The Colorado Buffaloes completed their nonconference season by defeating the Northern Colorado Bears 41-21.
Once again the Buffaloes got off to a slow start, but this time the defense made a subpar effort against their in-state counterparts. Northern Colorado, an FCS team from the Big Sky conference, put up 21 points against a defense that came into the game only allowing six points total in their first two games.
Let that sink in for a second.
Prior to the game Saturday, Colorado’s questions were supposedly answered on the secondary. Junior safety Evan Worthington and freshman cornerback Trey Udoffia could fill the shoes of the money gang from the previous season. Losing Jimmie Gilbert and Kenneth Olugbode wouldn’t have a big impact on the front seven.
Well it may be time to go back to the drawing board.
“We didn’t do a good enough job on staying on top of them,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “We had some uncustomary penalties that we got. I did a poor job of coaching our defensive line.”
Part of the Buffaloes’ struggles Saturday was the inability to stop the deep ball. The secondary that shut down their last two opponents gave up a 33-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Jacob Knipp on the second drive of the game. Junior cornerback Isaiah Oliver was simply beat on the play. This gave the Bears the early lead and instantly made the black and gold faithful nervous.
Later in the second quarter, Northern Colorado struck again as both Worthington and Oliver were burnt once again by wide receiver Alex Wesley. This time it was from 52 yards out and that score cut the lead to 14.
“We gotta do a better job of teaching them to stay on top of the deep balls on the grid,” MacIntyre said.
The last touchdown the secondary gave up was on the first drive of the second half, when Knipp connected with junior tight end Michael McCauley.
On average, the Colorado defense gave up 37 yards per score. It wasn’t a day for this defense to celebrate.
“When we go into Pac-12 play, when they make their plays, they’re going to execute, and if we’re not doing what we’re meant to be doing, that’s going to be six points every time,” junior safety Nick Fisher said. “Even UNC was doing it to us. Whether it’s bad reads or our safety not kicking back or our corner not playing the right grid, that translates to points.”
The other downside for the defense Saturday was simply their attitude. They didn’t come out with the same fire and passion that Colorado usually possesses.
“We did not come out very hard today,” senior outside linebacker Derek McCartney said. “Northern Colorado played really hard. That was one of the things that was just between us. We just didn’t come ready to play and we have to get better. We have to be ready in an early morning game.”
McCartney also touched on how the Northern Colorado receivers got behind the defense.
“Some of that may be mental errors.” McCartney said. “As a guy who rushes the passer, I put that on us. We have to find a way to put more pressure on the quarterback so he can’t make those throws.”
MacIntyre, however, disagreed with McCartney.
“That’s not true, Derek doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” MacIntyre said. “We gave up two long balls. If you take away those two long balls and three late hit penalties, they wouldn’t have as many yards at all.”
Another troublesome trait the defense possessed today was their penalties.
Two targeting calls were called against senior safety Afolabi Laguda and junior defensive end Chris Mulumba, causing them both to be ejected from the game. Because Laguda’s targeting penalty came in the first half, he will not be suspended for next Saturday’s game against the Washington Huskies. Mulumba, on the other hand, will be suspended for the first half of the game next week.
The Buffaloes gave up an average of 340 yards per game against FBS opponents in the first two games. But giving up 273 yards against an FCS team will be a cause for concern, especially as they head into next week’s Pac-12 opener. It will be a rematch of the Pac-12 championship game against Washington.
The game will start at 8 p.m. with the network to be determined.
Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Drew Sharek at email@example.com.