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Buffs Depth At Running Back Makes Quick Impression

Sep 5, 2021
CU's Ashaad Clayton celebrates a touchdown vs. UNC.

BOULDER — The depth at running back for the Colorado Buffaloes was on full display Friday in a 35-7 win over Northern Colorado at Folsom Field.

For the first time since 2015, four different CU running backs found the end zone in a game.

Buff fans have gotten used to big games from reigning Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Jarek Broussard, who had the most carries Friday, rushing 15 times for 94 yards and a touchdown.

But he was not the only back to find success, with three others scoring and making big contributions to aid a Colorado offense that was struggling to advance the ball early. Freshman Ashaad Clayton had eight rushes for 51 yards and a score, junior Alex Fontenot also finished with eight carries and rushed for 40 yards and a touchdown and sophomore Deion Smith punched in the final score of the night for his first collegiate score, finishing with 33 yards on four carries.

Colorado's backs delivered in the second half, starting with a 3-yard touchdown by Fontenot on a drive that included 67 yards on the ground.  Hailing from Richmond, Texas, Fontenot was the primary ball carrier for the Buffaloes in 2019, rushing for 874 yards and five touchdowns on 185 rushes and adding 122 yards off 27 receptions in 11 games. After a hip injury sidelined him for the shortened 2020 season, the junior was excited about being back on the field and reaching the end zone. 

"I've been waiting for that for about a year," said Fontenot. "It was great just getting that experience again."

After the Bears cut Colorado's lead to 14 points, 21-7, at the end of the third quarter, it was Clayton that delivered for the Buffs. Finding some space on the left sideline, the New Orleans native burst through for a 35-yard gain and two plays later jumped over the goal line to make the game 28-7. Smith then put the game to rest with a 5-yard surge into the end zone to cap off a six play, 55-yard drive for the final touchdown of the night. 

"We got a good group of guys that can all do great things," said Broussard after the game. "It was good to see those guys come out and get into the end zone. It was fun to watch my peers and have a good time." 

A highly touted four-star prospect, Clayton played in three games last year, rushing seven times for 31 yards and two touchdowns, both coming in a win over Arizona. Smith, out of Houston, is back after missing the entirety of the 2020 season with a knee injury.

"It was great to see that we have really good depth in our backfield," Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell stated. "The challenge right now is trying to keep them all happy when not all of them can carry the ball at the same time. But it's a good problem to have, and it is good to have that type of production from all those guys."

Someone who also saw action on Friday but flew under the radar a little bit is 5-foot-11, 230-pound second year freshman Jayle Stacks. The Aurora native lined up as a fullback to help block for the Buffs in some key situations.

"Having a guy like Jayle is really good to clear the hole up for us," said Broussard. "But another thing a lot of people don't know is that he can actually tuck the ball as well, so I look forward to seeing that soon."

In a deep backfield, each player is fighting just to get playing time. But the competition also allows for players to develop and grow.

"It's cool because everybody does their own little thing differently," explained Fontenot. "You might learn something new from each other, which is really good because that just takes your game to the next level."

UP NEXT: The Buffs will take a short trip to Empower Field in Denver for a matchup with Texas A&M at 1:30 p.m. next Saturday on FOX.