Following a highly successful 2016 campaign in which they reached the Valero Alamo Bowl, there was a lot of excitement and high expectation going into the 2017 Colorado Buffaloes’ football season. CU took the field for the first time since that bowl game Saturday for the annual white-on-black spring game, where the Buffs play themselves.
The game got off to a rocky start when sophomore quarterback Steven Montez, who is expected to be the starter this season, got picked off by junior defensive back Nick Fisher on his first pass from scrimmage. It wasn’t until his third drive that Montez finally got some momentum going. He helped put together an impressive 14-play, 55-yard push that was capped off by a 1-yard quarterback keeper.
One of the many questions coming into the game, and the season, was how the Buffaloes defense, specifically the secondary, would respond after losing three defensive backs — Chidobe Awuzie, Tedric Thompson and Ahkello Witherspoon — to the NFL draft. One of the many guys who’s expected to step in and play a big role this season is senior safety Afolabi Laguda. He was many of the many Buffs who felt excited about getting back out onto the field Saturday.
“It felt great. Just to get this Folsom feeling back on our feet again. Spring practice is all about getting healthy. We don’t really get things rolling till fall camp, but it was special,” Laguda said. “I feel any time the new guys get to leave their first imprint on the field, it’s big, and they got to do that today.”
He also had a message for fans about this upcoming season.
“Just hold on because we’re coming. It’s going to be a great show — every time you guys come to Folsom and watch us and every time we get to put on display what we’re doing on TV, it’s going to be a great show.”
Although Montez is likely to be the starter come September, one of the biggest stories of this season is incoming freshman quarterback Tyler Lytle out of Redondo Beach, California. He’s expected to compete for the starting job.
Lytle made the most of his playing time with several impressive drives. On his first possession, he completed a 37-yard catch-and-run to junior tight end Dylan Keeney. That set up a 27-yard field goal by sophomore place kicker Nick Porter. Lytle finally got a chance to show off his wheels on his third time out with a 9-yard run that likely would’ve gone for longer had he not been stopped short because of spring game rules.
After the game, Lytle talked about joining the Colorado team and the pending quarterback battle.
“Obviously there’s already a tight locker room after last season,” Lytle said. “There’s a competition going on, and we all try and do everything we can to elevate each other’s play, and learn from each other.”
Freshman quarterback Sam Noyer made the most of his first opportunity, firing a touchdown to senior wide receiver Kabion Ento on his first pass attempt. On his second time out, he helped put together a seven play, 45-yard drive that was highlighted by a impressive 15-yard pass to senior receiver Bryce Bobo. A 20-yard gain by senior receiver Shay Fields set up a 35-yard field goal by senior kicker Chris Graham.
Fields made his second big play of the day when he caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Montez to finish off another impressive 3-play, 35-yard drive by the offense. That had to be a settling feeling for fans — 2016’s campaign saw a very up-and-down time for the Buffs receiving core. There are high expectations for the group going into the 2017 season because there are four seniors starting at the position — Fields, Devin Ross, Ento and Bobo.
There was a very different feeling in the air this year than in many past spring games. Coming off last season, it finally felt like the Buffs were a team that was ready to be consistently competitive again.
The Buffs kick off their season Sept. 1 when they face the Colorado State Rams at Sports Authority Field in Denver.
Contact CU Independent Sports Writer Jack Stern at Jack.Stern@colorado.edu.