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Sans Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado upends No. 24 Arizona State behind QB Steven Montez

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Mel Tucker has already delivered a signature non-conference win over a ranked team, now the new Colorado head coach has his first signature conference win over a ranked team.

The Buffs survived the loss of superstar receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. after just two series to notch a surprising road victory over No. 24 Arizona State 34-31 in yet another thriller late at night in the Pac-12.

Bouncing back from a loss last week to Air Force, quarterback Steven Montez played fantastic for CU in throwing for 337 yards and three touchdowns in the upset. The veteran signal-caller didn’t seem to miss his All-American caliber wideout on the outside largely due to the play of opposite number Tony Brown, who turned in a career performance with 150 yards and all three of those scores through the air. K.D. Nixon added six catches for 98 yards as well as the passing game was clicking against a pretty stingy defense coming into the weekend.

Alex Fontenot chipped in with 89 yards rushing and a score despite being banged up himself on a night to remember in the conference opener for both sides.

Freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels did his best to keep the Sun Devils undefeated but it just wasn’t enough as he threw incomplete in the final two minutes to end any hope of a comeback. All told he threw for 345 yards, two scores and a pick while forming a lovely tandem with Brandon Aiyuk, who had 122 of those yards receiving plus a touchdown. Eno Benjamin was mostly bottled up on the ground to force the air show for ASU, with the all-Pac-12 tailback recording a below average 83 yards but finding the end zone twice.

The result left the Pac-12 South without any undefeated teams just four weeks into the 2019 campaign and a surprising USC squad atop the league standings in the division after their win on Friday night against Utah. The Utes and Sun Devils were the South’s only ranked teams but each lost on the same weekend while the Buffs could find themselves back in the polls as a result of the hard fought victory in Tempe.

Just another wild night in the Pac-12 it seems, something Tucker has apparently already gotten used to just four games into his tenure in the Flat Irons.

Colorado rallies from 17 down to upend No. 25 Nebraska in OT

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These past two games have been so good it makes you pine for the days when Colorado and Nebraska found a way to play every season. After Colorado took a back-and-forth game in Lincoln a year ago, the Buffaloes completed a 17-point comeback in barely more than a quarter to stun No. 25 Nebraska, 34-31 in overtime.

Trailing 17-0 at the break, Colorado rallied to tie the game at 24-24, then again at 31-31 on a fabulous 26-yard heave from Steven Montez to Tony Brown with 46 seconds left in regulation. Heaving the ball down the field with 24 ticks to play, Adrian Martinez was intercepted by CU’s Dimitri Stanley, who raced the ball 48 yards to the Nebraska 41 with nine seconds to play, but replay found his knee was down upon catching the ball at his own 15 and the game went to overtime.

Colorado (2-0) opened overtime with a 34-yard James Stefanou field goal, then sacked Martinez on 3rd-and-9 to force a 48-yard Isaac Armstrong field goal to push the game to double overtime, but his kick sailed wide right.

The first half was near perfect for Nebraska (1-1). Martinez hit all nine of his passes for 180 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 45 more with another score, allowing the Huskers to take a 17-0 lead to the break.

The second half? A different story.

After an exchange of five punts to open the half, Colorado finally got on the board on an 11-yard Jaren Mangham run at the 1:52 mark of the third quarter, capping an 8-play, 64-yard drive.

Colorado then pulled within three on one of the gutsiest calls of the season: a flea-flicker from the Buffs’ own 4-yard line, which turned into a school-record 96-yard connection from Montez to KD Nixon, pulling CU within 17-14 with 14:22 left to play.

Nebraska, its offense vacant for the entire third quarter, answered immediately: a 75-yard swing pass from Martinez to Maurice Washington on the game’s next snap.

Colorado answered, though, needing only five snaps to put together a 75-yard scoring march of its own. Mangham pulled the Buffaloes back within three at 24-21 with a 7-yard rush with 12:19 left. Colorado’s defense then stepped up, stripping Martinez for the second time of the game, this time at his own 20. Colorado could not take its first lead of the day, Montez’s third-and-goal pass to Brown was too flat, but Stefanou’s 20-yard boot leveled the game with 8:30 remaining.

Nebraska re-gained the lead with a vintage Big 8-Nebraska drive: seven plays, all of them runs by the quarterback or running back, for 75 yards and a score. Martinez punctuated the drive with a 6-yard keeper on 4th-and-1 with 5:49 remaining.

Colorado appeared to seize back momentum when Laviska Shenault returned the ensuing kickoff 54 yards, but he was stripped and Nebraska’s Luke Reimer recovered at his won 21. Given a chance to seize permanent control of the game, Nebraska instead went three-and-out, and Colorado took over at its own 29 with 3:33 to play and pulled even on Montez’s pass to Brown.

After throwing for 84 yards in the first half, Montez finished the day 28-of-41 for 375 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, while Martinez threw for 290 yards and two scores, rushed for 66 and two more, but committed three turnovers.

While Nebraska can take a shallow solace in its 49-20-2 lead in the series, Colorado can point to its two consecutive comeback victories until the teams meet again in 2023.

