Nebraska (1-0) hits the road for its first away game of the year as the team travels to Boulder, Colorado to take on the Colorado Buffaloes (1-0). The Huskers come off a shaky win against South Alabama 35-21, while Colorado won a shootout against rival Colorado State 52-31.
Here are four Buffaloes players to watch out for:
Steven Montez, QB
Yes, Steven Montez is still the starting quarterback at Colorado. It feels like he’s been around forever, as he’s been the quarterback since his redshirt freshman year. There’s a reason he’s held that job for so long as he’s been one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12 for the last few years.
Last season, Montez had a field day against the Husker secondary as he threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Montez does most of his damage from the pocket, but he is a good athlete and will occasionally be called upon to run on his own.
Having an experienced senior leader like Montez is a huge advantage for Colorado, especially going into a rivalry home game. Nebraska’s secondary will need to play better than it did last year to limit Montez and all of his weapons.
Laviska Shenault Jr., WR
Speaking of Montez’s weapons, Laviska Shenault Jr. is his most dangerous one. Shenault Jr. is a likely first round draft pick and one of the top wide receivers in college football. Behind Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy, one could claim he is the best of the rest.
Shenault Jr.’s numbers from last year were impressive, but they don’t tell the whole story. He had 86 receptions for 1,011 yards and six receiving touchdowns in only nine games. Those numbers are impressive, but the fact that he did most of this against double teams and added attention from opposing defenses, is that much more notable.
In last year’s game, Shenault Jr. had one of his best games of the season as he had 10 receptions for 177 yards and a touchdown. He is a big, physical receiver standing at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, meaning it will likely be up to senior cornerback Lamar Jackson to slow him down as he is a bigger corner. Jackson will have plenty of help from the rest of the secondary as it will be a priority to slow Shenault Jr. down.
Alex Fontenot, RB
Colorado had a tough assignment this offseason to replace 1,000-yard rusher Travon McMillian. After week one, it appears that sophomore running back Alex Fontenot will take over that role. Fontenot had a strong performance in his first start as he ran for 125 yards and three touchdowns on 6.6 yards per carry.
Fontenot is a smaller running back who is very elusive. It will be important for the Blackshirts to be smart with their tackling and not go for the big hits. Last year, Nebraska did a good job of bottling up McMillian and they will need to put forth a similar effort to slow down Fontenot.
Mustafa Johnson, DE
Nebraska’s offensive line had a tough time dealing with a solid South Alabama defensive front in the season opener. This week, they will face a step up in competition as junior defensive end Mustafa Johnson is one of the best defensive linemen the Huskers will see this season.
Johnson had a breakout sophomore season as he had 73 tackles, 8 ½ sacks and 18 tackles for a loss. That season has vaulted him up draft boards as he now projects as an early-round selection. He had a quiet game last week against Colorado State, but he isn’t the kind of player that will have back-to-back duds.
In last year’s matchup, he had seven tackles, three tackles for a loss and two sacks. For an offensive line which is coming off a poor performance, seeing someone like Johnson on the other side of the ball is a scary sight. He is the kind of player that can take over a game and disrupt a play before it can get started. It will be up to the offensive line, specifically the tackles, to make sure he can’t do that.