BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – Steven Montez bounced back from a benching a week earlier and threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns in Colorado’s 44-28 win over California on Saturday.
The Buffaloes (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) capped their homecoming win with a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown by junior free safety Nick Fisher with 2:34 remaining that made it 44-21.
Fisher caught Ross Bowers’ pass nine yards deep in the north end zone for his first career interception and sidestepped a couple of Golden Bears near the goal line and avoided another tackler at about the Bears 30-yard line before cruising down the dejected California sideline for the school’s fourth 100-yard pick-6.
PHOTO GALLERY: CU 44, Cal 28
Montez, who completed 20 of 26 passes, also ran for a score and Phillip Lindsay ran for 161 yards as the Buffaloes kept alive their hopes of reaching back-to-back bowls for the first time in more than a decade.
The Golden Bears (4-5, 1-5) saw their postseason hopes fade despite a three-TD day by Bowers, who was 29-of-52 for 359 yards.
Montez was briefly knocked from the game after a late helmet-to-helmet hit from linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk on Colorado’s first drive of the second half. Sam Noyer, who replaced Montez for the second half of the Buffs’ 28-0 loss at Washington State last week, came in and fumbled away the snap on fourth-and-inches from midfield.
Montez returned on Colorado’s next drive and later threw a 23-yard pass to Jay MacIntyre to make it 34-14.
Montez threw for 242 yards and a pair of TDs in the first half as Colorado raced to a 27-14 halftime lead. He connected with Devin Ross from 22 yards out and with Shay Fields from 65 yards.
His 65-yarder capped a 96-yard drive for a 21-7 lead and it included a 21-yard dart to Ross on third-and-11 from his own 3.
California converted just 1 of 5 third downs before going on a 17-play, 79-yard touchdown drive in which the Golden Bears converted four third downs in five chances and followed their one failure with a fourth-down conversion.
The payoff came on Bowers’ 27-yard touchdown toss to Kanawai Noa into double coverage on third-and-14. That got the Golden Bears to within 10 points.
Noa also caught a 15-yard TD pass from fellow receiver Vic Wharton III.
California: The Golden Bears fell flat in their first visit to Boulder since 2013, which began a stretch in which they’ll play three of four games on the road. They were hoping for a better showing coming off a game in which they scored 44 points and had 31 first downs.
Colorado: The Buffaloes set themselves up nicely for the stretch run with the confidence-building win. They get three chances for a sixth win that would send them to back-to-back bowls for the first time since 2004-05.
California: The Golden Bears host Oregon State in their final home game.
Colorado: The Buffaloes travel to Arizona State in search of their bowl-clinching sixth win.
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Sports Writer
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