Inside linebacker Jeff Smart intercepts a pass. (CU Independent/Lauren Walter)
For the young Colorado Buffaloes defense, it was a tale of two halves in their season-opening 23-17 loss to Colorado State in the 81st iteration of the Rocky Mountain Showdown at Folsom Field.
First, the good news. In the second half, the defense consistently held CSU’s offense and even pushed them back a few times.
For example, the Buffs’ defense forced four three-and-outs, senior linebacker Jeff Smart caught an interception in the third quarter and when the Rams threatened, CU’s defense kept them out of the end zone.
The defense allowed 111 total yards and three first downs to CSU in the second half.
But in the first half, CU’s defense was a cause for sore eyes.
The defense allowed 20 points and a total of 265 yards — 127 of which were rushing — in the first half to CSU. The Rams scored on all three of their red zone opportunities, which includes an 80-yard touchdown drive to start the game.
“We had a hard time getting some pressure in there the first half,” head coach Dan Hawkins said. “They just hit us with a couple of plays.”
Two weeks ago, CSU didn’t know who their starting quarterback was and their running backs, John Mosure and Leonard Mason, were splitting carries. The latter wasn’t the case last year with Gartrell Johnson toting the pigskin for the Rams. So why did CU’s defense struggle?
“We came out kind of sluggish, slow,” senior linebacker Marcus Burton said. “For whatever reason, guys weren’t fired up.”
Hawkins said he went into halftime thinking about what kind of adjustments the team needed to make. Whatever adjustments he made, the final stats were more positive for the defense as a whole.
The defense allowed 3-of-14 third-down conversions to Colorado State, which is the same number of conversions for the Buffs offense. By the end of the game, five defenders had at least five tackles led by junior cornerback Jimmy Smith’s 10.
The offense noticed the work done by the defense in the second half and gave them a good rally against CSU. As a result, CU’s offense accumulated 188 total yards in their attempt to rally from a 17-point halftime deficit.
“Even though we didn’t set them up for success in the first half,” junior quarterback Cody Hawkins said, “If you look at them in the second half, they did an awesome job.”
Team members said they are ready to let go of this loss and are looking toward Friday’s game against the Toledo Rockets. They said they are optimistic about playing better and getting a win.
“Obviously we have to do a better job of stopping the run and containing the pass,” Burton said. “If we do those two things, we’ll be OK.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Kayla Cornett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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