And even better when Hawaii`s offense was out of backyard real estate.
The Buffs came up with a pair of goal-line stands in the first quarter and put a safety on the scoreboard in the third quarter to will CU to a 31-13 victory over the Warriors of the WAC on Saturday at Folsom Field.
The dramatic turn of events made Alfred Williams` smile even wider.
"It gave us momentum throughout the whole game because it gave our D-line confidence that they could stop them," CU cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "They had all the momentum at that point, and we stopped them so close."
The Buffs took the bend-but-don`t-break philosophy to an extreme early.
On the second snap of the game, Warriors quarterback Bryant Moniz hooked up with Kealoha Pilares for an 80-yard pass play. With 13 NFL scouts watching from the press box, Smith ran Pilares down from behind after giving him a 15-yard head start to prevent a touchdown.
"Those hustle plays are the plays the coaches are harping on in practice," Smith said. "In fact, you can`t even practice if you`re not running to the ball."
After Smith`s tackle, CU stuffed the visitors on four consecutive run plays at the goal line with Anthony Perkins recovering a fumble on fourth-and-inches.
On Hawaii`s next possession, the Buffs forced a three-and-out but were back on the field after Travon Patterson fumbled the punt to set the Warriors up with a first-and-goal at the 3. The nation`s second-ranked passing offense misfired on three consecutive passes and then botched a 23-yard field goal attempt.
Eight plays inside CU`s 3 and no points.
"They really just out-toughed us on that," Moniz said of his fumble. "I was pretty much handing the ball and just trying to get into the end zone. We were only two or three yards away."
Moniz took advantage of yet another short field after a Rodney Stewart fumble was lost at his own 42. Three completions later, Pilares was in the end zone as the Warriors took a 7-0 lead with 50 seconds in the first quarter.
It should have been at least 10-0 or perhaps as much as 21-0.
"Two times within five yards of the goal line, they stopped us, and that really hurt us," Moniz said. "We put points on the board one of those times, I think it would have been a whole different ball game."
Moniz, who threw for 612 yards and four touchdowns in the first two games, finished 27-for-41 passing for 330 yards and one touchdown.
CU, which lost Parker Orms and Travis Sandersfeld to injuries in the first two games, saw its third nickel cornerback, Paul Vigo, lost to injury.
The Buffs` secondary still held up long enough for Moniz to be sacked twice, extending the defense`s streak in that stat category to 23 games. Alex Green was also swarmed in the end zone for a safety by the aggressive CU front.
"They`re going to get yards, that`s all they do is get yards through the air," CU defensive end Nick Kasa said. "But we did a good job of stopping them from getting points."
The Warriors only ran the ball 13 times for seven net yards (11-for-19 if excluding sacks). The only second-half points for the visitors came on a 32-yard field goal.
"As much as they pass, which is a whole lot, I think we did a decent job," Smith said. "The loss to Cal last week was a debacle, but it didn`t prove we were a bad team. It was just everything went wrong for us. This week things went right in the second half."