It was unpredictable, frustrating, promising, and on one Saturday in Eugene, it was record-setting. In the end, it was an important experience for the El Paso product. Steven Montez has three years of eligibility remaining to build off of what he did in limited action as the Buffs' back-up quarterback in 2016.
Through it all, even when he was having to split practice reps leading up to the USC contest, a game he started, Montez bought into a team-first approach.
“We knew we had a good team but we didn't know quite what to expect,” admitted Montez after a recent bowl practice. “We came out strong, ran into a good team in Michigan and I wasn't fully prepared in that game. We got on a roller coaster and we just kept riding it. We ended up being ranked as high as eighth. That was a huge improvement from where we were last year."
After failing to complete a pass in the second half against the Wolverines, a week later versus Oregon, Montez became the first player in program history to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards in the same game. His total offensive output of 468 yards against the Ducks were the most ever in a debut by a starting quarterback at CU.
“I took the experience at Michigan and learned from it,” Montez reflected. “It was huge going into Autzen [Stadium] and getting a win to lead off Pac-12 play. I think that gave the team confidence in me, that we could still play well whenever I needed to get in there.”
Even though he only started three games, Montez was a co-winner of the Lee Willard Award, which is given annually to be the Buffaloes' most outstanding freshman.
Montez's passer rating ranks 27th among power conference quarterbacks with more than 100 pass attempts this season. And not including lost sack yardage, Montez averaged seven yards per rushing attempt.
“Experience is important but some dudes do it without experience. You see these true freshmen come in all the time and start balling,” Montez said. “I did learn, though, it is more about preparation than anything. I can definitely use that going forward.”
Montez said he is using the bowl practices to build “better cohesion” with his receivers, all of whom are expected back in Boulder next fall.
“I want to just kind of gel with those guys and get more comfortable with how they run routes, and for them to get used to how I throw the ball, so we can prepare for next season,” he said. “We are kind of using this like a pre-spring ball."
“Our offense is going to be capable of a lot next year," he added. "We have a lot of people coming back. Sefo [Liufau] and the other seniors started this monster and we're going to try to make it even stronger and make it even nastier than it has been, hopefully. That is our goal.”
Montez said he is also working with co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brian Lindgren on improving his mechanics.
“Some of my lower-body mechanics are bad,” Montez said. “Rolling to the left, I have to get my shoulder around. Just rolling out period, I have to work on getting my shoulder around.”
Because Montez possesses impressive physical tools, did it allow him to get away with less than ideal mechanics in the past?
“A little bit but you won't get by with that at the next level, in the NFL, which is my ultimate goal so you have to fix it now and just make it a habit,” he answered.
Freshman quarterback Sam Noyer has drawn praise from his coaches and teammates this fall while redshirting and highly regarded prospect Tyler Lytle is set to join the mix in January. Montez knows the starting gig will not just be handed to him.
“I have to earn it,” he said. “Right now our focus is definitely on the bowl game. We still have another game to win, but I have to look at it as a competition every day I come out here. You have to go compete and try your best to impress the coaches and they take it from there.”