Louisville WR: Every one of our WRs can beat every one of Alabama’s DBs

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Louisville lost Lamar Jackson to the NFL, but the remaining Cardinals have not suffered a lack of confidence without their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. Or at least not Cardinals wideout Dez Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick (above, left) appeared at Louisville’s media day on Saturday and declared his Cardinals wide receiving corps could match up with Alabama’s secondary man-for-man.

“Every receiver in our receiver corps can honestly beat every one of their DBs one-on-one in coverage,” Fitzpatrick said. “It ties into the other stuff, if the blocks are right, if the quarterback’s drop is right, we ran eight-yard routes instead of a 10-yard route, that’s the kind of stuff I feel like we need to sharpen up.

“But I feel like straight talent-wise, I feel like we have the upper edge against their secondary, 1,000 percent.”

Fitzpatrick was Louisville’s second-leading receiver as a redshirt freshman, hauling in 45 grabs for 699 yards with nine touchdowns. Senior Jaylen Smith led the Cards a year ago with 60 receptions for 980 yards and seven scores, and No. 3 receiver, junior Seth Dawkins, is also back. Alabama underwent a wholesale change in its defensive secondary — cornerbacks Anthony Averett and Levi Wallace and star Tony Brown graduated, while safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison declared early for the NFL. The Tide also lost defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley.

But the most important piece of Alabama’s pass defense is back, and that’s Nick Saban. New coordinator Tosh Lupoi and new defensive backs coach Karl Scott are expected to plug-and-play a new unit that will still rank among the best in college football.

But not good enough to shut down Louisville and its new quarterback, Jawon Pass, at least according to Fitzpatrick.

A game with a 31-point spread just became slightly more interesting.

Alabama mounting comeback but Georgia still leads as National Championship Game enters final stretch

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ATLANTA — The first half of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game went to plan as a low-scoring, hard-hitting, defensive-minded affair. It seemed a bit of coffee at halftime was all that was needed to jolt some life into No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 Alabama at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Monday night though as the two powerhouses started to break things open and put on a show in the second (and far more important) SEC title game for all the marbles.

In front of what amounted to a relative home crowd, it was the Bulldogs who held a 20-10 lead as they chase their first national title since 1980 with the clock winding down to the fourth quarter. Though the low score was representative of how things began, there were still several big plays that jolted both shades of red to their feet in Atlanta.

Alabama corner Tony Brown kicked things off by picking off Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm’s second pass of the game, wrestling a pass out of the hands of Javon Wims in what might be the play of his career given the stage. While it amounted to a bit of an arm punt given the down and distance, it was nevertheless the start that the Tide wanted defensively.

The Bulldogs defense made sure that the turnover was not painful on the scoreboard however, allowing Jalen Hurts (3-of-8 passing, 47 yards rushing) to march down the field but keeping him out of the end zone thanks to a missed throw to wideout Calvin Ridley and then drawing a false start that eventually led to a missed field goal from Andy Pappanastos.

The more curious thing from the Georgia sideline may have been the offensive play calling. The team opened with seven straight passes for Fromm and didn’t run the ball until the first quarter was more than halfway over. Still, tailback Sony Michel picked up where he left off in the Rose Bowl against No. 2 Oklahoma with the team’s biggest play of the first quarter by hitting the edge and jetting up the sideline for 26 yards. He finished with XX on the ground all told while teammate Nick Chubb was general held in check with 16.

That one long run by Michel helped keep the Bulldogs’ third drive alive before it stalled just outside the red zone — a bit of a habit for the team early on. Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship calmly nailed a 41 yard field goal to put Georgia up 3-0 and later added another from 27 out.

The Bulldogs’ offense did seem to find a groove right before the break however as they used some big throws by Fromm to drive nearly the length of the field with just 79 seconds left on the clock. Aided in part by an Alabama penalty, the team eventually found pay dirt thanks to a touchdown off a direct snap to Mecole Hardman.

In terms of halftime adjustments, Nick Saban saved up his biggest of the season by pulling the team’s starting quarterback and inserting true freshman Tua Tagovailoa. The lefty breathed life in to the Tide almost right away and completed a remarkable scramble to extend a drive on his second series. That eventually resulted in a touchdown throw to Henry Ruggs III and help cut into some of that lead.

The Bulldogs would mount an impressive response however to seize momentum right back. Just three plays later it was Fromm who found a streaking Hardman down the field, dropping in a perfectly thrown pass over the shoulder and resulting in an 80 yard touchdown after the wideout tip-toed his way down the sidelines. The defense later responded with an interception that would have felt like a killer had their own quarterback not thrown one off a tipped pass just a play later.

There’s just one quarter to go before a champion is crowned and history will be made.

Tony Brown rips away an interception, but Alabama can’t cash in

Tony Brown of Alabama ripped away a ball from Javon Wims for an early interception. Photo credit: ESPN
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Alabama’s defense got an early tuenover on Georgia’s first possesison of the half, but the Crimson Tide were unable to convert the turnover into points.

On a third-and-six, Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm took a deep shot only to have Alabama’s Tony Brown rip the ball out of the hands of Javon Wims for an interception.

Despite a promising-looking offensive series led by Jalen Hurts, Alabama stalled and had to settle for a field goal try by Andy Pappanastos, who was given the Chris Fowler curse during the broadcast. The kick sailed wide left on the try shortly after a false start penalty pushed Alabama back five yards for a 40-yard attempt.

After one possession each, we are scoreless in Atlanta.