BOULDER – The Colorado Buffaloes opened the season on Friday with a beyond impressive defensive outing against the Colorado State Rams, instantly alleviating some of the concerns that critics seemed to have about the Buffs’ reconstructed secondary. The offense’s struggles to get going in the second half, though, raised a fresh set of questions.
Lead running back Phil Lindsay, one of only a few offensive weapons that were truly successful on Friday, explained the approach for Week 2 at Tuesday’s press conference.
“It’s just little things that we have to correct, little things and be more disciplined,” Lindsay said. “When we get to the red zone we have to execute. So this next game, we’re going to go at it hard. We have to get back to Colorado football and being the offense that we know we can be.”
After an explosive start last week, the Buffs stalled offensively in the second half. Outside of Lindsay, who racked up 140 yards and a touchdown, and receiver Shay Fields, who tallied 78 yards and scored once, the offense failed to get going. Many of CU’s top weapons (Devin Ross, Bryce Bobo and Juwann Winfree, to name a few) were held below 50 yards and out of the end zone.
Lindsay acknowledged that issue and seemed confident that the Buffs have a solution moving forward.
“It’s about playing harder, longer,” he said. “Not just at the beginning, the first half. It’s that third quarter for us; we have to get over that hump. once we get over that hump in the third quarter, fourth quarter, we’ll start rolling again.”
Head coach Mike MacIntyre echoed Lindsay’s determination to improve offensively as the team hosts Texas State on Saturday.
“We definitely should have gotten into the end zone a couple more times,” MacIntyre said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to correct some of those little things and be able to have a big game this week.”
Defensive lineman Leo Jackson III has high hopes for the offense this weekend.
“They have a chip on their shoulder,” Jackson said. “Despite what everyone else says, they’re probably their [own]biggest critics, and they know that they didn’t do what they wanted to do and what they expected themselves to do. So they have a chip on their shoulder to just come out and let it loose.”
According to Jackson, the offense isn’t the only side of the ball playing with a shared motivation. After plenty of offseason speculation by the media that CU would struggle to overcome the loss of their senior playmakers, the defense set out to prove the doubters wrong.
“It definitely put a chip on our shoulder and gave us a sense of urgency to just quiet everyone up for at least a week or so,” Jackson said. “That was our biggest thing was just to come out and just to silence people, to get them to talk about something else.”
“Our captains, Fo (Afolabi Laguda) and Rick (Gamboa) and everyone were basically telling us that it’s all about us,” he added. “It’s about the guys in this room, the guys that we play with on the field,” Jackson said. “Not to get caught up in anything the media was saying, but just to pay attention to those guys that we step on the field with and that we’ve been sweating with since everything started.”
That attitude paid off in the opener. Despite losing several starters from their dominant 2016 defense to the NFL, the Buffs premiered a similarly stout defensive unit.
Collectively, the Buffs managed two sacks, six tackles for loss, seven passes broken up, a forced fumble and two interceptions, holding the Rams to only three points. For Jackson, part of that success can be attributed to a shift in the defense’s approach.
“We’re smaller, but we’re a lot more agile. We don’t have any really big bodies other than Javier [Edwards] who takes up two guys,” he said with a laugh. “That’s why we have to stay disciplined, know our fundamentals more and play to our fundamentals and play to our strengths because we’re not those big bruisers that we had last year.”
Saturday’s matchup will be another opportunity for the defense to prove themselves and a chance for the offense to rebound from their struggles against CSU. The game will kick off at noon and air on the Pac-12 Network.