before the Bruins are able to secure a win the way they are playing. Of course, the schedule does them no favors either as they will return to the Rose Bowl to face Pac-12 favorite Washington and then follow that up with a game against a Cal team that’s currently in the top 25. Add in the rest of their division slate and a crossover game against rival Stanford to close the season and it could be a while — if at all — before finding the win column.

Meanwhile, the Buffs increasingly look like they’re more and more of a threat to win the South division. They remain a perfect 4-0 for the first time in three decades heading into the meat of their schedule and host Arizona State next week in a game that very well could determine who makes it to Santa Clara for the conference title game.  Trips to USC and Washington after that could determine national relevance too but it certainly appears as though Mike MacIntyre is in the middle of another turnaround season up in Boulder while his latest

Colorado storms back to ruin Scott Frost’s debut at Nebraska as QB Adrian Martinez injured

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Nebraska fans had to wait an extra week for the start of the Scott Frost era at the school. They’ll have to wait at least one more to see a win.

Steven Montez lofted a perfectly thrown ball into the arms of Laviska Shenault along the sidelines for a 40 yard score with the clock ticking down in the final quarter as Colorado stunned the crowd at Memorial Stadium to escape with a 33-28 win against their old rival in Lincoln.

The Buffs struck first on the scoreboard and had briefly stunned Big Red after capitalizing on a pair of fumble recoveries to quickly take a two-score lead before Nebraska was even able to really get going. Montez was quite the playmaker in throwing for 351 yards and three touchdowns despite an iffy offensive line and carried the team at times during the game. Shenault remains a nice revelation for the CU offense and caught 10 passes for 177 yards — none bigger than the final reception that he caught over a defender and took into the end zone. The dynamic threat was also effective on the ground, carrying the ball twice for five yards and a touchdown.

The late heroics took the load off 31-year-old (yep) kicker James Stefanou, who missed two field goals that would have given the team the lead down the stretch but wasn’t needed in the end.

Such an ending certainly put a damper on the homecoming for Frost in his first game in charge of his alma mater and was a double blow for Big Red considering the emergence of true freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez. The electric Californian dazzled with the ball in his hands, throwing for 187 yards and a touchdown (one interception late) while rushing for 117 more on the ground and adding two more scores. He scored the first points of the season after the team had their opener cancelled, keeping it on the option and scampering 41 yards around the edge before vaulting into the end zone to ignite the crowd.

As great as Martinez was though, there was concern throughout Nebraska’s program after he suffered a knee injury in the final few minutes of the game while running the ball. He failed to put much weight on his leg and needed to be helped off the field. Thanks to transfers over the past few weeks, there’s zero depth behind the freshman as Andrew Bunch, a sophomore walk-on, took reps trying to close the game out but couldn’t quite find the end zone on a final play Hail Mary.

All told, the team still racked up 565 yards of offense and averaged nearly seven yards a play — numbers rarely seen under Frost’s predecessor Mike Riley. Greg Bell flashed on some big runs and recorded 104 yards rushing while fellow tailback Devine Ozigbo chipped in with 60 more and scored an eight yard touchdown.

Maybe more encouraging for the team moving forward was also the reemergence of the Blackshirt defense. The group stepped up with several critical stops as the game went on and had seven sacks on the day as they looked as swarming as ever.

As entertaining as the back-and-forth game was, it was even nicer to see the two teams play each other again between the lines. The last time Colorado and Nebraska met on the gridiron, Frost was the wide receivers coach at Oregon, Mike MacIntyre was just finishing his first season leading San Jose State, and the two schools were going head-to-head in the now-defunct Big 12 North division. Things have changed quite a bit since, with both head coaches moving on to their current jobs and each side having joined a new conference.

The two proved that fun things happen when two rival hook up again in the non-conference schedule and certainly raise the bar for next year’s edition in Boulder.