John­son at­tract­ing more at­ten­tion from op­po­si­tion

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Brian How­ell

Given how dom­i­nant Mustafa John­son has been this sea­son on the Col­orado de­fense, it made sense that at some point teams were go­ing to fo­cus on stop­ping him.

Af­ter John­son racked up a pair of sacks in the first half Oct. 27 against Ore­gon State, the Beavers had enough.

Dur­ing the sec­ond half of that 41-34 over­time loss, John­son was dou­ble-teamed more than nor­mal, he said. Last week in a 42-34 loss to Ari­zona, the Wild­cats did the same.

“I def­i­nitely think (Ari­zona) schemed against me,” John­son said. “They had a cou­ple times where I was get­ting back blocked, so I couldn’t flow to the ball as eas­ily as I nor­mally would, mak­ing plays on the back­side. They played it very smart.”

CU (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) faces passhappy No. 10 Wash­ing­ton State (8-1, 5-1) on Satur­day at Fol­som Field, and the Buffs hope John­son can make his usual im­pact.

John­son has con­tin­ued to be dom­i­nant with his one-on-one bat­tles, but Ore­gon State and Ari­zona have limited his ef­fec­tive­ness with dou­ble teams, quick throws or sim­ply run­ning plays away from him.

John­son, who leads the Pac-12 with 6.5 sacks, said he just has to learn to ad­just in his first year with the Buffs af­ter trans­fer­ring from Modesto Ju­nior Col­lege.

“That’s all I can do,” he said. “When I first came into the sea­son, there wasn’t any film on me. Now that they’ve seen some of the things I’m ca­pa­ble of do­ing, I just have to ad­just and get bet­ter. That’s all there is to it. I’m go­ing to get more dou­ble teams. I just have to learn how to play it.

“It’s a lit­tle chal­leng­ing, but when I’m able to suc­ceed, it’s a great feel­ing.”

Eye­ing 1,000.

Travon CU run­ning back McMil­lian is inch­ing closer to the 1,000-yard mark for the sea­son, com­ing into this week with 837 yards.

“Ob­vi­ously, per­sonal ac­co­lades aren’t above any­thing else, above the team, but it’s def­i­nitely some­thing I wanted to ac­com­plish per­son­ally for my­self,” he said this week.

A grad­u­ate trans­fer from Vir­ginia Tech, McMil­lian rushed for 2,153 yards in three years with the Hok­ies, in­clud­ing a ca­reer­high 1,043 as a fresh­man in 2015.

McMil­lian al­ready has more car­ries (158) and yards than he did in the past two sea­sons, and the ice packs on his legs af­ter Fri­day’s game at Ari­zona proved he’s feel­ing it.

With three games to go, how­ever, McMil­lian said he’s feel­ing healthy.

“My body feels good right now,” he said. “I’ve been go­ing through mi­nor in­juries, but that’s kind of how the sea­son goes at tail­back. Noth­ing se­ri­ous.”

McMil­lian is aim­ing for just the 17th 1,000-yard sea­son in CU his­tory. Phillip Lind­say, now with the NFL’s Den­ver Bron­cos, topped 1,000 yards in each of the last two sea­sons. In both sea­sons, Lind­say hit the 1,000-yard mark against Wash­ing­ton State. McMil­lian would need a ca­reer­high 163 yards to do the same.

In ad­di­tion to his rush­ing, McMil­lian has caught nine passes for 93 yards, in­clud­ing a 57-yard touch­down last week.

“I think he can do all three things a back needs to do: he can run well, he blocks well and he can catch the ball out of the back­field,” head coach Mike Mac­In­tyre said. “The other thing he does re­ally well is take care of the foot­ball.

“I’ve been very pleased with Travon and the way he has meshed with the team and the team at­ti­tude he’s had and how hard he’s played and how hard he’s run. It’s been a priv­i­lege hav­ing him and coach­ing him.”

No­table.

Satur­day’s game will be the 499th in the long his­tory of Fol­som Field . ... In the last nine years, CU is 2-29 against ranked op­po­nents, with both wins com­ing in 2016 (against Wash­ing­ton State and Utah and in back-to-back weeks) . ... Dur­ing the first six games, CU outscored the op­po­si­tion 36-6 in the fourth quar­ter. Dur­ing the last three games, the Buffs have been outscored 48-3 in the fourth quar­ter (and over­time).

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