Colorado will enter Pac-12 play without its most experienced running back.
Senior Alex Fontenot is expected to miss his second consecutive game when the Buffaloes (0-3) host UCLA (3-0) on Saturday at Folsom Field (noon, Pac-12 Network).
Fontenot, who is second on the team with 84 yards on 20 carries, injured his chest during a 41-10 loss at Air Force on Sept. 10.
“He’s feeling better,” head coach Karl Dorrell said. “He’s got this chest injury that is very challenging for him breathing. That was the thing a week ago. Now he’s standing up straight, he’s not (hunched over) anymore. So it’s going through that process. He’s actually walking normal now.”
Fontenot hasn’t started running, though, and because of that Dorrell said Fontenot “won’t be ready” for Saturday’s game.
“We were hoping that he would start running this week, but when he tried he’s still having a lot of discomfort,” Dorrell said.
In Saturday’s 49-7 loss at Minnesota, CU was without Fontenot and true freshmen Anthony Hankerson and Victor Venn, who have been injured and unable to play this year.
That left the Buffs with only two scholarship running backs: junior Deion Smith and sophomore Jayle Stacks. Walk-ons Dominick Mastro and Charlie Offerdahl were also on the trip. Smith led the Buffs with 70 yards, while Offerdahl had 55.
Smith currently leads the Buffs with 159 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries and appears to in line for his second consecutive start.
“He’s got to build more consistency in what he’s doing,” Dorrell said of Smith. “Overall, I think he’s off to a solid start. He had some good yards last week, but I think he needs more consistency in what his reads are and staying downhill when he needs to stay downhill. But, I’ve been pleased with what he’s been doing.”
Dorrell said Venn is still a couple of weeks away from returning, but the Buffs could get a boost from Hankerson. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound freshman has been completely cleared and Dorrell said, “We have him in our depth this week.”
The Bruins are off to a 3-0 start, although it’s been somewhat of a rocky road – despite all three games being at home against heavy underdogs.
In the opener, Bowling Green took a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter before UCLA rallied and won going away, 45-17.
After a 45-7 win against Alabama State in Week 2, the Bruins barely escaped on Saturday against South Alabama. UCLA trailed 31-23 going into the fourth quarter and needed a last-second field goal to win, 32-31.
Dorrell said he’s been impressed with how UCLA won all three games.
“The thing that stands out is they’re not a panic team,” he said. “They’ve been down early in games and they come back. They have some experience offensively. I know they have some new players on both sides of the ball like most of us, but they’re a veteran team. There’s a veteran presence there … they’ve been through it all. They’ve had leads and they’ve come back from not having leads so it’s a really good team that knows how to respond.”
On Saturday, CU will honor the late Rashaan Salaam, who is slated to be inducted into the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame later this year. Every inductee gets an on-campus salute in the year of their induction. Salaam was CU’s lone Heisman Trophy winner, in 1994. … Former CU linebacker Chad Brown has been nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2023.