BOULDER | Steven Montez stepped out of the pressure-filled pocket and was about to instinctually take off. Instead, the Colorado quarterback ran parallel to the line of scrimmage before lofting a touchdown pass to a wide open Shay Fields.
All part of Montez’s evolution.
Montez threw for a career-high 357 yards and four TDs, helping the Buffaloes beat Northern Colorado 41-21 on Saturday in the first meeting between the schools on the football field since 1934.
The sophomore spread around the wealth by tossing TD strikes to Devin Ross , Fields, Bryce Bobo and Jay MacIntyre. Even more, Montez revitalized an offense that’s struggled the last two weeks.
“I’m pretty happy with where we are right now,” Montez said. “There are still things to improve on.”
Like this: Colorado (3-0) turned the ball over twice deep in Northern Colorado territory to keep things interesting. One was on an interception by Montez, who quickly shook it off.
“What I’ve learned about (Montez), he really doesn’t let anything affect him,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said. “He has confidence. But it’s not a cocky confidence. He just plays.”
Phillip Lindsay rushed for 151 yards and a score on a day when the defense struggled. The Buffaloes had two defensive starters ejected for targeting — free safety Afolabi Laguda in the second quarter and defensive lineman Chris Mulumba in the fourth quarter.
Jacob Knipp had 202 yards passing and three TDs, including two to Alex Wesley. The Bears (1-1) took advantage of the extra time to prepare after their game last weekend at No. 24 Florida was canceled because of Hurricane Irma.
Northern Colorado scored on the opening possession — the first touchdown the Buffaloes have allowed this season. The Bears hung tight until Montez’s 14-yard TD pass to Jay MacIntyre made it a 38-21 game with 8:35 remaining.
“We’ll take the goods and learn from the bad and carry it over,” Knipp said.
Northern Colorado: Until Saturday, the Bears had bragging rights over Colorado since a 13-7 win on Oct. 12, 1934. Still, the Bears leave with plenty of confidence and a nice pay check. They made $350,000 for playing in Boulder.
Colorado: The Buffaloes’ secondary showed plenty of vulnerability against the pass as Knipp picked apart one defensive back after another. That doesn’t bode well with Jake Browning and Washington arriving in town next weekend.
Laguda was called for targeting when he hit Bears receiver Hakeem Deggs over the middle after a pass sailed wide.
Laguda also was ejected for targeting last season against Washington State, and in 2015 against Massachusetts.
Mulumba was ejected when he hit Knipp just after he released a pass. Mulumba will miss the first half next weekend against Washington.
After Mulumba’s big hit, Knipp left for one play to be checked out before returning.
“He’s one of the toughest dudes I know,” Bears coach Earnest Collins Jr. “If he wasn’t playing quarterback for us, he would be playing middle linebacker.”
OVERLOOKING THE BEARS?
Montez insisted the Buffaloes didn’t take their in-state rival too lightly.
“Nobody wants to get embarrassed and they played very good today,” Montez said. “That QB is a freak. He’s very, very, very good.”
Knipp was actually the starter a season ago, before breaking his clavicle. That opened the door for Kyle Sloter, who shined in training camp with the Denver Broncos before joining the Minnesota Vikings and being elevated to their active roster Saturday.
A wide-open Deggs had the ball slip through his arms on a long pass in the second quarter. The Bears ended up punting and Colorado scored to make it 21-7.
“There were a lot of plays that could’ve changed the game, not just that one,” Collins said. “That’s where you learn. That’s where you grow.”
THIS & THAT
Ross finished with eight catches for 143 yards. .. Lindsay’s little brother, Zachary, is a running back for Northern Colorado. He had one carry for five yards. “Definitely, it was a good feeling to get out on the field with my brother,” Phillip Lindsay said.
Northern Colorado: Opens Big Sky play next Saturday by hosting Idaho State.
Colorado: The Buffaloes kick off the Pac-12 portion of their schedule against No. 6 Washington. The Huskies beat Colorado 41-10 in the conference title game last season.