BOULDER - The Colorado Buffaloes suffered their first shutout loss of head coach Mike MacIntyre's tenure on Saturday, as Washington State dominated every phase of the matchup and ran away with a 28-0 victory. An evening marred by the offensive struggles that continue to plague the Buffs, including the benching of quarterback Steven Montez, was also the scene of an impressive showcase of talent among the CU defensive backs.
When top NFL prospect Isaiah Oliver was injured in the first half, the Buffs defensive backs held tough against Washington State's vaunted passing attack led by draft hopeful and quarterback, Luke Falk. Standout performances by Evan Worthington, Trey Udoffia, and Dante Wigley showed while the preseason hype was on Colorado's wide receivers, the postseason praise may land with the defensive backs.
Wigley started the 2017 season in a backup role, until an injury to Udoffia thrust him into the starting lineup. Wigley has been so good in his interim capacity that he actually held on to his starting job even after Udoffia was healthy enough to suit up again. That's because Wigley has been solid in coverage and racked up 17 tackles over the last four weeks. He nearly came down with an interception against Washington State but recorded three passes broken up.
"I know for a fact I could have had one," Wigley said, "And then I had a couple of pass breakups. I definitely should have got that one diving interception, I had nightmares about that one."
Wigley was not alone, as the Buffs' defensive backs failed to hang on to several potential turnovers against Washington State, a stat line that could have dramatically altered the course of the game. They are focused on correcting that problem before they host Cal on Saturday.
"This week we're working a lot of ball drills because coach said we dropped five picks this past game," Wigley said. "So we're doing ball drills this entire week to try to get our hands better and get more concentration on the football."
Wigley is determined to hang on to his starting role for the remainder of the season.
"I'm just going to keep working," Wigley stated. "Working on my technique, trying to make plays in the game and hopefully I'll keep starting moving forward."
With so much talent in the Buffs secondary, Wigley knows he has to work hard to hang on to his spot. He's doing everything he can to prove that he deserves to be a part of the vaunted 'Moneygang.'
"It's the coaches decision at the end of the day, so I just go out there and give it all I got at practice," Wigley said. "I guess they believe in me and that's why I've been starting."
Wigley watched the leader of the secondary exit the game against Washington State before halftime.
"That was big, [Oliver] going out and [Udoffia] stepping in," Wigley said. "I thought [Udoffia] did a good job. We just all knew we had to step up with our top guy going out."
With Oliver's status against Cal still uncertain, Wigley knows the pressure could fall to himself and Udoffia to man the starting corner spots.
"Whoever steps in for Isaiah just has to do exactly what he was gonna do and give it our best shot," Wigley said. "That's one player that you can't really make up for."
The Buffs' secondary is one of the few position groups to exceed expectations this season, with the emergence of several younger players helping to fill the void of last season's departed trio of starters. Despite a 4-4 overall record, the defensive backs continue to hold themselves to the highest expectations.
"We take pride in [our level of play]," Wigley said. "As a secondary, we're real hard on ourselves. Like 'Moneygang' last year, they were amazing and we're just trying to live up to that high standard that coach Mac has for us and that the people who left in the past have for us."
The Buffs also acknowledge that they are in a tough spot as they head into their last four weeks, needing two wins to hang on to bowl eligibility. They face a ranked USC team and a trio of surging Pac-12 opponents to end their regular season.
"It's definitely a must-win every week," Wigley said. "We just have to come in with the focus every week that we can't lose, we can't go out with another loss. So we're just gonna give it all we got and come out with a great week of practice, prepare for Cal, and definitely get the win."'